Heartwarming news for coldhearted skeptics

It was a bit of a shock to see a frank admission -- from one of the world's leading proponents of global warming theory -- that there has been no global warming for the last 15 years. But that's what the man says!

THERE has been no global warming for 15 years, a key scientist admitted yesterday in a major U-turn.

Professor Phil Jones, who is at the centre of the "Climategate" affair, conceded that there has been no "statistically significant" rise in temperatures since 1995.

The admission comes as new research casts serious doubt on temperature records collected around the world and used to support the global warming theory.

One of the problems I have is that I don't revel in people's misery. Probably because I'm a natural-born bleeding heart. Maybe even lily-livered, but please not lily-livered liberal! Lily livered libertarian? Perhaps, but there's still too much alliteration, and it makes me squeamish to self-identify that way.

In any case, I am not gloating over what has to be a major case of the blues for poor Dr. Jones.

And besides, even if I did want to gloat over his plight (and the plight of the warmists generally these days), I'm further hamstrung by worries that any resort to ridicule would constitute Alinskyite behavior.

Fortunately for me, the schadenfreude I lack is being supplied by others with harder hearts, and more bilious livers.

Like Gerard Van der Leun, who links the AGW Hitler parody video, and opines,

This one sums up the state of how the flaming wheels are flying off the AGW juggernaut with every passing day. It's got it all and is so densely packed with the lunacy of the scam that it's worth playing several times.

In short, "Dee-licious!" Such intense mockery couldn't happen to a more rotten group of people.

Check it out. Pass it on.

(Via Memeorandum.)

What better way to harden my heart, bilify my liver, and stiffen my spine than this delightfully hilarious new Hitler parody? After all, what red-blooded bleeding-heart could feel sorry for Hitler?

Seriously, anyone who feels sorry for Hitler is in need of compascism, and should SEEK HELP!

I'm feeling so invigorated that I won't even worry about whether the above might violate Godwin's Law.

posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (3)

That Was Unexpected

I received a passage for Baxter from Uncle Neil today. I assumed it was a joke. Very inside joke involving a foreign film narrated by a dog and fifth floor library tennis dates. It turns out there actually are people who buy those things. You know what things. You know the guilty desire. There was one you always wanted, whether it was subconscious motivational tapes or rubber band powered treadmills. You wanted it. You know it. . . . You still want it.

But you're not afraid. Oh no. Intrepid! Like the momentarily fashionable salesman's vehicle of choice. Peeling paint was a feature, not a bug.

I see everything twice! See it and raise.

posted by Cosmic Drunk at 03:28 AM | Comments (0)

What is a skeptic?

Steven Novella, whose Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast is one I never miss (also check the brief companion 5x5 podcast), is trying out a new definition for a perfectly good word that others (for some reason) don't seem too keen on, namely "skeptic":

A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

I jotted some notes that I reckoned others might find interesting or informative and thought it best to reprint my comment here:

As a classicist I can tell you that the original meaning (Gk. skeptikos) was simply 'thoughtful, reflective.' It comes from a verb that describes a careful kind of looking. The idea of doubt came from a term also used to describe a certain kind of thinker: aporetikos. It isn't difficult to see how giving careful attention to philosophical questions (which in the ancient world also meant scientific questions) would lead one to be a doubter, in the same way that careful (i.e., critical) thought among modern skeptics leads us to doubt traditional explanations.

This same type of thinker could also be called ephektikos, which is something like the modern coinage agnostic. This referred to someone as suspending judgment. What it really means is that you hold yourself back and look at things impartially. This is something else that we do, and it allows us to criticize the emotional responses of others.

The three terms are closely associated, but one gave its name to a school. And as with many schools of thought through the ages, its opponents (like modern theists in the face of a resurgent atheism) took great pains to tar its practitioners.

Far from being sub-optimal, I think skeptic is about as good a word as we're likely to find, and together with its companion adjectives (which have colored its reception) covers just about everything in your definition.

posted by Dennis at 07:52 PM | Comments (5)

Reality-Based Rule?

Of course I'm playing on Valerie Jarrett's remark that President Obama will be "ready to rule." And of course I'm mocking the notion that Democrats have a monopoly on reality.

But what is no laughing matter is the lack of reason and the total disregard for science in what may be the imminent appointment of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the EPA.

I keep seeing his name bandied about among lists of potential cabinet members, but he must be barred in the name of science and reason.

In short, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has proved himself little better than Jenny McCarthy, that detestable mouthpiece of the anti-vaccine crowd who has directly contributed to declining health among children, has deluded countless parents, and has supported dubious, unscientific methods. This would be a disaster and an appointment anything but reality-based.

You can read much, much more from Steven Novella at NeuroLogica Blog or from David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine, or from the many, many science bloggers and skeptics who have blogged in opposition. Notable among these is Orac who goes into very great depth on Kennedy and why he's such a terrible choice, and also helps us to find out how to contact the president elect and to be heard.

This is no direction for the Obama administration to go after the Bush administration was so reviled for hindering science. A Kennedy selection would have far less to do with reality than with expediency and personal relationships.

MORE: And now by coincidence I find (via Drudge) that John Podesta seems to have a history of UFO quackery. Just what have we gotten ourselves into?

posted by Dennis at 10:27 AM | Comments (50)

Religion in schools

The more perspicacious among our readers may have gathered that I am a public school teacher. I may just be among the smallest minorities in the profession: atheist, libertarian, Republican, skeptic.

The last of these in me was amused by an e-mail with which one colleague plagued the district today: an effort to sell a Salt Crystal Lamp:

I have new - in the box - never used - Himalayan Salt Crystal Lamp. These lamps release healthy negative ions to keep the air you breathe pollution free. They are also pretty.

Boy, am I glad she hasn't wasted any of those negative ions yet. I can use all the negative ions I can get, and as everyone knows, there's nothing more healthful than HIMALAYAN salt crystals. They are formed from the tears of dying sherpas, weeping with joy at thoughts of nirvana.

And did I mention that they are also pretty?

Knowing this about a colleague gives me all the more reason to oppose the intrusion of the personal and the ideological (in this case the idiotical?) in the classroom.

posted by Dennis at 02:11 PM | Comments (4)

She blinded them with science! Or maybe not.

I've recently bought a portable media player* and begun downloading baudcasts**.

So what prompted this post was the July 6th edition of PRI's To the Best of Our Knowledge: "How we remember." Specifically it was the segment on Jill Price, known previously only by the name "AJ". She has been studied by a team of university researchers who have given her supposed condition—the ability to recall every day of her life since the age of 14—the name hyperthymesia.

This does not strike me as a condition at all, and certainly not something worthy of study. What are the conditions under which this condition presents itself?

"1) the person spends an abnormally large amount of time thinking about his or her personal past, and 2) the person has an extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from their personal past"

So "hyperthymesia" is nothing more than self-obsession tied to a calendar?

Her party trick is the ability to describe the details of her personal life when given a specific date. And it might be impressive if it weren't for the fact that she has kept a journal since 1976, which she provided the researchers so that they could check the accuracy of her recollections.

Given the powers of memory we've known about for millennia (consider the rhapsodes of ancient Greece, the Shakespearean actors of our own day, or the religious adherents who memorize their holy books, as in the Hindu or Muslim traditions), it is not remarkable that someone could memorize such a written record.

Ms. Price was asked on the program about significant past events. Off the bat she was asked about the day Reagan was shot, which she recognized immediately. Who doesn't recall where they were during a major event? The near assassination of a president was a lob, and one she's doubtless been asked a hundred times. Another, the invasion of Grenada, she sidestepped, saying she wouldn't know anything about that as she was just wrapped up in herself at that time. (Perhaps it just didn't make it into her journal.) Asked about a specific day, she gave details of the following weekend, or noted that it was the anniversary of her mother's cancer diagnosis.

Where is the real precision of memory?

Is it a hoax? Perhaps. It brings to mind Project Alpha, in which two young magicians who contacted James Randi independently volunteering to pose as psychics, fooled a group of university researchers who believed they had found evidence of the supernatural. Despite their degrees and apparent scientific method, they were fooled by a couple of kids.

And yet this need not be a hoax. Ms. Price needn't have actively deceived anyone, seeking out fame and fortune (though her book is doing well).

No, it's possible she really believes that she has a special ability.*** She claims that she realized her ability at the age of 12, and can recall every detail of her life from the age of 14. If you had become obsessed with your own ability to recall the mundane details of your life, and had kept a daily journal, do you doubt that you could have the same recollection?

It should actually be far easier to recall impressions of personal experiences, recorded and reread, than to recall fixed literary texts, so the objection of quantity of data is void.

And why are the dates so significant? Is it because the journal entries are dated and help her to organize the data?

The lead researcher, after 8 years, has given the so-called condition a name and believes it to be real, but has no idea how it works. He has used the journal to verify her memories. And yet this has not occurred to him?

Continue reading "She blinded them with science! Or maybe not."

posted by Dennis at 03:06 PM | Comments (6)

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