realthog: (Default)
Ken Ward Jr of the South Charleston Gazette has posted a frightening piece about the fact that, in the upcoming gubernatorial contest, West Virginia's voters have this choice:
  • a moron
  • another moron
Here's how his article opens:

Well, given their earlier answers to similar questions during the primary campaign (see here, here and here), none of this should have come as much of a shock. But it’s still something to see when the anti-science attitudes of West Virginia political leaders and candidates are put out there so clearly . . .

At last night’s debate between the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates (the broadcasters group that sponsored the event refused to allow third-party candidates to take part), Hoppy Kercheval of  West Virginia MetroNews asked: Do you believe man’s actions are causing the world to warm?

Republican Bill Maloney replied simply:
We’re in a cooling cycle.

Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin said: Once again, there are differences of opinion as to whether we’re in global warming now.

Now, we all expect Republican politicians to choose the moron option when asked anything about science -- after all, their science education comes in the form of packets of high-denomination used bills from Exxon and the Koch Brothers -- but it's alarming to find a Democrat doing the same.

Proof of human beings co-existing with DINOs, I suppose . . .

h/t Climate Progress
realthog: (Default)
Denying Science is running a little late -- pub date is now October 4 rather than the scheduled August 23 -- but the first review is in, from Nicole Parker at New York Journal of Books. It's a pretty favourable review, concentrating mainly on the antivaxer section of the book (as befits Parker's specialist field). I'm very pleased, you bet.

Meanwhile, we batten down for the arrival of Hurricane Irene at the weekend. This evening we went out to get some D batteries for the flashlights. Ho ho ho. In the end I bought an LED flashlight that takes AA or AAA batteries, depending on what you have handy. We've got lots of those, and I bought an extra emergency 20-pack just to make sure.

With seven cats to keep track of, this weekend may be no joke . . .

It's difficult to ignore the irony that most people in the US, even confronted by a grotesquely increasing frequency of extreme weather events, continue to believe that "there's no such thing as global warming". On the other hand, should I be surprised? Just 38% of the US public think evolution is real despite countless observations of it actually happening, right now.

Teh stoopid, it is all around us. We should batten down our hatches to protect against that as much as against Hurricane Irene.

ill news

Dec. 2nd, 2010 06:00 pm
realthog: (Default)

Continuing their War on America, the incoming Republican House leadership have announced they're going to abolish the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which accordingly held its last meeting yesterday. Stephanie Vallejo has the story here.

This is, obviously, both imbecilic and extraordinarily destructive to the national interest. The Republican reasoning, if such it can be called, appears to be that, since the Committee was created by Nancy Pelosi, they should abolish it to piss off both her and President Obama -- the fate of the nation, and indeed of the world, be damned.

It's like something out of South Park, isn't it?

realthog: (Default)

There's really no comment required by this little gem culled from Conservapedia's editorial forum:

There's a broader point here. Why the big push for black holes by liberals, and big protests against any objection to them? If it turned out empirically that promoting black holes tends to cause people to read the Bible less, would you still push this so much? Certainly there is no practical justification to pushing black holes; no one will ever be helped by them in any way. 
                                                ----Andy Schlafly 12:03, 13 November 2009 (EST)

realthog: (Default)

The Discovery Institute has the reputation of at least aspiring toward rationality in its denial of evolution by natural selection -- to represent the seemingly sober IDeologues rather than the froth-flecked Young Earth Creationists -- and to have a certain measure of integrity in the arguments it offers, no matter how dumbfoundingly wrong they might be.

So I was deeply troubled by their latest "Evolution News and Views" blog entry from Discovery Institute staffer John West. His subject is the recent New York Times article by Leslie Kaufman (in which West himself features) discussing how Creationist pressure groups are attempting to gain traction in their campaign to have the "scientific controversy" over evolution taught in classrooms by tagging onto it an insistence that the similarly spurious
"scientific controversy" over anthropogenic global warming also be taught.

Those who know their history will be reminded forcefully of the technique developed a few decades ago by the tobacco companies, eager to reject claims that consuming their product might conceivably be bad for your health. They knew that trying to sow doubts in the community about those scientific conclusions alone would be all too obvious a publicity ruse -- or "lie", as one might alternatively describe it -- and so they (or rather a PR company they employed) devised the stratagem of making the public distrust all science. In particular, they selected the environmental sciences as a companion area to attack alongside the medical evidence of smoking's harmful effects. The legacy of this cynical promotion of false information into the public discourse is a primary reason why in this country we not only have rampant pollution (see here for a recent, extraordinarily vile example) but also must suffer such a proliferation of astonishing bullshit from self-styled "climate skeptics" . . . who pontificate with all the academic rigor you expect from that loud guy in the pub you do your best to avoid, yet demand equal media time with, ya know, qualified climatologists.

Kaufman's piece on the latest development of this severely dishonest technique is perhaps rather too balanced, but anyone with an adequate supply of brain cells will be able to understand what's going on. However, West's summarization of it in his blog . . . well, I'm not sure if it's one of the most deceitful pieces of spin I've recently come across or if he can really be that muddle-headed and stupid. Here's a sample:

The nationwide effort to protect the freedom of teachers to hold balanced classroom discussions of evolution, global warming, and other scientific issues is highlighted on the front page of today’s New York Times. The article, “Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets,” contains the usual errors and mischaracterizations one expects from the establishment media. But mischaracterizations or not, the article gets one thing right: It reveals how both the public and policymakers are increasingly dissatisfied with the scientific establishment’s attempt to misuse science to support various ideological agendas, whether it be Richard Dawkins’ scientific atheism or some global warming alarmists’ efforts to push us back to the Stone Age. People want genuine education about scientific topics, and that includes being able to study all of the evidence, not just a few data points cherry-picked for their propaganda value.

Note, for example, the complaint about "contains the usual errors and mischaracterizations one expects from the establishment media" followed just a couple of lines later by the remark concerning "some global warming alarmists’ efforts to push us back to the Stone Age". Could there be a greater mischaracterization of someone else's argument than this? Might West supply us with a list of "global warming alarmists" who're trying "
to push us back to the Stone Age"? Indeed, could West supply us with the name of just one?

As for West's accusations of cherry-picking, either that's projection or mendacity -- and I find it hard to believe it's not the latter, because unless he's in a coma he must be aware that this is exactly a technique of which he himself makes extensive use.

What West is keen to obscure is, of course, that there is no "scientific controversy" over what one might loosely call Darwinian evolution, just as there is no
"scientific controversy" over AGW. There are, however, political controversies; and it's the prevalent tactic of the "climate skeptics" to confuse the two. Shame on West for promoting this dishonesty.

realthog: (Default)

Someone called "Anonymous" has just left a comment to my entry here which for some reason I can't get the LJ software to unscreen. Here is the comment in full:

Having read CORRUPTED SCIENCE, and in the light of the exposure of global warming as a HOAX, I want to know if you will be publishing a CORRUPTED SCIENCE II to expose the real corruption. This is the most agregious case of scientific corruption in human history.

And here is my mild-as-milquetoast voice-of-sweet-reason reply:

Only someone of extraordinary stupidity and complete scientific illiteracy would think that global warming has been shown to be "a HOAX" -- someone of stupidity, illiteracy, and an infantile desire to choose to listen only to what you regard as the more comforting of the stories coming your way. Does it ever cross your excessively tiny mind to wonder who's responsible for the lies you're so eager to believe?

You are very wise to remain anonymous. Because of the activities of halfwitted or corrupt AGW deniers such as yourself, there's a very good chance there won't be very much of the human species in just a few decades' time. Frankly, I don't give a monkey's fuck if your life is cut short by this disaster, but I do very much care about my daughter's future well-being. Anyone who threatens it has a very angry me to contend with. Got that?

Now go crawl back into your pit of ignorance, you idiotic little turd.

Oh, and learn to spell "egregious" while you're about it.

When Thog lose patience, patience know it been lost . . .

realthog: (Default)

The Philadelphia Examiner site carries a top-notch article today by Joshua Reese called
"Climate Change We Can Believe In"; I very strongly recommend it (and a hat-tip to [profile] frostokovich for recommending it to me). It's a level-headed assessment of the political realities we find ourselves among because of a long history of mixed stupidity, cupidity and corruption among our legislators and their counterparts in some (not all) other countries. Reese holds out a tiny measure of optimism that we may indeed be able to get past these political and ideological logjams, despite the huge probability against.

And then you read the comments beneath the article and you realize that, no, Reese's small gleam of hope is just an illusion. We're doomed because of Teh Stupid. Here's "Tim":

This new religion and former science (climatology) is a scam. Most of the believers (climatolojists) will argue that crazy people like me refuse to acknowledge the facts and data on global warming. Well, as to the question of weather or not the Earth is getting warmer, it is. Now here is where people like me and climatolojists differ. A scientific mind must be very careful to separate correlation and causation. Just because two events happen at the same time does not mean that they are linked in any way. Scientists have done much research on the subject. It seams that governments around the world repress any scientific facts that are contrary to this new fascism. Fact = all the other planets are also warming at same rate as Earth. The EPA's own report was suppressed by the current administration in June 09 because it did not reflect current policies, Google it, I dare you to think for yourself. To understand why climatolojy is so insidious, you only need ask, who benifits?

When, at the end of this century, humanity's billions have been reduced to a few warring tribes at the poles, and someone wonders why this catastrophe could have come about, they need look no further than "Tim".

realthog: (Default)

We've been away at Philcon, having quite a lot of fun seeing friends and avoiding enemies -- the usual con stuff. While there, logging on nervously using the hotel's seemingly somewhat dodgy wireless, we discovered cheery stuff about Bogus Science -- including a review from the significant rationalist site The Quackometer. They lead off their "Books for Christmas" feature with . . . but I blush. Here are a few bits Pam begs for you please not to read (insufferable? moi?):

Bogus Science and Other Christmas Gifts

Yes, like it or not, now is the time to start thinking about the perfect gift for the geek in your life. [. . .] John Grant has written a trio of great books cataloguing various forms of pathological science. [. . .] The book is full of the idiocies and obsessivenesses of people who believe in the irrational, from Atlantis to faked moon landing, aliens building pyramids, antigravity devices, werewolves, yetis and quantum nonsense. There are, of course, many themes in common: unquestioning self belief, the allure of the mysterious, special knowledge and a refusal to engage with evidence – the themes we see so often in the world of quackery. [. . .]

But then the reviewer (Le Canard Noir), bless her/him, continues, saying amazingly nice (albeit not immediately quotable)
things also about Discarded Science and Corrupted Science. I don't think I've ever had a three-book review; I've certainly never had a three-book review so glowing!
realthog: (Default)

The blogger skullsinthestars has given an overall very favourable review to Bogus Science -- I say "overall" because s/he spends a lot of time talking about how s/he wishes I'd taken on the anti-vaccination crew and the Creationists/IDiots. (Answer: I decided to leave the former for a future volume and I treated the latter in both Discarded Science and Corrupted Science.) Whatever . . . here are the bits you're aching to read:

The book is very good; as a first statement I can highly recommend it. [. . .] filled with wonderful wry and biting humor [. . .] exhaustively researched, and contains many stories and anecdotes that even a long-time observer of woo such as myself has not heard of [. . .] Grant’s Bogus Science is a wonderfully entertaining and informative book about the insane beliefs of fringe groups. [. . .]

I am also, I discover, a bad-assed writer . . . which I'm taking as a compliment.

I'd not heard of Skulls in the Stars ("Physics, pulp fantasy and horror fiction, and a bit of politics") before my Google Alert picked up the review. It's a pretty good blog, and I've added it to my RSS list. I also found, dating from January 2008, a truly excellent review it had run of Corrupted Science which had somehow slipped through Google's net. I won't extract quotes here because really it's ALL GOOD.

Google Alerts picked up another blog reference to Bogus Science (and generated another addition to my RSS list) -- this time not a review but a mention in Richard Elen's engaging account of his visit to Oxford, with friends, to see the exhibition of Steampunk art at the Museum of the History of Science. The essay ends thus:

Mid-afternoon we ended up at Blackwells’ where we all seemed to acquire a set of John Grant’s series of science books, Discarded, Corrupted and Bogus Science.

What excellent people!

realthog: (Darwin)

It was from
Greg Laden's Blog that I got the good news this morning that I'm going to be allowed to see this movie on the big screen rather than having to wait for the DVD, thanks to distributor Newmarket, the company that had the commercial acumen a few years back to pick up Memento.

Laden's writeup referred me to the report on the National Center for Science Education website, which in turn led me to the relevant news report by Hollywood Reporter. The latter claims that it was merely the movie's "period aspects"
that led to its finding a "slightly tougher acquisitions market" -- to which one can respond only by invoking the way US movie distributors have for years timorously declined to plaster our eyeballs with English (and occasionally Scottish) historical pieces, no matter how dire some of them might be.

Yeah, right.

I like the NCSE report's para on some of the reviews the movie has been picking up:

In her review of Creation at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott described it as "a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public — for the good." It also received praise from Steve Jones in Time Out London (September 22, 2009), who called it "a great film about a great man and a greater theory" and by Adam Rutherford in his Guardian blog (September 23, 2009), where he wrote, "we should ... be grateful that this film is moving and beautiful, just like the creation Darwin so luminously untangled," adding, "Creationists the world over deserve to see it."

Me, I'm desperate to see it. Movies and novels about scientists and the process of science are right up my street; I may be the only person I know who currently has, near the top of his To Be Read pile, a novel about Alfred Wegener, the first serious modern proponent of what was then called the Continental Drift hypothesis -- and as such flatly rejected by most geophysicists -- and is now called, er, fact.

(An aside: It's largely because of becoming interested in Wegener through my work as one of the editors of the geology encyclopedia Planet Earth that in due course I wrote my early book A Directory of Discarded Ideas, which eventually, a quarter of a century later -- my, how time does fly -- led to me writing books like Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and the imminent Bogus Science. Funny the way these things work out. Had it not been for my thinking that I really should get round to writing A Directory of Discarded Ideas, I might never have read a godawful poleshift novel called The Hab Effect -- whose hero, I years later [re]discovered, is called John Grant!)

Other stuff: I've been quiet here lately because I've been working on a short story -- well, longish story, to be more accurate -- that's been requiring me to actually, well, think. There have been monologues going on around the house not too dissimilar from those you hear from guys on Manhattan sidewalks who use the f-word and point at the sky a lot. Meanwhile I've been declining an anthology invitation and turning my soggy apology for a brain toward a story comp that's worth, gulp, about $40,000.

Trouble is, the story I'm currently working on cannot be done within the wordcount limit of the competition, so . . .

realthog: (bogus science cover rough)

A big tip of the hat to [ profile] fledgist for this one.

Over at Investor's Business Daily, where all the bright folk hang out, they've apparently been running a series on "Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure" -- and it's rooted in the kind of in-depth research that has all along marked the right's approach to the subject.

Take this, for example, drawn from their July 31 editorial "How House Bill Runs Over Grandma" in which they demonstrate the folly of a national health service -- any national health service -- by laying into Britain's NHS:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.


1) In which country was Stephen Hawking born?
2) In which country did Stephen Hawking receive the medical care and medical technology that kept him alive?
3) In which country has Stephen Hawking spent all his life?
4) In which country has Stephen Hawking done and in which country does Stephen Hawking still do all of his brilliant research?
5) Are the editorial staffers of Investor's Business Daily dumber than a sack of hammers?

Your Score

5 answers correct: you're an at least normally intelligent and knowledgeable human being and probably over the age of eight
0 answers correct: well, the good news is that Investor's Business Daily has an editorial job for YOU!

realthog: (leavingfortusa)

As I remarked to [profile] pds_lit last night over our mushroom stroganoff (yep, I got a mushroom bargain in a local store so bought in bulk), the only political parties that conduct business primarily though lying are the repressive ones -- the Hitler regime, the Stalin regime, the Kim Jong-il regime, the Ahmadinejad regime, and so forth. Oh, and, uncomfortably close to home and embarrassing to admit, the modern US Republican Party.

Other politicians are of course not innocent: almost all of them fib on occasion, and/or "spin". But the deliberate use of outright lying as an everyday political tool is the province of politicians whose instincts are anti-democratic and repressive.

In no context could this be clearer than the current "debate" over healthcare reform. It's hard to pin the scabrous false scaremongering e-mail that's doing the rounds directly on the GOP leadership (according to some reports, it's a fabrication done by insurance-company lobbyists), but in many other instances the GOP -- and the GOP leadership, at that -- can be seen right out in the open lying in a manner to draw admiring gasps from the likes of Richard Nixon.

Our beloved media, of course, regard as "balance" the placing of these flat lies alongside the facts and the attempt to find "middle ground" between the two: how often does one have to repeat that the midway point between truth and a lie is still a lie?

Whatever: yesterday [ profile] frostokovich sent me a copy of a statement given to the Canadian Senate by conservative Canadian Senator Hugh Segal on June 22 eviscerating the "facts" offered a week earlier to the US Senate by minority leader Mitch McConnell; in so doing, of course, Segal demolished another myth promulgated by the US right -- that the argument over healthcare is one between conservatives and liberals, because Segal's own political views exemplify the fact that all over the rest of the developed world national health services are supported with equal enthusiasm by left and right.

But that's an aside. Here's Segal's statement, taken verbatim from Canadian Hansard's transcript:

Kingston General Hospital

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, a week ago in the United States Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican senior senator from Kentucky, made a speech opposing health care reform proposals advanced by the Obama administration. In that speech, he chose Kingston General Hospital as his example of all that is allegedly wrong with Canadian universal health care.

Perhaps unwittingly, Senator McConnell distorted, misrepresented and misstated how long KGH patients might wait for surgery. I have a duty as the senator from Kingston-Frontenac-Leeds to correct him on the floor of this chamber.

Thanks to Saskatchewan NDP Premier Tommy Douglas, Conservative Prime Minister Diefenbaker and Liberal Prime Minister Pearson, we developed a tenet of national health policy that has served millions of Canadians extremely well. Nothing is beyond improvement. However, Canada has a health care system that allows total access to every Canadian citizen or permanent resident, regardless of their province or territory, and regardless of their financial circumstances.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts. Unfortunately, Senator McConnell's facts and statistics were absolutely incorrect. He informed the United States Senate that there is a 196-day waiting period for hip replacement at KGH. The actual number is 91 days. He stated that it takes 340 days, on average, for knee replacement surgery. The actual number is just over 100. He maintained that cancer surgeries, including brain surgery, can take upwards of three months. At KGH, the waiting period is eight days for neurosurgical cancer, 16 days for breast cancer and 49 days for prostate cancer.

Senator McConnell said that patients in Ontario may wait six months for cardiac bypass surgery. The median wait time, thanks to the outstanding work done by Dr. Keon many years ago, is actually 16 days.

I am troubled that my American colleague, in his misrepresentation of a proud institution that has served Kingston for 170 years, has compelled me to remind him that, according to the American Institute of Medicine, there are 48 million Americans without health coverage of any kind, 9 million of whom are children. Without health insurance, a total hip replacement will cost, on average, $39,299 U.S., according to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Even with health insurance, the out-of-pocket costs for Americans for deductibles and co-insurance will typically be $3,957.

I am putting on the record accurate and current facts and figures relating to the same procedures referenced by my American colleague. I add that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average lifespan in his state of Kentucky is 75.2 years. According to Statistics Canada, that number is 80.4 years in Ontario and 78.3 years in Kingston. Furthermore, according to the Fraser Institute, in a recent study, the U.S. spent $6,714 per capita versus $3,678 in Canada in 2004.

Finally, while Canada is struggling to meet the ever-increasing demands and costs of our health care system, no Canadian will need ever declare bankruptcy to obtain life-saving treatment for their son or daughter. This fact makes the struggle worthwhile.

I regret that Senator McConnell found it necessary to "inform" the American public of the hazards of universal health care by maligning a most professional, dedicated and capable institution such as the Kingston General Hospital.

In light of this, it's not unnatural for us to expect some sort of retraction and/or apology from Senator McConnell. Okay, I'll pause a moment to let the hollow laughter subside.

And it's not just from Senator Segal that McConnell knows he got his facts wrong. Kingston General Hospital's chief of staff, Dr David Zelt, was moved to write to McConnell correcting his figures. The Toronto Globe and Mail gave the details:

Hip replacement................................... 196 days.......................91 days
Knee replacement.................................340 days.....................109 days
Cardiac bypass surgery........................6 months.......................16 days
Neurological cancer surgery.................3 months.........................8 days
Breast cancer surgery...........................3 months.......................16 days
Prostate cancer surgery........................3 months.......................49 days

In other words, you have to wait a bit for non-urgent operations -- but only a fraction of the time McConnell stated. Where McConnell was silent was on waiting times for urgent operations -- because, of course, in essence there aren't any waiting times for those.

(In the US, of course, the waiting time for an urgent operation can often be in effect infinite, in that you're dead by the time the insurance company gives the go-ahead -- or, if you don't have insurance, you're likely dead anyway.)

Initially, McConnell could have offered the claim that he had been misinformed or that otherwise he'd got his "facts" in a twist. He'd then have been guilty of only a B-Grade lie: presenting as a matter of established fact something that has not been established at all.

But to persist in the lie once the correct information has been made available to you, or simply to remain silent so that your original error is left to stand? That's a prime-time, Numero Uno, Grade-A SuperWhopper lie: the type of which Goebbels said, "If you've got to tell a lie, tell a big one."

Which brings me back to my original point: all politicians lie occasionally, but it's diagnostic of the repressive politicians and demagogues that they do so habitually, actually preferring the option of outright lying to the other political and rhetorical tools available to them. McConnell and his cohorts perhaps could present a coherent argument against healthcare reform; instead they choose dishonesty.

By their own deeds we must judge them.

realthog: (bogus science cover rough)

The Discovery Institute, purveyor of pseudoscience to the credulous masses, has an e-zine called Nota Bene to which, for professional reasons, I have just subscribed. Already my very first issue persuades me how wise I was to do so. Its lead article, by one Cornelius Hunter, displays such a blithe disregard for anything that might too frighteningly resemble rational thought that I know I'm going to be in for many happy hours trying to convince people that, no, I'm not making this stuff up.

His article is called Are Evolutionists Delusional (or just in denial)?, and, after a few words swiping at PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, begins thus:

In one moment evolutionists make religious arguments and in the next they claim their theory is "just science." Their religious arguments, they explain, really aren't religious arguments after all. Gee, that was easy. In light of such absurdity, I don't have much confidence that evolutionists are going to think more deeply about this. But it would be nice if they would stop misrepresenting science.

This is, although Hunter doesn't seem to think it might be honest to let us in on the secret, an almost direct quote -- with just a few obvious words altered -- from an evolutionist about the logical contortions of the IDeologists and other Creation "Scientists". (Maddeningly, I can't offhand pin down the original, which I've read within the past few days. I'll phone you up at the three in the morning when I remember . . .)

Hunter then continues with some eye-poppingly specious logic of his own:

. . . it would be nice if they [scientists] would stop misrepresenting science. And it would be nice if they would stop using their credentials to mislead the public. In short, it would be nice if they would stop lying.

I don't like to think that people are liars. Perhaps evolutionists are merely delusional or in denial. I know they are smart people so this isn't just a case of acting stupidly. Whatever the case, it is a fact that evolutionists engage in substantial misrepresentation of the facts. Here's how Coyne attempts to explain why his religion isn't really religion after all:

the argument from imperfection — i.e., organisms show imperfections of “design” that constitute evidence for evolution — is not a theological argument, but a scientific one. The reason why the recurrent laryngeal nerve, for example, makes a big detour around the aorta before attaching to the larynx is perfectly understandable by evolution (the nerve and artery used to line up, but the artery evolved backwards, constraining the nerve to move with it), but makes no sense under the idea of special creation — unless, that is, you believe that the creator designed things to make them look as if they evolved. No form of creationism/intelligent design can explain these imperfections, but they all, as Dobzhansky said, “make sense in the light of evolution.” [The emboldenings seem to be Hunter's.]

Should we laugh or cry? According to Coyne the design "makes no sense under the idea of special creation" and this "is not a theological argument, but a scientific one." Coyne's misrepresentations and sophistry are, frankly, astonishing.

It's more or less at this point that I gave up taking seriously anything Hunter had to say. He apparently belongs to that school of determinedly irrationalist thought which seems to believe, Humpty Dumpty-style, that anything Hunter wants to call theological actually is. Coyne's "argument from imperfection" may or may not be a valid one, but it most certainly is a scientific one, and most thunderingly it is not a theological one.

What Hunter is trying to do, of course, is perpetuate the old Creationist smear/myth that acceptance of one of the cornerstone theories of modern science -- the theory without which the entirety of the biological sciences would make no sense at all -- is in itself a religion. If you believe this canard you'll believe anything: by such reasoning, gravity is a theological phenomenon.

Does Hunter believe the twaddle he himself is emitting? Who knows? It's hard to credit that anyone capable of piecing together coherent sentences could do so, but stranger things have happened. Or is he just another liar for Jesus, as Chris Rodda so poignantly nicknames those who reckon any sort of dishonesty is acceptable as they covertly advance their Fundamentalist agenda? Again, who knows? But, reading Hunter's conclusion, one begins to wonder if one should maybe hazard a guess:

Whether evolutionists are liars, delusional or in denial is difficult to say. What is obvious is that evolutionary thought is bankrupt. Religion drives science, and it matters.

This is pulpit talk, calling upon the higher power of religion to "validate" an argument that any rational analysis reveals to be full of holes -- in fact, in this instance, Hunter hasn't, despite copious camouflaging verbiage, even bothered to make an attempt at a rational construction for his argument. Perhaps he's relying on the fact that many of his readers won't know the meaning of the word "theory" and may be susceptible to the old principle that, if you claim loudly enough, frequently enough and long enough that the direst bilge is self-evident truth, eventually some of the weaker-witted will believe you.

Yet again, who knows?


Jun. 22nd, 2009 10:16 pm
realthog: (corrupted science)

Tonight we watched Yann Arthus-Bertrand's astonishing movie Home, which a couple of weeks ago was released simultaneously all over the world to cinemas, on DVD, on YouTube, to various free download sites, etc.; you can go watch a fairly hi-res version at the movie's home-site here or download it (assuming you have the requisite software) here.*

The description on the latter site, and on Wikipedia, is quite seriously misleading in that it understates the movie. This is so very much more than a film "almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places around Earth, taken in over 50 countries in the process. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet". Although Home is often an amazingly beautiful movie -- sometimes so lovely it's hard not to weep -- what it really is is an unspeakably stark warning about the hair-thin proximity to the precipice we've allowed our technology and our greed and our stupidity and our sheer numbers to bring us. I would say this is a far better movie, and certainly a far more visually extraordinary one, than An Inconvenient Truth.

There are particular categories of people who, it immediately occurred to Pam and myself, should be urgently recommended to watch Home.

First, of course, there are the incumbents of the Senate and House -- and White House. Some of them probably will take the trouble to see it. Most, I suspect, will be too incompetent and/or stupid and/or mendacious and/or ideologically hogtied to do so -- or maybe just too bloody lazy to give a flying whatsit about the near-incomprehensible levels of human suffering this century will almost certainly witness even if we start changing our ways pronto.

As an example of the urgency here, we have approximately a decade -- unless we take strong action now -- before the Siberian permafrost melts sufficiently to start releasing into the atmosphere the huge stores of methane gas imprisoned beneath it. Methane is an even fiercer greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As the movie makes plain, the effect of such an enormous release will be to alter radically the very nature of the planet we live on.

A second category of people who should see this movie urgently is the young. And here there's something even more depressing than the witless Inhofes and the scientifically challenged Jindalls. Many and perhaps most schools in this country would not dare show Home to the kids, because its arguments are scientifically based and consequently assume such items as the antiquity of the earth, the interconnectedness of all lifeforms including ourselves, and of course human evolution; its makers quite rightly don't waste time pussyfooting around with imbecilities like young-earth creationism. Since the US is still the most powerful nation in the world, the importance of educating its youth in the concerns of this movie cannot be underestimated; yet the self-indulgent fantasies of the willfully ignorant are going to make that vital piece of education impossible in so many parts of the land.

So much for my random thoughts. Home is a wonderful movie, and an important one, and you can watch it for nothing in the privacy of your own home. Do so. Please.


Footnote: *I think you can download it directly from iTunes, but I'm resistant to all of the spyware lurking in the software Apple insists you install in order to go that route.

realthog: (pic#234233)

Out of the blue there arrived this morning an e-mail that's had me smiling all day. Its sender has since been kind enough to say I can quote it here:


I never usually do fan mail, but I thought I would write to express my appreciation for Discarded Science.

I am a university lecturer in evolutionary biology in Liverpool, UK, and I think that the book is terrific. It will be on my reading lists next year, as I am sure that my MSc students will gain a lot from reading it.

Mike Speed
Biological Sciences,
University of Liverpool

And later, in Dr Speed's note granting me permission to quote him:

I have ordered some copies for the University Library (actually I picked it up in my local library - and have just bought it along with Corrupted Science, which looks equally superb).

It's at times like this that all the unpleasant crank hate mail from pious Creationists and wingnut climate-change deniers -- not to mention the loyal Bushies -- seems somehow worth it. Thank you, Dr Speed!

realthog: (corrupted science)

To be honest, I'm not 100% sure this falls within the remit of the Science Masterclass as I've been defining it to myself. However, it's concerned with science, and it does indeed refer to scientific idiocy/illiteracy/denial, so I guess my heading's okay . . .

There's a very good article by David S. Bernstein on the Boston Phoenix site at the moment called "Generation Green". Moderately long but well worth perusing in full, it has as its subject the way the current stalwarts of the GOP are essentially driving the Republican bandwagon over the edge of a cliff by promoting anti-scientific, non-reality-based notions concerning climate change. Why? Because the very people who're going to be hardest hit by the consequences of any continuation of the criminal inactivity
on this front (or, even worse, promotion of potentially genocidal junk science) of the Bush years are all too well aware of the hazards of the future that people of older generations have created for them. And those young people represent an already large and (obviously) steadily increasing slice of the US electorate.

As I say, Bernstein's piece is well worth reading in toto; nonetheless, here are some pertinent extracts:

Republicans have a lot to say about the immorality of saddling the next generation with our national debt. But when it comes to leaving them a wrecked, depleted, and rapidly warming planet, they are taking the exact opposite line.

That's especially odd when you consider how important that next generation is to the faltering GOP - and how broadly united those voters, known as Millennials, are in their concern over global warming and other energy and environment issues.
[. . .]

Even the most senior Republican leaders, and the top GOP lawmakers on energy and environment committees, keep shooting themselves in the foot by spewing antiquated, anti-science nonsense.
[. . .]

Global warming, more than any other issue, carries an urgency among Millennials of all backgrounds and ideologies. "That's the scary thing, if you work for the RNC [Republican National Committee]," says John della
Volpe, who studies this generation at the Harvard University Institute of Politics (IOP). "It absolutely cuts across all the demographics."

"For young people, no issue is more important," says Pat Johnson, a Suffolk University student and president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts. "We are going to have to live with the consequences of inaction."

Conventional wisdom suggests that getting bogged down over environmental legislation would distract Democrats from important issues like the economy and foreign policy.
[. . .] To this generation, this fight is not only about climate change - it is about creating green jobs and increasing national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. [. . .]

In a stance utterly bewildering to most Beltway veterans, Millennials don't necessarily view the environment as a partisan or ideological issue. To them, it's an infrastructure problem, like wanting the New Orleans levees
fixed. That's why even those Millennials otherwise open to the GOP will get turned off if the party opposes climate-change progress.
[. . .]

But the loosest cannons in the GOP - and they are legion - simply cannot stick with the game plan. How can they? Surveys show that solid majorities of Republicans believe that global warming is either a myth or, at most, a wildly overblown media creation. Those warming deniers control the party, and their elected officials can only go along with it.

As a result, prominent Republicans regularly spew inanities on climate change ready-made for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And it only gets worse when you move beyond the elected Republicans. The most popular conservative talk-show hosts, publications, bloggers, and pundits are almost unanimously dismissive of global warming, from columnist George F. Will, to Fox News superstar Glenn Beck, to bloggers at

After the recent EPA announcement on regulating greenhouse gases, Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributor, Fox News analyst, book author, and rising star of right-wing punditry, fumed on National Review Online, without irony, that "A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe" -- as if, under the Clean Air Act, the federal government has not been doing exactly that for the past four decades.

To almost anyone under the age of 30, all of this is similar to watching cigarette executives insist that smoking isn't harmful. "Younger voters get interested when they can choose sides," says Rasky, and the Republicans are going to make that very easy. "You give them the opportunity, they'll talk about drilling for oil, and how global warming isn't really happening."

To Millennials, that rhetoric makes the GOP nothing more than obnoxious gas.

(It's perhaps a little unfair of Bernstein to cite Goldberg, who's a man of such extraordinary stupidity that any argument he supports becomes ipso facto risible -- at least, this is what I thought on first reading the relevant passage. Thereafter, though, it dawned on me that Bernstein's choice was a bit circumscribed. Had he selected just about any of the alternatives among the rightist pundits he'd have been accused of picking too-easy targets: Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Buchanan, Beck, Inhofe, Gingrich, Savage . . .)

My own feeling is that perhaps we're already too late to avert the onrushing climate disaster: even those politicians/political factions around the world who're trying urgently to take ameliorative steps are producing results short of what is necessary; as James Lovelock has said, by the end of this century humanity is likely to consist of at best a few million individuals living in conditions of extreme barbarism near the poles. But words like "perhaps" and "likely" leave open the smallest of cracks in the doorways ahead of us; the people who're so determined to close those cracks, slam shut those doors, are nothing short of public enemies -- as, apparently, the "Millennials" (ugly term) recognize only too well.

And, yes, I've been here before -- notably in my nonfiction Corrupted Science and my mosaic novel Leaving Fortusa, both of which have been subject to rightist vituperation. I wonder if those vituperators realize I wear their smears with pride?

realthog: (Default)

Three fairly pleasing reviews have arrived in the past 24 hours or less, covering three very different pieces of work. I'm beginning to wish things came in fives rather than threes. Sevens or nines would be good, too. Elevens even better . . .


Dave, on Dave Does the Blog, has largely complimentary things to say about Corrupted Science, although he feels -- and I think this is a very fair comment -- I should have made it into three or fours books rather than just one. (Let's hope someone responds by buying him Discarded Science and an advance order of Bogus Science!)

. . . it makes for some interesting contrasts. Some anti-science True Believers will be most tickled by the first few chapters, where we see scientist successfully (for a time) getting away with faked or delusional results, and the not-infrequent resistance of the scientific community to turn on them when the perpetrators are important or have powerful supporters. Those same gleeful readers will in turn pitch a fit when it comes to Grant’s resounding dismissal of Creationism/Intelligent Design and lambasting of the Dubya years when science was repeated distorted or disregarded to deny global warming, condemn abortion, and support abstinence education, along with other business- and/or conservative-friendly results.

Meanwhile, over on The Workshop of Filthy Creation Calenture is continuing the serialized review of D.F. Lewis's anthology Nemonymous 8: Cone Zero, in which I have a story. Because of the rules of the Nemonymous game, I can't tell you which story is mine, but I can say that Calenture has given it an exceptionally friendly review!

Talking of Nemonymous's required temporary anonymity, in the case of Cone Zero this anonymity is coming to an end in just a few days' time, on March 4, when Des Lewis reveals to a pantingly anticipatory world who the author is for each of the anthology's stories. That means you still have a few days to enter the big-bux Identify the Cone Zero Authors Contest. Writing about the contest entries to date, Des says: "The best so far is 4 guesses. Even a lottery-type guess could bag the winnings!" So why not try your chances? I think part of the prize is eternal fame and glory, although I could be wrong on this.

The third "review" came to me via the Project Aon site. Project Aon is the major mouthpiece for the fans of Joe Dever's Lone Wolf multiple-choice adventure gamebooks, which sold about a billion copies back in the days of yore. I was lucky enough to be commissioned to write the dozen novels (strictly, eleven novels and one story collection) that went alongside Joe's gamebooks; although I'd published I think a couple of novels (and a bucketload of nonfiction books) before then, I still regard the writing of The Legends of Lone Wolf as somehow my apprenticeship, and with great fondness.

Whatever, this isn't so much a review as a query, containing a bunch of kind stuff, that came out of the blue to Project Aon, whose Jonathan Blake was kind enough to forward it on:

I read a book when I was a teen that I seem to have misplaced or lost in the house somewhere . . . I got it at a used book store for like $1. But it was one of the most incredible books I've read. I think it was Sword of the Sun, and I can't find any information about this book ANYWHERE!

What a fine and excellent critic their correspondent is!

realthog: (corrupted science)

I heard last night from Michio Kaku with his list of topics we're likely to cover when he interviews me tonight about my book Corrupted Science for his radio programme
Science Fantastic:

1) Fraudulent Scientists

          Piltdown man

          Tobacco lobby

          South Korean clone experiments


2) Seeing what they wanted to see

          Pons and Fleishman


3) Military Madness

          CIA’s investigation into occult


4) The one true book



5) Ideology trumps science

          Lysenko, Hitler



6) The political corruption of science

          Bush’s policies

That's quite a range of stuff to discuss, so my guess is we won't cover all of it. Still, it'll be fun trying.

Now to spend the day swotting . . .

realthog: (corrupted science)

It's all being set up with vertiginous speed, but I've been asked to be interviewed about my book Corrupted Science for an hour on Saturday evening by Michio Kaku for his syndicated radio show Science Fantastic.

I've seen Dr Kaku frequently on Discovery Channel documentaries and Nova programmes and the like, and have been much impressed by his clarity when explaining complex matters in simple terms -- directly comparable to Carl Sagan's similar ability -- so I'm (a) much looking forward to nattering with him and (b) nervous that my own clarity of exposition may seem distinctly foggy by comparison with his.

Factor (b) is greatly enhanced by the fact that they're doing the interview down the line -- i.e., I'll be talking into my home telephone. I've always much preferred working in the studio to doing broadcasts over the phone. Still and all, at least if I'm working from home Pam can keep me steadily supplied with intoxicating beverages as a precaution against my running out of things to say.

There's a schedule for Science Fantastic here.

realthog: (Default)

This morning I was, in connection with my imminent book Bogus Science, looking around the spiffy site called Sense About Science, and out of curiosity took a peek into their "Reading Room" section. There I discovered, to my intense narcissistic joy, a pair of reviews -- of my books Discarded Science and Corrupted Science -- that I had not before known existed. I'm not sure how old they are, although it's obvious on the site that the review of Discarded Science is more recent than that of Corrrupted Science, and was probably posted within the past few months.

Whatever. Cutting to the chase, I can hear you cry, What about some good bits, dammit? Let me oblige.

From the review of Discarded Science
by Sara A. Rafice:

Discarded Science has been continually snatched out of my hands by eager work colleagues, friends and family, sparking hours of conversation and laughter. [. . .] Grant has pulled together such a wide variety of subjects that scientists and non-scientists alike will find something to discover, and there is no need to be an expert on every topic. This is a wonderfully interesting, thought-provoking and at times very funny book that I highly recommend.

From the review of Corrupted Science (uncredited):

I tremendously enjoyed John Grant’s latest book on scientific deviance - a rip-roaring adventure through the dark underbelly of science. If you are still under the belief that science is an impartial, noble pursuit of knowledge untainted by ego or undue influence then prepare to be shocked as Grant illustrates that throughout history, dark forces have undermined the scientific process time and time again - invariably to the detriment of both science and the public. [. . .]

One of the joys of Grant’s book is his willingness to name names when it comes to the villains (and occasional heroes) of science - this is not a mild-mannered or impartial report. Grant exposes those responsible for the subversion of science through the ages - not only its major players such as Lysenko and Hwang Woo-Suk, but even those small-time tricksters whose malfeasance hardly registered outside of scientific circles. If there is any doubt in your mind as to Grant’s unforgiving approach, simply read the titles of the last chapter, “The Political Corruption of Science”: Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Bush’s America. Ouch.  

The last para of the latter review, while obviously pleasing me, brought a wry smile for a different reason. It's surprising how we've been psychologically bludgeoned in recent years by those in power and by their cohorts to the extent that objectively identifying crimes, misdemeanours and their perpetrators has come to be thought of as "not . . . impartial". Or perhaps it's simply that the reviewer was searching for some word like "dispassionate"?

March 2013

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