The cat i' the adage

"The growth of knowledge depends entirely on disagreement" Karl Popper (1902 - 1994)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Find oot aboot whit the Scottish Pairlament

The Scottish Parliament is making strenuous efforts to get its message across; not just in English but in Scots:

We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as can is able tae find oot aboot whit the Scottish Pairlament dis and whit wey it warks.


You are walcome tae visit the Pairlament tae hae a keek roon or find oot aboot whit wey the Pairlament warks.

I certainly shouldn't want to get into a dispute about whether, properly speaking, Scots is a language at all: I'm sure these are very deep waters. But, if language it is, it's the only one that you can translate into English with the help of a spell-checker.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fish off the menu in aquarium?

More vegetarian lunacy:

LOS ANGELES - An animal rights group has called on one of the largest aquariums in the United States to stop serving fish to its visitors, likening the practice to grilling up "poodle burgers at a dog show."

Perhaps we should call upon botanical gardens to stop serving vegetables to their visitors on the same grounds.

Our survival as a nation

John Keegan reflects on Trafalgar.

Charity begins at home. This week's events at Portsmouth should remind the British people that our future and our survival as a nation do not depend upon winning the approval of moribund pop stars and unthinking television producers but on our ability, with the assistance of our allies, to defend ourselves.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dead Mann walking?

There has been a significant development in the controversy over the Mann "Hockey Stick" graph and its role in the IPCC report on climate change. The US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is demanding from Mann and his team disclosure of code used to generate their results and detailed answers to some searching methodological questions. This follows the devastating critique by McIntyre and McKitrick, and Mann's subsequent unwillingness to lay his work open to proper audit.

This gives a flavour of the letter from the Committee:

5. According to The Wall Street Journal, you have declined to release the exact computer code you used to generate your results. (a) Is this correct? (b) What policy on sharing research and methods do you follow? (c) What is the source of that policy? (d) Provide this exact computer code used to generate your results.

Over at McIntyre's ClimateAudit site there is feverish speculation that the end is in sight for the Hockey Stick and the highly contentious claim that the 1990s were the hottest decade of the millennium.

Poll finds many Britons believe global warming myths

The Observer has been polling people about climate change.

The striking results of an Observer /ICM poll show that people are starting to realise that flying across Europe, often for less than £20, is damaging the environment.

The poll also shows that more than three-quarters of the population believe climate change is taking place and that humanity is to blame. A total of 58 per cent said they thought climate change now posed a significant threat.

Meanwhile in the US:

An American Cancer Society survey finds up to half of Americans mistakenly believe surgery can spread cancer, and more than one in four thinks a cure for cancer already exists but is being held back by a profit-driven industry.

What a lot of silly things people believe!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Climate change - the case for inaction

Pat Michaels makes the case for inaction in the face of climate change:

The Bush Administration realizes that simply knowing that human activities are impacting the climate is not grounds for "urgent action" to do something about it. Especially given that the overwhelming majority of these human activities have made the world a better place and one capable of supporting a growing human population that now tops 6.5 billion people. A prudent person, or Administration, would think long and hard about scaling down such activities without compelling evidence that the results of not doing so will prove more detrimental than the active pursuit of their curtailment.

The precautionary principle cannot justify the taking of action that is probably unwarranted, hugely costly and certain to make almost no measurable difference to the climatic outcome.

Now if we really did want to make a difference perhaps we should adopt Roy Spencer's programme.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Islamic taxi drivers

This may be an urban myth but it has the ring of truth:

An old lady called a taxi to take her home from shopping at Waitrose in Brighton. When the taxi arrived, the driver refused to carry her shopping bags because they contained bottles of alcohol and he was a Muslim.

If, the next time she wanted help with her shopping, she asked for a non-Islamic taxi driver, people would think she was the problem. Though it does seem to me that, if your religion is so important to you that you need to make a fuss about carrying someone's shopping bags because of their contents, then you ought to be prepared to put up with the inconvenience caused by your intolerance yourself rather than passing it on to the customer. A taxi company should be at liberty to discriminate in favour of drivers who have no hang-ups about people's shopping. And should they not be prepared to do so, the customer would have a very good reason for preferring a different taxi firm.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Environmentalists angry

It quite cheers one up despite the awful summer weather.

A leaked copy of a document on climate change being drafted for the G8 summit suggests it has been watered down.

A version of the communique leaked in May treated climate change as a fact and pledged money to energy projects.

In the new version the words "our world is warming" appear in square brackets, meaning at least one country disagrees, and all financial pledges have gone.

Of course, the issue is less whether "our world is warming" and more (1) whether we are responsible for any warming, (2) whether this warming is, on balance, a bad thing and (3) whether, if it is bad, we can do much to stop it.

Environmentalist lobbyists like to portray global warming sceptics as flat-earthers in the pay of the oil industry. People may have all kinds of reasons beyond the scientific evidence for doubting the climate change orthodoxy, just as they may have all kinds of reasons for believing it - e.g. grants, membership of powerful committees, shares in alternative energy sources - but it strikes me as as betraying an ignorance of the history of science and of the fallibility of scientific enquiry to suggest that somehow the science is "settled" in this matter.

There have been many occasions in the past when a theory has been thought "settled" - Newtonian mechanics and the wave theory of light spring to mind - but this has always proved illusory. Science will always be, to quote Popper, an "unended quest" for truth.

In the case of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, there are already too many contrary indications - especially the lack of tropospheric and antarctic warming - to justify its proponents much confidence in its long-term survival. Furthermore, their attitude to these anomalies is rather too reminiscent of the Catholic Church's tenacious defence of the geocentric hypothesis against the arguments of Galileo, for them to be able to claim to be on the side of science against the obscurantists.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A small voice in the clamour

Is climate changing? Yes, of course it is. That is what climate does. I learned that at school. Do humans influence climate change? Yes, of course they do, but in many different ways, most little understood, and only as one small factor out of the millions of other factors involved. I learned that at big school. Can we humans manage climate predictably by fiddling at the margins with just one selected human factor out of the many human factors involved - not to mention, of course, the millions of non-human factors?'NON', 'NEE', 'NO'

Thanks to Philip Stott

Back the bid...

...the Paris bid, that is, of course...

Seems like the French have got the same idea.

LDL Cholesterol does NOT cause heart disease

A brilliant polemical piece with a recent summary of the evidence by Anthony Colpo:

LDL cholesterol does not cause heart disease.

The above statement runs counter to everything your doctor, the media, and allegedly 'respectable' and 'impartial' health organizations have ever told you.

Nonetheless, it's true.

It's no big secret that, throughout history, those in power--and the network of individuals who rely on these powerbrokers for their livelihood--have often lied and misled the general public in order to preserve the status quo.

Our time is no different.

For the last four decades, the medical establishment has been successfully operating one of the biggest health scams of all time. Through the use of extensive propaganda, they have convinced millions of people the world over that cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, is a direct cause of heart disease. They have further convinced millions that the key to avoiding heart disease is to reduce cholesterol levels via the use of lipid-lowering drugs and diets low in saturated fats. This racket has produced billions in profits for drug companies and the manufacturers of low-fat food products.

Now read on...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Towards the New Europe

Charles Moore has some interesting thoughts concerning the European crisis:

It reminds me of the spring of 1992, when people began to realise that the pound's fixed minimum value against the deutschmark of 2.7780 was a doctrine of officialdom, not a fact. In September of that year, the pound fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and floated free. Since then, the reputation of the Conservative Party has never recovered, and our economy has never looked back.

I do not know whether the euro zone will break up (though I wouldn't mind taking a small bet that it has less than 18 months to go in its present form), but Stern's advice interests me for the same reason as the results of the Dutch and French referendums. They are all symptoms of that exciting moment in politics when reality starts to intrude upon the lives of statesmen.

This is part of the fun of following politics: the relation to reality is generally delayed, but is always there in the end. Unreal schemes often appear and even dominate for a time - fascism, Communism, the League of Nations are examples. But the truth eventually finds them out. I am sure that the "ever-closer Union" on which the European Union has been built from the beginning is one of these unreal schemes, since it believes in two falsities - uniformity where in fact there is diversity, and the primacy of government over people. The two main instruments by which truth reaches politics are votes and markets, which is why political Utopians instinctively dislike both. In Europe, the voters have told the truth, and now the markets are watching.

And Old Europe is fearful for the future. Der Spiegel offers this opinion:

“If the Franco-German couple breaks up, Great Britain will be handed Europe on a platter.”

I'm not sure that we want it. I'd settle for having my own country back.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Too small a minority for constitutional change?

Mark Steyn on arrogant Eurocracy:

Most advanced societies are reluctant to make big constitutional changes on too small a majority — look at the level of support you need to amend the U.S. Constitution or to abolish the Australian and Canadian monarchies. But, in its own perverse wrinkle on this thesis, Europe says gravely that it won’t make big constitutional changes on too small a minority — if the French had rejected the constitution by, say, 92% to 8%, well, that might have prompted the E.U. to consider possibly perhaps at least partially rethinking clause 473 paragraph H.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The choice is obvious

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende attempts to rally support for a "Ja":

"The question is: do we want to have progress today or do we choose a standstill, and for me the choice is obvious."

Should we move forward or would it be better to stand still? It very much depends where we're headed, I should have thought. If you were moving at speed in the direction of a brick wall, you might very well prefer the standstill option. That is why cars are fitted with brakes. It has been clear for many years that the people of Europe can have no influence on the direction of EU movement, but, mercifully, we can still hit the brakes.

"Fair trade" or "Free trade"?

I came across this very clear exposition of the case against "Fair trade" in the comments section at Samizdata.

Suppose you buy Fair Trade marked coffee, with the idea that you wish to help the producers. Currently, around 25% of Fair Trade coffee is from Mexico. So, there's a good chance you've helped out a poor Mexican coffee farmer. Well done.

However, it's essential to also look at what else you could have bought, instead of the Mexican coffee.
Suppose you bought a packet of cheaper coffee from Ethiopia, not marked as Fair Trade. So, one would think that this is not as good, as surely the working conditions are not so nice etc.

But, and here's the point, average incomes in Mexico are $9000 a year compared with Ethiopia's $700. Also only 18% of Mexican labour is in the agricultural sector, compared with Ethiopia's 80%.

So what you are really doing is helping a Mexican farmer who, by Ethiopian standards, is rich. This comes at the expense of helping the genuinely poor Ethiopian farmer, by not buying the only product he can produce.

A better solution is to buy the cheapest coffee you can (keeping the quality constant, of course). So, in this scenario, we all buy Ethiopian coffee. The Mexican farmer will experience falling sales and so must either become more efficient or exit the coffee market.

In the former case, with such a labour intensive process, the Ethiopian farmer could probably still undercut the Mexican. So, the Mexican leaves the market. With the decrease in supply, the coffee price increases and so the Ethiopian benefits more.

With the increased trade with Ethiopia, the resulting growth in their economy will then eventually allow them to diversify away from agriculture and thus setting them on the path to an industrialised economy.

Thanks are due to James Silken for this example.