Some things, course, obviously either true or not true. “The atomic weight of carbon is 14” is not the sort of fact which admits of very much argument. Neither is it a fact which is very interesting to most people. Most people are much more interested in questions which admit of a great deal of argument. Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the United States. Global warming is an existential threat. The European Union does more harm than good. Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.
I have always thought that a version of Occam’s razor is quite a good place to start. It is the general notion that, where there are competing explanations of something, the simplest is the more probable. Or as Bertrand Russell put it:
Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities
One application of all of this is the cui bono rule, which is often attributed to Cicero, although Cicero himself ascribed to Lucius Cassius. A court should ask itself who is likely to benefit from a particular crime; that person may well be the criminal.
It is not an infallible rule, of course. Nor is my variant, which goes something like this:
Where there are competing versions of the truth, the one most infected by cognitive bias is the one less likely to be true.
Putting flesh on the bones of Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation as to why someone thinks something is true is often that Continue reading
For a remarkably reasonable price, I have aquired a weather station. Although there was no global warming for the first decade and a half or so of this century, there is some evidence of a modest rise in average temperatures in the last year or so. Far short of the warnings of runaway scorching as we went past some supposed tipping point. But something to watch for. Personally, I am all for a bit of global warming, especially since we now enjoy the beneficial effects of a bit more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – worldwide vegetation has increased a fair bit, almost certainly because of the extra carbon dioxide rather than the temperature. If the average global temperature were to rise to, say, the levels enjoyed by the Roman Empire or even more recently during the Renaissance, there would be huge benefits to mankind.
We no longer get bombarded by hysterical nonsense on the subject from the media quite as much as a while ago. The public at large seems to have rumbled that the scientists whose grant money depends on scary stories about iminent disaster are not to be trusted, and global warming has slipped way down the ratings of issues that the public now worry about. In the USA Continue reading
George Brandis may not be everyone’s idea of a really good time, but this bit of argument deserves a round of applause.
CSIRO is the Australian government’s research organisation. It gets about $1 billion per year of taxpayers’ money. In recent years, quite a lot of that has been spent, not in doing any research, but in proselytising on the subject of climate change. We see for example this on their website:
There is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, our new research shows.
Published in the journal Climate Risk Management today, our research is the first to quantify the probability of historical changes in global temperatures and examines the links to greenhouse gas emissions using rigorous statistical techniques.
Our new CSIRO work provides an objective assessment linking global temperature increases to human activity, which points to a close to certain probability exceeding 99.999%.
Now, I used to be a scientist. That was a long time ago, when I was Continue reading
Looking at his website, WeatherAction, you might think that Piers Corbyn is a bit of an eccentric. But he is not stupid. His younger brother Jeremy Corbyn has an indifferent academic record, scraping together just 2 bare pass (“E grade”) A levels. By contrast, Piers has a first class degree in physics from Imperial College and an MSc in astrophysics from Queen Mary College.
As I have remarked before, I rather like Jeremy Corbyn, although I agree with the consensus view that he will probably keep the Labour Party out of power in the UK for quite some while. And I do not think Jeremy is wrong about everything. Piers, I like rather a lot. As a Marxist (ex-Marxist?), his politics are even pottier than Jeremy’s (they get it from their parents, it seems), but as a scientist, he is a breath of fresh air. He is not just a global warming sceptic, but an outright denier. Like many of us, he has noted that the predictions of CO2 induced warming over the past 18 years are a busted flush – the actual data simply do not support the CO2 theory. But unlike many of us, he has answers as to why this is.
These are largely to do with the Continue reading
As the last of the light fades, huge rain clouds are overhead, heading NW at great speed.
Out in the gulf, there is a pale pink horizon, like a child bride about to be over whelmed.
No rain here yet. But somewhere, probably Continue reading
So, there is an agreement, of sorts, which has come out of COP21. I thought I would have a quick look to see what it says (see below for the text).
Unsurprisingly, it is away with the fairies. For example, we get this on the first page:
Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet…
Now there are a number of problems here, not least Continue reading
Depending on quite how you count, there were about 7 crusades from 1096 to 1254. They were all based on the same essentially potty notion of the Western Powers, that it would be a good idea to go and invade the Middle East. As dumb an idea then as it is now. There are few interesting things to note about the whole deal:
- It was driven by religious dogma. It was not OK at all to deny the conventional wisdom.
- The support for the Crusades spread across almost of all the European nations. Sure, they were being whipped along by the Pope. But it is remarkable that all of these nations, led by cynical, self-serving pragmatists, were on board.
- They kept on doing it for some 250 years. That is a long time to be doing something that did not work, and served no useful purpose.
Which brings me to COP21, the equally daft junket in Paris this week. There are some parallels with the older Crusades. The global warming/climate change scare is essentially Continue reading
It has been particularly cold in Adelaide this winter. I like seasons, but it is high time for spring to come now, I reckon.
Despite all the hysterical hype from the climate alarmists, it is quite a bit colder these days that it was during the medieval warm period, which was quite a bit colder than the Roman warm period, which in turn was quite a bit colder than the Minoan warm period. That, at any rate, is the evidence of the Greenland Ice Sheet as reconstructed by Alley (2000) from GISP2 ice core data, shown here in blue:
None of this a surprise; these were periods when civilisation was particularly thriving – we all do better in nice weather. Interestingly, the red line shows Continue reading
So wrote Richard Feynman, who was one of the real heroes of the 20th century. He was absolutely right.
A reminder of this quote appears in Matt Ridley’s excellent article, The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science, which should be essential reading for anyone who still believes in the groupthink of catastrophic climate change.
Happily, the attention of the world has moved on recently from imagined problems with the climate to real problems with the economy, and in particular Greece. Greece is a particularly interesting pointer as to what happens when the serious socialists get into the driving seat, and spend, spend, spend money that their countries simply do not have. I do not think that either Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras or Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are stupid. Misguided, perhaps, but not stupid. So it is an interesting question why they are putting up such an apparently stupid referendum question this coming weekend. It is thus Continue reading
It was Earth Day last week. Their web site said
It’s our turn to lead – Earth Day’s 45th anniversary – could be the most exciting year in environmental history
Well, it wasn’t. No big surprise there; ever since the first Earth Day in 1970, they have been coming up with the most sublime drivel. Courtesy of iHateTheMedia, here is a selection of the predictions these people made 45 years ago:
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
• Kenneth Watt, ecologist
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
• George Wald, Harvard Biologist
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist Continue reading