Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

Political Snippet: Chris Huhne to speak to Lib Dems on … global warming

Wind Turbines

Chris Huhne, climate warrior and turbine hugger, speaks at the Lib Dem Conference today. As with soft-shoe Vince yesterday, we know more or less what he will say: some questionable statistics about the weather (sorry, climate) will be wrapped up in big dollops of anti-Conservative rhetoric. Marriage is clearly not his forte.

Now here’s a story to raise his ire a notch or two:

After three, or is it four, shrivellingly cold winters in Britain, and another one forecast this year by several long-range weather experts, it’s hardly surprising that we British are more obsessed with the weather than ever.

Climate change (global warming) “scientists” have been caught so often fiddling the numbers they have become figures of scorn, if not hate, in the public at large.

Now Michael Hanlon, a writer on science and a Daily Mail columnist, has a revealing piece in today’s paper. It refers to the new edition of The Times Atlas of the World.

It seems the top of the range cartographers employed to compile this sumptuous £150 reference source claim that 15% of Greenland is now ice free. However, the observant Hanlon winkled out that their definition of “green, ice-free” land includes any plot with a covering of up to a 1600-foot depth of ice. That’s about a third of a mile thick.

Inevitably, the authoritative tome would have been used extensively as proof of catastrophic man-made global warming stalking the earth to add to our seemingly insoluble financial woes.

This appallingly slack lapse — or was it deliberate? — follows a long line of blatant lies on climate change, from the melting of the Himalayas in 20 years or so, to the emails of the University of East Anglia admitting the climatologists had fiddled the data.

You have to read this article to believe it. I suspect a lot of very expensive books are heading for the shredders right now. What a shame!

It would be good to have Chris Huhne’s take on this fiasco.

John Evans

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Saturday Ramble: Oh dear! Physics trashed by physicist

Money I’ve become a bit concerned lately that this column has gained something of a reputation for trashing fundamental science, especially physics.

I’m not the only one. Many people are waking up to the scandals — financial or otherwise — surrounding so-called man-made catastrophic climate change, cosmology and the God/atheism “debate”.

The following letter of resignation by Harold Lewis says it all. I republish it without comment. First the author’s credentials:

Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety.

Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; Published books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making).

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that [...]

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Hal

Via James Delingpole

John Evans

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Saturday Ramble: Does science beget totalitarianism?

DNA We are being told — not least by the naggers on the Today programme, and the wider BBC — that genetic screening is good for us and will shape the future for the better. We will live longer and healthier lives.

Such is the pressure behind this movement that the NHS and its political masters are discovering ways of reducing costs (read, “increasing costs”) by these methods. DNA tests are now routinely carried out by hospitals and the police, whether people want them or not.

There was a brief moment of clarity on Today last week when a doctor made the obvious point that the clearest genetic test for susceptibility to diseases is to examine the health of relatives, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents, for what they caught, and what they died of.

Our genomes are right there before our eyes. No need to get an “expert” to do it for us. Actually, we are all naturally expert at reading genetics. We instinctively spot blood links in people’s faces, skin, bodies and other more subtle signals.

On a trip to northern Belgium more than 20 years ago, I was struck by how the faces on the streets resembled those in Cardiff, South Wales. The Belgae, a Celtic tribe, at one time settled in Wales before the Romans came. The genes are still visible. Or were until the mass migrations of the Labour years.

In Cork in Ireland, and all along the West coast, to this day you can see black-eyed Spanish people, descendants of the Armada wrecked on Irish beaches in Good Queen Bess’s time. And there are more than a few Vikings hanging out in Dublin.

We don’t need blood tests and a genome to work it out. Our genetic inheritance is fully visible and available to us without an array of medical interventions to tell us about ourselves, or others.

In some older American films, when two people decide to get married they go for blood tests to discover if they are compatible to have children. This was a legal requirement in many states, no doubt a hangover from the eugenics movement that swept the West before the Second World War, and was a factor in bringing Hitler to power. It had its origin in Darwinian determinism. Science does have a history of begetting totalitarianism.

Scientists often scorn astrology for its mechanical determinism, but much of science is built around similar assumptions. The new “science” of genometrics, as with cosmology and climate theory, are means of predicting the future by examining small slices of nature and converting the results into mathematical formulae. Even Nostrodamus might laugh.

What’s the difference after all between that and telling fortunes from the entrails of chickens, as the Greeks and Romans did?

Science is given respectability by the enormous amounts of public money spent on it. The Large Hadron Collider must be good because of its size and complexity, not to mention the £6 billion, and rising, it cost to build.

As the good doctor implied last week, the world is arrayed before us in all its glory, openly and honestly. But we choose to outsource our personal phenomenology to a bunch of hucksters and quacks, allied to credulous politicians, who spend our money like ocean swells trying to discover what we know — or should know — already.

We yearn for reassurance, even if it is arrogant nonsense.

Eugenics is making a comeback through genometrics. Who knows what horrors will return in its wake.

John Evans

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Saturday Ramble: Bubbles — how they destroy us and how we can fight back

Bubble There’s a wonderfully dorkish bit in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol when a scientist attempts to prove the existence of the human soul by weighing a man’s body moments before and after his death. The difference must be the weight of the departing soul.

This begs a truckload of questions, of course, not least that the soul may not be physical at all. However, the author’s “noetic” scientist reports an infinitesimally small difference so, Eureka!

All great fun. The trouble is, something similar is happening across most of the conventional sciences. The recent swine flu pandemic scare is a good example of vested interests skewing the truth and driving massive public expenditure for no other reason than greed. So is “catastrophic man-made global warming” with its vast new global infrastructure, all paid for by you and me in the middle of a long and crippling recession.

I was thinking of that passage in Dan Brown’s book last week while watching someone blowing bubbles from washing-up liquid. The bubbles seemed to be weightless, even though they are made up of physical substances. But then that’s the nature of bubbles, they appear to be miraculous at first … then they come down to earth or just burst in the air. One should never invest hard coin in bubbles.

Unhappily, lots of people do, and go on doing so even when countless bubbles have burst down the centuries.

Human bubbles are made up of ideas and mental states composed of wishes and deceptions. They form into powerful psychological contagions as they mature, and even take on an apparently material basis as they grow, often posing as something different.

The two current global bubbles are, 1) the myth of catastrophic man-made global heating, and 2) the notion that global decisions are self-evidently better than local ones. Both are underpinned and given force by one of the most lumberingly under-performing institutions in history: the United Nations.

In the economic realm, there are the surpluses of cash built up by exporting countries, China and Japan, matched by the gaping deficits of the US, the UK and many European nations.

Bubbles define our world. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Trillions of our electronic banknotes are now being thrown at the global boiling hypothesis by unrepentant politicians, some well meaning, others self-promoting. The problem is, that bubble has burst.

Global warming by man-produced carbon in the atmosphere has been found not to exist, at least on any timescale we can measure or plan for. The data has been shown to be wrong, or deliberately tampered with. The politicians and their less-than respectable allies — hordes of anti-capitalists and unwashed any-cause hysterics — have gone too far down this road to pull back now. Most will retire to rewrite their personal histories, leaving a new generation to clean up the mess at huge further costs to us.

Here’s a proposition. All new ideas involving the spending of public money should be examined painstakingly for speculative (imaginary) content:

1. What do we actually know, and what are we being advised to believe?
2. Is there a real problem that we can see before our eyes?
3. If it becomes necessary to spend public money to avert an apparent threat in the future, let’s spend it on things that will be useful even if that threat is found to be baseless.

A good example from the past is London fog. In Victorian times, right up until the early 1950s, London was often draped in a pall of yellow smog caused by the burning of cheap sulphurous coal. Millions of lives were lost early from respiratory diseases, heart problems, and simple misery. China and India are still burning this stuff.

The solution was the appliance of science at its best: practical technology. The National Coal Board, then a nationalized industry, brought in two eminent philosopher-scientists: Dr Jacob Bronowski, best remembered for his stagey, but brilliant, BBC series, The Ascent of Man, and E.F. Schumacher, author of the evergreen Small is Beautiful, which was based on Burmese Buddhism. Polymaths both.

They developed the first smokeless fuel. Politicians did their bit and passed laws making it an offence to burn anything else in the big cities, and hey presto, problem all but solved.

The trillions now committed to various schemes for carbon reduction, dreamt up by naive politicians, including the fraudulent brokerage schemes and the “new industries” devoted to pulling wool over our eyes, should be re-evaluated by incoming hard-eyed administrations looking for real value, not notional empires in the stratosphere.

Once again, reducing smokey particulates in the air is worth spending money on for solid health reasons. But the vast array of wind farms and new French nuclear reactors, should be replaced by cheaper, simpler, and more reliable, home-grown alternatives: for example, natural gas derived from Britain’s own methane beds and oil shale deposits. While the Americans and others are pioneering this new technology, Britain — led by the proboscis by bureaucrats in Brussels — is prevented from doing so by self-inflicted barriers reaching as far ahead as 2050. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

By what natural right do these people boss future generations around? The answer lies in the feeble compliance of our lacklustre politicians.

Why not cut free from the whole ridiculous rigmarole and go our own way for our national interests alone. Everyone else is secretly doing this to some degree. If we succeed, you can be sure others will follow. That’s real influence, not the shadowy, pretend kind put forward by Gordon Brown.

Summary: Always be aware of bubbles as they form, and only ever spend public money on what is immediately apparent. Speculation on thinly-based science is rarely profitable. Nature is cyclical and comes and goes, rises and falls in roughly predictable ways. Mankind’s lives are too short to grasp the full picture. Some kind of trust in the future is essential. Most of it is unknowable. If we accept our limitations, we will be happier here and now.

Solution: Replace the top tier of government scientists with practical philosophers who can think any situation through without spending money.

John Evans

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DIARY: Curiosity Clegg, Annoyment, Lansley soap, Climate fate, Mystics, Swine flu blues

Chinese Sage I nodded off during Nick Clegg’s appearance on the Marr show this morning. It seemed preferable to listening to what he had to say … and how he said it.

I awoke with the distinct impression that he wants to import planeloads of African homosexuals and send them up to Scotland.

Why, I kept asking? Will they get a good reception in Glasgow’s Gorbals on a Saturday night? Have the fiercely nationalistic Scots asked for such bedfellows, especially as — Africa being Africa — most will be carrying the HIV virus? How will our bursting-at-the-seams hospitals cope?

It’s all very rum, if you ask me.

And then there’s his voice. It has a faintly hoarse piercing quality, without any light and shade for variation. He really should find a good Shakespearean actor to coach some depth into his delivery. With 270 minutes of the leaders’ debates coming up, watching even a short burst will be the short straw once you’ve thrown in Gordon Brown to boot.

Syntagma suggests Clegg make more use of that forever-boyish look, while developing a serene demeanour. He could also cultivate a long wispy beard, which would give him the appearance of a Chinese Taoist sage who has discovered the secret of eternal youth.

We might listen to him then.

* * * * *

The Conservatives promised us a furious fusillade of new policies during January. This week they have started to trickle through, topped by George Osborne’s welcome announcement that cuts in the deficit will begin soon after the election.

So, what about the NHS? Cuts in overmanning, perhaps? A new regime for the drugs companies? A major reorganization of management and unnecessary jobs? A determination to tackle the truculent trades unions?

None of the above, alas. Andrew Lansley has offered us a change in the way drinks are measured on bottle labels. Units of alcohol will be replaced by centilitres.

Is that the sound of general rejoicing I hear? Thank God for Lansley, I find myself muttering. [Heavy irony alert]. Give that man a drink!

Syntagma has a better idea. Why not boil Lansley down for soap, and distribute it free to hospitals?

* * * * *

Annoyment of the Week
A Gordon Brown Free Zone

This week has been a wretched one for British politics. All the main party leaders have performed badly and been made to look foolish and not up to the job.

It may be pre-election nerves, of course, but may also signal the truth. What if they are all dunces, destined to spend their careers on the naughty step? Gordon Brown has been on it for his entire premiership, let’s not forget.

Just look how quickly the saintly Obama has developed feet and legs of clay. How be it if no leader is capable of putting all our houses back in order?

Clegg wants more immigration because there are parts of the country where only sheep graze. Brown wants to go on playing with his toys in Number 10. Cameron has a political sushi policy where everything is sliced very thinly so it can be jettisoned without loss of face.

There are two very old traditions in Britain: “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” (or Margaret Thatcher); and the return of King Arthur to save the nation from dire peril.

It’s beginning to look as if the Arthurian option is the only one left.

* * * * *

Syntagma has been complaining about inaccurate official information since 2005 when we challenged the Met Office’s prediction that the approaching winter would be as bad as 1962/3. It was not, and we were much closer to the truth with our tongue-in-cheek forecast.

Now a weather presenter at the BBC is saying that the Met Office’s “supercomputer” has “a warm weather bias” and seems incapable of predicting cold snaps. Interestingly, the BBC’s Met Office contract runs out in April. The Sunday Times notes that it is looking very carefully at Metra, a private New Zealand forecaster that already provides it with TV weather graphics.

Much as I hate to see British institutions dumped in their own country, such is the general lack of confidence in the Exeter-based Met Office, it’s hard to see how it can survive as a serious predictor of our climate.

The BBC should not bottle this one, or move to protect another public body. The Beeb should be made to demonstrate it will not tolerate underperforming contributors.

Since the Met Office is the world’s principal progenitor of catastrophic, man-made global warming, what then will the politicians do with their hugely expensive projects for carbon reduction?

David Cameron could be the first to move against them. It would be popular among already hard-pressed taxpayers. It’s a good sign that prospective Tory candidate and eco-warrior, Zac Goldsmith, is currently sounding off bitterly at all politicians, even though he’s about to become one.

The berries are growing thick and fast on the holly bushes, as a Chinese sage might say.

* * * * *

Thank you to those who wrote to me about my book, The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face?. I’m delighted you found it “useful” — a word I particularly appreciate.

Readers may be interested to know that a follow-up volume is on the way. MYSTICS: The next step in human evolution?.

The Eternal Quest hinted at this strand of thought in references to “posthumans”, but didn’t go much beyond that as it was concerned solely with individuals.

It’s undoubtedly true that genuine mystics have expanded their consciousness beyond that of the vast bulk of humanity. My thesis in both books is that levels of consciousness determine evolutionary progress. It follows that mystics are the pioneers of the next step for mankind.

Humans are strangely incomplete beings, living largely in ignorance of their origins and future — neither gods nor creatures. Mystics point the way forward. They occupy a position mid-way between this world and the next, observing the passing pageant of life while knowing the seat of their own immortality.

While you are waiting, may I suggest you read The Eternal Quest as an opener, if you haven’t done so already.

Available at all good booksellers off- and online.

* * * * *

Swine flu is yet another case of government predictions crashing and costing us an estimated £1 billion, at the least.

It seems the drug companies have been behind the pandemic scare in recent months, prompting Gordon “any excuse to spend a billion or two” Brown to splurge our money on vast quantities of the vaccine … now useless.

Once again, he’s been shown to have made the wrong call. Is it also his idea to send this stuff to the “third world”? If the disease is not harmful, it makes you wonder what they are supposed to do with it.

Will UK.gov add dumping toxic waste in underdeveloped countries to its long list of socialist criminality?

John Evans

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