Category: skepticism

Science under attack

If you haven’t seen this excellent BBC documentary, here’s your chance. Dellingpole shows himself up wonderfully and the connections between the climate denialists and other conspiracy theorist denialists are elegantly described.
It’s also nicely made, with the usual BBC production levels.
I hope they start showing this in schools.

following each other, going nowhere


flea market, Berlin

Follow-back buddies
When people chose to follow one of my blogs I take a look at theirs and I’m not particularly discriminatory regarding who I follow. They may appear a little more into flower photography or describing their train journeys or taking us on a quest to discover the meaning of existence than I, and that’s all okay with me.

If, however, the theme of the blog is an evangelical exuberance about someone’s personal relationship with the heavenly Jesus, or a detailed, point by point account of exactly how the world is wrong, including a handy cut out and keep list of what action must be taken to remedy the horrors that are about to unfold, thank you for your interest, but you won’t be getting followed by me. Don’t get me wrong, you believe what you want, we don’t have to agree on anything for me to follow you. My problem here is answers. You think you’ve found them. I don’t think you have.

I know, I know!
It’s nothing against your beliefs, in fact there are also a bunch of climate change denying libertarians who also receive the same reaction regardless of their chosen mystical associations. It’s the sense that you know what it’s all about that’s the problem here.

I don’t know about much. One thing of which I’m sure is that things are pretty complicated. I see that in particle physics, I see that in astronomy, I see that in biology, paleontology, etymology, chemistry, epidemiology, and in fact everywhere where people actually keep asking questions and don’t settle for one answer. Complexity is all around us and it makes sense to me to try and grasp as much of it as we can while we’re here.

The unifying theory of nonsense
flea market
There’s always a temptation to try and look for an overarching pattern, some key to it all, some kind of big answer. Well, from what I understand of the universe, beyond certain theories within physics that have exactly zero effect on our daily lives, the idea of there being an answer to the question “what’s it all about?” seems trite.

But I really, really know it!
So if you are convinced that you have the answer to the big one, if you’re certain that you’re grasping the teleological key in your metaphysical hand, why not tuck it safely away in your pocket of wisdom. I don’t want it. If you’re so sure of everything, good. Well done! And I hope understand that my skepticism towards your simplified view of the world is not based on fear, or hate, or anger. No matter what your religion or ideology is, I’m just not that into it. There’s too much to learn about for one lifetime, too much to try and understand, too much to experience with eyes wide open, with a grounding in reality, with a basis in evidence. Far too much to spend time on fantasies, myths and traditions that tell us what we want to here, and not what we have truly discovered.

Magical mystery tour
cat monk worldOf course, I’m happy that people are certain about things. Sometimes I’m even a little jealous. But then I look a little closer, and I see a child on a bus journey, clutching her ticket with its destination neatly printed, eyes tightly closed, muttering with excitement about the wonderful place we’re heading to, or another child in a rage because the driver has taken a perceived wrong turn. This teleological certainty seems unproductive to me. So I look out the window, count the houses, note changes in the landscape, and most of all, enjoy the ride.

The buzz about neonicotinoids: Hive minding your own business.

ImageI noticed a request to sign a petition on facebook with the heading


I was also alerted to the same issue on facebook via a butterfly conservation page that said

Today the March of the Beekeepers, organised by Buglife and others, will advance on Parliament Square, Westminster to support a temporary ban of neonicotinoid pesticides. Could these pesticides affect butterflies and moths as well as bees?

and linked to details of a protest against neonicotinoid insecticides called March of the Beekeepers.

So, the claim is that neonicotinoid insecticides, having proven to be killing bees, may also be the cause of butterfly decline. Facebook messages followed in support of the march.

This seems like a good thing, right? The huge german company Bayer are manufacturing these pesticides, and there’s a ton of evidence to prove the connection between this stuff and the bees dying. Surely.

So, I decided to take a look at some of the evidence on offer, linked from the campaign. Here’s their science (a very short pdf). Now, straight away, I have little problem. They say

…independent studies showed serious sub-lethal impacts on non-target invertebrates.

which suggests to me that nobody is talking about the killing of bees, oh, except for the



Secondly, I have a problem with the way they casually broaden out the category to include any environmental impact, including earthworms and mammals, however interesting that is, when the issue at hand is bees. To me this looks like cherry picking, although it’s very hard to be certain because the most relevant sounding studies listed are seemingly unavailable (google-wise).

For a little balance, I came across the Scientific Beekeeping site which appears to present quite a different story.

Yes, bees can be effected by this pesticide when dosed enough. It appears to be general scientific consensus, seen here in the Relatively objective reviews section, however, that it is very unlikely to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

My concern is that people are allowing their political judgement (perhaps a suspicion of companies like Bayer, and a dislike of “unnatural” pesticides) to cloud their scientific judgment. In my view, this situation could become another mass moral panic, resulting in a blanket ban. My fear is that the campaigners will move on to some other issue and the bees will keep dying.

The science is not simple here, and the slogans of the marchers (who I suspect may not be exclusively beekeepers) do not reflect the scientific complexity, resulting in an emotion-driven movement that is unlikely to be productive.

New Video: Arctic Ice – The Death Spiral Continues

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

After watching several videos of the breakup of Beaufort sea Ice during the dead of winter, I decided to contact a leading ice expert, Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, for analysis and perspective. I mixed his comments in with the increasingly-on-the-same-page warnings from his fellow scientists around the country.

I’ll post our full conversation later in the week.

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the site with no reply

This website, RealClimate, appears to be infuriating for global warming “skeptics”, those of you who proclaim an understanding of science, but present misinformation based on nothing of any scientific value.

I’ve seen no attempts to address any on the arguments and counter arguments methodically laid out by working climate scientists from RealClimate during my review of the “skeptic” position.

I’ve dealt with every kind of fallacious argument you can imagine.

For asking a series of questions to the “skeptics”, I’ve been called hysterical, alarmist, a “warmer”, an eco-fascist, a liar, an ideolog, privileged, condescending, and an arsehole.

I may have missed a few out, but you get the picture.

I’ve also been told how insensitive it is that anyone calls anyone a “denier”.

I was banned from Tallbloke’s Talkshop even though I never swore, insulted anyone, or was rude in any way, and the site claims to have no rules about how people should interact, other than minding manners, which I did. I’m not moaning about this, I don’t care, I point it out merely to indicate the quality of the argument I’m dealing with here.

I was in search of a fair-minded, scientifically credible discussion, with openness and a certain intellectual rigor. I got none of these things, as shown in the comments on my previous post.

The only possible conclusion I’m left with is that they have no argument, no data, no evidence, and the attempt to characterize their position as in any way scientific is patiently deceptive.

Climate shmimate! Answer me this…


A tuatara, an endangered “living fossil”

1. Why do all the highly regarded scientists I know of with no direct connection to climate science, who get all their funding from other areas, who have well documented track records of challenging authority, why do they all support the scientific consensus of anthropogenic global warming?
2. Where is the smoking gun that is evidence that either
a. shows there’s a global conspiracy to suppress the real data, or
b. falsifies the co2 hypothesis?
[if you wish to actually try and answer either of these questions, note that 2 only needs a link to evidence. It does not require any further discussion, and I’ll edit responses appropriately. If you’d prefer a broader discussion, please read through this previous post.]