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Comment: Re:CAGW is a trojan horse (Score 2) 688

by williamhb (#47396525) Attached to: When Beliefs and Facts Collide

They aren't "fudging" numbers. This is climate data, it's HARD to deal with. You're talking about millions, even billions of measurements over periods of centuries. There are more moving parts to this data than you can possible conceive of.

Indeed, and this is a problem when science tangles up with politics. Here we ware saying it's hard to deal with and requires quite a lot of corrections and processing, while the left of politics runs a coercive campaign that you should be called a pariah if you are not convinced by our data and therefore their policies. In science, our credibility is dragged under far more by agreeing politicians trying to co-opt us than by political opponents disagreeing with us. (Disagreement is part of the process; but being dragged into a sharp tongued campaign about why you must vote for higher taxes on big business or otherwise you're a horrible person is not a part of science, and makes us look like a bunch of corrupt fudgers trying to raise our grant funding by cosying up to the left). To a great deal of the public, environmental movement is not the rebel alliance, but Moff Tarkin trying to tighten his grip.

And companies that make profits off of fossil fuels have armies of people scouring their data for the tiniest errors. Surprise surprise they find some on occasion.

This is essentially irrelevant. I work in a less controversial discipline, but if someone finds a flaw in one of my papers, "but you were paid by someone to look for it" would not remove the flaw or change how I should address it. Fossil fuel companies are paying people to scour science for errors -- excellent, good on them, it will help us improve the quality of our publications. So far as the public discussion is concerned, however, it is not the fossil fuel companies whose reputations are in questioned (everyone already thinks Big Oil is a bunch of rotters) so pointing accusing fingers at them does us much more harm than good.

when they can explain historical data that contradicts the theory...

It doesn't. It's dead on.

That's a rhetorical dodge. The models are based on historical data, and are a moving target, so just stating that the historical data concurs with our latest models is hardly surprising. The question, which is not answered so simplistically, is whether our computer models are overfitted or properly predictive. (Hopefully the latter, but we seem never to make that clear in these sorts of discussions.)

As it is, he fudging is so blatant that "climate science" is nothing of the's a Trojan horse for the same lod tired leftist government takeoff of economies. That trick never works.

Plenty of scientists are republicans or even further right. Yet, less than 10 (that's ten0 out of hundreds of thousands, disagree with the simple finding that humans are altering the average global temperature of the planet.

You're misreporting that rather badly. A small proportion of climate scientists disagree, but plenty of other scientists do. Vastly more than 10 (no I'm not going to "out" my colleagues, but yes I do personally know plenty). It's very important not to misrepresent the views of the field as being the views of everyone in every other field too. Otherwise it seems like we're dishonestly trying to gloss over the selection factor (if you've taken up a career in that part of science over any other, you probably think it's important).

Either all the wind turbine makers and solar panel manufacturers have a hell of a lot more money than we thought and are using it to bribe the scientific community on a scale unprecedented in human history, or we really do have a problem.

The problem we have, particularly as scientists, is that the political left has tried to co-opt us. Academics are naturally a little left-leaning (more of the free marketeers among us go into industry labs than universities), so too many of us have let them get away with this. The right of politics is centred on individual freedom from the state; the left is centred on collective action and solidarity (more publicly funded services and redistribution). The left is politically dependent on applying social pressure that you as an individual ought to be a part of collective action. "For the sake of the planet" is an emotive and strong argument from that angle, so the left side of politics has taken it up, all guns blazing. "For the sake of the planet" we must raise taxes on the industries we collectively disagree with and subsidise those we approve of. "For the sake of the planet" individual transportation (cars) must be economically discouraged and collective transportation (public transportation) subsidies must increase. "For the sake of the planet" the state (collective action) must spend more to employ people in science and environmental management, while private investment (for-profit corporate labs and private land ownership) must be distrusted and discouraged... We have become the tool of choice for the left to argue for greater control of the economy by the state. And it has been at the cost of science's credibility as an apolitical endeavour.

Comment: Re:Not surprising. (Score 1) 688

by williamhb (#47396105) Attached to: When Beliefs and Facts Collide

Paraphrase the statement as those you are trying to convince are likely to, and you'll see why we're stuck: 97% of people who earn money from conducting climate science think what they do is terribly important. The problem is not the vested interests in industry; the environmental movement shot itself and climate science in the foot. The debate shifted from science to politics the moment we insisted that the public "must" believe us and tried to enforce "believing in climate change" as a social requirement (you're not one of those reprehensible deniers are you?). Science is a practice, not a campaign that if you disagree with what we say you must be called dirtier and dirtier names until you give up and agree with us so we'll stop insulting you. Unfortunately, those mistakes have already been made -- like it or not, climate science is no longer viewed as independent. As practitioners, we (scientists in general) are hugely dependent a large state (public funding of our jobs), and climate scientists started campaigning, associating themselves with activism, and then (mostly non-scientist) activists started to pour out invective at the public and at opponents for questioning us or disagreeing with us. And frankly we might as well have hung out a shingle saying "Pay us or we'll make you sorry" for all the credibility good it did us.

Comment: Re:I actually read the article... (Score 1) 272

by williamhb (#47279991) Attached to: EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

The bounds I defned do NOT make the experiment externally invalid.

Of course they do. Comparing two GMO strains (and by the way you haven't defined what you're comparing about them) tells us nothing whatsoever about the key policy issue -- which as I have pointed out several times is the understanding and mitigating the risk of a hypothetical gene being introduced into multiple species, that appears in the short term to test as being safe, but then turns out to have pernicious long-latency health impacts. Naively comparing two strains provides zero information on that.

A scientist does not talk about vague subjects without defining them in a scientific manner. ...
1. I talked to my academic friends about it and your explanation shocked them with its stupidity.

Perhaps you did not explain it to them well, or perhaps you just made them up. Either way, you're blathering with pejoratives rather than engaging in reasoned discourse, which I will take as a signal that you are not up to discussing the matter further or gleaning aspects of the issue that clearly you have not thus far grasped. Perhaps your "academic friends" would be interested in discussing the issue properly; a pity you are not.

I repeat - scientists do not talk about vague topics without defining the terms of business. Science does not even start without defining terms precisely.

You might repeat, but you still don't seem to know what you're talking about. (And humorously a few posts into your rant about the need to define terms, you're still yet to define what you want to measure). The problem is quite well enough defined in my posts for reasoned academic discourse on a board such as this; it's just that you don't seem much interested in engaging in that.

While it may sound like a good excuse to the intellectually timid, you have exposed the idiocy of your own argument. What business do you have talking about scientific subjects without a scientific definition of the problem?

The problem is well enough defined in my posts for people who are not "intellectually timid".

Only two can be compared at a time. That is fundamental information theory. Trillions can be compared two at a time, but only two at once. That is why I said two. It is not limiting the scope at all.

Both incorrect and irrelevant. There are vastly better ways to approach the core problem. Perhaps you should look into them sometime.

The problem facing the regulators is what are the risks of allowing GMO, including future genes

So you introduce the problem of a lack of time machine to make the study seem difficult.

No, that the set of genes that may be introduced is unbounded is a fundamental part of the issue, as is the potential latency of outcome. They're not "introduced to make the study seem difficult".

No study can ever prove that health problems of GMO, even if they exist today, cannot be solved tomorrow by any means whatsoever.


So one must start with identifying the problems of GMO, comparing 2 at a time, trying out trillions of solutions over trillions of years, ...

(Emphasis added).

Comment: Re:I actually read the article... (Score 1) 272

by williamhb (#47272833) Attached to: EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

The experiment I proposed was neither small nor toy. What does that reveal about you?

Of course it is small and toy -- hmm, perhaps I'm using academic casual jargon that is unfamiliar to you. They are not a pejorative, if that's what you were thinking. When academics discuss experiments, they tend to get referred to as "small and toy" when the bounds of the experiment that are chosen in order to make it achievable also render it externally invalid. It's small/toy in comparison to the problem, not in comparison to other experiments. In defining the boundaries of your study, you defined the study so narrowly that it puts the problem we're actually interested in outside the boundary of your proposed study.

And I would be grateful if you can point out the part of my post where I mentioned the study would be easy. Thanks.

Happy to oblige. When you said "There is no difficulty of conducting a study ..."

This does not provide you information on the issue required

In spite of this being the first sentence in your post, you haven't justified it at all. The information "required" could be non-falsifiable, which it does seem as defined by you though it was also vague which is why it could have seemed non-falsifiable. If so, science has no business giving out that information. If not, you are most welcome to define the problem scientifically - which would need it to be non-vague and falsifiable.

I have justified it in both posts in a manner that I'm confident other scientists would understand. If you'll forgive me for making inferences about you, from what you write I suspect that while you are a fervent supporter of science, you do not work in science. Again, that is not a pejorative, but background / lead in to why I'll phrase my explanation for you slightly differently (and more verbosely) than I would to fellow academics.

Modern science is typically not conducted just for its own sake, but in order to address important problems facing society. If you're looking at an area such as public health (such as this GMO policy debate), or at predicting and mitigating the risks of future GMOs, these are necessarily multi-factored complex problems. Bounding the problem to something simple (such as only comparing two strains) might make an experiment more conductible, but it also renders it externally invalid to the problem as future development of GMO is not limited to just two known strains. The problem facing the regulators is what are the risks of allowing GMO, including future genes. So curiously you need to design your experiments to "support" genes you don't know about -- we can potentially do this, but the experiments look very very different to those that have been conducted (which have been of the more simplistic "grow a few and see what happens" variety), and are likely to take much longer than 20 years.

To give you a hint of the complexities involved, Three Mile Island (the near nuclear disaster) depended not merely on nuclear physics but also on human factors.

Comment: Re:I actually read the article... (Score 1) 272

by williamhb (#47239985) Attached to: EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

If you think that GMOs should be studied in this way then ALL other foods that are modified in ANY way should be studied EXACTLY the same way.

No, your unsubstantiated assertion there doesn't follow. Not even if you type it in ALL CAPS.

It doesn't matter if it was done with traditional cross breeding, gene insertion, mutation via radiation or mutation via chemical mutagen.

It matters a great deal. The rate at which new genes can be introduced and become widespread in a population matters enormously and can be vastly higher with GMOs. Actually, for GMO, populations of multiple species simultaneously -- see below. As does the distribution model, which economically drives to reduce the number of sources of seed (and thus means that worldwide crops are grown from a population that is yet narrower than it already is).

The other 3 can all be done "organically" are far more dangerous, have had known problems, are far more likely to have side effects and are NOT the ones people are saying we need to study more carefully.

They take vastly longer for a mutation to become pervasive, and we also know the problems are bounded when they occur. The "Round up ready" genes have been introduced to "soybeans, alfalfa, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets," and more already, and we're still in the early days of agriculture moving to GMO. With GMO it is entirely feasible for the same gene to be introduced to multiple species, become entirely dominant in the market if it is effective, and then potentially only later discover it has an unforseen problem. At which point we could easily be completely stuffed as it would be present in essentially every food crop.

Comment: Re:I actually read the article... (Score 1) 272

by williamhb (#47239317) Attached to: EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

We have been studying health impacts of GMOs for over 20 years now and so far we can find absolutely none. If you can find some actual real evidence that can be verified then there are many that would love to actually see it.

You mistake the difficulty of conducting a study for meaning we should assume there will be no difference in outcome. For example, if we're considering a longitudinal study over sufficient timeframes, now you're going to find it difficult/expensive to ensure your control group isn't also consuming GMOs as they are not always labelled. You also have to find someone willing to fund a very expensive long-term and large-population study. And even then you've only studied the GMOs in your study, not the others that may be introduced over time -- each with complex interactions with the environment and with your endocrine system. Each of these study difficulties makes it less likely for your results to spot a genuine danger. It's not something that's easy to study, such as smoking, where people know if they do/don't smoke and know if they do/don't spend time in smokey environments, and where it's a bounded set of mostly-similar products to test. And even then it took a very long time to prove the link that everyone already suspected. Even with something as well studied and long-known as fat consumption, there is an ongoing controversy about its health impacts (or at least whether switching to a low fat diet is effective or not).

That the pro-GMO movement is using pejoratives (such as that you must be "anti-science" if you don't believe in its efficacy and safety) when it has only been studied for 20 years (far short of the lifetime of consumption it is intended for) is a social indicator that people are trying to muscle it through because it's hard actually to rigorously prove its safety. (As opposed to merely failing to find its unsafety, which the public are right to worry might be through not looking carefully enough rather than there not being a problem.)

Comment: Re:The science behind GMOs show they are safe. (Score 2) 272

by williamhb (#47239257) Attached to: EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

... the rest of your reasonable argument about the need for genetic modifications to food staples to ensure an adequate global food supply in the 21st century.

We don't require GMO in order to ensure an adequate global food supply. It is somewhat more cost effective but certainly not required. Removing US agricultural subsidies, such that African farmers (and other countries) could stand a chance of becoming competitive and developing in a fairer market, would make a greater difference.

Likewise, removing mandatory requirements for bioethanol in petrol/gasoline in many countries. (Which have diverted grain production towards fuel rather than food.)

Comment: Re:well (Score 1) 557

by williamhb (#46936025) Attached to: Actual Results of Crimean Secession Vote Leaked

You do realize stopping the flow of gas to Europe would hurt Europe more than it would Russia, don't you? That is why there are only economic sanctions going on and not the stopping of gas purchases because Europe needs that gas. And Russia knows this.

The supply lines run from Russia to the west, not vice versa.

Economically, stopping the flow of gas would hurt Russia more than Europe. The problem, however (and why the EU is perhaps unlikely to impose sanctions on the gas supply) is that it would hurt Germany worse than France, Netherlands worse than ... The EU often ends up requiring consensus to act, and when something has an uneven impact on different EU countries, getting that consensus becomes a big painful political negotiation ("Well, if we're taking most of the pain on X, then we want concessions from you on Y in return, otherwise we won't agree to do it..."). As the EU has expanded, this has theoretically become combinatorially worse.

The EU finds it hard to act, and we end up with this painful political talk about "Strong action and strong sanctions" that so far have been trifling limitations on a handful of people. NATO finds it easier, but Ukraine isn't in NATO yet.

It all looks like a rather horrible disaster in progress. With worrying echoes of the beginning of WW1 and the treaty status of Belgium.

Comment: Re:Journals do a little more.... (Score 2) 72

by williamhb (#46935939) Attached to: The Exploitative Economics of Academic Publishing

Frankly, after writing grants, doing the work, analyzing it, writing it up, and defending it at conferences, I feel I don't have a lot of time left over to play with margins and get the typesetting and hyperlinked references all working. The layout work actually is valuable.

I have to disagree with this. Journals and conferences increasingly allow the author to make a "pre-print" (a PDF as submitted, without the publisher's layout work) publicly available, to meet open access requirements. When reading conference papers that I might wish to cite, I find there is very little advantage in reading the publisher's laid-out version over reading the author's pre-print. The layout might look fancy and attractive, but unlike regular publishing and journalism, science publishing is not driven by the glossiness and beauty of the printing -- it's driven by us just needing the content to know what our colleagues and competitors have done so we can cite them.

Comment: Re:Shut Up (Score 1) 568

How can you possibly believe that the massive environmental changes we are creating both for living our daily lives and for powering our cities and running our factories, that the chemicals we're synthesizing that had never been seen on planet earth prior to us, are NOT having an effect on the climate? Is it such a stretch that those changes aren't, necessarily, bad for life as we've known it, given that life as we've known it was adapted to the environment that existed prior to us?

You don't need a PhD or hi-falutin intellectual elite pedigrees to see the obvious. The only questions should be "How bad is it?", and I might agree with you that there's enough money on the table for all parties that it has to be taken with a grain of salt, and a realization that most of us would rather perish than go back to living in caves.

To borrow an old car insurance quip "I didn't know which way to swerve, so I ran him over". While it is generally obvious that we are having some effect on the climate, there is enough confusion in the lay community about what, how precisely we should be able to predict the outcome, and about the impact of different strategies (skepticism about unintended consequences of carbon taxes, especially when the carbon production can simply move offshore to a lower tax regime taking jobs with it), that I am not surprised there is intense skepticism in the public at large. To the point of preferring to believe there might not even be any effect.

We may think our science is good, but in communication we're coming across as over-insistent snake oil salesmen, as we (or those who agree that the models are the best predictions we have) get louder and louder about how terrible it would be if you don't buy our expensive product (green taxes) and more and more acid about how anybody who disagrees with us must be a terrible person.

Comment: Re:His question was important and legitimate (Score 1) 396

It is a perfectly valid question which needs to be asked to all world leaders. While Putin's answer can certainly be seen as pure political spin, the question itself is a legitimate and forceful question to be posed. And by asking it, it forced Putin to provide an answer through which he can be measured against.

Opinions of Snowden aside (I don't think he should be expected to dedicate his every action for the rest of his live to a privacy campaign just because he once blew a whistle), I think we can presume that the question was only asked because Putin and his aides wanted it to be. They had a prepared answer, information about Russia's eavesdropping is not in the public domain the way the west's is, and this let them thumb a nose at the US at a time when each is trying to portray the other as the bad guy over Ukraine.

Comment: Re:Useful Idiot (Score 2) 396

These propaganda sessions for Putin are pre-staged so Snowden has allowed himself to be used as a "propaganda tool". Considering how freedoms are curtailed in Russia, it seriously deminishes Snowden's reputation.

Snowden doesn't trade on his reputation -- his whistleblowing was a release of the government's own documents, and did not rely on his reputation at all (indeed the public hadn't even heard of him before he released the documents). He's not a career campaigner, just someone who had been working in the business of eavesdropping on all of us and decided that it had gone too far. That he's now effectively in exile is a cost he clearly decided was worth paying, but that in itself doesn't mean that his every action for the rest of his life has to be about a freedom and privacy campaign. Now in exile, he needs to find something to do for the rest of his life. Taking on the media celebrity role that has landed on his shoulders (and essentially being a tv presenter) is a way of doing that. It doesn't mean he has to metamorphose into a hard-bitten incisive journalist. Just let him get on with the rest of his life -- he's sacrificed enough of it already to open up the privacy v security debate to the public in western democracies. There's no need to demand the rest of it off him too.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles