The Independent needs its environmental credentials to be taken away

Between electronic “smog” and their incessant bleating that every weather event is due to global warming, I have come to the conclusion that the Independent, with stories like this one, are trying to bring down the science of global warming from the inside.

It’s official: the heavier rainfall in Britain is being caused by climate change, a major new scientific study will reveal this week, as the country reels from summer downpours of unprecedented ferocity.

More intense rainstorms across parts of the northern hemisphere are being generated by man-made global warming, the study has established for the first time ­ an effect which has long been predicted but never before proved.

The study’s findings will be all the more dramatic for being disclosed as Britain struggles to recover from the phenomenal drenching of the past few days, during which more than a month’s worth of rain fell in a few hours in some places, and floods forced thousands from their homes.

I feel like Mooney said it best in what I quoted in his book review this morning:

At the outset, let me offer a critical point of clarification: Global warming did not cause Hurricane Katrina, or any other weather disaster. Or to put it more precisely, we just can’t say scientifically that global warming either does or not “cause” individual weather events.

Exactly! Will somebody please tell the independent this? Climate change is about increasing probability of certain types of weather. It is not possible or responsible to attribute specific weather events as evidence for or against climate change. These ridiculous assertions from the Independent are just as annoying as those coming from anti-GW cranks like Tim Blair who rejoice in every cold-snap. Climate is not the same as weather!

What is even more amazing is that in the same article they include this statement:

The new study, carried out jointly by several national climate research institutes using their supercomputer climate models, including the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office, does not prove that any one event, including the rain of the past few days in Britain, is climate-change related.

So why did you just write 10 paragraphs about how it is?


Two links for today

Gene Sperling in the WaPo points out that holding the NIH budget flat is like a cutting our budgets as inflation forces budget cutbacks. He forgets to mention the wasted expense of the NIH roadmap and the significant portion of the intramural budget devoted to security, but otherwise he’s dead-on. The steady ramping of funding led to a lot of people being trained, and the sudden cut-off has led to a lot of people abandoning science.

And I don’t usually link Kos, but seeing this quote from Bill Kristol:

There’s been a certain amount of pop sociology in America … that the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.

I couldn’t resist. Now, Bill Kristol has not been correct about anything for about a decade now. One wonders two things. Why does anyone persist and asking him his opinions? And second, is there a name for someone who predicts the future and always gets it wrong? I’m thinking a reverse of Cassandra – the myth being she could predict the future but was cursed in that no one would listen to her. Kristol is the exact opposite. He is incapable of accurately predicting the future but for some reason people listen to him. Maybe we can call it a Krissandra? And Anti-Cassandra? Or is there another mythical person that applies?

Storm World

I’ve been reading Chris Mooney’s Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming for the last week or so, and I’ve got to say, this is excellent science writing. A book on science for the non-expert reader should accomplish 5 things. It should let you know the history of the field and its prevailing theories, it should give you background and explanations that allow you to attain a basic grasp of the science or key concepts, it should be well-written, it should make you care about the subject, and it should be entertaining. Mooney gets a 5/5. It also was highly entertaining to me, because in the course of the development of hurricane science there have been lots of examples of downright cranky behavior, as innovators who developed key ideas would refuse to relinquish them in the face of new data and observations. Mooney casts the debate in terms of two camps, which are broadly, the empiricists vs. the theorists, each of which throughout the history of the science have had better or worse luck explaining the data and accepting changes in the field.

One should also read the preface and introduction of the book, which sets the non-alarmist/non-polemic tone and really makes you care about learning the subject right of the bat. Mooney writes:
Continue reading “Storm World”

This is why you should never source Wikipedia

So, who has heard of the Rife Machine? It is a quack device that purports to destroy diseases by homing in on their resonant frequency, and disrupting them with radiofrequency (RF) waves (like a soundwave shattering a wine glass). I’ve met true believers of this stuff before, and there is little you can do to dissuade them of the magical power of these machines, that when dissected reveal they’re little more than batteries with flashing LED-lights – and no capability of generating specific radio frequencies. I just got an email this weekend about recent hucksters selling these in Australia, it’s a woo that just won’t die, possibly because it’s very attractive to cranks.

The story behind the Rife machine has all the perfect components of crankery. You’ve got the miracle cure for cancer, suppressed by the mainstream medical profession, with a visionary hero (Royal Rife) who like Galileo was persecuted for defying the orthodoxy and whose revolutionary inventions were destroyed to prevent him from being validated.

So what quack sites did I have to go to to learn about this absurdity? What den of psuedoscientific iniquity is pushing this story off as fact? Why Wikipedia of course.
Continue reading “This is why you should never source Wikipedia”

Need another fix?

Now that all of you have burned through the 7th Harry Potter book like GWB with an 8-ball of coke in the 70s, what is left for you to do? How to combat that remorseful feeling of being out of such perfectly fluffy literature?

Well here’s an open thread to discuss those other series which may provide a HP-like fix for those who are starting to suffer. I have a suggestion that is no mere methadone substitute.
Continue reading “Need another fix?”

I Am Special / I Am Special / Look at Me: Generation Self-Esteem II

I know that my earlier post on Gen Y kids was a bit bogus. There are huge generalizations and no real data in the argument. But I’m going to stir the pot more by posting portions of an earlier column by Jeffrey Zaslow on Generation Y that has a bit more anecdote and information about how the business community is dealing with younger workers:

…as this greatest generation grows up, the culture of praise is reaching deeply into the adult world. Bosses, professors and mates are feeling the need to lavish praise on young adults, particularly twentysomethings, or else see them wither under an unfamiliar compliment deficit.

Employers are dishing out kudos to workers for little more than showing up. Corporations including Lands’ End and Bank of America are hiring consultants to teach managers how to compliment employees using email, prize packages and public displays of appreciation. The 1,000-employee Scooter Store Inc., a power-wheelchair and scooter firm in New Braunfels, Texas, has a staff “celebrations assistant” whose job it is to throw confetti — 25 pounds a week — at employees. She also passes out 100 to 500 celebratory helium balloons a week. The Container Store Inc. estimates that one of its 4,000 employees receives praise every 20 seconds, through such efforts as its “Celebration Voice Mailboxes.”


America’s praise fixation has economic, labor and social ramifications. Adults who were overpraised as children are apt to be narcissistic at work and in personal relationships, says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. Narcissists aren’t good at basking in other people’s glory, which makes for problematic marriages and work relationships, she says.

Her research suggests that young adults today are more self-centered than previous generations. For a multiuniversity study released this year, 16,475 college students took the standardized narcissistic personality inventory, responding to such statements as “I think I am a special person.” Students’ scores have risen steadily since the test was first offered in 1982. The average college student in 2006 was 30% more narcissistic than the average student in 1982.

I’d love to post this entire article; it’s worth a read. There are specific examples of company policies to improve intergenerational communication. But let’s leave it at this:

In the end, ego-stroking may feel good, but it doesn’t lead to happiness, says Prof. Twenge, the narcissism researcher, who has written a book titled “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable than Ever Before.” She would like to declare a moratorium on “meaningless, baseless praise,” which often starts in nursery school. She is unimpressed with self-esteem preschool ditties, such as the one set to the tune of “Frere Jacques”: “I am special/ I am special/ Look at me… “


As if I needed another reason to love Barbara Ehrenreich

Writing for HuffPo, Charlottesville’s own Barbara Ehrenreich takes on positive psychology. I have to remember to drop by sometime with a cake and welcome her to the city, even if it is a year too late.

She addresses something very annoying about the belief that positive thinking is a universal good (and provides a backhanded slap to Depeak Chopra and “the Secret”), that there isn’t much proof that it really works – at least not in situations of ongoing stress. Further, a more insidious aspect of the emphasis on positive thinking is a blame-the-victim mentality inherent in its proponents.

The perennial temptation to blame disease on sin or at least some grave moral failing just took another hit. A major new study shows that women on a virtuous low fat diet with an extraordinary abundance of fruits and veggies were no less likely to die of breast cancer than women who grazed more freely. Media around the world have picked up on the finding, cautioning, prudishly, that you can’t beat breast cancer with cheeseburgers and beer.

Another “null result” in cancer studies — i.e., one showing that a suspected correlation isn’t there — has received a lot less attention. In the May issue of Psychological Bulletin, James Coyne and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania reported that “there is no compelling evidence linking psychotherapy or support groups with survival among cancer patients.” This flies in the face of the received wisdom that any sufficiently sunny-tempered person can beat cancer simply with a “positive attitude.”

Then, Chopra gets a snub:
Continue reading “As if I needed another reason to love Barbara Ehrenreich”

Generation Self-Esteem

The Wall Street Journal continues its campaign against Generation Y with an article by Jeff Zaslow that tries to explain why so many young people act with such a sense of entitlement. It pins the blame on, among other things, California, indulgent parenting, and consumer culture. But I suspect that the culprit is the last one listed: the self-esteem movement.

The self-esteem movement. In 1986, California created a state task force on self-esteem. Schools nationwide later adopted “everybody’s a winner” philosophies. One teacher told me that her superiors advised her to tell students that she liked their smiles, or the way they sat up straight, rather than focusing on, say, their failed spelling tests.

Yes, it’s important for kids to like themselves. But many readers long for some balance. One California woman wrote that her grandchildren are being raised on “self-esteem babble.” This year, her grandson wanted to play trumpet in the school talent show, but hardly practiced. Every note he played was wrong, yet he thought he was “awesome.”

For what it’s worth, I have noticed that some younger students absolutely cannot take criticism of their work (not Berkeley students, of course!). They look at you like you’re crazy when a critique is given, and at some level, you can sense that they are so shocked by criticism that they simply don’t listen. I’m worried about them, because when their mediocrity is displayed before a judge, they are going to be yelled at. I, at least, give them constructive criticism, in a private environment that’s tempered with some praise…

Zaslow reports that some institutions are trying to deal with this:

Some colleges are also combating young people’s sense of entitlement. At Loyola University Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, Mary Burns teaches a course modeled after her book “Entitled to What? A Reality Check for the Generation Entering Corporate America.”

A reality check is needed. If society at large accepts this mediocrity, it could corrupt our culture.