Homeopathy: not as bad as genocide

Last week in the Spectator I wrote a piece which I knew was going to get me into trouble.

Aiieeee! Deadly Arnica!!!!

Aiieeee! Deadly Arnica!!!!

And indeed, to read some of the reaction since, you’d think I’d been advocating military intervention in support of Col Gaddafi or compulsory puppy drowning classes at primary school. Actually though, all I was doing was questioning the bizarre witch-hunt atmosphere that now surrounds the subject of homeopathy. Here’s what I said:

But as a general principle, when it comes to complementary medicine my sympathies are with the Prince of Wales (unusually) and with another, more famous prince: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

For Horatio, read any number of celebrity debunkers of religion, magic, pseudoscience and superstition, from Ben Goldacre and Richard Dawkins to Derren Brown, James Randi and Penn and Teller. I like what a lot of them do and I share their belief in the importance of rigour, empiricism and rationalism. But I do wonder whether in their pursuit of post-Enlightenment heresies (from Christianity to homeopathy to climate change ‘denial’), they are not exhibiting just the kind of self-righteous fervour which in earlier times would have made them ideal witchfinders general or Spanish inquisitors.

Can they really afford to be so certain that they know everything there is to know about the scientific truth? Up until the 1880s, the experts would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested that malaria was caused by anything other than the foul air that emanated from swamps; up until the 1970s, you’d have been ridiculed for positing that stomach ulcers were caused by a bacterium; up until 1934, nobody even suspected that the major part of the universe comprised something called ‘dark matter’. Does that mean that everyone was totally thick in the old days and that we have all the answers now?

Can they really afford to be so certain that they know everything there is to know about the scientific truth? Up until the 1880s, the experts would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested that malaria was caused by anything other than the foul air that emanated from swamps; up until the 1970s, you’d have been ridiculed for positing that stomach ulcers were caused by a bacterium; up until 1934, nobody even suspected that the major part of the universe comprised something called ‘dark matter’. Does that mean that everyone was totally thick in the old days and that we have all the answers now?

Perhaps, when we get round to discovering the hidden truth about absolutely everything, it will emerge that homeopathy is a load of old crock. Or perhaps, we’ll be totally amazed to find that despite being so dilute as to contain not a single molecule of the original substance homeopathic remedies yet really do retain a ‘memory’ with incredible curative powers. Until that day, what harm is there in keeping an open mind?

I know I do. On the one hand, almost every sensible article I’ve read confirms me in my assurance that it’s bunk. On the other, I’ve met too many people whose lives have been transformed by homeopathy not to keep trying it. And I’m one of them.

There were at least two reasons why I knew there would be a strong reaction.

The first is that homeopathy is a subject that really, really, really gets the goat of a lot of articulate, clever, funny writers from Ben Goldacre to Damian Thompson. I’ve read quite a bit of what they have said on the subject. And do you know what? I dispute barely a word of what they say. As I thought I’d made pretty clear in the original piece – clue: “almost every sensible article I’ve read confirms me in my assurance that it’s bunk” – I’m fully aware that whenever homeopathy has been subjected to any kind of empirical testing it has failed to perform except (presumably) through the placebo effect.

What I am disputing – and this was one of the reasons I wrote my provocative article – is their tone.  Truly, to hear some of them you would think homeopathy were one of the great plagues of our time, something which all right-thinking people should be out marching in the streets to have banned. And I’m sorry, but homeopathy just ain’t that big a deal. I agree homeopathy shouldn’t be available on the NHS  because I believe it’s irresponsible for taxpayers’ money to be spent on something with no proven medical benefit. But beyond that, I find the shrillness and vehemence with which the “skeptics” rail against homeopathy (and religion, Richard Dawkins) is akin to the kind of playground bullying that gets meted out to fat kids or ones with red hair. “Urrggh! You believe in homeopathy! That means you’re stupid and you smell.”

Even worse than that, it’s invariably accompanied by a grotesque, self-aggrandising aura of smugness: “See just how clever and rational I am. I know my science, I do. Plus I hate religion. I’m a real ‘skeptic’, me.” I’m telling you, some of the idiots out on Twitter boasting about their “skeptic” credentials: it’s as if their avowed disbelief in homeopathy (or the passion with which they argue, say, for the banning of church schools: because, hey, imagine how much better the world would be without religion!) is the Get Out Of Jail Free that renders all their myriad intellectual, social and physical inadequacies magically invalid.

And I look at these “skeptics” with their arrogant certitude and I compare them with the gentle, thoughtful people who practise homeopathy (giving their patients the kind of consideration and interpersonal care you rarely get from time-pressed GPs these days) and with all those people out there whose lives have been helped by homeopathy (whether through the placebo effect or no) – and I think: “Well I know whose side I’d rather be on.”

I said there were two reasons why I knew the homeopathy piece would get me in to trouble. The second is that for some truly bizarre reason, many of the most outspoken critics of homeopathy (and “junk science” generally) also happen to be passionate believers in the “consensus” of Man Made Global Warming. And naturally, it delights them no end to be able to use this as ammunition: “See! See! He doesn’t believe homeopathy is bunk, therefore he is stupid and wrong about everything else too!”

Clearly this is a false and dishonest syllogism. My belief or otherwise in the efficacy and harmlessness of homeopathy has no bearing whatsoever on whether the Climategate scientists acted dishonestly and fraudulently, whether windfarms and solar energy are expensive and environmentally destructive, or whether carbon trading was invented by Enron. (No, really).

Furthermore, to attempt such an argument constitutes the most sublime hypocrisy. AGW is the most expensive unproven hypothesis in the history of science. Wiser heads – such as the new intake at the US House of Representatives, a majority of whom have voted to withdraw funding from the IPCC because it is so heavily politicised and devoid of scientific credibility – are increasingly cognizant of this uncomfortable truth. Not a shred of convincing empirical evidence has yet been produced to show that human CO2 emissions pose any kind of serious threat to the health of the planet.

So what’s worse? Believing we should keep an open mind on homeopathy, which costs the taxpayer next to nothing and which makes thousands of people very happy, creates work for some in a small but thriving industry and causes negligible harm?

Or believing in a hypothesis so increasingly threadbare it owes more to religion than science, which is costing taxpayers, businesses and energy users all round the world trillions of pounds, which holds back economic growth, which drives up food prices, which restricts freedoms, which is directly responsible for starvation, poverty and environmental damage?

Related posts:

  1. Wales is in danger: why isn’t the Prince of Wales saving it?
  2. What did our grandchildren do to deserve the Prince of Wales?
  3. Is Prince Charles ill-advised, or merely idiotic?
  4. Memo to Prince Charles: CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is plant food.

9 thoughts on “Homeopathy: not as bad as genocide”

  1. Paul says:26th February 2011 at 7:05 pmI don’t understand. Don’t some of our basic medicines come from plant extracts? Did not some of those wild age-old homeopathic remedies actually pass the scrutiny of the Victorian scientific eye and make it onto the shelves of our pharmacies in tablets, pastes and powders?

    The trouble with the post-Marxist closed-minded system of science is that it is political by design, and relies on the auto-scoff response to fend off any challenges to it in the first instance. Inevitably, this engenders a legion of semi-educated experts who are officially assured that they know best.

  2. TDK says:26th February 2011 at 11:18 pm“Don’t some of our basic medicines come from plant extracts? Did not some of those wild age-old homeopathic remedies actually pass the scrutiny of the Victorian scientific eye and make it onto the shelves of our pharmacies in tablets, pastes and powders?”

    There’s a difference between “Natural” medicine and homoeopathy. What you describe is the process whereby medicines were once created. That bears no relationship to homoeopathy. People chewed White Willow Bark because it had a pain killing effect. We know it contains natural aspirin.

    Homoeopathy says here’s a disease. The disease creates symptoms. We find in nature a substance that causes the same symptoms (doesn’t have to create the disease). NOTE: Does not cure the symptoms OR the disease in this natural state. Then we dilute this active substance, save a minuscule fraction, dilute again, save a minuscule fraction etc for several rounds till the amount of the active substance might be less than one molecule in a litre of water. Then add this to something like a sugar tablet and give to the patient. It cures the patient.

    Note: Homoeopathic “doctors” fax the medicines to each other.

    Now prove me wrong by giving me a homoeopathic remedy equivalent of White Willow Bark.

  3. TDK says:26th February 2011 at 11:27 pmThe following got mangled

    “We know it contains natural aspirin.” should read

    We now know it contains natural aspirin. From there it is a short step to refine the active ingredient increasing its potency and removing impurities.

  4. JimmyGiro says:27th February 2011 at 12:04 amSpeaking of Dawkins, a couple of years ago I asked on his website: if his membership of the New Humanist Society, and his associations with Polly Toynbee, was a tacit admission of him being a Fabian?

    His devoted acolytes on the website, subtitled: “A Clear-Thinking Oasis”, subsequently censored all my posts; though credit to a few who did complain, mainly as they wanted me there to be a writhing punch-bag for their own invectives.

    Thankfully they offer the critics from the ranks of the dull and ordinary variety of atheist, the clear demarcation of their re-brand: New Atheism. They seem to hide behind the stalking horse of science, as the Nazi’s hid behind German heroism; seducing an otherwise rational people, into sterilizing the children of a lesser god, because they just didn’t fit the utopia of the ubermensch, or worse, they threatened to vitiate it.

    So we now have an ugly dwarf, spawned from the intolerance of ‘clear-thinking’, posing as science and reason, imploring rational people to regard unorthodox personal philosophies, as the spastic minds fit for intellectual sterilisation, or worse.

    Those who have experienced any form of scientific pursuit, from A-level to PhD research, would have experienced the sheer delight that is hypothesising: “It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.”[Konrad Lorenz]. Indeed, it is the inexactitude of real science that allows the creative mind to explore the unknown, given only some of the facts of all of the universe, real scientists have achieved marvels. This comes about because for every good idea, there are dozens of wrong ones, and this is the necessary intellectual entropy that ensures the success of real science.

    But these new-wave, intolerant, politically motivated scientists, are putting science at the brink of a credibility abyss; simply by insisting on the gleichshaltung of ‘clear-thinking’. They have opened the cage of the science dwarfs, which spit and kick at all that are non-scientific, because their creative genus has been transplanted by political manifesto; like drunken brown-shirts, enthused by their new found status of herrenvolk, yet lacking real attributes, resort to attacking the other, in the hope of advancing by default.

    And here we are, looking down at the homoeopathy spastics in the gutter, next to all manner of misfits and unorthodoxy, writhing in pools of obloquy. They’re not us, so we’re OK… for now.

  5. Nige Cook says:27th February 2011 at 10:58 am“Now prove me wrong by giving me a homoeopathic remedy equivalent of White Willow Bark.” – TDK

    Witchcraft spells! The placebo effect! Give milk powder capsules disguised as aspirin, and it will have some effect in some people (though I don’t recommend this as an alternative to real aspirin for all conditions, especially as a blood-thinner during aircraft flights for people at risk of deep vein thrombosis). The placebo effect is the power of mind over matter. People in the nuclear industry with malfunctioning dosimeters have suffered all the symptoms of radiation sickness, from vomiting to hair loss, until blood counts finally disproved their lethal dose. Homeopathetic medicines which are so diluted with pure water that none of the original drug is present can hardly be a poison; they’re a psychological complement to modern medicine and are guaranteed not to interfere with any drug! Water is harmless. As with religion, horoscopes and the supernatural, many people who go in for this kind of thing find it useful for other reasons, such as groupthink rebellion against mainstream authority, or entertainment.

    The strawman argument against complementary medicines is to take the most diluted “15C” homeopathetic medicine, prove it to be pure water chemically, then claim it is misleading the public and causing everyone to take useless medicine in place of proven remedies. Part of the problem here is that proven remedies are proven in a way that ignores the placebo benefit, and there is also the problem that pure water has no side-effects, unlike most “proven remedies”. So the comparison can be misleading. If the patients are all prehistoric morons who can’t think for themselves, then the argument would be 100% valid.

    “And here we are, looking down at the homoeopathy spastics in the gutter, next to all manner of misfits and unorthodoxy, writhing in pools of obloquy.” – JimmyGiro

    Orthodoxy is the definition of organized religion, which is anathema to scientists. The professional “scientist” who fits in to an orthodox dogma in exchange for a research grant of thirty pieces of silver, is hardly a scientist. A better name is priest. Example:

    “Lack of boundary conditions: Most well-supported scientific theories possess well-articulated limitations under which the predicted phenomena do and do not apply.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience#Use_of_vague.2C_exaggerated_or_untestable_claims

    This is the definition of pseudoscience dressed up as a definition of science. The argument is that “every good theory must be wrong beyond certain limits”. So what happens if someone discovers a theory which is correct for all instances, not merely a limited range? Answer: it is censored out as being “wrong”. Let’s give a personal example. Via page 896 of the October 1996 issue of Electronics World, I published a prediction of the cosmological acceleration, a ~ Hc = 7 x 10^{-10} m/s^2 (it was also published in the Feb 1997 Science World, ISSN 1367-6172). The prediction was confirmed by two different teams, including Perlmutter who published in Nature, from automated CCD telescope supernova redshift observations a couple of years after I had submitted my paper to Nature, CQG, and other journals early in 1996.

    The “proper” journals rejected it as “speculative” before confirmation, and as “ad hoc” after publication. The CQG (Classical and Quantum Gravity) journal editor sent me a “peer”-reviewer report saying that the paper was nonsense because it wasn’t based on “superstring theory” (which doesn’t exist, since there are is a landscape of 10^500 metastable stringy vacua, each a different stabilized compactification of 6/7 extra spatial dimensions).

    Both prediction methods used gave the same prediction, but they were entirely unconnected. First, transferring Hubble’s 1929 recession law v = HR into spacetime rather than merely spatial distance R, predicts the acceleration. Second, a quantum gravity theory in which gravity is produced by forces generated by the exchange of gravitons, predicts the correct cosmological acceleration, and completely independently of the v = HR or a ~ Hc prediction. In “scientific” arguments over this, other people always hurl vitrol such as false claims based on ignorance, and then close the discussion without allowing a reply. This includes, unfortunately, those who claim to be outsiders themselves.

    The groupthink-based Wikipedia article on pseudoscience states:

    “A field, practice, or body of knowledge might reasonably be called pseudoscientific when (1) it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research; but (2) it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.”

    Problem is, as Professor Paul Feyerabend explained in “Against Method”, norms are invariably wrong and hold back science. Science is not a methodology, but is whatever works. In superstring theory and CO2 AGW theory, we have good examples of things that work in the sense of sucking in money for “research”, while producing no useful output. No core theory falsifiable predictions have come out of superstring. It does generate research funding, science fiction, and numerous false, overblown, or overhyped media spin doctor claims. Similarly, the only use of AGW – besides providing about $1 billion a year in research funds to NASA – is that it massages the egos of the self-righteous, sanctimonious liars. Wikipedia defines pseudoscience as follows:

    “Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.”

    In this case, superstring theory and AGW theory are both pseudoscience. Here is an alternative definition of science, from Jerome Y. Lettvin’s “The Second Dark Ages” in the UNESCO Symposium on “Culture and Science”, Paris, 6-10 September 1971 (published in Clarke, “Notes for the Future”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1975, pages 141-150):

    “There are two distinct meanings to the word ‘science’. The first meaning is what physicists and mathematicians do. The second meaning is a magical art, about which the general public has superstition. … What is of harm is the blind faith in an imposed system that is implied. ‘Science says’ has replaced ‘scripture tells us’ but with no more critical reflection on the one that on the other. … I have fear of what science says, not the science that is hard-won knowledge but that other science, the faith imposed on people by a self-elected administering priesthood. … In the hands of an unscrupulous and power-grasping priesthood, this efficient tool, just as earlier, the Final Man, has become an instrument of bondage. … A metaphysics that ushered in the Dark Ages is again flourishing. … Natural sciences turned from description to a ruminative scholarship concerned with authority. … Our sales representatives, trained in your tribal taboos, will call on you shortly. You have no choice but to buy. For this is the new rationalism, the new messiah, the new Church, and the new Dark Ages come upon us.”

  6. TDK says:27th February 2011 at 12:31 pmRight let’s see.

    Advocates of homoeopathy claim that their medicine have an effect above and beyond the acknowledged placebo effect and your counter-examples lead off with …. the placebo effect.

    Says it all really.

    Then you try and widen the discussion by talking about supposed problems with the tests, complimentary medicine in general or definitions of pseudo-science.

    Well done.

  7. TDK says:27th February 2011 at 12:43 pmBTW for the record I don’t believe in homoeopathy but I certainly don’t want to ban it or restrict its availability. If people choose to believe in it, that’s no threat to me. I would agree with James that there is an over-reaction to these ideas.

    Also for the record my wife and I are friends with a couple. He is a solicitor and she a teacher. She earns extra money in her spare time as a homoeopathic practitioner and has the certificate proudly framed. She also believes passionately that mobile phones and electricity pylons cause cancer and … that man-made global warming is not only real but that IPCC is understating the dangers. No bearing on this issue either way but I find it amusing how frequently catastrophism comes in package with sandal wearing woo.

  8. Nige Cook says:27th February 2011 at 3:19 pm“Advocates of homoeopathy claim that their medicine have an effect above and beyond the acknowledged placebo effect …” – TDK

    Claims require evidence, but you’re generalizing without any examples, which seems to be a strawman attack, irrespective of particular cases and dilution factors for “remedies”. The placebo effect (or its opposite) is actually present in all kinds of currently accepted trials, like radiation effects on humans in the RERF study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The control groups they took was the population beyond say 3.5 km from ground zero, who knew they had received very little radiation. All through the 1950s, the highly irradiated exposed groups within 3.5 km were bombarded with media scare stories that they were all doomed to die from cancer. The 1958 book “Formula for Death” and subsequent books document some the effects of this pro-disarmament radiation scare story propaganda, such as increased stress, depression, smoking, and other effects in the highly irradiated groups.

    Actually the effects of radiation in mammals do show evidence of hormesis for exposure at low dose rates. At Oak Ridge National Lab, Tennessee, in the 1950s, there was the “megamouse” project where millions of mice were exposed at various dose rates to determine long-term effects from radiation. There was a threshold dose rate of 0.5 R/hour (5 mSv/hr) before any genetic effects appeared in female mice, which is 50,000 times natural background! The mechanism for hormesis at low dose rates is the natural DNA repair enzymes like P53, which exist in all cell nuclei repairing single and double strand breaks before somatic or genetic replication. This effect doesn’t appear in short-lived insects and plants like Muller’s fruit flies or corn, which were used to produce the misleading “linear-no threshold” (LNT) legislation for dose limits back in the 1950s. There is some evidence that the whole basis of radiation health physics on doses is wrong, and the correct approach is to limit the dose rate.

    Using your aspirin example, the health consequences are more closely correlated to the number of aspirin you take each day, not the total lifetime dosage. It’s the dose rate, not the dose, that matters. You might be able to take a dose rate of 1 aspirin a week for 10 years (total dose = 520 aspirins) with no effect at all, not even stomach ulcers! But if you took the same dose of 520 aspirins all at once, you’d probably bleed to death. It’s the same with the incredibly high dose rate from the air burst nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of the doses were received from initial fireball radiation over about 20 seconds before the fireball rose high to form the mushroom, so multiple double-strand DNA breaks occurred all at once, resulting in recombination errors when the fragmented DNA was “repaired” by P53 and other repair proteins. This resulted in the higher cancer rate in survivors. If you spread out the dose, the repairs can be done in-step with the damage. Similarly, if you break a vase into thousands of pieces all at once, it’s harder to repair it correctly than if you break it one piece at a time and repair it before the next break occurs!

    What happens with homoeopathy is similar to radiation hormesis where radiation damage to DNA drives the body to devote more resources to DNA repair enzymes, costing more energy but reducing the cancer rate. It’s similar to the over-compensation after regular exercise. If you do too much too infrequently, it can be harmful, but spread out it stimulates a compensation by the body, a biological version of LeChatelier’s principle in chemistry. Disturb an equilibrium, and the system tends to compensate.

    Mathematically, existing medicine and also things like the LNT theory of radiation dose effects and CO2 AGW theory, are naive. They result in a relationship where the effect E is related to dose D by a formula like E = cD (where c is a constant) or for population growth or global warming (with assumed positive feedback from H2O evaporation and increased humidity), E = c*exp(D).

    Nature rarely conforms to such simplistic linear or exponential models, preferring either a “saturation” model, E = c[1 – exp(-D)] or the “pulse” model, E = c[{exp(-aD)} – {exp(-bD)}].

    In the saturation model, for low doses the effect is linear, but for large doses it reaches a maximum limit and then ceases to increase any further.

    In the pulse model, it starts off with a rise that reaches a peak, and then returns to normal with an exponential decay. If you mix two chemicals for an exothermic reaction, the temperature rises to a peak as the reaction progresses, then falls to ambient as the system reaches a stable equilibrium. I’m working on a paper about CO2 effects on temperature, and it seems that this is the correct analogy. Pump CO2 into the atmosphere, and the temperature initially rises a little, but this causes the oceans to gradually warm very slightly, which increases the evaporation rate and cloud cover, which cancels out the temperature rise by increasing earth’s albedo slightly! The same mechanism can result from taking low doses of herbal remedies; you get a slight shift in natural processes, maybe boosting the immune system or the DNA repair enzymes.

  9. Orentago says:24th May 2011 at 10:08 pm“Pump CO2 into the atmosphere, and the temperature initially rises a little, but this causes the oceans to gradually warm very slightly, which increases the evaporation rate and cloud cover, which cancels out the temperature rise by increasing earth’s albedo slightly! ”

    Wrong. Cloud formation is not only dependent upon atmospheric water vapour but also aerosol concentration, which provides condensation nuclei. If not enough condensation nuclei are present then the air becomes supersaturated and cloud formation is inhibited. Furthermore, the various different cloud types produce the albedo effect to different degrees. One must also consider the effect of the clouds reflecting radiation from the ground back towards the Earth.

    Secondly, nature rarely conforms to pulse or saturation models either. With such an enormously complex system, nothing models will also be comparably complicated. Modelling the atmosphere with a couple of exponential functions is greedy reductionism in the extreme.

    As an aside, the IPCC have taken increasing atmospheric aerosol concentrations into account in their models, as well as cloud formation and the albedo affect (see IPCC AR4 WGI), and these negative feedback forcing mechanisms do not counter-balance the effect of atmospheric CO2 rise.

    If this your paper is accepted and published I will buy a (edible) hat and eat it.

    As an honest question, what breed of scientist are you? I ask because you appear to have written two papers on quite different subjects.

Comments are closed.

If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him? | James Delingpole

Ben’s a “true believer”Goldacre

Ben Goldacre says I’m a “penis.” He has told his 85,000 or so followers as much on Twitter. I’m also “absolutely a dick”, he goes on to tell his fan base, lest any of them doubt Ben’s commitment to the view that I am some kind of penile appendage.

And do you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad first because a “penis” isn’t such a bad thing to be called. Mine, certainly has kept me very happy over the years; possibly given pleasure to others; allowed me to pee in all sorts of exotic situations which might otherwise have proved tricky; and helped breed two beautiful children.

But the second reason I’m glad is because it gives me a chance to tell Ben something I’ve been meaning to tell him for ages: that though he’s a delightful guy and a massive talent, he’s also a moral and intellectual coward.

The reason I didn’t mention this before is because I think we’ve been observing a sort of unofficial truce. Ben and I met years ago at a Goldfrapp set years ago at Glastonbury. We were both pilled up, we both worshipped Goldfrapp and naturally we bonded instantly. Even though we probably haven’t spoken more than a couple of times since, I like to think (and it may be that Ben thinks differently) we have an affection for one another which transcends our ideological differences.

The biggest of those ideological differences has to do with Anthropogenic Global Warming. In a nutshell, I think it has been greatly exaggerated by a number of special interest groups with an axe to grind: scientists in pursuit of the trillions of dollars worth of funding; eco-charities who depend for their donations on scare stories; leftists using environmentalism to further an anti-capitalist agenda; deep greens who believe man is a blot on the landscape and that he should be punished through tax and regulation; governments and NGOs who see it as a way of raising taxes, increasing control, and being seen to be addressing popular concerns; cynical corporations who wish to “greenwash” their image or make easy money through taxpayer funded scams like wind farms; and so on.

This, essentially, is what this blog is about. I write about all sorts of other stuff too, as regular readers will know. But mainly I see myself as a combatant in an ideological war in which I’m fighting against the tyranny of Big Government and fighting for free markets, small government, openness, honesty and personal liberty.  One way I can do this, I believe, is by exposing the lies and inconsistencies of those who claim the case for AGW (and related eco-perils) is stronger than it actually is. And also by relaying such new pieces of scientific research in this field that sound interesting. None of this involves scientific research, for I am not a scientist and have never claimed to be. Nor does it involve lying or making stuff up because frankly there’s no need. Yes I am polemical, yes I can be abusive, but that’s because I think righteous rage is a useful weapon in a war where so much is at stake: ultimately the freedom for us all to live our lives as WE choose rather than as the fascistic control freaks of the environmental left would prefer us to live.

Goldacre, on the other hand, takes a rather different view. I don’t wish to caricature his position and I’m happy to make corrections where I’m wrong. But I believe he remains committed to the idea that the scientists informing the IPCC’s assessment reports are decent men of integrity; that the computer models showing that man made CO2 is contributing to significant and potentially catastrophic global warming are reliable; that the massive and hugely worldwide costly action being taken to deal with this threat is justified. Ben, in other words, is a true believer in Al Gore’s “consensus.”

Here though, is what puzzled me – and has for a long time about Goldacre’s work. He has put his scientific training as a doctor, and his loose, readable, acerbic, funny writing style to excellent use, first with a popular Guardian column, then with a bestselling book called Bad Science. Goldacre’s schtick is scepticism. He looks at the facts and the evidence behind the junk science that so often appears in newspapers and makes fools of the charlatans behind it. Among his targets, much to my delight, has been a successful nutritionist whom I have always loathed because when I met him he was unconscionably arrogant and rude to me. Many of Goldacre’s campaigns I support. I like and admire what he does. But where I don’t respect him one jot is in his views on ‘Climate Change,’ for they jar so very obviously with supposed stance of determined scepticism in the face of establishment lies.

Whether Goldacre chooses to ignore it or not, there are many, many hugely talented, intelligent men and women out there – from mining engineer turned Hockey-Stick-breaker Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick to bloggers Donna LaFramboise and Jo Nova to physicist Richard Lindzen….and I really could go on and on – who have amassed a body of hugely powerful evidence to show that the AGW meme which has spread like a virus around the world these last 20 years is seriously flawed. And that, what’s more, there has been what amounts to a mass cover-up by most of the mainstream media – in the case of the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent for ideological reasons, in other cases through a mixture of ignorance, or “noble cause corruption.” This is empirical observable reality, grounded in much solid evidence. It is not something James Delingpole, rampant self-publicist made up to get a few extra hits on his tawdry blog. Even if James Delingpole were to stop ranting hysterically about these embarrassing truths they would not go away. They are here to stay and they are growing more apparent by the day. It’s something a man like Goldacre ought to be aware of and covering properly.

And this is what I mean when I talk of Goldacre’s intellectual and moral cowardice. It is certainly very true that the majority of his audience comprises left-leaning Guardian readers, predisposed to believe in the line – heavily promoted by the activist journalists who write for the Guardian’s environment pages – that AGW is a fact and that anyone who disputes it is evil. But stating something violently, aggressively and continuously – as the Guardian and its soulmates at the BBC and Independent do – doesn’t make it so. Nor does citing big names, like the Royal Society or NASA make something necessarily true either. This is a dishonest rhetorical technique known as the Argumentum ad Verecundiam: the appeal to authority.

There was a good example of the appeal to authority on TV last night. Some people may have seen it. It was a Horizon documentary in which a man named Sir Paul Nurse, by dint of the fact that he’d shared a Nobel prize in genetics, and that he was the new president of the Royal Society, was given carte blanche by the BBC to make several unproven assertions on climate change and global warming. One of them was to declare that the scientists exposed behaving badly in the Climategate emails were almost entirely innocent – just decent men getting on with their job. Another was to lend his weight to the idea that journalists and bloggers who have criticised these “Climate Scientists” are simply irresponsible “deniers” guilty of harassment and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Sir Paul will no doubt be delighted to hear that this message – which he helped promulgate in mob-stirring post in the Guardian’s environment pages – was angrily relayed back to me by many of his fans via poisonous emails today. The top bloke from the Royal Society essentially validated the view that Climate “deniers” are just ignorant, trouble-making scum. And his rentamob believed him.

But let’s return to Goldacre’s “penis” tweets. The reason he made them – credit where credit is due -was partly to point out to his fans that he thought the fuss over Nurse’s documentary had been somewhat exaggerated. Though talked up by the Guardian’s environment pages as if it represented the destruction of James Delingpole and everything he and his evil denier chums believed in, what it actually consisted off was this: Paul Nurse puts to Delingpole a slightly odd, unexpected analogy about Climate Change; Delingpole after an awkward pause says he doesn’t think much of the analogy; and, er, that’s about it.

Or, as Goldacre puts it in his tweets, relayed during the programme (H/T Bishop Hill)

delingpole clearly a penis, and he’s citing it for wrong reasons, but “peer-to-peer” review is not an insane idea

god, i’m really sorry, i like Nurse, but this is kind of slow, feels like a bit of a duty watch.

[Delingpole] is absolutely a dick. but that was weak, and if it was their killer moment, makes the press activity of today a bit ugly tbh

well, sorry, delingpole didnt do brilliantly on a question, and fumbled, but they say they interviewed him for 3 hours. thats the killer mo?

if that was the killer delingpole moment that the bbc have been crowing about all day then i’m actually quite unimpressed

I’m grateful for Ben’s honesty in this regard. But I think to cover his back and show he was “down with the kids” by calling me a “penis” was symptomatic of the moral cowardice I find in his writings on Climate Change generally.

Taking the standard BBC/Guardian/Independent line on AGW (and related eco-threats) is a very safe thing to do if your target audience is young and hip and instinctively green/liberal-left. It requires no effort, no thought, and certainly no courage.

If  Goldacre really wants to stick his neck out, why doesn’t he try arguing against a rich, powerful, bullying Climate-Change establishment which includes all three British main political parties, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the President of the USA, the EU, the UN, most schools and universities, the BBC, most of the print media, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, CNBC, ABC, the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, most of the rest of the City, the wind farm industry, all the Big Oil companies, any number of rich charitable foundations, the Church of England and so on?

I do, almost every day. Not because it makes me money or gets me lots of high-fives from right-on Guardian fans. But because I believe in the truth.

Related posts:

  1. The problem with God is He thinks He’s Bob Geldof
  2. What BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans thinks about global warming
  3. Does even Ian McEwan know what Ian McEwan really thinks about ‘Climate Change’?
  4. What exactly has the world ever done for Britain?

38 thoughts on “If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him?”

  1. Stuart Naylor says:26th January 2011 at 8:27 amAfter the horizon program I am so happy, as it was enough for my long term Telegraph parents to switch papers. No more Telegraph and now a Guardian house.
    Keep it up James your doing a brilliant job.

    PS Ben Goldacre is just so right, I think its the shape of your head.

  2. Don Stuart says:26th January 2011 at 10:15 amStuart, when you grow up and become a big boy wearing long trousers you will look with disdain at your Grauniad and switch to the Telegraph.
  3. John Sturman says:26th January 2011 at 4:49 pmBen is spot on. James – leave true science to those that really understand it, keep quiet in your armchair and don’t be so naive to believe the tiny minority of mostly self interested economists and non specialist ‘scientists’ who try to tease out minor bits and pieces of research/statistics to refute the anthropogenic contribution to global warming. The OVERWHELMING body of global scientific research supports anthropogenic global warming. You are arguing that they are ALL wrong! The cost of doing nothing is MUCH greater than the cost of reducing man’s impact. You are also quite literally playing with peoples lives as the increasing regularity of extreme weather events brought on by global warming will kill people. Sadly, you seem the kind of person who can sleep soundly at night with this on your conscience. You may also have lost the future respect of your children as it is they who will suffer the majority of the consequences should we fail to act now.
  4. Owen Kirton says:26th January 2011 at 6:26 pmJames, I think that your response to Goldacres infantile name calling “sticks and stones will break my bones…….” was measured, fair and intelligent. I admire your patience and resilience in what must be constant attacks from the self righteous warmists. I am with you on everything you say on AGW and I urge you to continue saying it. It is only a matter of time. There are for more people with common sense than indoctrinated evangelists. We will prevail.
  5. Dom says:26th January 2011 at 10:13 pm“If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him?”

    At the risk of stating the obvious… “correct”.

  6. Martin Lack says:26th January 2011 at 10:51 pmJames,

    As you have not responded to my email (submitted via your website “Contact me” page), I am forced to try this avenue to elicit a response… As you yourself admitted on the BBC’s Horizon programme this week, you are not a scientist; you are merely a self-appointed critic of science. Compared to this, even Tony Blair’s appointment as UN Middle East Peace Envoy seems sensible!

    Although it pains me to massage your ego in this way, I do feel you ought to take more responsibility to research facts (as they are) rather than just regurgitate disinformation (as the oil companies want you to)… Those who warn of serious environmental consequences for planet Earth if humankind does not radically change its ways are not trying to spoil anyone’s fun or freedom; they are merely pointing to the truth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (i.e. that energy cannot be created nor destroyed) and the reality of Entropy (i.e. that energy conversion leads to increasing disorder in the Universe).

    You and your kind could do a lot worse than start by reading “The Betrayal of Science and Reason – How Anti-scientific Rhetoric Threatens Our Future”, by Paul and Anna Ehrlich – see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayal-Science-Reason-Anti-environmental-Threatens/dp/1559634847/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296080071&sr=8-1#reader_1559634847

    Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it!

  7. Nigel Kirkby says:27th January 2011 at 4:26 amIs that John Sturman as in Commercial Director at Bee Green Energy Ltd ?
  8. Martin Lack says:27th January 2011 at 11:05 amNigel Kikby: “Is that John Sturman as in Commercial Director at Bee Green Energy Ltd?” Even if it is, how about refuting arguments rather than making lame accusations of bias or vested interest (I think the oil companies are the really guitly party in that respect).

    I am no friend of the Catholic church but, when you find yourself arguing against them AND the scientific consensus (including bodies such as the Royal Society), it is time to re-think your position – or renew your subscription to the Flat Earth Society.

    The fact that climate change deniers cannot agree who to pin their consipracy theories on demonstrates how much they are like those who insisted the Earth is flat; then insisted it is only 6000 yrs old; then insisted that it is orbited by the Sun. In each case, their position eventually became untenable and had to be abandoned…

    Just how much climate change will it take to make you refusniks to come to your senses? John Sturman is absolutely right; I do not think your children will be at all proud of you.

  9. Nathan Perrin says:27th January 2011 at 1:47 pmWere you bullied at school, James?
  10. Chris P says:27th January 2011 at 4:31 pmJames just does this for the money. He sees the likes of Glen Beck, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin making millions of dollars saying absolutely stupid shit that is totally wrong yet appeals the ignorant and gullible.

    It’s what the religious crazies do. He will never change because he can make money off this scam.

    He is to be despised for his negative contribution to people on this planet.

    Libertarians are like that. Selfish.

  11. London Calling says:27th January 2011 at 7:46 pmJust checking. Nothing of any significance to be found from the professional trolls who hover around JD’s excellent blog. Really, why do you bother (apart from for the money)?
    Myself, I couldn’t give a t0ss if there are 1,000 comments rubbishing Dellers. Do you think that’s how people make their mind up on issues – from troll-posts? What a waste of protoplasm you are Chris P.
  12. Groper says:28th January 2011 at 8:05 amBlogs are what they are? Nothing of scientific value can be found from a man who openly admits he doesn’t have time to read scientific literature yet feels he can ridicule scientists. But what can you expect from a libertarian denialist? Except to get “intellectually raped” when confronted.

    So next time Jimbo, stop believing what you write and try reading a little before you start debating. You might fair better than a lemming with its brain removed.

  13. dee says:28th January 2011 at 12:54 pmI’m a little confused.

    1. Do you have any time for AGW or not?

    This from your piece – “Anthropogenic Global Warming. In a nutshell, I think it has been greatly exaggerated by a number of special interest groups with an axe to grind” – would suggest that you do, but you’re saying is that certain groups and individuals are milking it for gain. Or do you really think that AGW is rubbish?

    2. Is it OK to appeal to authority on the issue of AGW?

    When Ben Goldacre and the chap on the Horizon prog do it, it’s questionable.
    When you do it in your article, to support your view that AGW is exaggerated, then it’s fine.

    An appeal to authority is fine if the authority is legitimate, of course. What makes your authorities OK and Ben and Nurse’s dodgy? The UEA lot are just a tiny number among thousands, and I don’t think their data can be written off entirely; how they presented it is the questionable aspect. It seems that some scientists are dumbing down their findings in order to make science more accessible to the public.

    I feel (because I don’t have any data to prove it) that AGW is exaggerated by some, because they benefit from doing so. It’s possible. People are like that. Equally, some may say that AGW is rubbish for the same reason.

    To suggest all the groups you mention in your article are lying, cheating and self-serving is a huge sweeping statement. Where’s the evidence? Your certainty worries me. Unfortunately, you look and sound too much like a ranting conspiracy theorist. It’s a shame, because we need a variety of intelligent, measured views from scientists and non-scientists. At least, I think so.

    Perhaps you just want to encourage debate. Well, you’ve done that, although there’s an awful lot of name calling on both sides, sadly. Must the argument be so polarised and adversarial? Do you think this approach will get to the truth?

  14. James Delingpole says:28th January 2011 at 1:10 pmDear Denise, thanks for your email but I don’t think you quite understand what “appeal to authority” means.

    As I thought I’d explained in my piece, it’s a rhetorical cheat whereby, for example, you say: “Well Sir Paul Nurse is a Nobel prize laureate and president of the Royal Academy and if he says it it must be true.” This was essentially the technique used throughout the documentary: he goes to NASA, is convinced by the glitziness of their equipment and the scienceyness of their credentials; he goes to the UEA and because Phil Jones is a fellow scientist, Nurse accepts on no evidence other than Jones’s say-so that his version of events is correct.

    Can you not see why this might not be damaging for the cause of truth and openness and scientific integrity?

    At what point do I cite anyone as an authority so superior it trumps other authorities? I don’t. All I’m asking is that when research is revealed to be flawed, the scientists defend themselves through open debate rather than bullying and cover ups and – yes – appeals to authority like the one we saw on Nurse’s disgraceful, dishonest hatchet job.

    How exactly is that unreasonable?

  15. Chris P says:28th January 2011 at 4:24 pmWhy should scientists defend themselves against a clueless journalist who can’t and won’t read graphs? Someone who is deliberately biased and confused about facts that are staring him in the face. You wouldn’t understand what they were saying if they tried to explainit to you. And, yes, science makes mistakes occasionally – that what science is all about.

    We don’t “debate” creationism because creationists do the same thing – they quote a stream of unsupportable garbage and expect the scientists to refute every clueless thing that comes out of their mouths. When the scientist refutes the first stupidity they come out with yet more crap.

    N0 – get your own freaking proof that global warming isn’t happening – collect your data give us graphs and explain how the atmosphere really works. With a libertarian brain like yours I’m sure you come out with something in ten seconds.

  16. Frank Tavos says:28th January 2011 at 9:27 pm@Chris P

    It’s clear that you haven’t the faintest idea of what the scientific method is. It’s up to the AGW alarmists, who are purporting to explain how earth’s climate works, to prove their theory. IT’S A THEORY. Get it? It hasn’t yet been proved. Read your Karl Popper.

  17. Seanos says:28th January 2011 at 11:06 pmYou agreed to go on the telly to talk about how science works with the President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse and it turns out he knows more about it than you.

    So you look a bit silly in the programme and then you complain that you’ve been stitched up.

    Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

  18. James Wilks says:29th January 2011 at 5:42 pmThe sad thing about this situation Mr Delingpole is you just don’t get it, do you? if Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh say its right, it simply must be right by virtue of the fact they have said it is, forget evidence. This reflects to my mind a stance, which seems to be simply one of intolerance to any other opinions, views or even an acceptance that we have an ability to analyse and in fact rationalise any information on our own. We must agree or be ‘punished’, which is a bit Orwellian I think. I get the impression that in the world of the Singhacre Skeptics, there is no place for disobedience by having an opinion that contradicts their own.

    I think the real reason of the abusive smokescreen is that they must attack loudly and vehemently in a manner, which will hopefully prevent fair-minded people seeing that they are as fallible as the rest of us. I remember reading on a blog once where a guy was advised to be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers, as they are either ignorant, arrogant or stupid, either way it was alluded that these people were dangerous to themselves or others. Does that apply here, who knows?

    PS, I have never read the Telegraph as until lately I had always taken the Guardian, but I must say having read some of the nonsense that’s been published lately, its time for a change. You have a new reader!

  19. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 7:14 pm“… wisdom itself cannot flourish, and even the truth not be established, without the give and take of debate and criticism. The facts, the relevant facts … are fundamental to an understanding of the issue of policy.”

    – J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1950

    “Fascism is not a doctrinal creed; it is a way of behaving towards your fellow man. What, then, are the tell-tale hallmarks of this horrible attitude? Paranoid control-freakery; an obsessional hatred of any criticism or contradiction; the lust to character-assassinate anyone even suspected of it; a compulsion to control or at least manipulate the media … the majority of the rank and file prefer to face the wall while the jack-booted gentlemen ride by.”

    – Frederick Forsyth, 2005

  20. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 7:16 pmI’ve just revised my video about the trifling little flaws in Sir Paul’s Horizon documentary:


  21. Chris P says:30th January 2011 at 1:21 amFrank Tavos is clueless about science. Theory has two meanings – in the “theory” of evolution it means the consensus facts that are true.

    You people are just as clueless as creationists – you use the same old twisted words game.

  22. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 12:55 pm“Theory has two meanings – in the “theory” of evolution it means the consensus facts that are true.” – Chris P.

    “What is truth?” – Pilate.

    Chris, did you copy that straight from Orwell’s “1984”? Doublethink is: “to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies … knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it … to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.”

  23. Seanos says:30th January 2011 at 4:45 pmNigecook

    Thanks for the definition of ‘doublethink’. Here’s the definition of ‘scientic theory’, which is indeed different to the definition of ‘theory’ which is in general useage:


    Frank Tavos is indeed clueless about science, as are you. Did neither of you stop to consider that you might not know what you were talking about before wading in?

  24. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 10:51 pm“A scientific theory comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

    Seanos, Wikipedia is itself a consensus effort. Did it not occur to you that a consensus effort would be likely to produce a definition of science that is biased in favour of consensus?

    It fails to distinguish between the political abuse of “science” by authority which deliberately ignores, covers up or otherwise (perhaps using “peer-review”) renders effectively secret vital facts (“hide the decline”) and a theory which considers all of the evidence. It fails to cover the problem of anomalies. The definition of scientific theory is actually a big discipline all of its own, running from Occam’s Razor to Susskind’s fairies.

    The definition of a scientific theory as one which is “useful” to the scientists crops in in superstring theory, where it’s useful to investigate a 10/11 dimensional M-theory theory with its 10^500 different metastable vacua, since it’s impossible to experimentally disprove them all during your career.

    Like climate theory, superstring theory is here “useful” not in the experimental sense, but in the political sense. Ivor Catt makes the cynical-sounding but all too true observation that groupthink science is very easily corrupted, because scientists don’t live on air.

    ‘The President put his name on the plaque Armstrong and Aldrin left on the moon and he telephoned them while they were there, but he cut America’s space budget to the smallest total since John Glenn orbited the Earth. The Vice-President says on to Mars by 1985, but we won’t make it by “stretching out” our effort. Perhaps NASA was too successful with Apollo. It violated the “Catt Concept”, enunciated by Britisher Ivor Catt. According to Catt, the most secure project is the unsuccessful one, because it lasts the longest.’

    – Robert P. Crossley, Editorial, Popular Mechanics, Vol. 133, No. 5, May 1970, p. 14.

    E.g., compare the Apollo project with the Vietnam war for price, length and success. Both were initially backed by Kennedy and Johnson as challenges to Communist space technology and subversion, respectively. The Vietnam war – the unsuccessful project – sucked in the cash for longer, which closed down the successful space exploration project!

    Scientist even in pure science have to ensure that whatever they do will not result in a P45. If that means building a theory that’s complete rubbish by the use of so-called “peer-review” as censorship of critics, then they’ll do it to survive, just as when the chips go down most people will fight for survival. Ethics are important, but they come lower down the Maslow’s list of human priorities than putting bread on the table!

  25. Seanos says:30th January 2011 at 11:24 pm“Seanos, Wikipedia is itself a consensus effort. Did it not occur to you that a consensus effort would be likely to produce a definition of science that is biased in favour of consensus?”

    Logic and comprehension aren’t your strong suit are they? The wiki article is a perfectly simple and straightforward explanation of what a scientific theory is. Here, read these:


    So we’ve now established that scientists use the word ‘theory’ in a very specific way and this is different to its collquial use, can we agree that no ‘doublethink’ is involved and that making posts without having any real understanding of what you are talking about is a spectacularly idiotic thing to do?

    I skimmed through the rest of your post because it looked like bullshit. If you actually have a point could you please try and make it succinctly?

  26. Nige Cook says:31st January 2011 at 8:52 amSeanos,

    ‘Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.’ – R. P. Feynman (quoted by Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, 2006, p. 307).

    “Groupthink is a type of thought within a deeply cohesive in-group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. It is a second potential negative consequence of group cohesion.

    Irving Janis studied a number of American Foreign policy ‘disasters’ such as failure to anticipate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941); the Bay of Pigs fiasco (1961) when the US administration sought to overthrow Cuban Government of Fidel Castro; and the prosecution of the Vietnam War (1964–67) by President Lyndon Johnson. He concluded that in each of these cases, the decisions were made largely due to the cohesive nature of the committees which made them. Moreover, that cohesiveness prevented contradictory views from being expressed and subsequently evaluated. As defined by Janis, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action”.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink (your beloved consensus-based wikipedia is EXCELLENT when it defines groupthink, which is consensus).

  27. Seanos says:31st January 2011 at 8:49 pmIf I were you Nige I’d have a long lie down.
  28. Frank Tavos says:31st January 2011 at 10:07 pm…and if I were you Seanos, I’d fuck off.
  29. Tim says:1st February 2011 at 8:38 amhttp://uk.linkedin.com/pub/stuart-naylor/19/a3a/4a0
    Seems the trolls here all have a vested interest in fleecing the taxpayer
  30. Seanos says:1st February 2011 at 10:50 am…and if I were you Frank, I’d learn what scientists mean when they use the word ‘theory’ before spouting off about in public, to avoid coming across as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.
  31. Bernie says:1st February 2011 at 8:47 pmThe only proper response that I can think of is that it’s time for you to call the guy a doo-doo head. Let’s this debate onto a higher plane.
  32. Frank Tavos says:1st February 2011 at 10:08 pm@Seanos I’d have to try a lot harder to come across as ignorant and idiotic , yet pompous and full of himself, as you do. Thanks for the advice, Mr. Science!
  33. DaveDude says:2nd February 2011 at 4:39 amFrank, try and understand, Einstein’s theory of relativity is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the world of the large. Quantum theory is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the world of the very small. Darwin’s theory of evolution is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the creatures we see today. Just as AGW theory goes a long way in explaning greenhouse gases and climate. Scientists like explaining the world in theories, but it doesn’t mean it’s all wrong. So get your science right before debating.
  34. Nige Cook says:2nd February 2011 at 2:27 pmDaveDude, the “greenhouse” analogy is false! When did you last see a “greenhouse” which had sunlight-reflecting clouds in it, formed by the evaporation of an ocean that covered 70% of its surface?
  35. Frank Tavos says:2nd February 2011 at 7:50 pm@ DaveDude. Alright, already! I meant “AGW hypothesis”, not “theory”. Enough with the semantics. The point I was originally trying to make way up above is that it’s up to those claiming that the hypothesis is supported by sufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate its predictive value.

    In the case of AGW, the “evidence” has been demonstrated to have been either falsified or massaged or cherry-picked in such a way that no rational person would trust it. Not only that (and this relates to my Jan 28 admonition to Chris P to “Read your Karl Popper.”) but the AGW hypothesis is a moving target. Every time the evidentiary basis of AGW is knocked out from under it, its proponents simply change the name (e.g.: “Global Warming” becomes “Climate Change”) or the predicted effects of AGW (“the earth’s temperature will rise by X degrees” becomes “the earth’s temperature will maybe rise or fall by X degrees”). If it can’t be disproven or if it purports to explain everything that occurs, regardless of what happens, it is what is known as pseudo-science. AGW is no different than dialectic materialism (a.k.a. Marxism) or astrology, or even Christianity. It can’t be disproven because it does not adhere to the scientific paradigm.

    So, no, AGW does not go “a long way in explaning greenhouse gases and climate”. It may go part of the way to saying that earth’s climate is changing, but so what? That’s no surprise. The very nature of climate is that it never stays the same. It is in constant flux as a perfunctiory examination of climate history tells us. But the most important thing that theAGW hypothesis fails to to do is demonstrate a link between human-produced CO2 and climate change.

    So what it has become is a convenient tool for governments to justify to the gullible, the ignorant and the lazy their attempts to wield more power and take away human freedoms. I don’t know why any sane and rational person would chose to believe the AGW hypothesis unless they have somnething to gain from it; be it grant money or control over the levers of society and the economy or support for their socialist world view. Which one are you DaveDude?

  36. Nige Cook says:2nd February 2011 at 8:39 pm“The very nature of climate is that it never stays the same. It is in constant flux as a perfunctory examination of climate history tells us.” – Frank Tavos

    Spot on! We’ve been in a warming period for 18,000 years. The whole holocene, during which humanity thrived, has been a period of climatic change.

    Much of the Sahara desert was a tropical paradise a few thousand years ago, and it wasn’t destroyed by humanity. The last ice age is still receding. What the natural climate change deniers insist, by lying, is that the climate is a delicate equilibrium, critically controlled by CO2 levels. In fact, the relative influence of H2O, plain old water vapour, is a bigger greenhouse gas.

    However, as always, the eco-evangelists misunderstand this, claiming it has a positive feedback on CO2, e.g. see http://www.skepticalscience.com/water-vapor-greenhouse-gas.htm where James Frank on 2 September 2010 falsely claimed:

    “Studies show that water vapor feedback roughly doubles the amount of warming caused by CO2. So if there is a 1°C change caused by CO2, the water vapor will cause the temperature to go up another 1°C. When other feedback loops are included, the total warming from a potential 1°C change caused by CO2 is, in reality, as much as 3°C.”

    This is what the IPCC computer models say, and is precisely why they’re wrong.

    I blogged about the error over a year ago, http://nige.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/how-natural-climatic-changes-are-lyingly-covered-up-by-doom-mongering-lying-propaganda-to-secure-research-grants-for-crackpots-with-a-political-agenda-an-analogy-to-string-theorists-spin-2-graviton-p/

    Summary: NASA scientist contractor Dr Ferenc Miskolczi of AS&M Inc on 1 January 2006 resigned with a protest letter about being censored out, stating:

    “Unfortunately my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science can not coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climatic change related scientific results. … I presented to NASA a new view of greenhouse theory and pointed out serious errors in the classical approach of assessment of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas perturbations. Since then my results were not released for publication.”


    His theory is described by his research associate Dr Miklos Zagoni, see the paper http://www.scribd.com/doc/25071473/Saturated-Greenhouse-Effect-Theory

    NASA effectively banned its publication through the peer-reviewed literature, just as it had used groupthink fear to censor out the effects of low temperatures on making the rubber Challenger O-rings brittle, so they leaked during a cold morning launch, causing the 1986 space shuttle explosion. (This was the big cover-up that Feynman famously exposed with the cup of iced water and a rubber O-ring during a TV news conference, as part of the Rogers’ Commission report into the disaster, which NASA astronaut Niel Armstrong failed to spot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogers_Commission_Report .)

    Basically, Dr Ferenc Miskolczi’s life as a NASA climate research scientist was made hell because he discovered that the extra water vapour being evaporated is not having a positive-feedback (increasing the CO2 warming effect by absorbing more infrared from the sun), instead it is going into increased cloud cover, which reflects incoming sunlight back to space. So it has a negative-feedback effect, not a positive-feedback effect. NASA’s climate computer models all have not merely a quantitative error in the effect of H2O on climate, but an actual qualitative error. They have a plus sign where the sign is really negative.

    Dr Miskolczi’s evidence is that, as stated on page 4 of Dr Miklos Zagoni’s paper http://www.scribd.com/doc/25071473/Saturated-Greenhouse-Effect-Theory , “During the 61-year period [since 1948] … the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent.”

    That shocked me, and made me really angry that nobody is reporting this in the media, and just coming up with straw-man “sunspot” stuff (no offense to Lord Monkton, but that’s astrology).

    “Since the Earth’s atmosphere is not lacking in greenhouse gases [water vapor], if the system could have increased its surface temperature it would have done so long before our emissions. It need not have waited for us to add CO2: another greenhouse gas, H2O, was already to hand in practically unlimited reservoirs in the oceans.” – Dr. Miklos Zagoni.

    The only media report on this scandal is a terribly written story by Dianna Cotter of
    Portland Civil Rights Examiner, “Hungarian Physicist Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi proves CO2 emissions irrelevant in Earth’s Climate”, 12 January 2010, see http://www.examiner.com/civil-rights-in-portland/hungarian-physicist-dr-ferenc-miskolczi-proves-co2-emissions-irrelevant-earth-s-climate

  37. Seanos says:2nd February 2011 at 11:26 pmActually Frank you old charmer, I think I will fuck off.

    Being exhorted to read Popper by a man who doesn’t understand what a scientific theory is surely has to be the comedy high point and things can only go downhill from here, so I’ll leave you little Einsteins to it. Adios!

  38. Frank Tavos says:3rd February 2011 at 6:38 pm@Seanos – You’re right, things would go downhill from here for you – because I just obliterated your side’s weak arguments with my last post. You realized that you had absolutely no chance of refuting my argument, so you gave up. Good for you. I like a person who knows when he/she has been soundly beaten. Adios, loser.

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