Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Observations From the Back Row: 5-11-11

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“De Omnibus Dubitandum”


Langmuir's Laws of bad science

- 1 .The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.

- 2. The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the low level of significance of the results.

- 3. There are claims of great accuracy.

- 4. Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.

- 5. Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.

- 6. The ratio of supporters to critics rises to somewhere near 50% and then falls gradually to zero.

Guest Post By Joanne Nova: On climate change, the wrong choice kills people either way Here’s a topic close to my heart. Before I became involved in climate change and currencies, my hot topic-of-choice for years was medical research and health. In my honours degree I worked to get a tiny step closer to treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. When I saw that The Australian Government was threatening to cut medical research, I wanted to put a razor fine point on just what muddy thinking costs us. This article I wrote is published in The Weekend Australian today. We can’t afford to get the decision wrong on climate change. We must fight the battles that matter, not build fortresses against imaginary foes. Joanne Nova

Trust Me, I Speak for ScienceTwo recent posts here have been about the role of trust in the environmental debate. Briefly, Mark Lynas and George Monbiot seem to expect everybody to share their trust in scientific authority, yet not so long ago, they were themselves suspicious of it. It was the obedient slave of big business, they said. Now they and anti-nuclear environmentalists are busy calling each other ‘deniers’, while claiming to be speaking ‘for science’. What arguments that make this kind of appeal to scientific authority seem not to understand is that a relationship of trust is a pre-condition of scientific authority. You can’t have any kind of authority without some kind of relationship of trust; it’s like trying to have a party without beer, music, food and friends. So Lynas and Monbiot’s claims to speak for science merely bounce off their anti-nuclear opponents: ‘you’re repeating nuclear industry propaganda’, they claim — exactly the argument Lynas and Monbiot have been using all these years against their own adversaries in institutional science. Those claiming to be speaking for science are too easily identified as speaking for something else.

The Ecology of Stupid– or –The Greenies tremble before their demanding God: "Nature"The Guardian has a revealing editorial today, which makes the claim that: Biodiversity: It’s the ecology, stupid.  At every level, human civilisation is underwritten by the planet’s countless and still mostly unidentified wild things

As discussed in the previous post, the idea that civilisation is underwritten in this way is a secular revision of Divine Providence. Environmentalism’s politics is forged by this view of nature with an equally bleak conception of human nature — equally a contemporary, secular account of original sin. The logic of these conceptions of the natural world and humanity lead to environmentalism’s tendency to produce political ideas that resonate with the worst from the Dark Ages.


"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax -
Of cabbages and kings,
And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings."

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