Thursday, December 31, 2009

Repugs: Are they with us or against us?

Okay, first the good news: According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal by Scott McCartney (p. D1) the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has "backed off" earlier plans like banning magazines, books and blankets from passengers for the last hour of flight -and turning off the in-flight movie. VERY good moves, since we never wished to exchange any punk terrorists for 100-250 edgy and hostile passengers with nothing to do and minds bereft of occupation!

The next thing for the TSA is to ease up on the rest room edict too. (E.g. no passengers may frequent a rest room in the last hour of flight- which is often more than 1 1/2 hours - for busy hubs with lots of traffic). If need be, allow one of the crew to be at the loo when a passenger must use it, and let her deliver a first warning knock after 5 minutes, and a more rigorous 'watch it, bub' knock - harder delivered - after ten. What we don't need is having to come to the airport wearing diapers! This is not cool.

Now, the bad news, from the same WSJ article: the Republicans, aka Repugs or "reptiles" are still blocking President Obama's nomination for head of the TSA - after 4 months. This is none other than Erroll Southers, who could not be a more optimum choice. Mr. Southers already features FBI experience, plus he used to run security at Los Angeles World airports. In other words, this is no cream puff, or lightweight.

But you'd never know that from the Republican obstructionism - mainly driven by South Carolina's pro-Confederate whackjob, Jim De Mint. Hey, Senator! The Confederacy and its treasonous garbage died out more than 145 years ago!

As WSJ author McCartney observes this is an intolerable situation, especially now in the wake of the Xmas Day incident. Had Southers been at his post as TSA head, then arguably at least the nonsensical "security" edicts that were issued never would have seen the light of day. And the agency would not have lost any precious credibility. As it is we need Southers there now, to man a complex operation and arrive at the correct and appropriate responses. You've all seen the "too heavy" and "too light" commercials for Bud Light I presume?

I agree with McCartney here that the Senate needs to either confirm this gentleman or reject him, but in the wake of the attempted terror hit, this cannot be allowed to drag on. DeMint and his repup fiends are placing us in great jeopardy as they continue this nonsense which undermines our airline security and timely responses. Dragging their heels on one of the most critical appointments. This is bordering now on high treason.

As for criticizing Obama and the Dems, I also concur with McCartney that the repugs have boxed themselves into a corner with their caterwauling: to wit, they can hardly criticize the TSA and national security in general if they are willingly obstructing a nomination - and effectively blocking putting someone in charge of the TSA.

The Repugs need to decide whose side they are on: the nation's or the terrorists. They need to either cooperate, follow....or get the hell out of the way!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Here We Go Again! (Chasing the last terr'ist tactic)

Anyone who’s read Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Effect, knows the inherent danger of memes as mind viruses, particularly in luring brains to fundamentalist beliefs – with radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs amongst the most pernicious. Now, we have seen this mind virus played out again, with a seriously deluded 23-year old Nigerian zealot named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate his underwear (with Semtex sewn in) and a jetliner with nearly 300 on board with it- in the hope of seeing 72 virgins in “heaven”.

This brain diseased moron evidently used the bathroom for 20 minutes in the last hour of flight, then used a blanket to try to surreptitiously detonate the mix affixed to his panties. All he succeeded in doing was setting himself on fire- perhaps thanks to the alertness of two passengers who observed what was going on and wasted no time jumping him.

What is the result of this? Air passengers on many flights (mainly coming from foreign nations into the U.S. – but also some IN the U.S.) now must remain seated in their seats the last hour of the flight. Never mind they may get a sudden bout of diarrhea, or even have benign prostate hypertrophy – which necessitates frequent bathroom visits – or kids that may need to poop in “potty”. I suppose the airlines now will tell folks to wear disposable diapers for most flights.

Meanwhile, blankets are also now banned the last hour of flight. Never mind mom and kids are snuggled up safe and secure in their seats – WHOOSH!- blankets must go! Imagine now all the suddenly disturbed infants, kids who will be whining non-stop splitting the ears of all around them and with nothing to do.

Also, there must be nothing on the lap, no laptops, no bottles of water and no BOOKS! Watch out for those books, folks! People –passengers are now expected to sit stupefied in their seats with no mental stimulation (even electronic entertainment systems on planes must be off) for the last hour. In some cases, all i-pods and walkmans are banned for the duration. This really cuts it, as anyone who’s flown knows the last hour of a flight is always the longest, perhaps rendered so by anticipation in reaching one’s destination. I have often found that it drags on interminably especially when one must land at busy airport hubs like at Atlanta, or O’Hare. The only thing that preserves sanity is being able to take one’s mind off the situation (and any weather- caused delays) by reading. Taking that away because it is wrongly believed security will be “improved” will not many happy campers….errr, passengers, make.

Is this a savvy response, or stupidity? It is stupidity, 100% - because none of these hand waving non-measures will stop a determined attacker. All they will do is end up punishing and annoying millions of passengers – who until Dec. 25th - provided airline coffers with better bottom lines, until the incident and airlines’ unwise implementation of reactionary responses. Already, airline shares across the board have started to dive as business class travelers are expected to forgo all the extra nonsense and longer delays – probably in favor of web meetings. This according to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

What would work, according to Douglas R. Laird – a former Northwest security consultant, are high tech screeners such as backscatter scanners- at all airports. The backscatter scanners can disclose any hidden materials – such as the Nigerian had sewn into his underwear, and also any materials stuffed into rectums – as were used in Saudi Arabia in the last year.

Short of that, the ONLY thing that can work to ensure real safety – as opposed to nonsense in flight dictums- are full body searches. You do that, then let the passengers board, and leave them alone, including their blankets and carry ons. Of course, that will not happen. If people are averse to x-ray scanning methods which leave them “naked” in images (puh-leeze, folks, get a frickin' life!) , they will certainly not agree to full body searches, so there is nothing to really deter would be nuts.

Or maybe there is. Norman Shanks, a European security consultant avers the best method to contain air terrorism is “behavioral pattern recognition” (Financial Times, p. A3, Dec. 29). In this method, trained experts spot potential terrorist behavior from how the suspects are behaving.

But both Shanks and Laird agree that the current measures being imposed on travelers amount to “nonsense”. (FT, ibid.) Singled out is the one calling for sitting in one’s seat for an hour prior to landing. Such a rule – if already enacted prior to Dec.. 25- would have deterred the passengers who effectively neutralized the would-be bomber, after all else had failed to. Total stupidity! Why impose a non- method which diminishes the arsenal of possible responses, rather than keeps all available? But reactionary, feel good hand-waving and fighting the “last tactic” seems to be the limit of the air security system’s imagination.

Shanks, for his part, also skewered the tactic of some airlines to remove the image of the flight plan from view. According to him (FT, ibid.):

Not being allowed to look at the flight plan is absolute nonsense, unless they are going to black out the windows as well”.

One hopes that as some time - and the immediate fear and hysteria passes- airlines and Homeland Security will understand that more intelligent, and specfic methods to stop attackers are needed – not dumb, broad spectrum reactive ones that only serve to antagonize the flying public, while blowing another hole in airlines’ finances . A public, who despite their robotic claims of acceptance “for our safety”- will not be so happy weeks from now if the totally exasperating, annoying, hand-waving pseudo-measures continue.

In the meantime, the systemic security lapses that allowed this radicalized, Nigerian religious freak to board a plane in Amsterdam, when he ought to have had his U.S. visa revoked and been on a ‘No fly’ list, can never happen again. Eight years and change after 9/11 there can no longer be any excuses for such ineptitude, showing the security failures and lack of communications that incepted September 11th were never learned in the first place.

We have to be smarter than that!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spitting at Perfection: An NFL Abomination

I feel really sorry for all the Indianapolis Colts' fans who paid good money, well over $60 a ticket in many cases, to see their team punk out like whipped dogs in yesterday's contest against the New York Jets. Those "Jests" - who otherwise would surely have lost and been eliminated, but who were the beneficiaries of a Colts' higher management decision to rest starters like Peyton Manning, barely into the 3rd quarter. With Manning and other key Offensive and Defensive starters shelved (like LB, Dwight Freeney) the Jests stampeded and racked up 19 unanswered points to win 29-15 and stay in the AFC playoff hunt. Even as the Colts took their best chance of perfection and flushed it into one of the toilets at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Read more here:

Was this really the right thing to do? The Colts had a legitimate chance to be the only team to make history and best the 1972 Miami Dolphins' Perfect season, but they chucked it to the wind out of safety concerns. Left in the dust were also justice concerns, which evidently the Colts brain trust could care less about.

Consider: the Jets that faced the hollowed out Colts on Sunday had a gimme win that earlier teams, like the Dolphins, Ravens and others didn't have. Because in those earlier games the Colts were playing all out and full tilt. Leaving nothing on the field. But the Jets, who shouldn't be in the playoffs at all, are now sitting pretty because Colts operator Bill Polian and coach Caldwell pulled the competitive plug.

And meanwhile, tens of thousands of Indy fans at Lucas Oil Stadium- who paid out good money to see a contest, left home bitterly disappointed: not only at the team's capitulation to history, but that they essentially tossed a game in front of this paying crowd. Because leaving a slim 15-10 lead in the hands of a rookie, untested quaterback named Painter is no way to compete.

Meanwhile, the playoff picture has been suddenly muddied, while the early teams that played the REAL Colts are livid at the Jets' undeserved easy win at the hands of veritable scrubs. Of course, Rex Ryan, head coach of the Jests- had said openly that: "Indianapolis is justified to play the game however they want".

But what exactly would you expect a beneficiary of a freebe game to say? Especially as he will likely collect yet another freebe next week with the Cincinnati Bengals - who will plausibly also "rest starters"

Forty years ago, when real football was played - and NFL defenses had not yet been spayed by rules favoring the offense, resting players to spare them injury would have been unheard of. Resting players when a team was in pursuit of a perfect season would have been an abomination, ask Don Shula of the '72 Dolphins, or Mike Ditka who rang up 12 straight wins with the '85 Chicago Bears.

Here's a suggestion for the NFL Competition Committee, apart from one I already gave for removing a lot of the anti-D rules that hamstring defenses:

1) Playoff contending teams may not rest their most competitive (first string) players against other contending teams until the final five minutes of the 4th quarter.

2) Playoff contending teams may rest as many competitive players against a non-contending team as they wish, but if they choose to do so, they must accept one demotion in the seed order for the playoffs. If they rest competitive players for two consecutive games against non-contenders, they will have to be dropped two seed levels. Thus an ostensibly No. 1 or No. 2 seed, could end up No. 3 or No. 4 with no home field advantage.

In this way, some semblance of justice may be reinstated, for all contending playoff teams, and especially for the fans who expect their teams to do more than roll over when they must shell out their hard earned dollars!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Truth Hurdle - Part II

In the prior instalment we looked at how truth is difficult to encompass in any absolute or final mode. We left off with a number of statements pertaining to an actual solar flare, and then questions followed concerning the level of truth applicable to each.

We revisit the statements first:

1) A class X solar flare occured on the Sun last Tuesday.

2) A class X-7 solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday.

3) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday.

4) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday and lasted a total duration of 1440 seconds.

5) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday, peaked 543 seconds after inception, and lasted a total duration of 1440 seconds.

We now consider each of the questions in turn:

(1) Are ALL of the above statements (referencing the same event) true? Or better, are they all EQUALLY true? If not, why not?

Obviously, the statements are successively true by degrees, but none of the statements are wholly and completely true. Each one, as one moves in ascending order, contains more "truth" than its predecessor. Thus (5) is more true than (4), (4) is more true than (3) and so forth. Is (5) the last word? Not even close, for one can still write:

A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare, of area 1800 millionths of a solar hemisphere and located at heliographic longitude 90 degress, and latitude 22 degrees, occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday, peaked 543 seconds after inception, and lasted a total duration of 1440 seconds.

Thus, one cannot deliver all the truth on the solar flare at once, certainly about a physical event. In the course of normal conversation, and particularly teaching - one will therefore be forced to lie. In the case of teaching, even attempting to convey the basis of Newton's laws of motion would take 100 times longer than the standard classical mechanics course if all details and exceptions were included. In the interest of time and convenience, therefore, one must "subvert" the whole truth. (Another reason we ask students to read extensively outside the course).

2) Can one therefore have true statements which do not express the entire truth but rather only a partial truth?

Yes, and these are called L1 or level 1 truth statements, by Soames' definition (see previous entry). As Soames put it:

"If such instances (e.g. L1 statements) are thought of as partial definitions, then the task of defining truth for an entire language may be seen as finding a way of generalizing the partial definitions so as to cover every sentence of the language.”

Carrying this further, there is no way any realistic language - practically based- can encompass more than limited truth. Take this exchange:

"Where is Mr. Jones, our accountant?"

"He had to go to the bank to cash a check".

But the more accurate statement might be:

"Jones had to go the bank on 18th street to cash a check because the bank on 11th street was too crowded, so he had to take a detour around the 12th street Viaduct, and come in from the south side overpass. He then had to walk a mile, because the closest parking was a mile from the bank across the river."

Technically speaking, the responder told a white lie. That is, he neglected many key elements that otherwise might account for Jones' tardiness from his desk. But the conveyance of the total information omits many details that do not add to the substance of the original or L1 statement.

Thus, the way our language is constructed, it is designed to omit more information than is actually true, and so limits the full exposure of any given truth statement unless it is almost a tautology.

3) If a partial truth only is expressed can it be said to be "the truth" without any reservations?

Obviously, as seen from the above, and the solar flare example, it cannot. When one uses the phrase "THE Truth" it is implied that the embodiment is totally, 100% complete, not partial. There is a good reason for this, because partial truth statements can be contradicted.

For instance, if one says: "Jones was at the 12th Street Viaduct", and "Jones was at the River near 11th Street" these may appear to contradict each other, because they are partial (L1) statements only. However if the more complete versions are conveyed:

"Jones was at the 12th Street Viaduct near where it crosses River Street"


"Jones was at the River near 11th Street, adjacent to River Street across from the 12th St. Viaduct"

then the contradiction may be seen to vanish.

4) Can the Godel Incompleteness theorem(s) be applied to all or most incomplete statements?

As we see, they could if the statements are incomplete and these may be construed as contradictions. A good way to test statements, then, is to try to write them in Boolean or some symbolic language or form, then compare them after. Consider these two statements, pertaining to material evidence in the JFK assassination case:

p: 'All of the bullet fragments recovered were from a 6.54 mm Mannlicher-Carcano'

q: 'All of the bullet fragments recovered were from a 7.65 mm Swedish Mauser'

We write the symbolic form for these:

~ (p /\ q) e.g.

Two statements p and q, are contrary if they cannot both hold. Note, however, that two contrary statements may both be false!!

Note also that all contradictory statements are contrary, but many contrary statements are not contradictory, i.e.:

'Lee Harvey Oswald was observed in a 6th floor window of the Texas Book Depository'


'A swarthy man was observed in a 6th floor window of the Texas Book Depository''

They are not contradictory because a man was observed in a 6th floor window. The "swarthiness" is not fundamental to the falsity of the statement because a shadow may have fallen at the time of the observation.

5) Does this application allow for contradictions because of the latent incompleteness? Would such a partially true statement be unprovable?

In the case of the solar flare example, not very likely unless the flare was homologous (e.g. occurring almost simultaneously at two nearby locations) and the L1 statements aren't refined enough to separate the heliographic coordinates. The residual statements would then remain unprovable only if no higher resolution observations were forthcoming.

6)Do we know that the final statement (5) is the FULL, true statement of the event?

Obviously, as I've shown, (5) wasn't the FULL true statement of the event. One came after it which also appended the heliographic coordinates as well as the area of the flare in millionths of a solar hemisphere.

7)If not, what does this say about any truth claim?

It says that ALL truth claims must be taken with great skepticism. at any rate, one must always assume the initial claim for truth is made only at the L1 level, so the claimant must be pushed as far as possible to disclose the maximum content of the truth as he understands it, for his claim.

For example, the claim:

"The Bible is the actual word of God verbatim"

Can be pressed in multiple ways. What Bible? If the KJV, which we know is subject to gross errors in translation from the Latin Vulgate, why? What led to certain parts being omitted? Which God? What is the ontological basis for it, necessary and sufficient conditions for its existence...that we may distinguish it from: Allah, Brahmin, Yahweh, etc. ?

Unless these questions are all addressed and answered fully, the person can't be regarded as having made a truth claim, but rather a casual conjecture about his personal reality, as HE believes it. He may believe, for example, that his bible holds 100% of the absolute truth in every passage, but that is not what L1 levels of partial truth definitions indicate. They say rather that not only are all the passages of the bible (any bible) partial statements, but they are also likely false partial statements as well. Particularly as many paired off together yield contradictions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Truth Hurdle - Part I

Ever since Pilate ostensibly asked Jesus "What is Truth?", people have pursued the question with great intensity. After all, if one cannot know truth, then one cannot possibly decipher untruth - at least under all circumstances. If this is so, then one must settle into a relativistic world. One in which meanings, events, and principles display no durable properties.

In the next two instalments, I want to make a foray into the issue of truth, not merely in a superficial way, but to get at the ontological base. We will then be in a better position to argue about it and indeed, whether it's even worth arguing about. Or perhaps better, replacing the truth concept with a relativistic and subjective idiom more attuned to the actual capabilities of the human brain.

Perhaps the biggest impediment to absolute truth in the last century was Godel's Incompleteness Theorems. These were propounded by the mathematicial Kurt Godel in the 1930s and state that in any consistent system which is strong enough to produce simple arithmetic there are formulae which cannot be proved-in-the-system, but which we can see to be true. Essentially, we consider the formula which says, in effect, "This formula is unprovable-in-the-system".

In a much more generic sense, the application goes way beyond mathematical formulae or arithmetic axioms to actually encompass any statements which can be framed in those terms. This is very important to grasp. Let me give examples.

Consider the simple statement of logical transitivity:

X = Y

Y = Z

therefore X = Z

What if instead we append an axiomatic statement that reads, in effect: "X=Y is unprovable-in-the-system". If this statement is provable-in-the-system, we get a contradiction, since if it is provable in-the-system, then it can’t be unprovable-in-the-system. This means the original axiom: "X= Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is false. Similarly, if X= Y is provable-in-the-system, then it’s true, since in any consistent system nothing false can be proven in-the-system, only truths.

So the statement:-axiom: "X = Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is not provable-in-the-system, but unprovable-in-the-system. Further, if the statement-axiom "X = Y is unprovable in- the-system" is unprovable-in-the-system, then it’s true that that formula is unprovable-in-the-system. Thus the statement, "X = Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is true.

With these preliminaries, let’s examine the logical structure ascribed to most religious concepts. According to Pascal Boyer (Religion Explained), we get a syllogism like:

If X, then Y

If X, then Z

so, Y = Z

But, Z /\ Y (contradiction)


If a eucharistic consecration (X) is performed, then a bread wafer (Y) becomes Jesus' body or flesh (Z).

Bread wafer = body-flesh

But, actual chemical tests show the bread wafer is starch, not flesh or protein!

Religious concept:

The identity Y = Z refers to a statement of substance.

The contradiction Z /\ Y refers to the outcome of “accidents”

Thus, the statements embodying substance: (S + 1) > S, where S denotes the axiomatic statements embodying the accidents.

We call such statements “meta-statements”.

In a manner of speaking, the religious concept claimant is in a similar position to Epimenides in his “all Cretans are liars” paradox, which itself perpetuates a causal loop with no closure. E.g.

"All Cretans are Liars"

If the speaker is a Cretan, then the statement is ipso facto unresolvable. If Cretan, he exists within the so-called abstract, formal system. Yet, he’s making a statement (meta-) about the system. Hence, is he lying? Or is he telling the truth? This cannot be resolved. An undecidable proposition, as Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem (II) applies.

Is there a way out of the loop? Yes, if one uses realist science to assess statements. For example, in the Einstein equation, E = mc^2 , scientific epistemology allows us to regard E, m and c as constructs, connected via operational definition to the P- (perceptual) facts of: energy, mass and the speed of light. Thus, we expect a correlation like:

C <-> P

This re-affirms logical closure, physical significance and no meta-linkage.

For instance, the operational definition of “mass” is accomplished by comparing inertias, using detected accelerations via: m2/ m1 = a1/a2 and Newton's 2nd law say in a collision or motion (down an inclined plane) experiment.

In effect, even if a science or research hypothesis may include some open or meta-statements (evidently leaving the room open for undecidable propositions) there are nevertheless empirical checks and tests that can close the system parameters. Nothing similar exists for supernatural claims embodied in religious concepts.

Consider the statement:

This consecrated bread wafer is the body of Christ”

Here we have neither P-facts nor C –construct. There is no confirmatory device for example, to demonstrate that the bread before me is a human body. The statement is open-ended, and could also be delirium tremens or maybe the product of a micro-seizure in the brain’s temporal lobes as researcher Michael Persinger has shown (e.g. in his special electrical helmet experiments to stimulate subjects' temporal lobes).

Worse, we can’t even identify unique and distinguishing attributes that point to the validation of the claim. Without even venturing into the realm of P-facts, the set of C-constructs (“bread”, “body of Christ”) is ripe for self-reference as well as the intrusion of incompleteness with no available cross checks!

What if, instead, one ignores this, and assigns attributes willy-nilly? Say by insisting: “well you cannot detect the body because you are only able to ascertain base physical “accidents” (e.g. starch or carbohydrate composition) using scientific analyses. In this case the claimant commits reification. He imposes his preconceived percepts on what is in reality an open-ended field. For such an open field, discussion is fruitless, since it ends up being a mental Rohrshach for the benefit of the proponent.

By contrast, the advocate of E = mc2 (e.g. from nuclear fission or fusion reactions) has no latitude or degrees of freedom to “fill in” anything, since all P-facts are already defined by specific constructs and operational definitions which have very exact meaning in physics. (e.g. c, the velocity of light, or about 300,000 km/sec) There is no wiggle room, and this lack of wiggle room means there exists pre-defined context, as well as escape from lurking Godelian loops.

In the end, we are entitled to reject the religious concept posed in contradictory or meta-language terms Though something is claimed (if only a possibility statement) the logical framework remains open since:

i)The claimant has not defined exactly what his terms mean.

ii)He lacks the critical, discriminatory P-facts to back up his claim; facts which can be confirmed outside his reference frame.

iii)He uses circular arguments to return to his original claim.

On account of this, as Herman Philipse has noted, we may legitimately show respect for religions because they reflect deep human longings. However, we are not obliged to show any respect when they “put forward claims of knowledge”.

Given the above, what is the inherent problem in articulating any alleged "truth" or more accurately, "true statement"? Scott Soames in his monograph Understanding Truth clarifies the issue of more and less general schema to arrive at truth, and what is “materially adequate”

p. 69:

“The characterization of individual instances of (different) schema has consequences for more general definitions of truth. If such instances (e.g. L1 statements) are thought of as partial definitions, then the task of defining truth for an entire language may be seen as finding a way of generalizing the partial definitions so as to cover every sentence of the language.”

He goes on to note (ibid.) Tarski’s definition, which is to say that if an earlier iterate allows for additions without contradiction to the original proposition (truth statement) then it may be called “materially adequate”.

In this sense, most scientific explanations – while admittedly 'partial' - are nevertheless “materially adequate”. But is this amounting to a true statement?

Consider the following statements referring to solar flares, and note the L1 hierarchy that presents:

1) A class X solar flare occured on the Sun last Tuesday.

2) A class X-7 solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday.

3) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday.

4) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday and lasted a total duration of 1440 seconds.

5) A class X-7, optical class 2B solar flare occurred on the Sun at 22h 33m GMT last Tuesday, peaked 543 seconds after inception, and lasted a total duration of 1440 seconds.

Now, are ALL of the above statements (referencing the same event) true? Or better, are they all EQUALLY true? If not, why not? Can one therefore have true statements which do not express the entire truth but rather only a partial truth? If a partial truth only is expressed can it be said to be "the truth" without any reservations?

The kicker: Can the Godel Incompleteness theorem(s) be applied to all or most incomplete statements? Does this application allow for contradictions because of the latent incompleteness? Would such a partially true statement be unproveable? Do we know that the final statement (5) is the FULL, true statement of the event? If not, what does this say about any truth claim?

We will explore these issues at greater length in the next instalment!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why has Religion come to dominate the planet?

As we enter yet another "holy" season, dominated by religious symbols and icons, it is useful once more to pose the question: Why has religious behavior occurred throughout time, in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world?

I suspect there are two possible answers to this question which may or may not be mutually exclusive with one another:

1) Religion is a basic manifestation of a mind virus or meme which has flourished in human brains

2) Religion is a behavior favored by natural selection, and so has come to dominate the human cultural landscape because it confers some survival benefit or advantage.

Let's consider (1) to start. This is based on the meme concept (with the meme acting as an ideational mind virus) first articulated by biochemist Jacque Monod in his Chance and Necessity. On page 155 Monod observes:

"The human group upon which a given idea confers greater cohesiveness, greater ambition and greate self-confidence thereby receives from it an added power to expand which will ensure the promotion of the idea itself. Its promotion value' bears no relation to the amount of objective truth the idea may contain."

He goes on to note (ibid.):

"The might of the powerful armament provided by a religious ideology for a society does not lie in its structure, but in the fact this structure is accepted, that it gains command".

One may inquire here what religious ideology has been most successful worldwide over the past twenty years. Careful inspection will disclose that it's none other than Christian Evangelism or Fundamentalism. It has not only gained ground over Roman Catholicism in places like Central and South America, but in Africa as well. Its ideational benefits are huge, given its simplicity, and its recipe for (eternal) reward: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior" is intoxicating.

Indeed the only religious ideology that rivals it in converts is Islam, with its promise of eternal rest and succor provided one wages war against the "infidels" (which, coincidentally, include the Christian Fundamentalists)

Not surprisingly then, the most powerful and insidious memes (ideas-beliefs) are those dedicated to the spread of religous beliefs. If we seek to ask why one set is more successful than a rival set, then we need to look at what Monod, for example, calls their "infectious power". This power can be set forth in terms of three main attributes:

1) Performance value: What change does the meme or meme complex bring about in behaviors for the person who adopts it? (For Christian Fundamentlists, the most major change is that they are intent on spreading their "message" to others, pagans, unbelievers, in the conviction that must "save their souls". They believe that Christ enjoined them to do this and not to do so is to ignore his edict to "go forth")

2) Propagation value: How far and wide is the meme spread, and what means are employed to achieve this? (E.g. Islam in the past has invoked beheadings locally, and more generally "holy wars" or Jihads to force belief onto uncooperative populations. Christian Fundamentalists make more use of the threat of "Hell" to any indigenous groups that are reluctant to accept their "personal Savior")

3) Infectious value: How easy is it to infect other brains? What attribute of the meme facilitates the infection?

In the last case, say for the faith meme in general, part of its structure inheres in automatically warding off too close rational scrutiny. Thus, reason and rationality are either: a) demonized (as byproducts of "Satan") or, b) marginalized as inferior to faith.

Example: from a CNN program featuring Skeptic Paul Kurtz, the topic "Does Satan Exist?"

Phone caller (to Kurtz): "Of course you will say that Satan doesn't exist! But that's exactly what Satan wants! He doesn't want anyone to believe in him!"

And we see here, the Satan belief component of the meme is perfectly designed to limit and minimize any damage from Kurtz's skepticism. After all, if one doesn't believe in Satan, he has to be under the spell of causing disbelief!

No one can say that these religious mind viruses don't possess a certain innate beauty!

While the theory of mass infection of human brains is very compelling, and indeed has recently been revisited in the book, Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society, by Aaron Lynch, Basic Books, 1996, it leaves open why a small subset of humans (atheists, other nonbelievers) aren't affected...or should I say, infected?

I suspect the likely reason is that their (mostly) scientific training provides an inoculation against the effort to infect their those trying to meet their convert quota. Because we have studied hard science for so many years we can easily recognize humbug when we see it. So, it washes off our ideational backs like a flu bug might for someone whose had the H1N1 vaccine.

Now, what about the second notion? This has recently been made popular in a number of venues, not least have been the claims for a "God gene" or - less dogmatically -that religous belief confers health and other benefits. Against which I'd not necessarily complain. I just have problems accepting that religion necessarily "evolved" because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. (I do think that ethics likely evolved and developed along lines favored by natural selection - as I made known in my blog response to my brother Mike some time ago).

More plausible is that religious belief evolved along with blind optimist tendencies - as well as the ability to "see things that aren't there" (see the book, Faces in the Clouds) in one single brain complex, probably centered in the temporal lobes. We know, for example - as Monod pointed out in his book (p. 50, by reference to functional coherence in associated molecular cybernetic systems) that it is often very important that humans remain "dumb and happy" in the evolutionary scheme of the brain. The survival basis here is to reduce existential anxiety and probably a host of physical indicators (e.g. blood pressure) as well. But this is not to say anything real is doing it. Rather it is the believer's own beliefs manifesting as a kind of intangible opiate or narcotic. Not surprisingly, reckless uninformed optimism (as when people leap into the stock market because others are, believing they will succeed) and religious faith clearly emerge as symptoms of the same general brain defect that abhors reality.

Thus, religion is widespread because this brain wiring defect is also widespread. A small percentage of humans (atheists ) lack it, but then they often lack the benefits as well. I wouldn't be surprised- given this, if atheists are found to have more depression, higher blood pressure, more general bad health indicators (poor lipid profiles, high c-reactive protein, etc). They might naturally show these because they suffer no delusions, and are fully cognizant of being orphans in a purposeless cosmos. To compensate for this painful existential awareness they might self-medicate in ways that the medical cognoscenti might not approve.

At some later time I will try to revisit this, bringing some actual statistics to the fore.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A "conspiracy theory" theory ...of Idiocy

My German friend, Kurt, in Frankfurt (ca. August 30, 1978) showing a film about the Reichstag Fire - part of a Nazi conspiracy to blame the Jews and try to justify their persecution as "enemies of the state". The plan bore many similiarities to the 1962 ‘Operation Northwoods’ – when Gen. Lyman Lemnitizer and his crazed, fellow Joint Chiefs planned to bomb U.S. cities and blame it on Castro to induce a war against Cuba.

It has been amusing the past 45 or so years, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, to behold how those who've seen evidence for conspiracy have changed in the skeptics' perceptions. Originally, we were all called "conspiracy buffs" or "tin foil hats", now the latest take is that we are uniformly smug, arrogant know-it-alls, who insist that we and we alone "have the real story" behind x, y or z event.

Actually, no one I know says any such thing - at least as insinuated by David Aaronovitch's piece ('A Conspiracy Theory-Theory' in The Wall Street Journal, Weekend Ed., Dec. 19-21, p. W3). What we do say, is that in the major substantive conspiracies (not wackjob entries - like the USA being overtaken by black helicopters from the UN) there is significant evidence for reasonable doubt as to the official version on offer. Chief among these is the conspiracy in the JFK assassination.

Of course, Aaronovitch only once mentions that signal conspiracy, which likely marked the corporatist-military takeover of what was once a democratic republic. The rest of the time he bloviates on all manner of wacky, flaky crap such as: "the faked Moon landing", the Knights Templars Christ bloodline conspiracies, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and the "Vince Foster murder" plot - which btw, The Wall Street Journal pumped for months on its op-ed pages) . In the process, all he succeeds in doing (which may be his intent) is muddying the waters for all real conspiracies....and thus tarnishing any serious investigation into any of them.

A really neat tactic, since it ab initio subverts the intent to seriously investigate any substantive conspiracies....more or less putting one into the camp of the flakes by default, if the c-word is used even once. Of course, the mainstream, corporate-owned media has always been part and parcel of this. Preferring to adhere to "official" (read: whitewashed) versions of events whenever possible, as opposed to any conspiracy hypothesis which might paint our nation as less than the upstanding protector of citizens' rights it claims to be. Interestingly, the skeptics always gloss over one of the most vicious high level conspiracies in U.S. history, first brought to light by author James Bamford (using Freedom of Information Act files) in his expose of the National Security Agency ('Body of Secrets'). That was "Operation Northwoods" which, according to Bamford (p. 82):
"had the unwritten approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and called for innocent people to be shot on American streets, for boats carrying Cuban refugees to be sunk on the high seas, and for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington D.C., Miami and elsewhere. People would be blamed for bombings they did not commit, planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, to launch their war (against Cuba)"

Two of the most effective books that at once expose the media’s role in manipulating information, while also showing conspiracy as a valid way to get things done (thereby muting the conspiracy phobic meme sown by the mainstream media) are from author Michael Parenti: America Besieged and Dirty Truths. I would say, without too much risk of exaggeration or hyper-statement, that anyone who is shackled in his or her thoughts by conspiracy phobia can do no better than to obtain these two books and read them carefully. Especially the chapters, ‘Is Conspiracy Only a Theory?’ in the first book, and ‘Conspiracy Phobia on the Left’ in the second.

Parenti makes no bones that “most people suffer from conspiracy phobia” and they “treat anyone who investigates conspiracy as a conspiracy buff or oddball”. Parenti also has a problem with the term “conspiracy theory” since it permits the critics and skeptics to have their intellectual “cake” and eat it. If the purported conspiracy has not been validated or proven to their satisfaction, it is merely a “theory” (which they erroneously equate with speculation), but if it's been validated, as in Watergate and Iran-Contra, then ‘Voila!’ it’s no longer theory but an actuality! But this binary, yes-no, 1-0 dynamic is essential nonsense. It means – as Parenti notes- that “conspiracy can never be proven and – if proven – it could not be conspiracy”.

Parenti concludes that all conspiracies are thereby relegated to the realm of the “imaginary”. Real conspiracies proven so, meanwhile, shuck off the c-word label and become another, different breed of historical reality. What, I don’t know, and neither does Parenti. But what we do know is given the basic definition – from my Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary, viz.

A treacherous, surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons

then either something meets its criteria or it doesn’t. The definition isn’t disavowed or rejected because the matter is proven ex-post-facto. If at any time the condition in the definition was met, however briefly, then it was a conspiracy! Thus, from this, Operation Northwoods was most emphatically a conspiracy even if it didn't come to fruition. It assuredly was a plan formulated in secret by "two or more persons" - in this case the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with potential treacherous outcomes (the bombing and disruption of American cities, citizens). All for what? To incite a war against Castro! Watergate also is and was manifestly a conspiracy, so was Iran-Contra.
In the Watergate conspiracy, Nixon and his cronies virtually handed the evidence to investigating committees and prosecutors on a 'silver platter' - since they had taped everything! Every word and every plan or scheme, from targeting McGovern supporters using the IRS, to illegal wiretaps of those on the 'enemies' list' to breaking and entering into Daniel Ellsberg's place. Each of these in turn totally refutes the pseudo argument that conspiracies are predicated on claiming a 'lack of evidence' leading to a 'circular argument'.

This brings us to the role of the media in perpetuating an anti-conspiracy mindset, certainly amongst the power-elites and those professionals (lawyers, doctors, politicians, professors etc.) who tend to be included in the so called 'Overclass'. The primary framing driver for the media has always been to paint any conspiracy as a kind of urban legend or myth. "Don't bother folks. Nothing there to see. Keep walking and keep those eyes squarely in front!"

Almost from the time of The Warren Report on the JFK assassination, the media have been complicit in impugning any and all notions of conspiracy. As if the U.S. is somehow special or untouched by the Machiavellian mindset that produces assassinations, plans, and hidden schemes in other parts of the world. But our history tells a decidedly different story. From COINTELPRO, to Watergate, to BCCI and Iran-Contra we now know that conspiracies are not only real (contrary to Aaronovitch's skewed, strawman-littered portrayal) - they are one of the primary ways to get things done. As Parenti even points out[1]:

Conspiracy is even a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people, pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal end. Juries find people guilty of conspiracies and people go to jail for conspiracies”

Thus, despite the murmur and sneering of the media(like the WSJ- which at other times humps conspiracy, as in the Vince Foster pseudo-murder), conspiracy does exist as a matter of public legal record. So why are so many brain –benumbed (or eyeballs rolling uncontrollably) when exposed to the c-word? Parenti is convinced it arises from a concerted and directed attempt to manipulate perceptions, and I concur.

In August, 1978, my wife and I were visiting German friends in Frankfurt-Am-Main. After a delicious dinner of spaetzli and glasses of Riesling, my friend Kurt invited us to watch some movies he’d collected about German history. Some of them I’d never seen before, including the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden, which killed over 80,000 German civilians.

Another one depicted how Nazi brigands (from Hitler's SA) set the Reichstag Fire to blame the Jews, while another showed Nazi propaganda (about Poles raping German women and children, which led to Hitler’s justification for the invasion of Poland in 1939, following a radio address in October of that year) was almost as disturbing. At the end of it I was appalled, and turned to Kurt – who himself had been manipulated into joining The Hitler Youth as a lad of 12- and remarked:

“I can’t believe this! No wonder the entire population was so brainwashed, and marched like one mind. They were under the spell of some type of mind control.”

“Doch!” (Of course!) Kurt replied. “But from where do you think Goebbels and Reifenstahl obtained their schooling ?”

“I don’t know. Maybe some turn of the century German psych warrior?”

“Nein!” he snorted, “from one of your own good Americans. Edward Bernays! Your people have been manipulating minds even longer than ours! Our manipulators learned at the knees of yours!”

And so it sunk in from then. We (Americans) were all victims of massive mind manipulation. If this were so, clearly since the 1920s or earlier, it meant methods had been perfected over decades to mold the public mind. So, why not in the case of conspiracies, and the JFK assassination? Especially if it was critical to conceal the true architects and their ultimate intent? In this regard, the Warren Commission and Report would represent the perfect vehicles for mass distraction and manipulation – given their patina of gravitas: blame a lone, "commie" loser & working class guy and take the heat off the actual architects and perps.
In his book America Besieged, Parenti devotes an entire chapter to 'Media Manipulation'. Among the choice methods elaborated, by which the corporate mainstream media projects the dominant ideology, are (ibid.):

- Suppression by omission

- Attack and destroy the target

- Labeling

- Face-value transmission

- Framing

All of these were abundantly evident in a classic presentation appearing on NBC Today during the week of Aug. 8, 2002. Entitled 'Truth or Conspiracy', the manipulation began from the outset – since the title embodied a false dichotomy. By posing it as truth OR conspiracy, the implicit message was that conspiracy was untruth, or lie: The logical effect of such a subtext, to drive the viewer away from conspiracy at the outset. If one had truth, then conspiracy was mutually exclusive with it, or so NBC would have had us believe, totally reinforcing Parenti’s point that the mainstream depicts it as imaginary despite the fact people have been prosecuted for it!

In the JFK assassination segment on August 9, this was compounded by both the content selected and the presenters. Like all propaganda and propagandists, their negative labeling also helped to prefigure and pre-condition the viewer's perceptions of the subject.

Let's consider their presenters first. First, we meet a Marquette University Professor named John McAdams, who conducts a class on the JFK assassination. We see him in action, then hear from his students. McAdams appears to portray an objective, and rational demeanor, which absolutely has no room for any 'conspiracy', so he essentially upholds the Warren Commission “verdict”. However, no one on the set is privy to his background, particularly in trying over years to disrupt the usenet newsgroup alt.conspiracy.jfk and viciously attacking many of its contributors. (I spent years posting there, and also prepared and published the first ‘REAL FAQ’ - which replaced the "Lone Nutter" FAQ)

Next, we behold a procession of McAdams' Marquette students being asked if they "believe in" or accept conspiracy in the JFK assassination. Their answers are naive, ill-informed and on the whole asinine. Even giving credit for the fact they're sound bites. What comes across is that all these students are merely parroting McAdams' own egregious talking points, as opposed to really offering a viewpoint based on their own research. They are regurgitating what they've been fed - as they ignorantly try to explain away points that are not even germane to the case. But why be surprised? Anyone who’s privy to the dynamics of power relationships, especially of a university professor to students, basically knows only a half-idiot would contradict his prof on national television!
All in all, the NBC presentation encapsulated the manipulative tactics of 'labeling', 'attack and destroy the target', 'face value transmission' and 'framing'. McAdams and his carbon copy students 'labeled' what is off -base. They thereby pre-selected the content they wanted - selectively omitting the rest, to attack and destroy the target (any hint of conspiracy in the case). Finally they are benefited from a 'face-value transmission' wherein the viewer was expected to accept at face-value what McAdams was teaching over the tube as an 'authority figure' (thereby incorporating one of the primary logical fallacy techniques "appeal to authority")

Now, Aaronovitch's tactics are nowhere close to these, but he still uses subtle means to attempt to marginalize all conspiracy thinking. In the case of the JFK assassination, his one reference is a complaint about the "violent innocence of conspiracism" ....that we are only "asking questions" as opposed to providing our own answers, viz.

"(they) don't go so far as to have a theory of their own, other than to say is was impossible that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald alone".

Of course, the conspiracy thinker is not obliged to provide a full, self-consistent theory of his own (though many do) only to show that if the minimal necessary and sufficient conditions exist, then by definition a conspiracy has occurred. The minimal necessary condition in this case is at least two shooters, and the sufficient condition is that two of the recorded four shots occurred in less than the bolt action recycling time (2.33 seconds) of the alleged rifle.

In the case of the JFK assassination, acoustic tests and echogram analyses show that two shot impulses registered within 1.6 seconds, thereby meeting the minimal sufficient condition. Hence, IF Oswald was one shooter, then by process of elimination (assuming he used the rifle claimed with its limited bolt action recycling capacity) there had to be one other. Since the 1.6 second interval time is less than 2.33 sec, there had to be TWO shooters to produce the two shots, which by definition satisfies the minimal definition of conspiracy. No further justification is needed. In much the same way, if I can cite one hypothesis (already published) that a natural means of inception for the cosmos is possible, I don't have to rely on the creationist's version that a God did it - and it isn't incumbent upon me to provide my own whole counter-theory to justify my rejection of the creationist story. This is where Aaronvitch goes wrong, but I'd wager few would see it, even college-educated readers.

Back to conspiracy phobia, such as Aaronovitch has tried to sow. The net outcome of it, thanks to media manipulation, has been the sheer number of people who lamely ask the question (as phrased by Michael Parenti, op. cit. p. 156):

Do you actually think there’s a group of men sitting around in a room planning things?”

To which Parenti provides the easy answer(ibid.):

“No. They meet on carousels or they jump out of airplanes and talk while freefalling. Of course they sit around in rooms! Where else would they meet?”

But the fact that such a stupid question could even be asked discloses how brain befogged so many citizens have become by the media’s spin and PR against conspiracy. In his book, Dirty Truths, Parenti hits closer than anyone for the actual motivation to eliminate JFK. To paraphrase, and in not too many words, JFK had transgressed mightily against an entrenched “Gangster state” – comprised of a mix of government and corporate interests. The assassination was the Gangster state’s way to remedy the situation since one man could not be allowed to stand in the way of their hegemonic aspirations. Parenti again, in a powerful blow for truth-telling.

To know the truth about the assassination of John Kennedy is to call into question the state security system and the entire politico-economic order it protects. This is why for over thirty years the corporate-owned press and numerous political leaders have suppressed or attacked the many revelations about the murder unearthed by independent investigators like Mark Lane, Peter Dale Scott, Carl Oglesby, Harold Weisberg, Anthony Summers ..”

This is what all readers need to process, before they succumb to the codswallop of Aaronovitch and his clones.

[1] Michael Parenti: 1998, America Besieged, City Light Books, p. 140.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Howard Bloom's Delusions

Howard Bloom is a fairly good author, and his book, The Lucifer Effect, one of my favorites - as it penetrated the mystery of memes and how they altered human history. Especially, the notorious memes connected to zealous religious belief - as manifested in radical Islam and Christian Fundamentalism. However, his article appearing in today's Wall Street Journal ('Climate Change is Nature's Way') begs way too many questions, and merely confuses more than it deciphers on the climate front.

Bloom contends that we have "been deceived by a stroke of luck" - namely that our brains flourished most prominently in a hospitable climate between glaciations, and we have somehow come to view a more or less fortuitous confluence of factors as a happy "norm". He adds that we have also lived through "20 sudden global warmings" more or less in the 120,000 years since we acquired our current physiological shape. No mention is made that none of these warmings were remotely connected to a possible runaway greenhouse effect, or even that - as Prof. Gale Christianson has noted ('Greenhouse', 1998) no warmings have ever occurred when the CO2 concentration was less than 250ppm, nor have glaciations occurred when the concentration was over that level.

About midway through, he addresses "the real cause" of the Earth's variable climate. Not surprisingly, like most today, he ascribes it to the Earth being a "traveler" and undergoing orbital and precession deviations at periodic intervals - every 22,000, 41,000 and 100,000 years. In other words, the "Milankovitch cycle".

In fact, the Milankovitch cycles are mostly irrelevant here, as I noted in one early blog entry. The grandiose name “Milankovitch theory” purports to account for the recurrence of the ice ages. In fact, it is more correct to call it the “Milankovitch hypothesis” especially as few astronomers that I know accept it. On that note, I would like to discuss the basis for general non-acceptance of Milankovitch’s theory into conventional astrodynamics and astrometry.. (The former is what has been called “celestial mechanics” in the past, while the latter focuses on methods of position updating for celestial objects)

Start with its contention that the obliquity of the ecliptic (inclination of Earth to its orbital axis) varies from 21 to 24 degrees over a 41,000 period in a process called ‘nutation’. This is certainly a magnitude in excess of a half degree (1800”) on either side of its current 23.5 deg.

Astronomers-astrometrists recognize no such period or differential of axial tilt. The following is from the book, Astronomy- Principles and Practice by A.E. Roy and D. Clarke, 1978, Adam Hilger Books, p. 118:

“Because of the nutational wobble in the Earth’s axis of rotation, the obliquity of the ecliptic (KP in Fig. 10.32) varies about its mean value. The magnitude on either side is about 9.”2.”

For the benefit of non-astronomers, the magnitude cited (9.”2) isn’t even one hundredth of a degree! Indeed it is nearly a factor 4 LESS than a hundredth of a degree! (which translates to 36”- there are 3600” = 1 degree))

Nowhere in any part of this basic text is any larger magnitude cited, not even in a footnote. The same is true for the standard textbook in astrometry by Heinrich Eichhorn and P. Mueller, who quantitatively give the first six terms of the expression for nutation in obliquity. Most interesting - which I merely give for the sake of completeness- is that even jacking up the value of the terms containing t by 41,000 yrs. (e.g. 410 JC inserted in each t value) doesn’t appreciably alter the magnitude from seconds of arc – very small seconds of arc (e.g. about 8.”85 with Z = 160 deg and counting only the first order term).

Beyond the inability to encompass the quantitative details, other problems arise.

For example, when conditions are favorable for an ice age in the northern hemisphere, they’re not favorable for one in the southern hemisphere. How could the Milankovitch Cycles cause a global change in climate then? Also, Milankovitch cycles can only account for a temperature difference of 1° to 2°. How is it possible then that sediment records show temperature differences of 7° to 10°? The 100,000 yr cycle is dominant in the record, yet it has the weakest astronomical effect; moreover, in the record, it doesn’t always occur at 100,000 years - ranges from 80,000 to 125,000. How can these variances be explained? Until they are – most astronomers won’t embrace the theory.

Adding to that, in the paper ‘A Causality Problem for Milankovitch”, Daniel B. Karner and Richard A. Muller from the Dept. of Physics, University of California, note an earlier paper by W. Broeker (1992) ‘Upset for Milankovitch Theory’ – in which he discussed a troublesome new measurement. That is, oxygen isotope data from a cave in Nevada called ‘Devils’ Hole’ appeared to show that the timing of the penultimate termination of the ice ages- called ‘Termination II’ – was incompatible with the standard Milankovitch theory (cf. Winograd et al, Science, Vol. 258, p. 255; Ludwig et al, Science, Vol. 258, p. 284)

The data indicated a shift in (delta 16) to interglacial values that was essentially complete by 135 thousand years ago (ka). But at this time, the Northern Hemisphere summer insolation had not yet warmed to the point at which it should have triggered anything extraordinary, let alone a glacial termination. The termination event appeared to precede its cause.

Though the Milankovitchites attempted valiantly to rebut this, as the authors noted, the “causality” problem remained and it was really all an (initially) skeptical community needed to keep the Milankovitch theory from being cemented into standard celestial mechanics. Too many loose ends!

Worse, the Devils Hole data had not been the first to indicate a problem. As far back as 1974,Bloom et al. (Quatr. Research, Vol. 4, p.185) had suggested that sea level had reached a high point, from melting glacial waters, by as early as 142 ka. Their work was based on U-Th ages of coral terraces from the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. These results were not used when Imbrie et al. (‘Milankovitch and Climate – Part I’, Doredrecht Reidel)) created the SPECMAP template, the most widely used model for explaining how insolation could drive ice age cycles. Instead, Imbrie et al. set the termination at 127 ±6 ka, based on radiometric dates from Barbados corals by Mesolella et al. (J. Geology, Vol. 77, p. 250) and Shackleton and Matthews (‘Nature’, Vol. 6, p. 445)

All of the above provides just enough ‘ammunition’ to those already skeptical – to justify their resistance to Milankovitch theory and to preventing supporters from nudging it into text books (like evolutionists seek to prevent ID’ers)

This is reinforced by the fact that most astronomers’ prevailing skepticism is fuelled by the lack of a precise dynamic time scale, which would make it possible to test the match between the supposed cycles recorded in ocean sediments and the Milankovitch cycles calculated on the basis of the Earth's orbit in standard celestial mechanics. Until this is done, the Milankovitch theory will rightly not be regarded as a part of legitimate celestial mechanics – but rather a marginal or fringe spinoff.

While the cycles with periods near 100,000 years, 41,000 years, and 23,000 years, based on sediment data are intriguing – they don’t get an astronomer’s blood boiling. They merely show circumstantial evidence for the claim. Ultimately, the claim has to be tested and verified in space – to get an astronomer to invest credulity.

Theoretically, at least, there is more than enough Earth orbital data right now to be able to make solid predictions, even if ex-post facto. The trick is to be able to make testable predictions, and then, meld those into a coherent theory of exactly how the orbital forcing occurs and what it does.

A first start would be using sophisticated numerical simulations – piping in the orbital (a, e, pi, Omega etc.) elements and their perturbations claimed by the Milankovitch crew. Thus, use standard equations of celestial mechanics (e.g. Kepler’s equation, n(t – T) = E – e sin E) and show that the assumed changes actually occur in space. Show that 100,000 yrs. from now Earth will be in such and such predicted position (according to the Milankovitch "theory"), and ditto for the 41,000 year scale, and so on. Capture these graphics, then publish them.

Interestingly, this was exactly the method used by space physicists to make their case for accepting dynamo processes as applicable to solar flares! Years of work finally paid off, when the most elaborate numerical simulations could no longer be disputed.

The bottom line here is that Bloom's invocation of Milankovitch cycles to account for repeated glaciations is contrived, and doesn't work. A much more compelling hypothesis is that glaciations occur during dips in solar luminosity when the ambient CO2 concentration is below 250 ppm at the time of occurrence or onset. (The upper limit of 400 ppm may be more applicable, because some recent papers published in Eos Transactions appear to show that no ice ages can occur when that level holds. Right now, we are at 390 ppm and increasing).

A reduction in the solar insolation of even 10%, say down to 1220 W/m^2 could likely trigger a prolonged (~10,000 yrs) ice age if the CO2 level were simultaneously below 400 ppm, and certainly if the concentration is less than 250 ppm.

Bloom's factoid that the "Sun is 43% warmer today than it was when Earth first gathered itself into a globe of planetesimals" is neither here nor there, and bears no relation to the current climate crisis (where we are seeing CO2 concentrations approach the thresholds for the runaway greenhouse effect) . Of course, the Sun is 43% warmer! Doh! At the time Earth was "gathering planetesimals" the Sun was still a basically red (spectral class M) proto-star not yet on the Main sequence! Hydrogen burning had not yet commenced. This is mixing chalk and cheese in the context of the discussion.

His other reference to one mass extinction "every 26.5 million years" is also not very illuminating. Obviously, we don't know the exact reasons, but it is interesting that immense, Torino -scale 9 asteroids are predicted to strike at about that frequency. Such an event occurred around 65 million years ago, setting off the equivalent of a nuclear winter, which exterminated most of the then dinosaurs.

Yes, as Bloom points out, Nature does "toss us tests" and we need to try to survive "by outwitting her".

However, if the runaway greenhouse kicks in there will be no going back, and nothing we do technologically or otherwise will make a difference. The Earth will become permanently uninhabitable - probably within two generations, or sooner. The only "adaptation" then on offer will be death, not just of the human species, but all.

This is something that one would have thought Bloom would have processed. but perhaps not given that he's a psychologist.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time for Parental Licensing!

After reading a horrific news story in the Arizona Republic, about 22-year old Tabitha Rich, who placed her infant in a tub of boiling hot water because he was "constipated",

I have to renew my call for parental licensing. As I noted first in an essay written more than 30 years ago (directed at poor parenting in Barbados) we simply cannot afford to turn anyone with a working reproductive organ loose to "do their thing" if it means horror and endless heartaches for their kids. No matter what anyone says, parenting is not an inborn "right" but a privilege.

The Rich incident is merely the tip of a mostly unspoken iceberg of parental abuse in this country. In fact, nearly 1.2 million kids under 16 are abused every year, many of them driven to such desperation that they are rendered homeless. The fortunate few find a secure shelter, often in places such as Covenant House. The not so lucky are left to wander the streets of LA, or Vegas and often become prey to any predator.

What I have always wondered is why do we as a nation, demand people become licensed before they can drive a two-ton vehicle on the open road, yet are totally okay about not licensing them when they have children. "Products" that are far more likely to be permanently damaged by multifold abuse and emotional wreckage, before being turned loose on society in either a dependent or unstable psychological state.

I believe the answer to that is that most people simply assume that every human has the wherewithal or motive equipment to be able to not only have a child but raise it. This is patently false. For example, I recognized from early I'd not want to have any children. I am too selfish in respect of my time, and have very little patience or tolerance for any childish foibles. In other words, if I did have children, they'd likely have suffered emotionally or otherwise from my anti-parential instincts and nature.

This was brought home forcefully to me some 20 years ago when my wife and I (for some insane reason) opted to allow a young teen girl - sponsored by the AFS, or American Field Service - live with us in Barbados after she'd been ousted by two other families. We listened to her sob stories of "mistreatment" at the other families' hands, and decided that we wouldn't be like them, but would "give the kid a break". After all, it was either us, or she'd have to go back to Missouri.

Within a week we regretted our decision. She was a n'er do well who even kept our niece (then also living with us at the time) from her studies at the Community College. Because my niece had barely passed physics the year before, I volunteered to tutor her to increase her exam %, which would allow her to apply later for higher level jobs (which required more certificates, at higher grade level). The tutoring meant weekly physics labs conducted in our living room, which usually lasted 3 hours each. They were generally scheduled from 9-12 in the morning.

No sooner had my niece begun the labs, than our AFS visitor usually tried to distract her. After any given lab, our niece was challenged as to why she'd "put up with my crap". Not understanding or appreciating I wasn't in this for my health or because I especially loved to organize physics labs on Saturdays (when I had my own college prep to do!).

By a month after her arrival, I had even ceased to speak to her, merely passing her in the hallway without comment. Fortunately, by May of that year she was gone, and we could be in peace again - and my niece could settle back into her own study equilibrium.

What would parental licensing entail? We know how drivers' tests are administered- with a written and practical part- but what about parental licensing?

I envision again two parts, written and practical. The first would have questions like:

"You are awakened by your infant crying loudly at two in the morning, what do you do?"


"Your tw0-year old child throws a fit in the supermarket because you won't buy a large Hershey bar for her. She screams nonstop. What do you do?"


"When your 16 year old daughter comes home from school one day, she informs you she's three onths pregnant. What is your response, what do you do?"

The advantage is that ALL of the above are plausible, real world scenarios. All demand an appropriate parental response and there are very limited gray areas.

If, for the 2-year old tantrum, the response is:

"I would punch the child in the back of the head"

Clearly this is cause not to allow any license to be given. In the case of parenting skill or behavior, there must be a very low threshold for accepting the wrong response!

In terms of practical test, various simulated situations could be organized and the prospective parent put into them, like:

Being inside a room doubling as a doctor's office when a simulated kid (or kid actor) pitches a fit and stomps feet, screams bloody murder.

Another ideal test is to use the simulated infant (now very popular in some schools that teach child care) and which even poops, wets itself and cries. Dump this simulated infant on an unsuspecting couple up for the exam, and monitor their responses. If one, or the other, takes the "infant" and thrashes it up and down with head banging on the floor (and we may be keeping them in the room for at least an hour to elicit a reaction) we pretty well can infer they aren't parental material. Let them buy a dog.

Obviously, such testing would be very time and resource intensive, and this might well be one major reason not to do it because it is "too expensive". But that's also the oft cited response to do nothing for many other problems - from repairing our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, water mains etc), to health care and lack of affordable insurance, to allowing seniors with disabilities to live in their own homes rather than be warehoused as semi-vegetables in nursing homes.

In other words, at some point we have to cease using the "too expensive" opt out.

Maybe if we launched fewer wars of choice, we might be able to afford to do the things necessary for citizen welfare, and child welfare. Maybe if we halted the 'Pax Americana' - trying to be the policemen of the world, we'd be able to more carefully tend to our own plot of planet, and our own people.

Just an idea.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Syncretism: What's the big deal?

According to a USAToday article recently published (Friday, Dec. 11), syncretism or "mashing up contradictory beliefs" appears on the rise. Well, the article referred to "mashing up contradictory beliefs" but this is a typical, superficial American way of putting it. According to Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, the term means "the attempted reconciliation or union of different religious or philosophical principles, practices or belief coda".

Thus, a Catholic may believe in the Virgin Birth and Trinity, but also in reincarnation and the Jewish Kabbalah. An Anglican, such as many I knew when living in Barbados, may believe in the Anglican doctrines but also Universal Mind, karma and esoteric Gnostic practices. A mainline orthodox Christian may accept his King James Bible, but also the Upanishads and the Talmud. The point is that the person makes a concerted effort to reconcile what he has been presented with along with other ideas, beliefs to which he's been exposed, and doesn't elevate one over another in a kind of spiritual one-upmanship.

According to the same USAToday piece, upwards of 35% of Americans, from a Pew Religious Survey, now embrace syncretism in some form or other - if not attending different services, churches, etc. then reading different "good Books", including the Qu'aran, King James Bible, and Catholic Revised Standard Bible along with the Upanishads. According to Pew researcher Greg Smith, "these findings all point toward a spiritual and religious openness — not necessarily a lack of seriousness."

However, not all observers are pleased with the prospect that their "flocks" might be dipping their spirtual toes in other realms and concepts. According to Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, all those pursuing syncretism in any form are "confused". According to him, and bear in mind he's approaching it from the rigid fundamentalist stance:

"This is a failure of the pulpit as much as of the pew to be clear about what is and is not compatible with Christianity and belief in salvation only through Christ"

But is this really so? A failure of the pulpit? Not according to religious philosopher, Ken Wilber. According to Wilber (A Sociable God, New Science Library, 1983, p. 26.) religious integration correlates with ever higher states of consciousness. Wilber identifies specifically seven levels of increasing consciousness which are, in ascending order:

1- Archaic
2- Magic
3- Mythic
4- Rational
5- Psychic
6- Subtle
7- Causal

A major division separates the 'Personal' levels (1-4) from the 'Transpersonal' (levels 5 - 7) The personal levels embody lower-order cognition. The rational state is the highest of these, in which scientific thought, comes to full flower. Most orthodox religious adherents are at the ‘Mythic’ level, having adopted one or other monarchical ruler or 'Father-God-King', in the words of Ken Wilber. In this scheme, the avowed scientific atheist would occupy the level 4 rank (rational) and Hindus - Science of Mind Christians, Gnostics would be at 3. Catholics and Jews would occupy the "magic" realm - and we know the Trinity and Virgin Birth are definitely magical concepts. The lowest rung of all, the "archaic" is occupied by fundamentalists because their God-King is a tyrant (as manifested by his actions in Genesis) and they take all the assorted passages about him literally. Also, they fail to recognize Jesus as a spiritual metaphor for the human "Christ state" of mind, instead taking him literally as a real person. In addition, their childish adherence to the heaven-hell afterlife doctrine consigns them almost automatically to the most rudimentary and naive level of conscious cognition.

In the transpersonal levels, all allegiance to specific discrete beliefs and practices is transcended, and the person finally sees all human religious beliefs as forms of mental bondage and slavery. This allows him to escape menial separateness via meditation or other practices, whereupon he is then able to "become a Christ" - in other words, attain the mentality of Christhood, which has always been a state of higher consciousness, never a single person. The point here is that a dedicted syncretism is the first phase en route to the transpersonal. A well-rounded person steeped in diverse practices and spiritual thinking (not necessarily beliefs) is then on his way to the "Psychic stage".

A Christ, by definition, transcends ego and abstracted cognition. This means it possesses these attributes:

l)No interest in territory, personal 'space' or property

2) No interest in accumulation of material resources, or money

3) Manifests cooperative as opposed to competitive dynamic

4) No thought for 'the morrow', or security consciousness, i.e.

Look at the lilies of the valley, how they neither reap nor sow...and look how your Father has provided for them

5) Ethic of maximized efficient use, so no concept of disposal or obsolescence dictated by any market, or fad, or fashion.

6) Total simplicity mindset in all spheres: walks, or bikes - doesn't drive, simple clothes & sandals, nothing fancy, or evocative of a false image ('status').

7) Unity mindset with the planetary "spirit" (Gaia) so that all global warming threats would be assiduously confronted.

At the final, transpersonal phase ("Causal") the person is himself the cause of every and anything. He can use his mind to control external reality and events about him. At this stage, he can say (according to Wilber):

"I Am GOD"

In other words, the progression in the ladder of consciousness from the lowest "dogg-ish" realm, to the highest causal, is in fact a progression of Man toward conscious Godhood. Are any humans there yet? Wilber doubts it, and I seriously doubt it too. If there were, the world would not be in the mess it's in. However, the door is left open for another alien sentience to have possibly arrived - or at least to stage 6.

Another interesting aspect of all this is how it ultimately dovetails with the Socinian God. In some past blog entries I noted that, with only one exception, all the Christians I've ever argued with failed to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for their deity. The only one who ever did, embraced the Socinian God, as first outlined by the heretic Socinus.

According to him, the reason for the manifestly imperfect God (given the imperfect events all around) is because the deity can possess no higher consciousness than the existing highest sentience. If some advanced alien race is therefore already at level 5, or 6, and this is the maximum in the whole cosmos, then God is no higher - and hence, may still make mistakes! This is because the Socinian rejects all the "omni-attributes" which most lazy theists append without thought. Hence, no omniscience, no omnipotence (so God could not have stopped the Holocaust), no omnipresence and so forth.

This begs the question that IF level 7 is finally reached, what will happen? My take is all humans would have to reach it at once, because if one God exists in one place, all others must similarly be localized points of Godhood. Bohm's Holomovement brought to fruition.

Of course, the typical fundamentalist will find this all bordering on "blasphemy". But since their consciousness is of the lowest order- barely one up from dogs and cats, who the hell cares?

Bring on the syncretics!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thermal Physics Test for skeptics

Way too many blockheads, morons, idiots and ignoramuses are spouting off non-stop on human-induced global warming, insisting it is all fabricated. Most of these have never taken a physics course in their lives, most noted when they refer to water vapor as a greenhouse gas on a par with CO2, while failing to point out:

a) Even a tiny, minuscule amount of CO2 is vastly more efficient at blocking the re-radiation of energy than any amount of water vapor- at the appropriate (molecular) spectral bands

b) the misconception arose because early researchers, lacking the current technology of infrared spectroscopy, assumed that water vapor bands already blocked out most of what would (ordinarily) be taken by CO2.

c) Water vapor as a pernicious greenhouse gas does not and will not "kick in" until most CO2 has been outgassed from carbonates

With that in mind I offer this basic proficiency test to any global warming deniers with the cojones to take it. If you score at least 70% on it, I will concede you have the unmitigated right to offer your input on the subject - are at least minimally qualified to do so, and are not in the goober category. That is, you also have the right and expectation to be taken at least half-way seriously. Below 70, you are a clown. Don't take it at all, you are still a clown because you know you'd be wasted.

Answers may be supplied via the blog comment feature and the working required ought to fit in there too.


In each case, either solve the problem as given, or provide the correct answer (A, B, C , D or E) for multiple choice:

1) An air conditioner has a power rating of 1.0 kilowatt. A solar panel on the roof of a house has a collective efficiency of 12% and is 5 meters by 5 meters. The solar power (insolation) constant is 1360 watts per square meter. Assuming the ac will be run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. , will the panel be able to achieve the objective? Assume no cloud cover, and no significant variation in insolation. Show all working.

2) A hot air balloon of constant volume contains air at 100 C. The fraction of this air which escapes if the temperature is increased by 1 K (Kelvin) – the pressure remaining constant is:

A) 1/ 373 B) 1/ 273 C) 1/ 100 D) 374/373 E) 101/100

3) The first law of thermodynamics is often stated in the form: Q = DU + W. Which of the quantities, Q , DU or W must necessarily be zero when a real gas undergoes a change at constant pressure?

A) Q only B) DU only C) W only D) none of DU, Q, W E) all of DU. Q, W

(Note Q denotes heat added, W is work done, and DU denotes change in internal energy)

4) Two identical copper calorimeters of mass 0.1 kg contain 1 kg of water and 2 kg of alcohol, respectively. It’s found that they both take 60 minutes to cool from 350 K to 300 K under similar conditions. Find the specific heat of the alcohol (in J/ (kg K) ) based on this information:

A) 600 B) 2060 C) 2100 D) 2140 E) 3800

5) Which of the following statements about temperature is NOT true?

A) It represents the amount of heat contained in the body.
B) It is a measure of degree of hotness or coldness of a body
C) It is a property that determines the direction of heat flow in a body.
D) It is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the particles of which it’s composed.
E) It may be measured by examining the length of a column of mercury.

6) A detector of thermal energy is placed an equal distance in turn from each of four faces of a hollow metal cube full of water. The reading on the detector is greatest when the face is turned toward the face that is:

A) painted silver B) painted shiny white C) painted dull black
D) highly polish E) neither of the faces makes any significant difference

7) A bottle of water is placed in the freezer of a fridge and forgotten. It’s recovered after 24 hrs. and found to be broken. The reason for breakage is:

A) the bottle expanded as it cooled B) water expanded more than the bottle as it froze C) the bottle contracted as it cooled D) the water contracted as it froze
E) the water and bottle both expanded as they cooled

9) The diagram below shows two bodies of equal mass (A and B) within a thermally insulated material. A has a thermometer inserted to take readings. A was initially at a temperature of 100C and B at 50 C when placed in thermal contact.

[ [A][B] ]

a) Find the temperature of the system of two bodies in thermal equilibrium. Is this the same as the reading of A’s temperature? (Show work, explain)
b) Which body undergoes a positive change in entropy?
c) Which body undergoes a negative change in entropy?
d) What is the total entropy change for the system, A + B?

10)a) Describe the principle of operation of a basic, glass-enclosed greenhouse. What specific features enable more heat to be collected within than available from the immediate, outside environment?

b) One kilogram of mercury is initially at 0 C. Find its change in entropy when heat is slowly added to raise its temperature to 100 C.

Data: Heat of fusion for Hg = 1.17 x 10 4 J/ kg, specific heat (Hg) = 138 J/ kg C; Melting temperature (Hg) = -39 C)

Specific heat (H2O) = 4,200 J/ kg C

Marking scheme: Problems 1 through 8, 8 marks each. Problem 9: 16 marks ; Problem 10: 20 marks

Total 100 marks:

Score 90-100 is ‘erudite master of global warming-climate theory’

Score: 80-90: You have a decent knowledge of climate-based physics - opine at will!

Score 72-80 Needs to bone up! But hey, knock yourself out on your opinionating!

Score 70-72: I give you a pass. Barely! Just keep your opinions on global warming to 100 words or less.

Less than 70 = poseur and/or PR shill for Oil-gas lobbies. Don't bother to write ONE word on global warming!

How to Recognize an Anti-Global warming Blockhead

"Doh! I just know there ain't no global warmin'! FOX told me so! So I goin' to visit me Aunt Mae in Maine like this for Christmas!"

As the Copenhagen Climate Conference continues, global warming skeptics and deniers continue to try to obfuscate the message and postpone any significant change. They have now seized onto the recent hacked emails (from East Anglia University) to try to make the specious case that the whole theory of man-induced warming is in error, and insist the emails prove it is all trickery. As I noted in a previous blog entry this is fulsome codswallop. While the emails did engender a PR problem, they do not undermine the basic science, not in any way. Indeed, the segment of data referenced in the emails represents barely 2% of the total compiled in more than 70 nations contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Those blockheads who insist that the emails signify some major contrarian evidence only need to get off their backsides and venture to places where global warming's effects are wreaking havoc. That includes interior Alaska, with its melting permafrost- causing buildings to wobble in Fairbanks, to the eastern Caribbean islands where massive beachfront loss is occurring and to Florida, where the dengue fever virus has now arrived – thanks to climate change.

The receding Portage Glacier near Anchorage, which I observed in 2005, had retreated hundreds of yards just from its position near the turn of the century. The geophysicists at the University of Alaska - to whom I spoke when I visited the Geophysical Institute two days later, assured me it was a direct result of global warming which is always 3-4F more in the Arctic. When a 150' tower collapsed in Fairbanks the next day, tied to permafrost melt, it put an exclamation point on it. The antecdent Arctic warming was first noted by Prof. Gunther Weller more than twenty years earlier in his studies of ice cores.

Dengue Fever, which I caught while serving in Peace Corps in the early 70s, is nothing to sniff at. It isn't called 'bone break fever" for nothing, and little known about it is that it spreads via the Aedes Egypti mosquito and recent research shows the proliferation is malignant as temperatures rise, and wetness-rainfall increase, as predicted by global warming models. Dengue has now moved more than four degrees north in latitude from the late 1990s. In its most severe form, usually after the third exposure, it becomes dengue hemorraghic fever- and you bleed from every orifice: eyes, ears, urinary tract, rectum, mouth, nose .....and by the second day more than half are dead. It is nearly as bad as Ebola, if only because it is much more widespread.

Unlike some, such as Prof. David Suzuki, I don’t advocate locking up deniers or global warming naysayers – for threatening the lives of billions with their foolish delaying tactics and agnotology. However, I do think that a ‘buyer beware’ alert needs to be appended to all their writings, wherever they appear. The alert needs to be predicated on recognizable criteria showing that they don’t really understand what they are talking about. In addition, every serious writer who claims some pedigree, ought to be subjected to taking at least a basic thermal physics test. Thermal physics is the basis for global warming theory.

Below are a number of the telltale signs of the anti-warming blockhead, following which I present my basic thermal physics test which, up to now, NO warming critic has passed with at least a 70%.

1) They cite marginal scientists or those funded by special fossil fuel lobbies and interests

This seems to be the most common attribute, especially among the lower echelon of warming critics: media thinktank hacks, ordinary semi-educated bloggers, and the occasional low level newspaper or magazine columnist. What these all have in common is adopting the assumption that “one scientist is as good as any other” (Which is also common to the idiots that repeatedly cite the “30,000 scientists” who signed a “petition” declaring manmade warming false, not also stating that barely 1% of these are climate scientists. Many are psychologists, or anthropologists.)

Among the scientists most often cited are: S. Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen and Sallie Baliunas.

Siegfried Fred Singer seems to be a darling amongst the global warming denier brigade. Personally, I doubt if even one of ten thousand blockheads who cite him have even read one of his papers, or can understand what he's written. I am always amused when he gets published in Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, because inevitably he garners about five to six responses each time (published as research letters) which take every one of his claims apart.

An interesting tidbit: In the early 1990s, while officially "on leave" from the University of Virginia, Singer set up the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy with the help of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution and with funding support from the Unification Church (also known as "Moonies," followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church).

This is why it amuses me no end when certain Christian Fundies cite Singer as some kind of climate guru, when in effect, they are supporting a guy whose freight is partly paid by the Unification Church.

More recently, Singer was singled out by Sharon Begley, in her Newsweek piece on the global warming disinformation industry (Aug. 13, 2007, ‘The Truth About Denial’, p. 21) noting the corporate media has been especially guilty in its misplaced notions of objectivity and fairness since they:

qualified every mention of human influence on climate change with ‘some scientists believe’ when the reality is that the vast preponderance of scientific opinion accepts that human-induced greenhouse emissions are contributing to warming”.

Thus, as she notes, “the pursuit of balance has not done justice”

Begley also notes (ibid.)

"In April, 1998, a dozen people from the denial machine – including the Marshall Institute- Fred Singer’s group (of contrarian scientists) and Exxon- met at the American Enterprise Institute’s Washington headquarters. They proposed a $5 million campaign, according to a leaked eight-page memo, to convince the public that the science of global warming is riddled with controversy and uncertainty. The plan was to train up to 20 respected climate scientists on media – and public- outreach, with the aim of ‘raising questions and undercutting the prevailing wisdom’”

Meanwhile, Lindzen, one of the leading skeptic scientists, is actually a member of the Science, Health, and Economic Advisory Council of a Maryland-based think tank funded by large fossil fuel corporations such as Exxon. Lindzen is perhaps best remembered for his “water-vapor- negative feedback thermostat” theory which proposed that whatever warming occurred would be negated by a negative feedback cooling effect. Thus, greater warming would lead to a greater condensation of water vapor and increased drying and cooling of the troposphere above 5 km. This process to act as a “thermostat” so global warming could never ever get out of control. Alas, Lindzen had to ditch this pet theory when detailed studies showed it to be poppycock. But this is the kind of poppycock that sells in the denier world. Anything they can latch on to in order to show either: a) no manmade warming is occurring, or b) if it is there are natural mechanisms to control it.

In November 2004, Lindzen was quoted saying he'd be willing to bet that the earth's climate will be cooler in 20 years than it is today. When British climate researcher James Annan contacted him, however, Lindzen would only agree to take the bet if Annan offered a 50-to-1 payout. Seems to me Lindzen is less certain of his skeptic bilge than he portrays. Surely he ought to take an odds even bet!

Sallie Baliunas staked her claim to fame in a 2003 paper (with Willie Soon) purporting to show that warming is nowhere near as severe as portrayed. Of course, to achieve that goal, she had to use some murky statistics - using 50-year intervals instead of the 30-year ones wherein the warming factors are expoosed.

Bottom line, anyone - be it blogger, media maven, or think tank hack - who cites any of these "climate scientists" can be assured of merely recycling memes from the fossil fuel industries, lobbies.

2) They claim that humans are too weak, pathetic and puny to affect a whole planet.

This one embodies just plain ignorance or mayhap, abject idiocy. It certainly doesn't say much for the claimant's level of awareness or consciousness. The history of human efects in the 20th century is a;ready well documented in thousands of journal pages.

For example, a residual global cooling effect emerged in the late 1960s- early 1970s, owing to the concentration of polluting particulates in the atmosphere. This general effect later came to be called "global dimming" because the effect of the particulates was to block sunlight as well as infrared radiation or heat from getting through. Today, we understand that - as efforts to remove these pollutants have proceeded (starting with the Clean Air Act in the U.S.) the effects of global warming have become much more pronounced. This is understandable since earlier the global dimming had MASKED up to two thirds of global warming. Obviously then, removing the hard particulates that subdue warming will unleash it.

Then there was the erosion of the ozone layer in the 70s, caused by enormous inputs of CFCs or chloro-flourocarbons. Each CFC molecule, as the late Carl Sagan pointed out in a 1979 article, was capable of eliminating tens of thousands of ozone molecules - that form the protective barrier against harsh UV or ultraviolet radiation. The type that causes more skin cancers and cataracts. Humans caused this massive ozone erosion, which reached up to 70% of the ozone layer over the South Pole by late 1979- and they repaired it, by eliminating most or all CFCs.

Finally, the "man can't do it" birdbrains forget the acid rain outbreaks in the 1980s when sulphur dioxide (SO2) from factories under the action of a catalyst, caused sulphuric acid (H2So4) to form and fall with rain, wrecking many crops world wide- even in nations that didn't feature heavy SO2 polluting industries. Again, humans caused this havoc - no god came out of the sky and threw magic bolts to do it, and humans solved it. They solved it by regulating SO2 emissions - which one would have thought was common sense.

In the same way, CO2 emissions can be regulated, as well as those of other greenhouse gases.

My point is that humans can and do affect the planet, in neutral, beneficial and harmful ways. Right now the harmful ways are outweighing the neutral and beneficial.

3) It would cost too much and wreck the economy to cut CO2 emissions

This is another load of nonsense. It is especially remarkable since it comes mainly from market worshippers who assert that under any other conditions, capitalism is "flexible" and can find a solution. So why not here? Where is the imagination, the drive? For example, in many European nations, green industries are now driving the economies and assuring higher levels of employment can be sustained. Why not in the U.S.? Maybe, just maybe - because the established energy-hog industries and polluters don't want competition?

Indeed, in The Wall Street Journal - the "bible" of free market capitalism, an article appeared on April 8, 2008 ('Climate Change Opportunity’ ) noting that “Solving global warming will be an added cost – but a bargain compared to the economic costs of unchecked climate change. And fixing this problem will create an historic economic opportunity

The author goes so far as to say that whoever solves the problem to find suitable sources of clean energy will make a “megafortune”. Indeed, Europe has already shown the way to green profits in many respects. The trick is to get on board sooner than later, because the longer the delay the greater the inevitable costs for transfer in the end.

Finally, let me say I advocate Cheney's "1% solution" - but here applied to global warming. As readers may recall, in the book, "The One Percent Solution", former VP Dick Cheney was quoted as saying that if the chance of an Al Qaeda attack is even 1%, then it means going all out to protect ourselves. It is worth using every resource to get the job done, damned the expense.

Global warming, if the runaway effect kicks in - which is now a better than 50-50 proposition, would basically have ten trillion times the negative effects of the worst imagined Al Qaeda attack, no matter how big. Thus, if the Cheney "1% doctrine" holds for Al Qaeda defense, common sense tells us it ought to hold with even more force for the runaway greenhouse effect.

What?! Spend hundreds of billions to protect against an event that has only a 50% chance of happening? When is THAT ever done???

Every day! It's called buying insurance! Your chance of getting into a car wreck on any given day may be only 1 in 100, but are you going to stop paying auto insurance because you think it's a waste? More to the point, the chance of a massive fire destroying your home is maybe 1 in 200, but are you going to cancel your home insurance because it's "too expensive"? Don't think so! The whole idea is to prepare for events that, while relatively remote, don't wreak ultimate havoc.

Next: My basic Thermal Physics test.