Saturday, March 24, 2007

Debunking Popper

Readers who've heard that philosopher Karl Karl Popper is somewhat of an expert in epistemology should find much to savour, if not much on which to agree, in two related and masterful pieces.

First, while Popper is often taken to be a pre-eminent defender of both science and liberty, in two articles, Nicholas Dykes shows that as a defender of either, Popper's thought is seriously deficient: 'Debunking Popper: A Critique of Karl Popper's Critical Rationalism,' [25-page PDF] and the much longer, 'A Tangled Web of Guesses: A Critical Assessment of the Philosophy of Karl Popper' [39-page PDF].
Popper's whole notion that science consists of "conjecture and refutation" is shown by Dykes to be both internally contradictory and a position that opens the door wide to subjectivism, to "consensus science," and ultimately to the post-modern bullshit of Thomas Kuhn and his paradigm shifts; and Popper's idea that science may be distinguished from non-science primarily by the virtue of "falsifiability" is seen to be important, but on its own woefully insufficient as an an essential defining characteristic by which to winnow the bold from the bullshit.
Popper is worth reading, says Dykes -- "full of valuable insights, astute observations, and stimulating, sometimes inspiring prose" -- but in the end the Philosopher's Stone of explaining and defending science eluded him. Dykes concludes by suggesting, albeit briefly, what Popper missed, and what might have made his project complete.
Popperians offended by the demolition might at least take comfort in Diana Hsieh's point: "Of course, Dykes knock-down arguments don't just apply to Popper, but also to the similar ideas in Kant and Hume and others in the history of philosophy." (And they might also reflect, as Diana has, that Popper's flawed philosophical base makes him a less than worthwhile advocate for liberty.)

The second piece, which I'd strongly recommend reading in conjunction with Dykes' piece, is David Harriman's account of Induction and Experimental Method. Harriman is both philosopher (in the Objectivist tradition) and a physicist at Caltech, so this is a topic on which he is eminently qualified to write. The piece is a chapter of his forthcoming book on the subject:

[It] examines the key experiments involved in Galileo’s kinematics and Newton’s optics, identifies the essential methods by which these scientists achieved their discoveries, and illustrates the principle that induction is inherent in valid conceptualization.
Modern science began with Galileo, he says, in particular with Galileo's methodology.
The scientific revolution of the 17th century was made possible by the achievements of ancient Greece... The modern scientist views himself as an active investigator, but such an attitude was rare among the Greeks. This basic difference in mindset—contemplation versus investigation—is one of the great divides between the ancient and modern minds. Modern science began with the full development of its own distinctive method of investigation: experiment. Experimentation is “the method of establishing causal relationships by means of controlling variables.” The experimenter does not merely observe nature; he manipulates it by holding some factor(s) constant while varying others and measuring the results. He knows that the tree of knowledge will not simply drop its fruit into his open mind; the fruit must be cultivated and picked, often with the help of instruments designed for the purpose.
Scientific investigation and philosophical induction, argues Harriman, are characterised not just by falsification (as Popper would have it), but by by a clear understanding of identity, causality (ie., identity in action), and above all of the importance of integration. It is these three that skeptics like Hume never understood, and would-be scientific defenders like Popper needed to learn.
Cognitive integration is the very essence of human thought, from concept-formation (an integration of a limitless number of concretes into a whole designated by a word), to induction (an integration of a limitless number of causal sequences into a generalization), to deduction (the integration of premises into a conclusion). An item of knowledge is acquired and validated by means of grasping its relation to the whole of one’s knowledge. A thinker always seeks to relate, grasp hidden similarities, discover connections, unify. A conceptual consciousness is an integrating mechanism, and its product—knowledge—is an interconnected system, not a junk heap of isolated propositions. Galileo integrated his knowledge not only within the subject of physics but also between physics and the related science of astronomy...
The precision necessary for scientific induction is mathematical, says Harriman.
While discussing concept-formation, Ayn Rand explained that “perceptual awareness is the arithmetic, but conceptual awareness is the algebra of cognition.” She ended the discussion with a challenge to the skeptics: Those who deny the validity of concepts must first prove the invalidity of algebra... A concept can function as a green light to induction only if it is defined precisely—and, in physical science, the required precision is mathematical... The cognitive integration necessary to validate a high-level generalization in physics is made possible only because the discoveries and laws are formulated in quantitative terms. Thus progress requires that the key concepts be defined in terms susceptible to numerical measurement. Such measurement is both the primary concern of the mathematician and the primary activity of the experimentalist.

Thus induction in physics is essentially dependent on two specialized methods. Experimentation provides the entrance into mathematics, and mathematics is the language of physical science.

It's impossible to recommend this highly enough. (Unfortunately, the full paper is only available to subscribers to The Objective Standard -- which is partly why I've quoted here as much as copyright allows -- but as I've said before, subscription to this quarterly is worth every penny.)

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A weekend ramble: Popper, politics and Persians who attack

Another random ramble around the web for you this weekend morning, alighting on select morsels of delight and controversy along the way.
  • I've been hearing good things about the movie '300,' mostly from these two here, since I don't want to read too many "spoilers": "This film," says Joe Maurone, "is nothing less than a rallying cry to stand up and speak out for what's right." Says Aaron Bilger, "Not just imagery, not just presentation, but heroism and sense of life make this film awesome."

    This film dramatises, brilliantly by all accounts, what historian John Lewis calls “the single most important battles in all of Western History,” when Persian hordes invaded the Grek mainland intent on destruction, and the defence by the awesome heroes of the Greeks--the "greatest generation" of their day--of their freedom and their lives, and by so doing making made possible all that we consider civilised today. Sounds like my kind of film, made even more delicious since it's got Ahmedinejad himself riled up. I understand it opens in NZ April 5.

  • No link here, just a quote, from the bard "Anon":
    “The fact that climate change is so uncertain and so expensive is exactly why collectivists have swarmed to the cause. The scope of the problem can never be identified, its cost never quantified, and complete solutions will never be found. The perfect issue for people whose primary goal is the expansion of government control."
    Think about that when you hear about the UN's plans to step in to police the world's producers and to "plan" the world's energy markets, or read about local politicians plans to throttle producers, taxpayers and forest owners on the twin altars of "sustainability" and "carbon neutrality."

    Think about that too when you read about the $150 billion cost of Kyoto in the one year since it's introduction (for, supposedly, a prevention of warming by 0.0015 degrees C); when you read about the American Government’s expenditure to date of $18 billion plus on computer forecasting of climate change (and the computer- modellers are still unable even to predict the past except by fudging, i.e. making adjustments in the models in order to arrive at the answer they already know); or when you hear about the $180 billion of research money that has been spent on climate research since 1990, but still without any unambiguous anthropogenic (human) effect on global climate being proved.

  • Speaking of the world's most popular secular religion, if you haven't yet read Martin Durkin's more measured response to critics of his great film 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' (see it online here)-- I posted his more colourful response here last week -- then give it a going over now: "The global-warmers were bound to attack," he says, "but why are they so feeble?"

  • Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl "was a slut." That's the view of Richard Schickel in reviewing a new book on the influential film-maker, director of 'Olympiad' and the Nazi celebration 'Triumph of the Will,' and he makes his point well. Influential she may have been, even to non-Nazis, but in placing her obvious talents at the service of last century's third-worst totalitarian, "She overlooked the evils and emphasized the romance of Nazi power."

  • Here's some sense on the smacking debate from Luke at Pacific Empire, explaining why he's going to be part of the march on Parliament on March 28. (See smackingback.blogspot.com for more details and other places that are organising marches.) A pity he doesn't see sense on other subjects.

  • "First we make out buildings," said Winston Churchill, "and then our buildings make us." What then to make of George W. Bush's house. Notes 'Corbusier' at the Architecture & Morality blog, Crawford, Texas ranch,
    As stories of Al Gore's profligate energy use for his mansion in Nashville have circulated, some bloggers have made mention of the environmentally friendly design of the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
    He follows up that opening with a post well worth reading, on (genuine) green design, organic architecture, and what the Bush's were like as clients.

  • I'm pleased to see that Labour hack Jordan Carter has come out against Labour renewed plans to confiscate people's assets before they're even proved to be guilty of anything: "they are trying to push it through again, so that people who have not been convicted of anything can have their assets stripped." This is wrong, says Jordan, and on that he's absolutely right.

  • How do you feel about plans for thirty-minute interviews with minor bureaucrats before you get a passport issued, or re-issued? In what some pundits are saying is a prelude to the introduction of nationwide ID cards, this is what is now being implemented in the UK, that one-time bastion of personal freedom.

  • Czech president Vaclav Klaus included in his recent trip to Washington to talk to the Senate Environment Committee a visit to address the Cato Institute (yep, the same series of hearing as Bjorn Lomborg and Al Gore were addressin). "This is not my first speech in CATO," he began.
    My today’s presentation here cannot be totally different, I am stubborn and conservative. Everyone has a list – mostly an implicit one – of issues, problems, challenges which he feels and considers – with his experiences, prejudices, sensitivities, preferences and priorities – to be crucial, topical, menacing, relevant. I will try to reveal at least some of the topics from my own list. All are – inevitably – related to something that was absent during most of my life in the communist era.

    What I have in mind is, of course, freedom... Where do I see now, at the beginning of the 21st century the main dangers (or threats) to freedom?
    Read on and find out.

  • This looks to be a fascinating lecture tomorrow afternoon at Auckland's Art Gallery, part of the Passion and Politics series: Romanticism, Awe, Terror and the Sublime in British Art. That's one I'm planning to get to.

  • "'I love you, and I am a socialist.' This is what I, via the wonders of television, watched being said to [UK Tory leader] David Cameron." Paul Marks at Samizdata thinks that's not entirely an endorsement of Cameron, on whom local Tory leader John Key models himself. How long before Key gets a wind turbine on his house, I wonder, instead of a pair of flip flops?

  • Why do intellectuals oppose capitalism? The anti-libertarian intellectual's favourite straw man, the late Robert Nozick tries to answer the question. He begins: "It is surprising that intellectuals oppose capitalism so." Really? See for yourself here why Nozick is both good and bad.

  • Stephen Hicks has spotted some goodies:
    First some good news: several striking photos of Africa from the air. Then the continuing bad news: Africa continues to stagnate while the rest of the world develops. For example, here’s an intriguing comment on colonialism’s legacy. But good ideas are available. Here, for example, is Enterprise Africa, a joint project of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, The Free Market Foundation of South Africa, London’s Institute for Economic Affairs, and The Templeton Foundation.
    Incidentally, I owe Stephen a review of his insightful documentary, Nietzsche and the Nazis. (It's coming, Stephen, I promise.)

  • Two good press releases here from two good libertarians:

    Parents Must Be Allowed to Choose Qualifications
    "The news that several prominent schools are considering offering alternative international qualifications, in response to parental dissatisfaction with NCEA, was completely predictable" Libertarianz Education Spokesman Phil Howison said today. "Parents have good reasons to be concerned about NCEA - but the harsh response from the education bureaucracy suggests simple contempt for the rights of parents."... Libertarianz believes that parents have the right to make decisions for their own children. The state has no right to your children...

    Doctors May Stop Discounting Fees
    Libertarianz spokesman Richard McGrath today wondered whether his medical colleagues would shorten consultation times and cease discounting fees in response to the government's persecution of general practitioners who want to raise their charges...

  • Those same readers should also find much to savour, if not much on which to agree, in two related and masterful pieces: First, philosopher Karl Popper is often taken to be a pre-eminent defender of both science and liberty. In two articles, Nicholas Dykes shows that as a defender of either, Popper's thought is seriously deficient: 'Debunking Popper: A Critique of Karl Popper's Critical Rationalism,' [25-page PDF] and the much longer, 'A Tangled Web of Guesses: A Critical Assessment of the Philosophy of Karl Popper' [39-page PDF].

    Popper's whole notion that science consists of "conjecture and refutation" is shown by Dykes to be both internally contradictory and a position that opens the door wide to subjectivism, to "consensus science," and ultimately to the post-modern bullshit of Thomas Kuhn and his paradigm shifts; and Popper's idea that science may be distinguished from non-science primarily by the virtue of "falsifiability" is seen to be important, but on its own woefully insufficient as an an essential defining characteristic by which to winnow the bold from the bullshit.

    Popper is worth reading, says Dykes -- "full of valuable insights, astute observations, and stimulating, sometimes inspiring prose" -- but in the end the Philosopher's Stone of explaining and defending science eluded him. Dykes concludes by suggesting, albeit briefly, what Popper missed, and what might have made his project complete.

    Popperians offended by the demolition might at least take comfort in Diana Hsieh's point: "Of course, Dykes knock-down arguments don't just apply to Popper, but also to the similar ideas in Kant and Hume and others in the history of philosophy." (And they might also reflect, as Diana has, that Popper's flawed philosophical base makes him a less than worthwhile advocate for liberty.)

    The second piece, which I'd strongly recommend reading in conjunction with Dykes' piece, is David Harriman's account of Induction and Experimental Method. Harriman is both philosopher (in the Objectivist tradition) and a physicist at Caltech, so this is a topic on which he is eminently qualified to write. The piece is a chapter of his forthcoming book on the subject:
    [It] examines the key experiments involved in Galileo’s kinematics and Newton’s optics, identifies the essential methods by which these scientists achieved their discoveries, and illustrates the principle that induction is inherent in valid conceptualization.
    Modern science began with Galileo, he says, in particular with Galileo's methodology.
    The scientific revolution of the 17th century was made possible by the achievements of ancient Greece... The modern scientist views himself as an active investigator, but such an attitude was rare among the Greeks. This basic difference in mindset—contemplation versus investigation—is one of the great divides between the ancient and modern minds. Modern science began with the full development of its own distinctive method of investigation: experiment. Experimentation is “the method of establishing causal relationships by means of controlling variables.” The experimenter does not merely observe nature; he manipulates it by holding some factor(s) constant while varying others and measuring the results. He knows that the tree of knowledge will not simply drop its fruit into his open mind; the fruit must be cultivated and picked, often with the help of instruments designed for the purpose.
    Scientific investigation and philosophical induction, argues Harriman, are characterised not just by falsification (as Popper would have it), but by by a clear understanding of identity, causality (ie., identity in action), and above all of the importance of integration. It is these three that skeptics like Hume never understood, and would-be scientific defenders like Popper needed to learn.
    Cognitive integration is the very essence of human thought, from concept-formation (an integration of a limitless number of concretes into a whole designated by a word), to induction (an integration of a limitless number of causal sequences into a generalization), to deduction (the integration of premises into a conclusion). An item of knowledge is acquired and validated by means of grasping its relation to the whole of one’s knowledge. A thinker always seeks to relate, grasp hidden similarities, discover connections, unify. A conceptual consciousness is an integrating mechanism, and its product—knowledge—is an interconnected system, not a junk heap of isolated propositions. Galileo integrated his knowledge not only within the subject of physics but also between physics and the related science of astronomy...
    The precision necessary for scientific induction is mathematical, says Harriman.
    While discussing concept-formation, Ayn Rand explained that “perceptual awareness is the arithmetic, but conceptual awareness is the algebra of cognition.” She ended the discussion with a challenge to the skeptics: Those who deny the validity of concepts must first prove the invalidity of algebra... A concept can function as a green light to induction only if it is defined precisely—and, in physical science, the required precision is mathematical... The cognitive integration necessary to validate a high-level generalization in physics is made possible only because the discoveries and laws are formulated in quantitative terms. Thus progress requires that the key concepts be defined in terms susceptible to numerical measurement. Such measurement is both the primary concern of the mathematician and the primary activity of the experimentalist.

    Thus induction in physics is essentially dependent on two specialized methods. Experimentation provides the entrance into mathematics, and mathematics is the language of physical science.

    It's impossible to recommend this highly enough. (Unfortunately, the full paper is only available to subscribers to The Objective Standard -- which is partly why I've quoted here as much as copyright allows -- but as I've said before, subscription to this quarterly is worth every penny.)

    * * * * *

  • Now that should be more than enough weekend reading for any man or woman, but just to finish on a lighter note, Michael Newberry has three further online art tutorials released at the same time as his tutorial explaining how he integrated the Old Masters with the Impressionists in his painting Denouement: the first of these other three is, Exaltation in Art: Pleasing the Voices in Your Head, which loosely explains how an artist makes up his mind about their own work. The second explains the importance for both composition and for seeing the world of thumbnail sketches -- and rather than being banal, Newberry argues that thumbnail sketches are essential preparatory work for the excitement and spontaneity of major works; they are The Key to the Big Picture. And what of proportion? Much talked about, what exactly is it all about? Artist Newberry uses sculptor Polyclitus to explain why proportion is "math in art."
Enjoy.

UPDATE: I've changed the word "demolished" with reference to Nicholas Dykes' articles on Popper, and changed it for something more respectful. Diana's "a less than worthwhile advocate" for liberty and science is more appropriate. And I've removed the paragraph about the debate-which wasn't between Johnson and Hawking. My error for posting it in the first place. Sorry.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Beer O'Clock: Emerson's Bourbon Porter

Beer news and more this week from a SOBA Stu:

My second son was born this week. Everyone's healthy and happy. Young Ted weighed in at a pretty hefty 9lbs 3oz (4.22kg for those young enough to not understand what that means). A year ago, almost to the day, his brother arrived at an almost as weighty 9lbs 1oz. Nestled in between these two weight's is a number insignificant to most but perfect for celebration this evening - 9.2, the alcohol by volume of Emerson's Bourbon Porter.

I know Neil has discussed the Emerson's Bourbon Porter before, but it's a beer worth double the recommendation, and it's what I'll be toasting my two boys with tonight.

At my last tasting it poured a very dark brown, almost black, with garnet hues. It threw off a heady concoction of vanilla, wood, roasted malt and warming alcohol notes. Surprisingly light and delicate in the mouth, with spicy and lightly nutty notes through the middle, it had a brief hint of sourness before a long, yet quite mild, tannic finish gave away the fact that the beer was aged in the barrel for nine months. (Just the perfect amount for everything from beer to babies.) Another light flourish of sweet bourbon on the palate satisfied in the long periods between sips.

If you think "I don't like beer", but you are a fan of either big red wines, bourbon or whisky, then this is definitely one to try.

The Bourbon Porter would accompany most hearty savoury dishes and any chocolate based deserts quite sublimely. However tonight, for me, it will be joined by a rich and fruity Dominican Republic cigar - a little celebration, a little reflection, and probably more than a little trepidation before the gathering storm.

I've got a whole box of Bourbon Porter in the cellar and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's changed in the last nine months. I'm not sure how widely available last year's batch still is but another vintage should be coming out midway through this year. Keep an eye out for that and anything else in the world class Emerson's range - they're becoming more widely available every week.

Here's tae us.

Slainte mhath, Stu

LINKS: Emerson's Bourbon Porter
Emerson's
Ratebeer
Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA)

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Woolmer Watch

Regarding the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer, Jamaican police have just confirmed:
a) it is a murder inquiry they are conducting; and
b) the Pakistan team are not suspects.
So there goes a whole swag of theories out the window.

UPDATE: Head of the Jamaican police investigation Mark Shields has just confirmed to a press conference that the death of Bob Woolmer was caused by strangulation. [Ref: Newstalk ZB]

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Smacking back -- next Wednesday

Nanny Bradford's anti-smacking Bill is to be rushed through under urgency next Wednesday, to avert the possibility that if it weren't heard in the normal time period then wavering Labour MPs might have too much time to waver too far across the floor and head straight into the Noes Lobby. And then where would Nanny be?

So if the anti-smacking Bill is to be rushed through next Wednesday, that makes the anti-anti-smacking march to Parliament next week even more important. Keep up to date with details at organiser Mitch Lees' blog, Smacking Back -- and keep midday Wednesday free.

RELATED: Smacking, NZ Politics

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What's a father to do?

A popular Swedish ad here on YouTube: everything you wouldn't want your son to do in a supermarket, wrapped up with a punchline the Pope wouldn't like.

RELATED: Smacking, Humour

What a pink Key can learn from a green Brown

Once again, contemporary British politics offers a guide to our own. Gordon Brown delivered what is predicted to be his last budget this week, and "as usual," says the Lib on the UK, "it was chock full of big government pap and statist drivel." No surprises then. And since both Brown and Cameron have been trying to out-hug everything from trees to light bulbs to Nicholas Stern these past few months, no surprises either that this was a so-called 'Green' budget.

What was surprising was the way it was packaged, and it came as more than a surprise to the squirming Cameronites to hear that Labour would cut the basic rate of income tax. Sure, it was a cut that gives with one hand and claws back with very many others (both the green of eco-taxes and the grey of Her Majesty's Inland Revenue Office), but a cut it was, and a cut was what Brown wanted it seen as -- he wants to be seen as a tax-cutter, even if when all the calculations are done he isn't. This, at least, is progress.

Jonathan Pearce at Samizdata summarises the strategic implications of Brown's 'Green' budget, and of the tax cut, for Brown's Conservative opponent.
Watching the House of Commons debate on Brown's speech, several things struck me. Tory leader David Cameron was plainly rattled by Brown playing the tax-cut card - however bogus a ploy Brown's is. It might - just might - be enough of a shock to the Tories to realise that competing over which party can push up taxes the most and not get caught might not be a smart strategy with the voters. Brown is trying to pose as a tax-cutter. How odd it is that the Labour Party is now trying to make the running in this direction. Even though it is all hooey, it is interesting to see how Brown's gambit may pay off.

The whole point of this budget, as far as I can see, is in Brown trying to squash Cameron: stealing some of his 'Green clothes' while also trying to persuade middle-income voters that Labour is actually more of a tax-cutting party than the Tories.

Even if this is utter rubbish - it is - the very fact that Brown wants to create such an impression is interesting. I am increasingly coming round to the view that libertarians and free-marketeer Tories should let Cameron realise that they prefer to keep in Labour than let the Tories win on a Big Government agenda.
Too true, and only too relevant back here since NZ's own Pink Tory took over his party, and began rather pathetically trying to outflank our Labour Party over on the left flank.

As David Cameron has just learned with the help of a little sleight of hand from Gordon Brown, that isn't necessarily a safe place to be.

LINK: Thoughts on the UK budget - Jonathan Pearce, Samizdata
Gordon's last fling: The chancellor promises tax cuts but there will be a bill for them - Economist

RELATED: UK Politics, NZ Politics, Hollow Men.

Immortal Love - Daniel Chester French

Tonight's sculptor is a chap called Daniel Chester French, a man whose work was of an equal with the Renaissance masters, but who appeared at a time when mastery in art was quickly going out of fashion. Nicholas Provenzo has more, and Lee Sandstead -- whose photograph this is -- has much more on French and other unsung masters. LINK: Live lecture: Daniel Chester French--consummate idealist - Nicholas Provenzo, Rule of Reason The art historian's muse: An interview with Lee Sandstead - Monument Light RELATED: Art, Sculpture

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seizing their assets steals your liberty

A new Bill allowing the state to seize the assets of criminals is not just wrong because those assets will be digested by the maw of the state rather than used to help restore the lives and property of the victims of said criminals, but it's wrong because it completely overturns the basic principle of being considered innocent before the justice system actually proves your guilt.

Susan the Libertarian gets it right, as she so often does. This is an attack on the liberty of all of us -- it just starts with an attack on those people already considered odious.
I know why you might think, 'well, who gives a toss about the likes of gang members, because they're scum' - (and you'd be right about that) - but unfortunately, that is not the point. Not at all.

The 20th century philosopher, Ayn Rand, put it this way: 'In the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners'.

In other, simpler, words: the totalitarians will always start by interfering with the rights of scum like criminal gang members and paedophiles. And then, before you know it, they move onto the rest of us - and people say things like "well, how did that happen?"

It happened because good intentions will ALWAYS be plead for any assumption of power.

Just recall, if you doubt that, how the law introduced to extract the assets of drug king Mr Asia are now used routinely by the IRD to filch from the bank accounts of those the IRD considers too recalcitrant.

LINK: More power to seize criminal assets - Newstalk ZB
On the move to seize assets from individuals suspected of criminal activity - Susan the Libertarian

RELATED: Law, NZ Politics

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Al Bore was in the House

As you might have heard, Al Bore delivered his testimony to the US Senate Environment Committee overnight -- that is, he delivered his oral testimony; the written testimony which he is obliged to make available has still not been delivered, violating a Senate rule. (More on that here at Senator Inhofe's blog).

Perhaps it's because he's too embarrassed at the nonsense he's peddling that he'd rather it isn't too widely read? Harvard physicist Luboš Motl has a run down on some of the worst nonsense delivered by what he calls "the mad megalomaniac":
  • Gore praised Europeans because "they're not talking about the science." If this were true, is it really something to be proud about?
  • "The Earth is shaking because of glacial earthquakes in Greenland," we learned. I haven't met or read a person who would have any idea what he talks about.
  • The CO2 regulation is like the Marshall plan, he said - no clue where the similarity comes from. The Marshall plan was a plan that [is considered by some to have] helped to spark the post-war boom in Europe, while the Gore plan is a plan to create a worldwide recession.
  • We face a "planetary emergency." Wow. To show how certain we are that we face a "planetary emergency", he enumerates several of his comparably mad friends from various science journals etc. - quite many crazy people are walking around. One of them argues - and Gore apparently agrees - that only the existence of gravity is more certain than the catastrophic global warming. It's just such an incredible stupidity - or lie or whatever it is - that they should have stopped him on the spot. But you know, it's Al Gore. Even if the hypotheses about the dominant greenhouse effect are true, global warming certainly doesn't belong among 100,000 most certain scientific insights we have. He seems to have no idea what certainty is. Even the IPCC activists say that the probability that the observed recent warming is caused by the mankind is around 90%.
  • Al Gore says it is wrong to have political people who have no scientific training altering the words of scientists. Apparently he does not recognize this is exactly what he has been doing for years.
  • He even has the courage and stomach to argue that alarmist scientists are those who are discriminated against the skeptics.
  • That's all very painful but there are apparently even more insane people than Gore: parts of the Capitol - such an impressive building - have turned into a kind of asylum. Senator Lautenberg argues that Gore has proven that carbon emission limits won't hurt the economy - wow - and even describes Gore's opponents as "Luddites". Quite an irony
I think it's fair to say that Motl is not awfully impressed. Can't say I am, either. Anybody else felt "the earth shaking" from all those "glacial earthquakes"? If you want more from a more laudatory perspective, this guy live blogged the session, and he's more sold on the Bore. Bjorn Lomborg's testimony, as you'd expect, was delivered on time, and consequently is already available on the net [pdf].

UPDATE 1: Peyton Knight was another at the hearing, and he reports (with a YouTube link) that Al Gore showed up late to the hearing, the reason being that he refused to hear opening statements by Republican committee members. When it came to the questioning, Knight says "Thank God for Senator Inhofe."
Senator Inhofe did a masterful job of presenting the many, many scientists who specialize in climatology who disagree with Gore. He also noted a recent New York Times article that took Gore to task for over-hyping global warming. Gore never actually countered any of Inhofe's assertions, but only pleaded with him like a religious zealot who pleads with a non-believer to join the faith.
UPDATE 2: Cafe Hayek's Russell Roberts think Gore is channeling Mao.
[Gore] said he foresees a revolution in small-scale electricity producers for replacing coal, likening the development to what the Internet has done for the exchange of information.
As Russell relates, his "foresight" paralleled the similar "foresight" of Mao Zedong on the subject of small-scale steel production of the 'Great Leap Forward,' a leap that was neither forward nor successful, and that led inexorably to a shortage of steel and to widespread impoverishment. Concludes Russell,
If Al Gore thinks energy can be produced the way information is produced, he either doesn't understand energy or he doesn't understand information.
In fact, it's quite possible The Bore doesn't understand either. It's worth reading the whole piece.

RELATED: Global Warming, World Politics

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A testing meeting for Bush

Kiwi Herald has the lowdown on the Clark-Bush meeting:
KIWI HERALD: Bush Panics Under PM's Stare
President George W. Bush this morning achieved an 'Achieved' in NCEA Level One Geography during a tough oral examination under the steely gaze of Prime Minister Helen Clark who acted as supervisor. A clearly panicked President (see picture above) appeared to be thrown by the withering stare of the New Zealand PM but managed to remember a number of places on the international map.
RELATED: Humour, World Politics

Dem bones, dem bones, dem fossilised bones

In the interests of debate last year, Berend asked me to host a post on the supposed failures of evolutionary scientists, "piling up quotes" from evolutionists who Berend argues have "serious doubts about that fossil evidence." I so hosted.

Few people responded, except perhaps with incredulity, but unknown to me -- mostly because he posted it on New Years Day -- Eric at Brain Stab took a very good stab at throwing very serious doubt upon those claimed "serious doubts." Turns out not all those quotes that were piled up are as, ahem, sound as they could be, to say nothing of the arguments.

LINK: Sorely tested - Eric, Brain Stab

RELATED: Religion, Science

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Jordan Carter suggests the time is right to reflect on Labour's performance in its seven years, three months in office, and he offers five best and five worst things his objects of worship have done in all that time. Here's my list. First, five worst:
  1. The blatant theft of an election by using the money taken from taxpayers to run the Prime Minister's Office to run for the Office, demonstrating an utter disregard for constitutional restraints.
  2. The introduction of retrospective legislation to legitimise the theft, indicating that in the area of constitutional restraints on government, we're down there with Botswana.
  3. Passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which in one stroke removed the right of litigants in common law to prove before a court that they have property rights in these areas -- demonstrating an utter disregard for judicial independence, common law and property rights.
  4. The renationalisation of the Accident Compensation Corporation and Air New Zealand (after refusing permission for Air New Zealand to make its own way in the world), and the ever-expanding, ever-more intrusive meddling in all areas of the economy.
  5. Piling up the tax take to pay for a new welfare system (which also, incidentally, helped to buy the last election): Welfare for Working Families takes with one hand and doles out with the other, demonstrating that trickle down is not a characteristic of capitalism, but of state worship. Welfare for Working Families raises the marginal tax rate of recipients to levels of nearly ninety percent, it makes beneficiaries out of one third of the country, and it will 'normalise' for a whole generation the lifestyle of sucking off the state tit, meaning this is damage on a generational scale.
  6. No action taken at all to increase property rights protection under the Resource Management Act, to make any positive changes to the state's disastrous factory schools, or to slow down the rampantly soft fascism of political correctness that infests the government half of the economy, and is slowly taking over the other half.
Oops. That's six. My bad, because they're so bad. But now, just to be fair, are six of the best:
  1. One unequivocal move in the direction of freedom was the introduction of civil unions. Government has no business in people's bedrooms, and good for Tim Barnett for quietly and diligently pushing this through on the grounds of individual freedom. Support for laws such as this is a litmus test for freedom lovers: it is not for the State to judge adult relationships; it is their job simply to recognise and protect them should the partners wish that to happen (I won't mention the Property Relationships Bill which does just the opposite -- whoops! I just did). The Civil Union Bill moves in the direction of freedom, with no new coercion. A big tick.
  2. The decriminilisation of prostitution recognised that people should be free to do with their own bodies what they wish, and free to charge for the use of their bodies if they wish. You don't need to be an advocate for prostitution itself to recognise that it's not the State's business to proscribe people's choices for themselves. And once again, good for Tim Barnett for being the quiet achiever. Another big tick.
  3. I confess I'm struggling now. I think the Chinese free trade deal looks good. So that's another tick. In fact, the commitment to free trade at all deserves a very favourable tick, as does Labour's recognition that the Douglas-Richardson reforms should (for the most part) be retained -- even if these reforms have been regularly demonised for Labour's rather simple constituency who still haven't realised that these reforms have remained largely intact.
  4. I did enjoy Marian Hobbs' defence of genetic engineering during the pathetic 'corngate' beat-up. Not so much an achievement, I guess, but her arguments and those of the Royal Commission for the science of GE were very sound, and as a consequence the legal environment for genetic engineering hasn't been as bad as it could be. Things would have been a a lot worse with Nick (A Tongue So Forked You Could Hug a Tree With It) Smith in the Environment chair.
  5. Some of Phil Goff's changes with parole and sentencing were a step in the right direction of making punishments fit the crime. Small steps. Just baby steps, and only because of electoral pressure. Steps that the death of showed are still barely sufficient. Susan Couch, Tai Hobson and the families of Kylie Jones, Karl Kuckenbecker and many many others would undoubtedly disagree that things have yet moved far enough, and of course they'd be right.
  6. The words 'slow', and 'only because of electoral pressure' could also be applied to the few weak moves to remove racial favouritism from legislation. But baby steps have been taken here too, which is something.
So what sort of list could you draw up? Head across to Jordan's, if you like, to see if either his or his commenters' lists give you any assistance.

RELATED: NZ Politics, Labour

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Denouement: The making of a work of art

How does an artist produce a work of genius? What goes through their minds? What planning does it require -- and what work, what mental work?

A new tutorial by artist Michael Newberry explains how he produced his brilliant painting Denouement (above left): the thinking behind it; the error in his original composition; the new discoveries he had to make in colour theory, in composition, and in the integration of light and of objects in space; and the breakthrough that brought it all together. In a tutorial as magnificent as his painting, and with 45 images to help guide you, Newberry takes you by the hand and walks you through the production of a work of art.

Take the time to join him on that journey. It's an experience you won't regret.

LINK: The making of Denouement - Newberry Workshop

RELATED:
Art, Objectivism

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fine dining

In the States it's still the 20th of March, which means there's still a chance to officially celebrate love. On February 14 it's Valentine's Day -- on March 20 it's "now officially" Steak and a Blowjob Day." (Click here and here for some short histories of this special day.)

Enjoy your meal.

Where to buy your 'Free Radical'

I've been asked by a few people who want to pick up a Free Radical from their local bookseller exactly which booksellers carry it, so here's a definitive list from around the country:
CENTRAL AUCKLAND: Borders, Whitcoulls and the Uni Bookshop in Alfred St.
GREATER AUCKLAND: Take Note in Browns Bay and Manurewa; Eastridge Paper Plus; Magazzino in Newmarket and Ponsonby; Mag Nation, St Lukes; Mainly Mags, Remuera; and the Takapuna Magascene.
HAMILTON: Accent Magazines, Alexandra St.
TAURANGA: Mag Addiction, Devonport Rd.
TAUPO: Whitcoulls
WANGANUI: Aromoho Mags, Magzone and Whitcoulls.
FEILDING: Paper Plus
WELLINGTON: Freemans, City Cards and Magnetix in Lambton Quay; Regency Magazines, Willis St; the Johnsonville Whitcoulls; Take Note, Tawa; Freeman's in Molesworth St; and Clarrie's in Post Office Square.
MOTUEKA: Budden's Bookshop.
CHRISTCHURCH: Canterbury Mags and Scorpio Books, Downtown; Borders, Riccarton; Piccadilly, Avonhead; Uni Books, Ilam; Whitcoulls and the Stanmore Book Shop in Linwood; Leslie's Book Shop over in Lyttleton; and the Merivale Paper Plus in Papanui.
QUEENSTOWN: Whitcoulls
DUNEDIN: Paper Plus and Whitcoulls downtown.
INVERCARGILL: Whitcoulls.
If your local isn't in the list, then you can either get them to order in a copy, or download a digital copy. And you can always subscribe, just to make completely sure that you never, ever miss out...
Mmmm. Just had hot cross buns dripping in butter. Delicious.

Oops. Better have another.

:-)

Message to students

Trevor Loudon has something to think about for those young students who sign up so casually to the politicial cause de jour, specifically those dozens of young people at Victoria, Auckland and Canterbury Universities who sign up to the Workers Party.

Do you really know what you're supporting?

LINK: Open letter to young Workers Party members - Trevor Loudon, New Zeal

RELATED: Politics, World Politics, Socialism

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How to Lie With Statistics

I've just been re-reading this classic book, which arrived in my letterbox last week. I'm overjoyed to have it back on my bookshelf after an absence of too many years. How to Lie with Statistics is a highly readable exposé of the bumbling and chicanery carried out with statistics, and by those who use them.

The Gee-Whiz Graph -- a graph in which the bottom is cut off to make a small change more dramatic (that's one, there at right) -- the Sample With the Built-In Bias, the Well-Chosen Average, the One-Dimensional Picture, the Semiattached Figure, Post Hoc and Statisticulation: all these and more are explained and exposed here, and you'll see plenty of examples of all of them almost every day in your newspaper and on your TV, in scientific journals and political manifestos, and of course all the way through Al Gore's movies.

How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff: Essential self-defence in a world where surveys, polls and dubious science are so frequently used to fleece us.

RELATED: Books

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They're hot on the temperature trail

Since debunking the Mann Hockey Stick -- the centrepiece of the UN/IPCC's Third Assessment Report, which was quietly dropped from their Fourth -- scientist Ross McKitrick and statistician Steve McIntyre have both been busy.

McIntyre has been getting his teeth into the impact of the Urban Heat Island effect on the historic temperature record (see the Wikipedia discussion for an explanation of the term) , conveniently dismissed by the UN/IPCC Team on the basis of a 1990 letter to Nature by Phil Jones et al. The now famous letter is summarised (and criticised) here by Warwick Hughes.

McIntyre has been trying for some years now and without any success to get access to the figures used by Jones to check their veracity (Jones appears to keep "misplacing" the "diskette" on which these figures can be found), since in his opinion and those of many others, the many corrections needed to take account of the Urban Heat Island effect across more than a century are likely to result in more than the 0.05 degree Celsius rise allowed for by Jones in his now "seminal" letter, and now so blandly accepted by 'The Team's' Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Says Mcintyre:
Despite the many citations, it doesn’t appear that anyone, including the IPCC, has ever tried to directly verify [Jones'] results. Does this study still stand for the proposition that UHI effects have been shown to be inconsequential? Well, the Coordinating Lead Author of this AR4 chapter was, um, Phil Jones. No one ever said that the Team needed a big locker room.
Nothing like sitting in judgement on your own seventeen-year old work, is there. (And read here for what Thrutch recommends as "a good technical post on some of the science and engineering necessary simply to collect accurate global temperature data -- data without which one can't even begin to try to understand and unravel the highly complex systems causing them": 'Turning Hot Air into Gold.')

Ross McKitrick meanwhile has been equally busy. He helped put together the Fraser Institute's Independent Summary for Policymakers [pdf] on the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (I've mentioned it here frequently, but if you haven't already then this is something you might like to download and print out, and keep around for a handy reference). And he's just co-authored a paper [pdf] challenging the very notion of a "global temperature." “Global temperature,” he and his co-authors conclude, is fundamentally meaningless, and models built on this concept are inherently just as meaningless. From the Abstract:
Physical, mathematical and observational grounds are employed to show that there is no physically meaningful global temperature for the Earth in the context of the issue of global warming. While it is always possible to construct statistics for any given set of local temperature data, an infinite range of such statistics is mathematically permissible if physical principles provide no explicit basis for choosing among them. Distinct and equally valid statistical rules can and do show opposite trends when applied to the results of computations from physical models and real data in the atmosphere. A given temperature field can be interpreted as both “warming” and “cooling” simultaneously, making the concept of warming in the context of the issue of global warming physically ill-posed.
David Schnare draws some conclusions therefrom.

LINKS: Jones & the Russian Urban Heat Island (UHI) - Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit
Turning hot air into gold - Power and Control
Independent Summary for Policymakers - Fraser Institute [PDF]
Does a global temperature exist? - Christopher Essex, Ross McKitrick, Bjarne Andresen [24-page PDF]
The Jones et al 1990 Letter to Nature: a rebuttal of some key points - Warwick Hughes

Is there a global temperature? - David Schare, The Hard Look

RELATED: Global Warming, Science

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Denouement - Michael Newberry


Reposted, because tomorrow night I'm posting the story behind this gorgeous painting. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Previous picture changed for this one, above, whose colours are a closer match to the real colours.

RELATED:
Art

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

America's most popular architecture

The White House, the Empire State Building and the Washington National Cathedral are unlikely candidates for a top ten of American architecture, but there they are heading up a just-released public survey of America's top 150 buildings conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

1800 Americans were surveyed, and the results suggest that Americans value their buildings more for their 'standing' of for how often they see them on their news than for any architectural value they might possess.

Of the top twenty, only five could really be said to be great or even good architecture -- and the pseudo-classical layer cakes of the Capitol and the White House would not be among them -- but that doesn't trouble the respondents even a little bit. The public may not know much about architecture, but they do know what they like.

For mine, for great architecture, I'd take the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges from the top twenty; Fallingwater, Taliesin and the Rose Center from the 21-40 group; Sears Tower, the Milwaukee Art Museum (above) and Thorncroft Chapel from 41-60; 333 Wacker Drive, the Gamble House and the New York Guggenheim Museum from 61-80; the Dana Hose, the TWA Terminal, John Portmans' Hyatt Regency, Atlanta and Mario Botta's SF Museum of Modern Art from 101-120; Taliesin West and the Robie, Hollyhock and Stahl Houses from 121 to 40; and finally, bringing up the rear in the public's list (but not mine) the John Hancock Tower, Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Store and Auditorium Building, and Saarinen's Ingall's Arena.

The discussion has already started in the AIA's comment section.

RELATED: Architecture

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The heroes of our world

Things are good, says Johan Norberg, and there are some special people to thank. "In a very short time, the world has experienced an extreme makeover." This is a good thing.
Just look around at the health, the wealth, the technologies, the opportunities, and the food on your plates. Could any of that have been possible for a king or queen 200 years ago? ... During the last 100 years, we have created more wealth, reduced poverty more, and increased life expectancy more than in the previous 100,000 years.
We? Yes, we. All of us who bring new values into the world, or who keep the hell out of the way of those who do. The world is a much better, much richer place, says Norberg, because of entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators and innovators -- people "who had new ideas, who travelled geographic distances and, more important, mental distances to create new things and who saw to it that old traditions, which would have stopped new creations, would not stop them for long."
Entrepreneurs are the heroes of our world. Despite the risks, the hard work, the hostility from society, the envy from neighbors, and state regulations, they keep on creating, they keep on producing and trading. Without them, nothing would be there.
You can read the whole piece online -- and it's well worth it -- at the Cato site: Entrepreneurs Are the Heroes of the World - Johan Norberg [8-page PDF]

The Clean at The Windsor

It's not every Monday night you get to catch The Clean at The Windsor Castle! A great night last night at Russell's Hustle was well finished off with a forty-five minute 'three song set' by the bewigged brothers and their bass player -- well done to all who brought it together. It looked like the desired result was achieved.

In praise of Judith Tizard

As Winston Peters' career demonstrates, headlines are the oxygen of politics -- and this morning Judith Tizard has a headline, and a front page no less. She'll be happy. Given all the castigation she regularly receives for being a Minister who Does Very Little, this would be something for her to celebrate: it's a headline for doing something, specifically swinging the handbag at airlines for overbooking passengers.

No, you're right, it's not a big issue. But you know, for all the criticism she receives for doing very little, and for all that this is hardly a pressing issue for which she's got the headline, can I just suggest that parliament would be a better place if there were more MPs like Judith who did very little? Given that there are so damn many there who want to do so damn much, and so damned intrusively, I'd like to offer Judith as a model of the sort of MP I prefer. In a word, lazy.

REPOST: 'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin


'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin, also known as 'She who was once the Helmet-Makers Beautiful Wife,' or 'The Old Courtesan.'

You might see this work by Rodin and ask, "Why the ugliness? Who would want to look at that old crone?" Let me quote the words of two masters.
An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body.

--R. Heinlein via Jubal Harshaw, on 'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin,
Or you might consider the sentiments of Shakespeare, from his Sonnet 73, in which he spoke of:
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
So, d'you think Rodin has pulled it off the task described by Harshaw? Or do you have the sensitivity of an armadillo? (Or are you just not letting on.)

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Why *does* ACC feel the need to spend 5 million of their stolen money on TV advertising?

From David Farrar:
Heather Roy usefully points out that the monopoly ACC is spending $5.1 million just to make people feel good about having ACC. That's a disgraceful waste of money. Advertising promoting safety or accident reduction is valid and laudable, but this self promotion is an insult to those who have to pay the levies to fund it.
A friend who pays some fairly serious money to help fund those levies does feel insulted. They sent me this short missive:
Anybody come up with any suggestions why ACC feel the need to spend 5 million of their stolen money on TV advertising? Do they want us to go out and get more injuries so we can make more claims. I'd much rather they lowered my rates instead.
Good point.

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Nature worship bursts its banks

The reaction of politicians, conservators and sundry minor bureaucrats to the weekend's semi-spectacular and thankfully disaster-free lahar has been, to summarise: "Phew!"

This is the measure of their relief, that -- thank goodness -- no one was killed by the unpredictable wall of water, mud and boulders that flooded down the mountain and (just) under road bridges and rail bridges and on down the Whangaehu River and out to the sea. That is, no one was killed by the risk that politicians, conservators and sundry minor bureaucrats took with other people's live in choosing not to intervene earlier, to drain the lake for example.

Thank goodness no one was killed -- older New Zealanders may remember the 151 people killed in 1953 when a similar event swept away the Tangiwai rail bridge -- but no thanks at all accrue to those who made the decision this time to let this natural process happen without doing anything to protect human life beyond setting up a rudimentary monitoring system. The irrational nature worship that values "intrinsic natural processes" like lahars above the lives of human beings who are put at risk by nature's potential destructive power is endemic, fashionable, written into law in the Resource Management Act -- and has all the character of religious belief.

It's not good enough. Rather than cowering pathetically in the face of such a natural process and putting human lives at risk, a rational approach would have been to take proper measures to control and protect against disaster -- human intervention to drain the lake is just one type of prophylactic measure that could have been undertaken.

Such measures would reflect that it's entirely natural for humans to shape the environment for our ends and for our own safety -- that's exactly what human beings do -- and they would have meant that the reaction this morning would have been characterised less by reactions like "Phew," and more like, "We knew."

RELATED: Ethics, Environment, New Zealand

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Crisis? What crisis?

I figured enough feathers had settled down after the release of the IPCC's Fourth Summary a few weeks back to do a very brief summary about the record. Here's some graphs for you to ponder. First, the surface temperature record from 1850 to 2000:

The second graph shows the temperatures from 1979 up until the present day (the graph is compiled by the good folk at JunkScience, from the most reliable recent temperature record, the satellite (MSU) measurements in the lower atmosphere, recorded by from Dr. John Christy & Dr. Roy Spencer, Global Hydrology and Climate Center, University of Alabama - Huntsville, USA, and Remote Sensing Systems)

There are a few things of note when you actually study that surface record. As Arctic researcher Syun Akasofu notes [pdf], quite sensibly:
There seems to be a roughly linear increase of the temperature from about 1800, or even much earlier, to the present. This trend should be subtracted from the temperature data during the last 100 years. Thus, there is a possibility that only a fraction of the present warming trend may be attributed to the greenhouse effect resulting from human activities. One possible cause of the linear increase may be that the Earth is still recovering from the Little Ice Age [pdf].

Thus, natural causes cannot be ignored in the present warming trend, in addition to the greenhouse effect. [Emphasis in the original.]
Another point is the general trend across the twentieth century itself, described so succinctly by film-maker Martin Durkin when exploding via email last week:
Since 1940 we have had four decades of cooling, three of warming, and the last decade when temperature has been doing nothing. “Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC? [Emphasis added. Well-earned swipe at the BBC in the original email.]
Across the twentieth century we've seen a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and a slight surface warming of between 0.3 and 0.6 degrees Celsius, much of that pre-194o -- that is, much of it before the 'great carbon deluge' from 1950 on. That's the record.

Now, what about that more recent graph. Have a good look. Earlier extrapolations of the temperature record suggested temperatures would be spiking after 2000. They didn't. Just to confirm what you see in that graph above, paleoclimate scientist Bob Carter notes: there is indeed a problem with global warming -- it stopped in 1998.
According to official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005... this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere...
Just to reconfirm the point, Christopher Monckton summarises from the UN/IPCC's draft Assessment Report [pdf] (whose conclusion he suggests should really be "the panic is officially over"),
Figures from the US National Climate Data Center show 2006 as about 0.03 degrees Celsius warmer worldwide than 2001. Since that is within the range of measurement error, global temperature has not risen in a statistically significant sense since the UN’s last report in 2001.
Not at all what was predicted by the IPCC in earlier reports.

So where's the warming? In particular, where's the man-made warming. As Richard Lindzen points out, climate always changes, "yet the definition of climate change assumes stationarity of the climate system." Just to repeat the point made by Syun Akasofu above, the surface temperature record shows climate changing in a linear fashion since 1800 (well before human-produced carbon emissions) and in a roughly upward direction.
"This trend," he says, is clearly a natural one, and "should be subtracted from the temperature data during the last 100 years. Thus, there is a possibility that only a fraction of the present warming trend may be attributed to the greenhouse effect resulting from human activities."
We've had a doubling of CO2 in recent human history ... and with that we've seen a temperature increase of just 0.6 degrees Celsius, and not all of that due to all that CO2. Even the IPCC is only willing to say "most" warming since the mid-twentieth century is our fault. As Dr Vincent Gray points out, that effectively means "most" warming from 1979 to 1998, which means, according to the IPCC, that
"most" of this 0.53ºC warming was caused by anthropogenic (human-induced) greenhouse gas increases. “Most” of this would be between 0.3ºC and 0.5ºC, the amount that the statement considers to be due to human influence.
Speaking on this point as to the difficulty of establishing who or what is responsible, the Fraser Institute's Independent Summary for Policymakers [pdf] points out:
Attribution of the cause in climate change is not formally possible. The term “attribution” means consistency with a climate model-generated scenario, rather than formal proof of causality. The same data could be consistent with contradictory hypotheses, including large or small greenhouse warming. Attribution studies rely on the validity of model-generated estimates of the climatic response to forcing, and model-generated estimates of natural variability. The reported uncertainties in attribution studies do not take into account basic uncertainty about climate model parameters.

These uncertainties can be considerable. Evidence for a human influence on climate relies on model-based detection studies. On average, models used for attributing recent climate change to human interference assume that natural forcings alone would have yielded virtually no change over the 20th century, and global cooling since 1979 [something rendered rather foolish by Akasofu's point above]. Attribution studies to date do not take into account all known sources of possible influence on the climate.
They conclude, "Due to the uncertainties involved, attribution of climate change to human cause is ultimately a judgment call."

So where's the crisis? The crisis is not in the record, it's in the predictions for the future generated by those computer-generated climate models, and there is considerable uncertainty and much opportunity for bias in the 'tuning' of these models, which involves an almost amusing degree of circularity; expectations of warming induce a certain method of 'tuning' the models, producing the desired predictions, inducing more 'certainty' about more warming, more tuning etc. On top of that, the mathematics underlying the models is frequently beyond the capacity of all but the most highly qualified mathematical specialists (which does not begin to describe most climate scientists). Indeed, as the IPCC themselves pointed out in their Third Assessment Report (2001),
In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions. (Third Assessment Report, Section 14.2.2.2)
The 'crisis' then is largely in the models, and the scary predictions made by these models is decreasing as each new IPCC report is released. I'll let author and former warmist Michael Crichton conclude, with comments he made in the New York debate I described on Saturday.
[B]ecause I look for trouble, I went at a certain point and started looking at the temperature records. And I was very surprised at what I found. The first thing that I discovered ... is that the increase in temperatures so far over the last hundred years, is on the order of six-tenths of a degree Celsius, about a degree Fahrenheit. I had'nt really thought, when we talked about global warming, about how much global warming really was taking place.

The second thing I discovered was that everything is a concern about the future and the future is defined by models. The models tell us that human beings are the cause of the warming, that human beings producing all this CO2, are what‘s actually driving the climate warming that we‘re seeing now.

But I was interested to see that the models, as far as I could tell, were not really reliable. That is to say, that past estimates have proven incorrect. In 1988, when James Hanson talked to the Congress and said that global warming had finally arrived, The New York Times published a model result that suggested that in the next hundred years there would be twelve degrees Celsius increase. A few years later the increase was estimated to be six degrees, then four degrees. The most recent U.N. estimate is three degrees.

Will it continue to go down? I expect so. And this left me in a kind of a funny position. But let me first be clear about exactly what I'm saying. Is the globe warming? Yes. Is the greenhouse effect real? Yes. Is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, being increased by men? Yes. Would we expect this warming to have an effect? Yes. Do human beings in general effect the climate? Yes. But none of that answers the core question of whether or not carbon dioxide is the contemporary driver for the warming we‘re seeing.

And as far as I could tell scientists had postulated that, but they hadn't demonstrated it.

So I'm kinda stranded here. I've got half a degree of warming, models that I don‘t think are reliable. And what, how am I going to think about the future? I reasoned in this way: if we‘re going to have one degree increase, maybe if climate doesn't change, and if there‘s no change in technology – but of course, if you don‘t imagine there will be a change in technology in the next hundred years you‘re a very unusual person. [Emphasis mine.]
It has to be said in this regard that there are very many "unusual persons" about. Few people would have been prepared to predict in 1900 the technology we would be using a century later, but a century later many "unusual persons" are both happy to do so, and at the same time actively hindering potential changes in technology by promoting measures that strangle the necessary advances in technology.

Rather than help, these "unusual persons" are in fact a threat to human life on this planet -- at least to the extent that their stories of crisis and their nostrums to avert it are taken seriously. As George Reisman summarises, "Global Warming Is Not a Threat But the Environmentalist Response to It Is." Or as Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary puts it so colourfully, "You can't change the world by wearing sandals."

UPDATE 1: I liked this comment over at Steve McIntyre's 'Climate Audit' blog:
I’m on the side of Michael Crichton, though, not for the science, but for what is a crisis. AIDS in Africa is a crisis, Darfour is a crisis, Iraq is a crisis, Malaria is an ongoing crisis that prevents many African countries from moving forward. My sister who practices as a doctor in Mali for one month a year says that because most of the people there have either malaria or anemia, they’re just too weak to be productive the way we are. That’s a crisis. If we had the same here, we would be in real trouble too.

Now is climate change a crisis? No. Nobody has died from climate change so far. And don’t talk to me about heat waves or Katrina, as they could have happened without any extra CO2. Katrina would not have been a crisis if the levees had held...
UPDATE 2: Film-maker Martin Durkin makes his more measured, public response to critics of his Channel Four film The Great Global Warming Swindle. It's good reading. He concludes:
Too many journalists and scientists have built their careers on the global-warming alarm. Certain newspapers have staked their reputation on it. The death of this theory will be painful and ugly. But it will die. Because it is wrong, wrong, wrong.
LINKS: Why has global warming become such a passionate subject? Let's keep out cool - Syun Akasofu [5-page PDF]
News - Junk Science
Is the earth still recovering from the little ice age? A possible cause of global warming - Syun-Ichi Akasofu, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks [14-page PDF]
There IS a problem with global warming ... it stopped in 1998 - Professor Bob Carter, (UK) Daily Telegraph
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2007: Analyis and Summary - Christopher Monckton [10-page PDF]
"New report says global warming is negligible, short-lived, and now ended" - Dr Vincent Gray - Not PC
Independent Summary for Policymakers - Fraser Institute [64-page PDF]
Global warming is not a crisis - DEBATE TRANSCRIPT, Intelligence Squared US [79-page PDF]
Global Warming Is Not a Threat But the Environmentalist Response to It Is
- George Reisman's Blog
"You can't change the world by wearing sandals." - Michael O'Leary interview, (UK)Daily Telegraph

RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Politics-World

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