Class Warfare Blog

August 25, 2017

Aliens … and Dinosaurs!

Having covered all of the ground possible … and a lot more, the Ancient Aliens TV show has hit a new high, or low, depending on your point of view. They kept many of the same people on staff, introduced some new folks, and they kept their normal whirlwind pace, one that doesn’t allow much time for consideration of the fabulous things they propose, such as aliens being the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs.

The main thrust of this episode is indeed that it might just be possible, maybe coulda been, that aliens eliminated the dinosaurs so we could thrive. I won’t comment on the “evidence” they present but there was one point at which the idiocy achieved new heights. They were developing a line of argument challenging the facts that humans are 2-3 million years old at best but “all” of the dinosaurs perished 65 million years ago, in what was considered an extinction level even involving a rather large meteor, landing in Mexico, but clearly dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another … well, and aliens, too, of course.

They trotted out the éminence grise of this generation of unbridled thinkers, Erich von Daniken, to ask the question: If this was an event large enough to kill “all” of the dinosaurs, why did it kill off just the dinosaurs? (Apparently enquiring minds want to know.) Well, the event in question is called the Cretaceous-Paleocene mass extinction event and it resulted in about 75% of all species on the planet being wiped out, not “just” the dinos. And, it didn’t even kill off all of the dinosaurs! Many of the smaller theropods (what most of us think of when we think of dinosaurs), that is those under 25 kg/55 lb in mass, survived. Of course, the big beasties died.

The show then went on it’s merry way establishing that dinosaurs and human beings could possibly have lived together (mighta coulda). They didn’t mention Alley Oop in their arguments but they did throw in the Loch Ness monster and coelacanths. Right in the middle of this a talking head I didn’t bother to identify started bad mouthing radiocarbon dating, saying things like it was based on the production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere by cosmic rays (true) and that the rate of production may have been different millions of years ago (also true) and that these things could affect the dates on early human and dinosaurs remains (uh, not so much). If you want to know why I was puzzled, Dear Reader, read on.

Carbon-14 Dating: A Primer
All radioactivity-based dating methods are based upon a factoid of radioactive isotopes (kinds of elements): they all decay in a pattern involving a half-life. A half-life is an amount of time in which a radioactive sample loses half of its radioactivity. Interestingly, the next halving of that sample’s radioactivity takes the same amount of time, as does the next even though there is less and less to lose. This creates a situation that is summarized in a rule of thumb: a radioactive isotope can be used to date object as much as 10 half-lives back in time. The amount of radioactivity in a living animal cannot be very high in the first place. Comic books aside, radioactivity in high doses is typically lethal. So, all living plants and animals start out with only tiny amounts of radioactive elements in their bodies. Then after one half life, half of it is gone (unless it is replaced which in the case of carbon-14 happens because we eat carbon atoms in all of our food and plants absorb carbon dioxide—this, of course, stops when the plant or animal dies). After two half lives, only a quarter remains because half is lost in the first period and half of what is left was gone after the second. After the third half-life one eighth is left, after the fourth, one sixteenth is left, etc. After ten half-lives 1/210 is left. As a percent that is a little less than 0.1%. Since very little was started with, at this point close to zero is left, so there is basically nothing to measure.

So, what is the half-life of carbon-14 you ask? (You’d better!) It is 5730 years. Ten times this number is 57,300 years. This is the time span that radiocarbon dating can be used. That won’t get you back before Homo sapiens begins (200,000-300,000 years) let alone back to the large theropods getting killed off 66 million years ago. This is a classic smokescreen tactic, used often in this show. Throw anything you got against the wall and see if it sticks.

The Problem With All of This
As you are probably aware, Americans are not the most scientifically-literate people on the planet. As more and more of this bushwah is passed off as some sort of legitimate argumentation (It is not!), people are going to more easily believe the bullshit our governments peddle us. Global warming? That’s a hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists looking for grants. Dumping mine wastes laced with toxic heavy metals, not a problem. The Earth cleans itself. Lead in drinking water? A little bit is okay; go ahead and drink it.

The Exxon Corporation has released documents showing that 80% of the studies they undertook or analyzed showed that global warming/climate change was real and had real negative consequences. At the same time, 80% of its marketing budgets on the topic went to casting shade on the topic (for decades). Their problem is that one of the greatest sources of the climate change problem is the burning of petroleum products, which is what Exxon is in business for.



August 9, 2017

A Modern Quandary

I have been reading “Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu.” This is puzzling to me because I haven’t been having any trouble sleeping, so why would I want to read a sociology text? (Sorry, old joke.)

In a context different from the one I will address in this post ( his was the impact of television), Professor Bourdieu wrote “How can I reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number?” His concern was that the primary function of television seemingly was to dumb down even simple discussions. Here I want to address the topic of the anti-evolution crowd and the anti-climate change crowd.

Without specialized training, it is hard to follow the science in these fields. I have a graduate degree in chemistry and I am not versed in the nuances of either subject (although I guess I could create a small summary of each). So, without esoteric training, how are the citizens in a democracy supposed to assess the validity of such concepts.

We could start with having better basic education, explaining that a scientific theory is a mechanism that explains a great many facts as well as makes predictions available to expand out knowledge. Currently people use the word theory as a synonym for “wild ass guess.” “I have a theory about that …” they will say. No, they don’t. At best they have an hypothesis and more likely they have a guess that is poorly substantiated at best. To say one has a “theory” makes one sound better than to say “I have a guess as to….”

It also does not help that each topic has a cadre of sociopolitical opponents. If the Theory of Evolution is correct, all of fundamentalist Christianity and most of doctrinaire Christianity is off to a rubbish heap somewhere. Basically, if God didn’t created humanity magically, we couldn’t have “rebelled” against his authority, so there was no original sin, and hence nothing for the human sacrifice that was Jesus to absolve. (Bye, bye!)

Climate change has political opponents who have economic stakes at risk. The Koch brothers fund anti-climate change efforts to protect their oil refining, oil pipeline, and other industries, while David Koch supports NOVA science education programs on PBS, including programs on climate change (possibly as a suppressing maneuver?).

So, ordinary citizens are left to evaluate what appears to them to be a propaganda war. “Scientists” have lied to them before as have businessmen, so it is hard to decide which side of either of these debates is trustworthy.

I find the argument that climate change was invented for scientists to be able to secure grants for their work (It is a hoax!). Whoever invented this red herring obviously has never interacted with scientists, each of which has a big ego, and the first of them to discover such a plot would gleefully expose his colleagues to shame and humiliation for participating in it. Most scientists minored in gloating in college.

So, what’s a citizen to do?

I think part of the problem has to do with the evidence not being on display. I hear Christian apologists often ask the question: Where are the transitional fossils? This questions goes back to the time of Charles Darwin when there was a very sparse fossil record. The key facts that the public needs to know is that fossils do not form all that often, so are passably rare and that with regard to transitional fossils, fossils that show one species transitioning to another, there are large numbers of them available. Maybe a video (to reach the masses) needs to me made of the amount of evidence underlying the Theory of Evolution. The amount of evidence, from many, many different and unrelated fields of science is incredibly vast. Just a list of peer-reviewed articles supporting the theory scrolling on like the credits of a Hollywood movie (like they do on TV, at super high speeds) would take hours. Flashing photos of all of the fossils that apply to animals no longer in existence but which fit into the evolutionary family tree of Earth, would also take quite a long time (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 3008, 3009, …).

The same could be true for Climate Change. We could run publicity shots of the smiling faces of the scientists in the field who support the tentative conclusion that humanity is contributing to the current round of climate change (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 178, 179, …). Then the photos of those reputable scientists who oppose the current consensus on climate change could have their photos flashed (blink, blink, blink).

There is no way ordinary citizens could be brought up to speed on these topics through educating them, because even with the head start in such training I have, I do not want to put in the effort. Instead, I trust the scientists in their field to represent their findings correctly (to the best of their ability) and I trust the egos of their colleagues to prick any intellectual bubbles that are flimsy or unfounded.

Another route might be to create an independent evaluation board to provide basic explanations of science topics to legislators and citizens. The Town of Brisbane, Australia did this a while back (don’t know whether they still do) when they created the office of Town Scientist whose job it was to explain scientific topics to the town governing board and citizens of the Town of Brisbane. For the longest time the State of California had an independent political official whose job was to explain issues voters needed to address and that office was never politicized or demeaned, and it worked really well for quite some time (don’t know whether it still does).

This is a modern problem, because back when “governance” was by autocrats/monarchs, they didn’t give a fig about whether the people understood or not. Ironically, it was the advent of merchants (aka business people) who accumulated wealth (aka power) enough to make it important that a wider swath of a country’s population be made to understand governmental decisions. With the advent of modern democracy, issues are now submitted to the ballot and candidates for office are voted upon, too. We need to figure out how to “reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number” and we need to do it fast. Life ain’t gonna get simpler.

August 8, 2017

So What?

There is a major climate change report out (and it ain’t good news) that is awaiting approval by various agencies. The draft document has been leaked to the NY Times, if not other sources, and in a NYT report the following was stated: “The E.P.A. is one of 13 agencies that must approve the report by Aug. 18. The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.”

“The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.” Interesting. My response is “So what?”

Is Mr. Pruitt even qualified to have such an opinion? Let’s see … Mr. Pruitt was trained as a lawyer before he went into politics. Well, he might have specialized in environmental law, so … according to Wikipedia Mr. Pruitt “entered into private practice in Tulsa where he specialized in constitutional law, contracts, insurance law, labor law, and litigation and appeals.” Hmmm, no mention of environmental law. Maybe he has undertaken an extensive review of the scientific literature on climate change, you know, read a few thousand journal articles, attended conferences, that kind of thing? Anybody got a guess as to how likely that was? Yeah, I came up with zero percent, too. He has no training, has put in no study, so he knows squat of that which he judges.

Mr. Pruitt has no basis for his opinion other than political ideology, so his opinion is irrelevant at best. I suggest he may be making the same mistake as the Kim Davis of 15-minute fame. She confused her job as one of exercising her personal judgment instead of determining whether all laws were complied with in the issuance of a marriage license. Mr. Pruitt may think that his opinion has merit. It does not. His job is to ascertain whether departmental protocols were followed in the creation of the report, and if so, sign the damned thing.

Apparently President Trump also has an opinion … <sigh> … okay, Mr. Trump was trained, er, graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the U. of Pennsylvania….

January 4, 2017

An Appalling Lack of Chemical Knowledge

Filed under: Business,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:21 am
Tags: , ,

As reported in The Grist:

This Plant in India Transforms CO2 into Baking Soda
Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals promises to prevent emissions of 60,000 tons of CO2 a year by redirecting it from a coal-powered boiler to a new industrial process.

Here’s how the technology works: As the chemical plant’s coal-fired boiler releases flue gas, a spritz of a patented new chemical strips out the molecules of CO2. The captured CO2 is then mixed with rock salt and ammonia to make baking soda.

The process, invented by Carbon Clean Solutions, marks a global breakthrough in carbon-capture technology. Most such projects aim to bury CO2 in underground rocks, reaping no economic benefit; that’s called carbon capture and storage (CCS). But Tuticorin represents the first successful industrial-scale application of carbon capture and utilization (CCU), meaning the carbon is put to good use and helps turn a profit.

Tuticorin’s owner says the plant now has virtually no emissions. And the facility is not receiving any government subsidies. Many carbon-capture projects have needed subsidies because of high costs, but Carbon Clean’s process is more efficient, requiring less energy and less equipment.

Carbon Clean believes that CCU could ultimately neutralize 5 to 10 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from coal.


The operative (and errant) phrase here is “Most such projects aim to bury CO2 in underground rocks, reaping no economic benefit.” The reason is that if sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda, or sodium hydrogen carbonate) gets used, the CO2 gets released back into the atmosphere! Bloody Hell!

Effing morons!

Here are some of the myriad uses of sodium bicarbonate:
Used to kill cockroaches. Once consumed, it causes internal organs of cockroaches to burst due to gas collection. The “gas” is CO2!

Sodium bicarbonate is one of the main components of the common incendiary “black snake” firework. The effect is caused by the thermal decomposition, which produces carbon dioxide gas to produce a long snake-like ash as a combustion product of the other main component.

Sodium bicarbonate can be used to extinguish small grease or electrical fires by being thrown over the fire, as heating of sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide. Note: It is also used in “dry chemical” fire extinguishers. The CO2 released is what really extinguishes the fire.

Sodium bicarbonate mixed with water can be used as an antacid to treat acid indigestion and heartburn. Part of the relief is due to CO2 being released which adds to the pre-existing stomach gas causing that gas to be released in a belch.

Morons! “… meaning the carbon is put to good use and helps turn a profit” means the CO2 is put back into the atmosphere! But as long as there is an effing profit, who cares!

Would you have read this and believed it? Would you have been fooled into thinking that this is a good thing for Climate Change reduction? Basically these idiots are renting the CO2 for a short time, causing no net reduction in atmospheric CO2. The only way for this to reduce CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere is for it to be not used! Which is exactly what this company scorned? Sequester it, lock it away? But we could sell it!



January 2, 2017

Agriculture, Smagriculture

We were taught in school that roughly 8000-10,000 years ago an agricultural revolution occurred. Around that time modern humans, the only Homo species left, developed agriculture and the world became a better place.

Instead of wandering around a rather large patch of ground, hunting and gathering as we went, we settled down, first into small villages, then later into larger villages and then cities. Wow, the march of progress has begun!

But, this story glosses over a few facts, facts like human beings became shorter and less heavy because of this change, that human life expectancy decreased because of this change, that human well-being decreased because of this change. As a matter of fact, there was very little that was positive about this transition. And, once it was started by any tribe and made successful, all of that tribe’s neighbors had to conform or be pushed out. Agriculture allowed for a small population expansion, giving its proponents the ability to dominate their region by pure numbers. But, everyone became more miserable because of it. Farmers work longer hours than do hunter-gatherers. They are confined to the land and see the same land, day after day instead of being able to enjoy a wide variety of lands. Farmer’s diets were quite narrow compare to hunter-gatherers and because so much human waste accumulated, disease was more prevalent.

Once farmers began to domesticate workable and edible animals (by breeding them to docility by the simple expedient of “harvesting” all of those which seemed too aggressive or who tried to escape) their health got even worse. Many diseases of domestic animals were communicable to their “owners.”

We also became worriers. As hunter-gatherers we had to worry about the approximate now and slightly into the future. Once we started planting crops, we had to worry about protecting the crop from animals that would eat it; we had to worry about the harvest and the next harvest and, if we expand our fields, will there be enough water, and … etc.

So, why did we deliberately adopt a mode of existence that actually made our lives worse? The answer is simple, we were unable to see the future well enough to avoid that path. Our “suppositions/predictions” were based upon fictions which we could make as rosy as we wished. In other words, we couldn’t see the consequences of our actions well enough to make a different decision.

Fast forward 8000-10,000 years to … now. We now have a specialized cadre of humans trained to create and examine “suppositions/predictions” and those specialists have told us that there are unpredictable and dire consequences attached to our preference for the use of combustion (burning things) to provide the energy to support our current lives. Combustion requires combustible materials which are all carbon-based (only carbon-based living things can accumulate enough energy from the sun that their carcasses can return to us heat and light when they are burned). This combustion results in increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in excess of what forests and other plant bases can remove. This has the unintended consequence of causing more of the Sun’s energy to be retained in the atmosphere where it is shared with the land and seas resulting in warmer conditions everywhere. (More evidence here if you need it.) Those warmer conditions affect the distribution of insects, fish, crop plants, and people all over the globe and because we have built such an extensive, anchored to the land infrastructure, we cannot just up and move things.

So, we now have learned to estimate the consequences of our physical actions to a much higher degree than when we launched the agricultural revolution. And, what have we done in this clear case of being on a very negative path? We have reveled in short-term thinking, partying like it was 8000 BCE. “What do those pointy headed scientists know?” “If the globe is warming, why does it still snow in winter?” “It is all due to natural cycles (not).” An honest response would be “Hey, there are massive amounts of money to be made here, so we are going to hold the course, so fuck off!”

So, what have we learned in the last 10,000 years? Not so much.

September 22, 2016

Sure, We Can Trust Big Oil!

Last night I saw a TV commercial that, I presume, ran locally that was made by an Illinois-based petroleum industry organization. It started with acknowledging the ever louder call to “leave fossil fuels in the ground,” and tried to counter that with pointing to all of the good things petroleum is converted into: fertilizers, life saving pharmaceuticals, plastics and fibers, fire retardants, etc. Then of course, the plea pivoted on to “you wouldn’t want to put all of those things at risk would you?”

Apparently, these sort of “those are nice kneecaps you got there; it’d be a shame if sumpin’ were to happen to them” threats are considered common and effective now. This is also a straw man argument. The call to leave fossil fuels “in the ground” is due to the wholesale burning of those fuels to power moving vehicles and to be converted into electricity, the primary uses that result in carbon dioxide being injected into the atmosphere far faster than nature can deal with it, thus causing the conditions leading to climate change/global warming. No one is criticizing any of the wonderful things that can be manufactured from fossil fuels.

Of course, the commercial has calming music and pictures of farm machines reaping golden grain, smiling children and parents, etc. for the same reason factory farms still use bucolic pictures of Amish farms in their advertising, so I guess we shouldn’t hold that against them.

If one were to look critically at the, say, petrochemical industry, the industry that converts petroleum from out of the ground into “petrochemicals” other than gasoline, diesel, and other fuels, I guarantee you that there is much to find that we would dislike in the way of pollution, but these are small potatoes compared to the impact of the wide-spread, large scale combustion of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) in our motors and stationary engines. This is not only causing global climate changes faster that we can adjust for them, but is also wasteful in that petroleum burnt can’t be converted into all of the wonderful things the commercial commented on.

Their argument will boomerang if that is the only one they have and it is the only valid one, even though they will mention all of the jobs in their industry that will be “lost” if a “leave it in the ground” policy were to be implemented. But, just like all of the other U.S. workers who have been “displaced” by corporate and government actions, those people will have to find other things to do. Whining about the loss of good paying jobs when the job description is “destroying the biosphere your children will need to survive” is a bit disingenuous, especially when so many other U.S. workers have been gleefully thrown under the corporate bus, just for a better bottom line.

Like the Wells Fargo accounts scandal, these continuing issues completely undermine the Conservatives’ campaign to “remove burdensome government regulations to unleash the power of U.S. corporations.” Clearly that is the last thing we want to do for the segment of our society which willingly does things on a daily basis to poison our environment, disrupt our financial systems catastrophically, and cheat their own customers, all governed by a need to “improve the bottom line.”

September 18, 2016

Pascal’s Wager and Climate Change

Filed under: Politics,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:38 am
Tags: , , , ,

A common tool of religious apologists is Pascal’s Wager, which is basically the claim that believing in God is the safest approach to reality because if you are wrong, there is no penalty and if you are right, then the rewards are tremendous. None of this applies, of course, if you “bet” that God does not exist.

This, obviously, has nothing to do with God and everything to do with human beings and risk management. I have commented before that the “risk” has been created by said god and hence Pascal’s Wager is merely part of the scam. It is not an argument in favor of god, it is an argument in favor of belief in a god whether He exists or not.

Having said all of that, Pascal was using his reasoning faculty when he proposed the idea of the “wager,” and, if this applies to something as profound as to whether to believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful supernatural being, should it also not apply to belief in, say, climate change? It is an obvious correlation that “strong religious faith” and disbelief in climate change are linked in this country. Did not the Christian/Jewish god provide the Earth for us to dominate? Would God allow His Creation (man) the power to destroy His Creation (the biosphere) that supports human and other life? Doubt about their religion is unacceptable but doubt about science, which often challenges their religion, well, that is actively cultivated from the pulpits of U.S. churches. So, if the religious are going to doubt anything, it is science.

So, let us apply Pascal’s Wager to the idea of climate change. If we believe in climate change as being man-made and, hence, capable of being rectified by the actions of men, and we are right, then we may survive to live on. If we are wrong, and there is no such thing as climate change, then we have lost little. If on the other hand, we disbelieve in climate change and we are wrong, we doom the future of humanity. If we are right, then there is nothing lost. Clearly the wager favors belief.

There is another dimension of this argument, if we believe climate change is man-made and we act upon it, but none of the man-made “causes” we suspected seem to have any effect when we rectify them, then there is a consequence, we have wasted time and effort on a non-solution. But this is not a net negative. By doing that experiment, we may discover what the real causes are and then have a leg up in solving them. If we do not even attempt the experiment, then we not only won’t find out if we are right, but we will not find the underlying causes of the effect. Basically, if climate change is real and not a “hoax” as so many claim, we are better off pretending that it is real and acting upon it.

The reason this is so important is we cannot afford the experiment we are now running, the experiment of changing our climate from one that supports human life to something else, something which is likely, very likely, to be less beneficial. It is not as if it is the case that if our experiment in climate change challenges our ability to survive, there isn’t a back-up Earth we can retreat to lick our wounds and learn from our mistakes. If we are wrong about climate change being “unreal” we may pay a penalty that is beyond our worst nightmares.

To solve this problem, just requires a little belief, but time is running out as the experiment is running and has been running for decades.


July 5, 2016

California’s Drought Solved!

The State of California uses about 42 million acre-feet of water (1 acre-foot = the volume of water of a one square mile container, 1 foot high) annually. At least it did in 2010 and this is significantly less than it used in 2005 and I suspect it is more than is being used now as my former home state is in the throes of an epic drought.

As most of you know, fresh water is created daily via the water cycle (water evaporates from everywhere, especially the oceans, leaving its salts behind, and then falls as fresh water rain, snow, etc.) with the fresh water that pools up or sinks into the ground is a tiny fraction of all of the Earth’s water. We need fresh water to survive: for drinking, agriculture, and myriad other purposes.

California is drawing down their reserves of fresh water to the extent that the ground level is sinking because so much water is being withdrawn from underground aquifers. So, where could all of California’s fresh water resupplies gone?

Eureka, I have found it!

The water level in Lake Michigan, on which shores I now live, is four feet higher than it was a year ago. I can confirm this because paths along its beaches are now under water that we walked just last year. Lake Michigan has a surface area of about 22,400 square miles, which is 14.34 million acres, so four feet of water piled on top would necessarily be 57 million acre-feet of water. This is more than California uses in a year.

We didn’t seem to have an abnormal year of precipitation but the drainage basins for the Great Lakes are huge and, well, water flows downhill.

The key point about climate change is that we cannot predict those new patterns.

One of the things we can expect more of as the climate changes is displacements of weather patterns: less rainfall here, more rainfall there, etc. Obviously building a pipeline from Lake Michigan to the California water system isn’t a solution, even if it were politically feasible.

The scary thing about “climate change” is we still have no way to predict “local effects,” namely the kinds of things we are desperate to know. One of the oldest archives of scientific information in the U.S. or anywhere, really, is weather data. It is also one of the largest data archives, going back centuries, it is possibly only rivaled by the amount of data we know about the stars. (No, not the Kardashians, sheesh.) We have been collecting such weather data because there were patterns that could be used to make predictions. If you think this is nonsense look up the history of the Farmer’s Almanac. The weather predictions in the Farmer’s Almanac have been used by farmers for the last two centuries to determine the kinds of crops they would plant and the timing of those plantings. While not hugely accurate, those weather predictions were better than nothing and many farmers swore by them (and occasionally at them, of course).

Climate change is a gigantic monkey wrench thrown into those data. All of the old patterns will become useless as new patterns exert themselves with, again, the key point about climate change is that we cannot predict those new patterns, certainly not the patterns during whatever transition period exists between the old and the new.

I wished they would have named climate change “weather chaos,” instead. It would have told people what to expect.

What we didn’t expect is one of our major political parties to be comprised entirely of politicians saying “Pish posh, all of that science hooey; what do climate scientists know? It is all just a plot to get more grants to do research.” WTF?

May 15, 2014

The World According to Rubio . . .

According to Senator Marco Rubio (R Florida) there is a 100% scientific consensus that life begins at conception.

This is a fascinating claim from a scientific ignoramus. Consider if this were true. You could immediately claim an extra deduction on your income taxes. You could ask your fetus to get a job, support him- or herself, and maybe charge for room and board. (Talk about a taker!) I know of no agreed upon scientific definition of “life” so a 100% consensus on it beginning in a long train of human reproductory events (injection of sperm, egg fertilization, zygote development,  … , birth, suckling, … , etc.) in any particular place is beyond comprehension. We have a “legal” definition (or rather definitions) of when life “begins” to avoid the potential absurdities associated with the birth of a child. When a child is born, it is either dead or alive. If it is alive, it is accorded privileges (but not full privileges) as a citizen. A definition of life beginning at conception would be a legal nightmare. What rights would the little beastie be accorded? I believe the Senator would insist upon the right not to be aborted. For anything else he cares not.

He also cares not about truth or reality and is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to become President. Interesting process we have here, the one where we ask our political candidates to prove their worthiness to lead . . . by not understanding important science topics like climate change, conception and birth, etc. yet still having “firm” and often bizarre beliefs on those topics.

April 8, 2014

Pascal’s Wager Applied to Climate Change

Filed under: Philosophy,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:52 am
Tags: , , ,

It is clear that the discussion over climate change is wrongly focused. Most people think it is about ignorance: if the people opposing climate change were only to see more evidence, they would be convinced. This is clearly wrong. More likely this is simple confirmation bias: we ignore information that contradicts what we believe and conservative myth-mongers got to the plate first with the “Climate Change is a liberal hoax” meme. Once they got their supporters to commit to this falsehood, then evidence no longer matters. Things that bolster one’s belief are latched upon; things that oppose that belief are ignored. It is a done deal.

“ It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe. ”

Allow me to offer another approach, one based upon Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, offered the following apologetic for belief in God (paraphrased for modern eyes):

Either God is or is not.
If you believe he is not, and are right, you gain nothing, but if you are wrong, you lose everything (you burn in Hell forever).
If you believe he is, and are right, you gain everything (it’s Heaven, baby), but if you are wrong, you lose nothing.

Consequently believing in God is the only prudent path, it is heaven or nothing. Unbelievers face either nothing or Hell. What kind of idiot would choose that path?

Now, let’s apply this to Climate Change. This is a bit more difficult because the differences between eternity in Heaven and eternity Hell are rather stark while the repercussion of Climate Change are much less so, but nothing ventured, noting gained:

Either Climate Change is real or it is not.
If you believe it is not real, and you are right, you have gained nothing, but if you are wrong … the repercussions will be dramatic: submerged coastlines (where most major cities are), unpredictable weather patterns that make agriculture quite problematic, violent storms that wreak havoc, etc.
If you believe it is real, and you are right, all of the preparations you have made will offset some of the negative effects of climate change (how beneficial this will be depends upon how effective the measures taken are, so this is hard to estimate), but if you are wrong you will have spent money developing new sources of energy that might not be needed now but you also will have preserved in the ground vast resources of carbon fuels that will be available longer into the future (many of which are more valuable being converted into other chemicals that as fuels). And since the history of mankind is rife with the development of new sources of energy, this can hardly be considered a negative, especially since carbon-based fuels are finite, limited resources.

Consequently, believing Climate Change is real is the more prudent course.

It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe.

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