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Comment: Re:good timing there Willard (Score 1) 474

by emmenjay (#40849809) Attached to: Surfacestations: NOAA Has Overestimated Land Surface Temperature Trends
Keep in mind two things.
  1. Dr Muller was never a climate sceptic. He did criticise some of the orthodox practices described in the climategate emails, but he never claimed any reservations about the existence of global warming.
  2. Dr Muller's latest paper, the subject of his recent publicity, was rejected by the journal to which it was submitted, Journal of Geophysical Research. See http://www.rossmckitrick.com/.

Comment: Much ado about not much. (Score 1) 474

by emmenjay (#40838847) Attached to: Surfacestations: NOAA Has Overestimated Land Surface Temperature Trends
Lots of hot air. Mostly complaining about things that don't exist.

The Watts, et.al. paper is a pre-release version that Mr Watts has made available for review purposes. The plan is that internet readers will find errors that can then be fixed before submission to a journal.

If the paper is garbage, then pop over to http://wattsupwiththat.com/ and explain, in detail, what is wrong with it. Mr Watts will be grateful for the help.

Insults and attacks on the paper or its author should be forwarded to http://127.0.0.1/dev/null.

Please also note that Mr Watts is not "denying" global warming (or anything else). He's trying to measure it. Sounds to me like a positive contribution.

The "science" is not settled. You're thinking of "history".

Comment: Re:The Magic of Jargon (Score 1) 734

I forgot to sign in. Comment #40489613 was mine.

Isn't jargon wonderful. If you read the Republican policy document (http://s3.amazonaws.com/texasgop_pre/assets/original/2012-Platform-Final.pdf) you see that terms like "Higher Order Thinking Skills" and "Outcome-Based Education" are capitalised. These are not general concepts, but specific programs in educational theory and the names could have come straight from George Orwell.

"Higher Order Thinking Skills" (capitalised) rejects students spending time on acquiring basic skills such as spelling or simple arithmetic, but launches straight into "higher order" thinking without giving the kids the tools to do anything useful.

"Outcome-Based Education" actually opposes things like testing. An "outcome" might be "reading a book". If you complete the book, you get credit for it. Nobody bothers checking of you actually understood its contents, that wasn't the "outcome".

No sensible person could oppose teaching higher order thinking skills (un-capitalised) to students. But sensible people could certainly oppose the avoidance of teaching basic skills.

= = = = =

The "Controversial Theories" paragraph is likely to generate a lot of anxiety, but I don't see a problem. Undoubtedly this will include subjects like creationism, but so what? We teach students about Thomson's and Bohr's models of the atom, even though we know both are wrong. They are part of the journey we took to our current knowledge and help us understand later, more correct theories. We need to teach Darwin, but to be honest about its strengths and weaknesses. We also need to teach Lamark and to explain why it is wrong. In that context, it is silly to pretend that creationism doesn't exist. There are many people who believe it. Of course, in teaching it we need to teach its problems. The fossil evidence, the age of the earth and other things that contradict it.

Good science can stand against lesser theories and students need to understand what is wrong in order to really understand what is right.

There will inevitably be students in a science class who do not believe in Darwinism. That's OK. Tell them "This exam is on Darwin. You can believe what you like, but of you want to pass this test, you had better tell us what Darwin says".

= = = = =

I'm not a Republican and I'll criticise them on many policies. However in this case, the criticism is unwarranted. Except, perhaps, that they should have been less ambiguous, allowing people to misunderstand them.

Michael J

Comment: Statistics (Score 1) 572

by emmenjay (#30713288) Attached to: Why Programmers Need To Learn Statistics

Am I the only one who found that article hilarious?

A 6'2" "Good Looking" graduate who's extensive research in programmers has discovered that all males are inumerate neanderthals and only women really understand him.

Sigh. He's so sensitive. :-)

If only there was some other profession where people were trained in test coverage and such. We could call them "testers". Maybe I'll patent that idea.

Comment: Re:If you Need a PHD to understand it - its a Secr (Score 1) 1093

by emmenjay (#30421316) Attached to: The Limits To Skepticism

> So, what, quantum mechanics is just "magic"? How about higher mathematics?
> Computing science? Law? Medicine?

In most fields, explaining the "what" is generally not too hard, but sometimes the "why" gets tricky.

> Because all of these fields have a specialized language of their own, and
> contain within them concepts that will simply be incomprehensible to a layman.

Not necessarily a "laymen", but they should probably be comprehensible to an educated man (or woman) with a reasonable understanding of science and maths but no specific expertise in that field.

I have a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Maths (from 20 years ago). I haven't tried to understand string theory (it doesn't interest me) but I have a working grasp of most of Einstein and Newton. I have a fair grasp of basic anatomy and chemistry and my doctors have never had trouble explaining my (many) medical problems.

Maybe if people tried to explain AGW instead of just saying "trust us" I'd be happier to ruin the economy to prevent it.

Michael J Smith

Comment: Debate? What debate? (Score 2, Insightful) 1093

by emmenjay (#30421192) Attached to: The Limits To Skepticism

Whether you agree or disagree with AGW, there seems to be little debate, just name-calling. From my own (probably biased) view, I'd say the pro-AGW crowd have done a rotten job at explaining their side of the argument. At least the anti-AGW crowd seem to be prepared for a bit of transparency. The pro-AGW might well turn out to be right, but when issues are raised they tend to take offence rather than defending their position.

Problem one is that we are talking about data gathered in various ways from various sources. There must, of course, be some numerical filtering to try to compare data from different sources. However much of the filtering appears (from the outside) to be poorly explained. We are estimating temperature from tree-rings, ice cores and antique thermometers and making decisions on variations of a couple of degrees or sometimes much less. In a day when it might be 50 degrees Celsius in outback Australia 20C in Tasmania and -120C in Canada, we try to produce an average.

Now this data may be accurate enough to support the analysis, but it doesn't look that way to the uninitiated. Somebody needs to convince us.

Second, much of the (mass-media) published information derives from Drs Jones and Mann and their colleagues. The recent revelations have raised *serious* doubts about their data integrity. Never mind the emails, the widely discussed "harry-readme" file chronicles the efforts of a researcher to identify correct data and understand the filtering source code. It tells a tale of confusion and some suspected sharp practises. Perhaps "Harry" is out of his depth and Dr Jones et. al. have immaculate data and source code. However Dr Jones' refusal to honour Freedom of Information requests leave us all with great suspicions. If we cannot trust Dr Jones and Dr Mann, can we trust any of the IPCC and related material? Maybe, but it has not been well explained.

Third and perhaps worst is the number of morons who trumpet AGW concerns without any understanding what they mean. Mr Gore, for example, consistently makes impossible claims. It is too easy to look at these stumbling fools and think that their silly words represent the "scientific" view. When they are shown to lack credibility, by association the science seems to lose credibility. Why have serious scientists never told the buffoons to "sit down and be quiet"? Or have they? The media have seldom reported such.

I don't know if AGW is real. I do know that most of what I hear about is gobbledegook. I'd like to be treated like a "grown up" and have the science explained in clear terms, without the black magic and the "oh, you couldn't understand this". I'd particularly like this before we destroy the world economy implementing schemes that probably won't even fix the problem, if AGW is real.

OK, flame away.

Michael J Smith

Comment: Religion and Darwinism (Score 1) 3451

by emmenjay (#13260840) Attached to: Equal Time For Creationism
There are two main problems in having a sensible discussion on Darwinism.

1. The blind religious faith of its opponents.

2. The blind religious faith of its supporters.

Darwin-based evolution is a big and complex theory. Some parts have very good evidence to support them. In some parts, it is near impossible to obtain evidence one way or the other.

The first stage of evolution involves some simple form of life being generated out of a complex chemical/physical environment. How do you prove that? What did the environment consist of? Can we reproduce it in a lab?

There are many plausible theories as to the exact circumstances -- and one may well be correct. But how do you prove it?

The theory of Intelligent Design can be vastly oversimplified as "evolution happened, but some supreme being helped it along a bit".

This differs from some of the more traditional creation science theories in that it more readily accepts the physical evidence.

This denial of evidence made the older Creation theories offensive to many scientists. Personally, I find it surprising that the newer "intelligent design" theories seem to generate the same amount of offence. It seems to be a realistic attempt to reconcile a theory (some deity created the world) with the observed evidence. However it certainly does create offence -- as can be observed in this thread.

I suggest that any modern curriculum that claims to be balanced should include the following:

1. A good history of the development of darwinian theories.
2. A good coverage of the state of the art in darwinian evolutionary research.
3. A balanced look at some of the problems with evolution -- including places where some theorists differ.
4. A mention of intelligent design in the context of "some people believe this, you make up your own mind"

Well, that's my 2 cents worth. Cheap at half the price. :-)

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