Wednesday, October 31, 2007

One Word

On the phone with Jon just now I asked him to describe himself in one adjective. I answered for him by ejecting "carefree!"

A Summary of the Tentative Conclusions I Made From My Climate Research

Here are my own answers to my Climate Change survey. In writing these down, I was tempted to go into detail and cite all my sources, but I decided just to summarize my view in the clearest language I can. If you are interested in getting further information on any of these tentative conclusions, let me know.

1. Has the globe been heating up?
The mean global temperature has risen a bit over the last 120 years, but it is still about 16 degrees Celsius.
We aren't entirely certain of exactly how much it has risen.
We aren't entirely certain of the exact timeline associated with this.
We aren't entirely certain of what the relevant timeline to look at is.

2. What are the causes of this?
The causes are primarily natural.
The primary natural cause is the sun.
Natural atmospheric carbon dioxide plays a marginal role.
There are also causes associated with human activity.
The primary human cause is the creation of urban areas that heat their immediate surroundings.
Another human cause is local deforestation.
Human generated atmospheric carbon dioxide plays a marginal role.

3. Will the globe continue to do so?
We aren't entirely certain exactly how much.
We aren't entirely certain of the exact timeline associated with this.

4. What will be the effects of this?
The warming trend will bring environmental and societal gains and losses, but will likely bring a net minor benefit to the globe as a whole.
The sea level might rise a couple of inches in places.
If the Antarctic trend continues, the continent will have significantly more ice 100 years from now, and Antarctica contains 99% of the world's ice, so a net rise in sea level is unlikely.
Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, and Alaska might gain a centimeter of useable latitude.
My Dad might sell one more air conditioning unit over the course of the century.

5. Is there a scientific consensus on this?
It seems that most scientists agree that the globe is warming due to natural and human related causes, including solar variations and the Urban Heat Island Effect. Most scientists agree that CO2 has some effect. Most scientists agree that atmospheric CO2 is increasing.

Though there is legitimate disagreement about a lot issues related to these things, such as how much warming will likely occur, how much of an impact human generated atmospheric CO2 can have, and whether a little warming will be bad.

Many scientists, even Global Warming theorists, agree that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is largely influenced by the mean global temperature, and not the other way around.

There is a decently large intergovernmental consensus on the necessity for alarm.

6. How should we proceed?
We should mitigate genuine pollution.
We should study the climate.
We should blind scientists to their funding.
We should invest in the developing world.
We should encourage a free exchange of ideas.
We should continue to perform and esteem peer review.
We should rethink how we patronize our news sources.
We should not worry about CO2 emissions.
We should hold politicians accountable for their claims.
We should require transparency of all our authorities on all subjects.

7. Should we ratify Kyoto?
No, nor anything similar.

8. Do you have any other notes?
Al Gore is a fraud by anyone's standards.

Check out this clip:

Casual propagation of the major claims of the Global Warming theorists only serves to further convince the general public that there is reason to prevent the developing world from developing, purchase carbon credits that will likely line the pockets of the biggest carbon emitters in society, initiate unnecessary policies that will stifle the economy, and split prizes with politicians who get criticized even by Global Warming theorists.

It is very difficult to accurately record temperatures long-term or worldwide. It is also extremely difficult to measure sea level (which makes sense). We should distinguish between local weather patterns and long-term global trends. Global climate is non-linear and chaotic, in the technical sense of the term. Correlation does not imply causation.

There is propaganda, bias, and corruption in both major camps.

Brush your teeth. Feed the poor. Recycle. Think critically about how to study and manage the environment. Invest in science. Rebel against censorship. Love humans. Be a good citizen. Write to local newspapers and congressmen. Enjoy public beaches and natural foods.

Also, instead of using inflammatory terms like "Global Warming alarmists" and "Global Warming deniers", we should opt for more neutral terms like "Global Warming theorists", and "Global Warming skeptics" where possible.

Further Reading:
Climate Skeptic
Global Warming

If you want to be really fair and balanced, you should really read what the critics of any survey or argument say about it. Then hunt down the original source's response, and continue oscillating until you get to the end of the published conversation. But don't assume that the guy who got the last word in has everything right. Examine the data and weigh the testimonies. Then, don't stand by your conclusions if new evidence pops up that seems to undermine your original conclusions. Investigate it. Godspeed and good luck.

Parting Remarks:
While we should recycle and generally study and care for the environment, we shouldn't buy Kyoto, carbon credits, or anything like them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rhetorical Values List: First Draft

Italo Calvino inspired me vicariously through Jon Wright. Instead of literary virtues however, I want to think about broad and ultimate rhetorical ideals. My intention is to produce a short list with ultimate yet specific enough and distinct values such that, if any given piece of rhetoric truly satisfies all of them, no further changes will ever be necessary - or even helpful. Here is the list I have so far:

1. Relevance
2. Accuracy
3. Precision
4. Concision
5. Clarity
6. Completeness
7. Eloquence

What do you think? Do any of the values overlap unnecessarily? Are any less than ideal? Are any missing?

Propaganda: A Case Study

A story syndicated in the October 23rd edition of Washington's Spokesman Review (one of the "two worst" newspapers in the United States, according to Harry Truman, by the way) is syndicated from the Associated Press. In the opening paragraph it says alarming new study finds that carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere faster than expected.
Now, it may be true that such a study was conducted, and that carbon dioxide is in fact increasing in the atmosphere, and at an unexpected speed.

But publishing such information implies that it's relevant.

Setting the Record Straight on Propaganda

Princeton University's lexical database defines "propaganda" as "information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause" (think of "propagate"). The term may be used to occasionally point out information that may be true, but whose presentation is motivated by an agenda.

The other day my friend, whose preferred candidate is Ron Paul, sent me an email entitled "Ron Paul Propaganda". In it were a series of links to videos and websites in support of Ron Paul. It was merely descriptive, but it helps to keep things in perspective.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fill out this Climate Change survey today!

I am curious about you. What do you think about Global Warming? Here's your chance to casually voice your opinion without fear of judgment or criticism, for I promise to abstain from both (really, I do).

Answer as many or as few of the following questions as you want to, and feel free to add your own:
1. Has the globe been heating up?

2. What are the causes of this?

3. Will the globe continue to do so?

4. What will be the effects of this?

5. Is there a scientific consensus on this?

6. How should we proceed?

7. Should we ratify Kyoto?

8. Do you have any other notes?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Climate Consensus, Part II: Falsity [UPDATED]

Claim: The majority of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles about Global Climate Change explicitly accept the "consensus" view, that the earth has been warming at an unnaturally rapid pace, that human activity is a significant contributor to this, and that it will have devastating effects on mankind and the environment if not stopped.

Status: False (but irrelevant).

Origin: Science apparently presented the first empirical evidence in support of a unanimous consensus on the major issues of Global Warming:
...That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

-Naomi Oreskes, BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
That's pretty convincing. But there are problems with Naomi's study. And the good news is that even you can duplicate the study that undermines it:
Oreskes claims to have analysed 928 abstracts she found listed on the ISI database using the keywords "climate change". However, a search on the ISI database using the keywords "climate change" for the years 1993 - 2003 reveals that almost 12,000 papers were published during the decade in question (2). What happened to the countless research papers that show that global temperatures were similar or even higher during the Holocene Climate Optimum and the Medieval Warm Period when atmospheric CO2 levels were much lower than today; that solar variability is a key driver of recent climate change, and that climate modeling is highly uncertain?

These objections were put to Oreskes by science writer David Appell. On 15 December 2004, she admitted that there was indeed a serious mistake in her Science essay. According to Oreskes, her study was not based on the keywords "climate change," but on "global climate change" (3)...

Since the results looked questionable, I decided to replicate the Oreskes study.


I analysed all abstracts listed on the ISI databank for 1993 to 2003 using the same keywords ("global climate change") as the Oreskes study. Of the 1247 documents listed, only 1117 included abstracts (130 listed only titles, author(s)' details and keywords). The 1117 abstracts analysed were divided into the same six categories used by Oreskes (#1-6), plus two categories which I added (# 7, 8):...

7. natural factors of global climate change
8. unrelated to the question of recent global climate change


The results of my analysis contradict Oreskes' findings and essentially falsify her study:

Of all 1117 abstracts, only 13 (or 1%) explicitly endorse the 'consensus view'...

This is not to deny that there is a majority of publications that, although they do not empirically test or confirm the view of anthropogenic climate change, go along with it by applying models based on its basic assumptions. Yet, it is beyond doubt that a sound and unbiased analysis of the full ISI databank will find hundreds of papers (many of which were written by the world's leading experts in the field) that have raised serious reservations and outright rejection of the concept of a "scientific consensus on climate change". The truth is, that there is no such thing!

- Dr. Benny Peiser The letter Science Magazine refused to publish
Hence the importance of peer review in the first place, I guess.

Dr. Peiser's personal webpage can be found here.

Fair enough. You might think. But I am sure that the few, proud leading climate physicists are convinced of the major claims of Global Warming. Au contraire. Let's examine two case studies: Claude Allegre and Richard Lindzen.

Here's the deal with Allegre:
Claude Allegre, a former government official and an active member of France’s Socialist Party, wrote an editorial on September 21, 2006 in the French newspaper L'Express titled “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (For English Translation, click here) detailing his newfound skepticism about manmade global warming (click here). Allegre wrote that the “cause of climate change remains unknown” and pointed out that Kilimanjaro is not losing snow due to global warming, but to local land use and precipitation changes. Allegre also pointed out that studies show that Antarctic snowfall rate has been stable over the past 30 years and the continent is actually gaining ice...

- U. S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Richard Lindzen is a climate physicist at MIT, and has been studying climate for over 40 years. He even wrote one of the chapters in one of the IPCC's very own reports. While concurring with a lot of the claims of Global Warming theorists, such as that the earth has been warming, and human generated carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere,
he parts company with the IPCC [regarding] the extent to which this increasing concentration can cause warming, or in other words, how much man is influencing the climate.
Regarding the IPCC report itself, Lindzen
does believe that this was well carried out and resulted in statements that were couched in suitably uncertain terms. However, he objects to the way that this document was then used to prepare the summary for policy makers, a process that involved people from government, industry and environmental organizations as well as scientists. If that was not bad enough, he says, the summary for policy makers was then further stripped down by the press, eager for a good story, and politicians, keen to play up the significance of the report as much as possible in order, as he says, to "co-opt the authority of scientists".

Lindzen, however, reserves his greatest wrath for scientists who are not climate-research specialists but who, as he sees it, try to exploit their authority in the climate-change debate. For these people, he says, there is a "special place in hell".

- Edwin Cartlidge, A climate of alarm.
Why do they do it then? Why do reporters and politicians continuously claim that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the major issues of Global Warming? If I were trying to convict the media of murder, I would need to sell the you on a motive.

I don't want to demonize those who disagree with me.

Instead I will say that in light of the evidence, the necessity for the media to sell the jury on an alibi should be much more pressing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Climate Consensus, Part I: Irrelevance [UPDATED]

Claim: The majority of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles about Global Climate Change explicitly accept the "consensus" view, that the earth has been warming at an unnaturally rapid pace, that human activity is a significant contributor to this, and that it will have devastating effects on mankind and the environment if not stopped.

Status: Irrelevant (but false).

Origin: The first empirical evidence in support of a unanimous consensus on the major claims of Global Warming is discussed in Part II of this discussion. But it's propagated by the general public, as well as many Global Warming theorists themselves.

In a comment at the bottom of the above linked article, a Global Warming theorist named Eric himself says
...I would emphasize the general point that it is important to separate the question of the existence of a consensus from the question of the correctness of that consensus...
Then why do Global Warming theorists continually bring up the "consensus"? The scientific consensus used to be that the world was flat until the correctness of that consensus was challenged. Plate Tectonics and the Continental Drift theory were revolutionary at the time they were proposed. Darwin's theory of the origin of species by the means of Natural Selection rebutted the general scientific consensus of Spontaneous Generation at the time. Ptolemaic Astronomy was supplanted by Copernican Astronomy, as Newtonian Gravity was by Einsteinian Relativity. Somehow it turned out that Euclid was wrong.

We should be about examining the correctness of each scientific consensus. This is exactly what scientists do, and they love it when they're proved wrong, because their lives are committed to the evidence and they go where it leads.

I will answer my own question: The reason people keep citing the "consensus" is because the majority of people trust that the scientific zeitgeist is basically trustworthy.

And that's pretty much as it should be.

I don't expect every man to be a scientist for a living. Division of labor and specialization build efficient societies.

But the trust of the general public is easy to exploit, whether intentionally. Scientists aren't always unbiased. Politicians are rarely unbiased. Logically possible explanations of data sets aren't all always thoroughly analyzed. Findings aren't always presented in a straightforward manner. And overarching paradigms often govern research unchecked for years, decades, or sometimes centuries before being overturned. And that's just how life and science go.

I am not trying to cast doubt on the scientific method. Absolutely nothing could be any further from the truth. It's just the opposite:

Science is about testing hypotheses and eventually tentatively accepting a theory as an explanation and description of a wide class of phenomena and using it to make falsifiable predictions about the future. But, as one of 20th century's greatest astrophysicists, Stephen Hawking says
...any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation which disagrees with the predictions of the theory...

- Stephen Hawing, A Brief History of Time
It's perfectly acceptable to basically trust the overarching scientific paradigm of the day. But we should never, ever, censor the revolutionaries.

Revolution is built-in to the very heart of science.

It's helpful to investigate highly politicized and lucrative issues such as Global Warming.

Like smoking:
THE largest ever cardiology study has failed to find a link between heart attacks and the classic risk factors, such as smoking...

- Aisling Irwin, Science Correspondent, Study casts doubt on heart 'risk factors'
Of course smoking damages your health. Everyone knows that.

And yet, this 501(c)3 organization, to whom your donations are tax deductible, is committed to unbiased scientific research:
...FORCES is an organization in support of scientific integrity and the use of appropriate scientific methodology in the science which is claimed to be at the foundation of public policy.
But there is a reason why this organization exists:
FORCES International is an organisation in support of... the defence of those who expect... to smoke, eat, drink and, in general, to enjoy personal lifestyle choices without restrictions and state interference.

- FORCES International, Who We Are
Everybody has an agenda.

Our Global Warming theorist Eric goes on in his comment to say:
Those who wish to argue the consensus is wrong would do better to find convincing ways to disprove the consensus view (which will be very hard to do, but we will all praise you as a great scientist if you succeed), rather than fruitless attempts to disprove the existence of the consensus itself (which will be impossible).
And I agree. But the reverse holds true as well. Those who wish to argue the "consensus" is correct would do better to demonstrate that the "consensus" is in fact correct, rather than repeatedly insisting that it exists.

A Second Defense [UPDATED]

I originally posted a link to a speech by Michael Crichton on Global Warming, saying that it basically represented my view. I was excited to receive a comment from Fris, which I responded to. Fris replied to that response, and I here interact with that reply. He says
Fris spoke to Crichton's book The State of Fear as... Crichton's speech's position... is based on the same information.
Fair enough.
The review... is... an examination of the information... The point of the review is that Crichton has cherry picked facts... This is what the article's author Chris Mooney's question "but are they?", in response to The State of Fear's epigraph saying it's footnotes are real, was in reference to.

That Crichton uses facts provided by legitimate scientists out of context validates only his facility for spin.
This is a fair representation of the article's point. And it's true that Crichton pulls facts out of their contexts.

But the context of a fact doesn't have anything to do with whether the fact is true or false.

There are two components to an argument: its premises and its logic. If the premises are true and the reasoning is "valid", then the argument is "sound" and its conclusion is therefore true.

Since Crichton uses facts that are granted even by his opponents, we can generally accept them and move our attention to Crichton's reasoning.

If his facts are cherry picked and spun, it should be easy to demonstrate the fallacy in his argument. So why not do it?

A compelling criticism of Crichton's novel would have been an undermining defeater of his logical analysis of the facts, rather than a shameless red herring.

Another way to critique Crichton would be to present a rebutting defeater of his argument, by furnishing even stronger evidence for a conclusion that is contradictory to his.

The review attempts neither. It simply calls attention to the fact that Crichton's opponents, who provided Crichton's very premises, happen to maintain different conclusions. I am still in search of the reasons why they hold such positions. I already know that they do.
Fris cited... the REFERENCES in the "Literary significance and criticism" section of the Wikipedia entry... [which was] more efficient...
Fair enough. Honestly, I do not mean to be antagonistic - I'm sorry if I come off that way. I do appreciate interaction and I am thankful for commentary on my blog.
Fris mentioned his discussions with his science minded friends conversationally as one reason he is not himself a climate skeptic. He did not realize his anecdote would be treated as sworn testimony and cross examined. As Fris sipped his coffee and hunt and pecked his keyboard, he knew neither that he was trying to persuade or that hearsay wouldn't be accepted to that end. This is probably why he began his closing paragraph with, "My feeling is that...", and not "One must conclude that...".
Again, fair enough. I don't mean to drag Fris into an argument he does not intend to have himself dragged into. Again, I am genuinely thankful for the interaction.

I would like to provide the caveat that casual propagation of the major claims of the Global Warming theorists only serves to further convince the general public that there is reason to panic, direct major funding toward the mitigation of carbon emissions instead of toward the developing world, prevent the developing world from developing so that they don't "pollute" the atmosphere with carbon dioxide like us, purchase carbon credits that will likely line the pockets of the biggest carbon emitters in society, initiate unnecessary policies that will stifle the economy, split million dollar peace prizes with politicians who get criticized even by Global Warming theorists, and support such politicians whose campaigns are based on the speculated state of a world 3-9 degrees warmer 100 years from now (an issue they conveniently can't be proved wrong about in their lifetimes) instead of on major issues in the here and now.

Don't get me wrong, I hate real pollution. My wife and I recycle. A lot. The Virtuous Consumer is my wife's favorite book. We ride our bikes. We buy local, organic, and fair trade. But if a policy comes at a severe cost and it's based on a false belief, then we should say "no thank-you". I would be more than willing to fund and legislate up the wazoo to mitigate a genuine "looming catastrophe".

Lastly, I appreciate the link to Fris' friend's blog. I read every post on Global Warming, and it was very informational. The blog as a whole is pretty cool too.


David may have enjoyed a little too much of the fruit of the vine before writing this one.
You know what... you know what I love to do? I love to write muuuuusickkk when I've had a couple glasses of wine
What the heck is "hoarfrost"?

- Inspired by Paul Teves

Court-Sanctioned, Forceful Conversion of Catholic "Cultists"

According to this website, the "Boone County Cult Watch" is the
number 2 non-profit cult-watch service supporting the Mid-Missouri Area.
Fair enough. But what kind of cults are they watching for? The site lists three: Devotants of Mahlegeth (the link to whose information page is blocked by my filter), Scientology, and Catholicism.

Catholicism? You might be thinking. Yep. On their page providing
knowledge and common sense
parents, educators, and clergy
in order to
help stop cults in their tracks!
they give a pretty decent summary of the history of the major branches of Christianity, and a basic summary of Roman Catholic distinctives.

But here's what got me. Guess what they do once they find a teen caught up in the "cult" of Catholicism?

There are five steps.

Extraction is the process of physically removing the "subject" from the cult environment. The group admits that
often... the brainwashing of the cult is too strong and the extraction process has to be confrontational and forcible.
But wait - isn't it illegal to kidnap a teen? Isn't religious freedom like, protected under the constitution? Apparently this extraction is carried out with the consent of the county...
the BCCW Deprogramming squad will legally obtain a detention warrant from the Boone County Municipal Court
But what if the Catholic teen resists? Don't worry, they've got that covered too:
"Armed Evangelicals" are liscened bondsmen who have the legal authority to carry both non-lethal and lethal enforcement aides to carry out the court-sanctioned detention warrant.
After they abduct the Catholic teen, the subject is escorted to the "compound", which
is legally registered as a mental health facility and the subject is legally bound to remain in treatment until we find him "emotionally fit for societal integration"
The treatment includes the following four steps.

In order to make it clear to the subject that their actions were wrong, the BCCW is
fully certified to use the following techniques: councilling, group therapy, peer therapy, meditation, hypnosis, drug therapy, shock therapy, therapeutic food/sleep deprivation, and regression therapy.
So they drug, hypnotize, shock, and deprive the subject of food and sleep until his or her "will is broken".

The subject is academically trained on how a "normal society should operate". Topics of study include American History and Spiritual Guidance.

The subject is then trained on how to "become an ideal citizen". They are given "more privacy", allowed to run small errands, and allowed to make friends with anyone the BCCW allows through their screening.

I will just cut and paste this part, since it really is unbelievable:
...once the subject has been re-educated and re-integratred into society we can then save their soul. We will not release anyone from our program until they complete all five stages. As a certified mental health facility Missouri state law ensures that no one leaves our care unless we release them as "mentally sound" or by a court ordered release.
In order to take action against this organization, I decided to investigate further. But they are difficult to track down.

Their website is hosted by GeoCities, so their domain registration information isn't helpful. They list no contact information other than a Yahoo email address, and a Google search for the NCDF, the national organization with whom the BCCW is registered, yielded no results. Neither did a search for the word "cult" on the NCF website.

They must be taking great efforts to fly below our radar.

I emailed Eunice, the "founder", asking for help, but haven't yet received a reply.

So I called the Boone County Municipal Circuit Clerk, who gave me the number for the County Administrator (which is 815/547-4770, by the way), who transferred me to the Sheriff. Nobody admitted any connection to the BCCW.

The question now: what to do about it? I need your help!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Two Favorite Websites

Great Info on Website Feeds

A site feed is a machine-readable representation of your blog that can be picked up and displayed on other web sites and information aggregation tools.

- Blogger Help
For further reading, check out the Feed, RSS, and Atom entries on Wikipedia.

Two popular ways to use feeds are on your Google Homepage or in Google Reader. Apple's Safari internet browser (Mac + PC) also has built-in ways of "subscribing" to site feeds.

Here are links to The Constellation Hypothesis' feeds:

Blog Posts
Blog Post Comments

You can find the feed for the comments on any given individual post by clicking on its title. Underneath the text of the post, you will see "Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)"

Each Blog Label also has its own feed, so that if you wanted to keep track of all the posts labeled "Computer Tools", you would use this feed: Tools

You can replace "Computer Tools" with the name of any of the blog labels I have used to find the feed for that label.

You can also find the feed for any word you want. For example:


The above feed will return all of my posts that contain the word "God". Just replace "God" with whatever you want.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Insomnia Entry

Daniel told me about his friend Andrew Fisher, who submitted a video to Apple's Insomnia contest. It's pretty cool.

Why Jesus Was NOT a Jew

Just kidding.

There are only two types of people in the world.

Those who appreciate dichotomies, and those who don't.

In Defense of Climate Skepticism

In my first post on Global Warming I said that I basically agree with a speech that Michael Crichton gave in Washington DC.

I got a comment from Fris, who doesn't interact with the arguments that Crichton makes in the speech I cited. Rather, Fris brings up Crichton's fictional novel, State of Fear. Admitting that he has not yet read it, Fris says that he has
read several reviews of the book and deconstructions of [its] thesis.
Fris cites one review of the book, found here. After an introduction, the review proceeds thusly:
As he intones in his epigraph, ''Footnotes are real.''

But are they? Certainly Crichton's numerous citations refer to actual scientific publications. But in many cases, they also reference the work of scientists who accept the mainstream scientific view that human greenhouse gas emissions fuel global climate change.

(emphases mine)
I don't get it. If Crichton's citations refer to actual scientific publications, how are they not "real" footnotes?

As for the fact that many of the works cited are written by scientists who disagree with Crichton's conclusions, this is something he readily admits in the book. But think about it...

The fact that Crichton uses facts provided by legitimate scientists, many of whom happen to disagree with his conclusions, validates his citations, not undermines them!

And as for Crichton's conclusions, you should evaluate his arguments on your own. Don't doubt yourself and make a blunder out of fear.

The rest of the article is mediocre. If you want an even better criticism of Crichton's novel, try this one.

After, Fris cites the "Literary significance and criticism" section of the Wikipedia entry on the novel and calls it
pretty compelling.
This section simply says that the novel
received strong criticism from climate scientists,[1][2][3][4][5] science journalists[6][7] and environmental groups[8][9]...

The novel received the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) 2006 Journalism Award.

State of Fear: Literary significance and criticism. (2007, October 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:49, October 24, 2007, Available online.
What are we to be compelled to believe? It is a fact that the novel received those criticisms and that journalism award.

Then Fris cites his
Physicist friends
who are
not climatologists
but, he assures us,
their minds have... a scientific bent and a genuine interest in the global climate change phenomenon.
Fris testifies that they are
all of the opinion that evidence for the current global warming trend being inexorably linked to the activities of mankind is conclusive.
Now, I appreciate the information that Fris' friends hold such an opinion, but I can only give so much weight to it when I calculate the net evidence on either side of the issue.

What would be more persuasive is if I could actually see the conclusive evidence that persuaded them in the first place, since I would then have the opportunity to evaluate it for myself.

It's just that with testimonies on either side of the issue I am simply forced to do my best to examine and evaluate the evidence and make up my own mind, even though I respect and weight the positions of others.

Fris concludes
My feeling is that State of Fear, like The Da Vinci Code has people taking fiction for fact. The difference being Dan Brown clearly states that his book is made up whereas Michael Crichton claims his is grounded in fact.
Well, Crichton's fictional novel is just that, and he never denies it. But even his critics consent to the only factual claim he makes: that his footnotes reference genuine scientific articles.

Not that it's relevant to Global Warming, but I refer you to Wikipedia regarding Dan Brown's claims that his book is grounded in fact:
The book opens with the claim by Dan Brown that "The Priory of Sion- A European secret society founded in 1099- is a real organization" and that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents [...] and secret rituals in this novel are accurate"; but this claim is disputed by almost all academic scholars in the fields the book discusses [10]. The Priory of Sion itself was not a real secret society established in 1099 but actually a hoax created in 1956 by a Mr. Pierre Plantard.

As widely noted in the media, there has been substantial confusion among readers about whether the book is factual. Numerous works have been published that explain in detail why any claim to accuracy is difficult to substantiate, while two lawsuits have been brought alleging plagiarism in The Da Vinci Code. The second, by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail claiming textual infringement of copyright, was found in Dan Brown's favor.

Dan Brown himself dilutes the suggestion of some of the more controversial aspects being fact on his web site: "The "FACT" page makes no statement whatsoever about any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters. Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader." [11]. However, it also says that "these real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters", "it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit." and "the secret behind The Da Vinci Code was too well documented and significant for me to dismiss." It is therefore entirely understandable why there would continue to be confusion as to what is the factual content of the book.

Brown's earlier statements about the accuracy of the historical information in his book, however, were far more strident. In 2003, while promoting his novel, he was asked in interviews what parts of the history in his novel actually happened. He replied "Absolutely all of it." In a 2003 interview with CNN's Martin Savidge he was again asked how much of the historical background was true. He replied, "99 percent is true ... the background is all true". Asked by Elizabeth Vargas in an ABC News special if the book would have been different if he had written it as non-fiction he replied, "I don't think it would have." [12] More recently Brown has avoided interviews and has been rather more circumspect about the accuracy of his claims in his few public statements. He has also, however, never retracted any of his earlier assertions that the history in the novel is accurate, despite substantial academic criticism of his claims.

The Da Vinci Code. (2007, October 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:40, October 24, 2007. Available online.

The Logos

The Evangelist says that God is love. I saw an episode of Oprah once where she reasoned
If God is love, then Love is god.
I thought it was pretty funny. And false.

I am in the middle of a large, self-structured reading campaign. My present project is W. V. O. Quine's Methods of Logic. I got to thinking this morning about something else The Evangelist says: God is logic ("logos" gets translated into our English "word"). There is a lot of cultural and textual context to this verse, but my simple reflection this morning is as follows:

When I am studying logic, I am studying God's nature.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that I am asserting that logic is God. Or that logic represents the full spectrum of God's nature. Love doesn't either. But both consist in God.

The Theologian

St. Thomas Aquinas is called that because of where he's from. And since all followers of God are "saints", his prefix doesn't help distinguish him. Therefore he is sometimes simply called "Thomas".

In his Summa Theologica, he refers to Aristotle simply as "The Philosopher". Then he starts calling Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), simply "The Apostle". While I was reading it a while back, I began to wonder if he was ever going to reference John, and if so, what would his nickname be? Turns out he calls him "The Evangelist".

I always thought it would be cool to subtly reference Aquinas himself simply as "The Theologian". I doubt people would get it though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Handy Mac OS X Clipboard Tool

I use Jumpcut all the time. It lets you access previous clipboard additions (when you copy or cut text, it goes to your system's "clipboard"). I added it to my login items (system preferences > accounts > login items), so that it's always on - it doesn't take up any system resources, really. It's nice to be able to paste the thing I copied just one or two copies ago.

Global Group Think

For my friends who have seen me say things in one direction or the other about global warming and are left wondering what my official position is, I have a link. This will take you to a speech that Michael Crichton gave in Washington DC.

You probably know Crichton for writing Jurassic Park or creating the TV show ER. But don't make the fallacy of thinking that a talented author/screenwriter/director/producer can't handle matters of science. Crichton has a doctorate from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. His speech uses mostly published UN/IPCC data. Don't judge the man, judge the argument.

As of this date and time, I basically hold Crichton's views. Since I think he says it better than me, and this page is concise and covers most of the bases, I will let you read it for yourself.

Here it is.

Let me know what you think.

Don't tell me you don't know what Guitar Hero is.

No joke: The entire collection of every song from all four Guitar Heros is available on iTunes. Or you can just buy one of the "Essentials" packages.

That's rad.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nasal and Aural Delight

The scent of Java's restroom is like some sort of citrus, but it is creamy, too - like a sharp orange cream or something. I get a whiff of it whenever someone goes in or out and swings the door open or closed. The scent itself is subtle, but it's pervasive, so that when I inhale I get a smooth, even stream of daydream-inspiring euphoria. It is genuinely elating.

And combined with the sounds of Dashboard's "The Rush" the experience puts me over the top. Climactic.

Oh wait - now I can smell some sort of comforting, softly spicy food being prepared off to my right. No joke: this is a really enjoyable time for me. Really.


Mother Teresa's Legacy

So Mother Teresa's notes were published posthumously and against her will. It turns out that, like all of us, she had struggles and questions and doubts and fears.

How humanizing.

Did she lack faith? Don Johnson absolutely nails it:
Christian faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 11:1). At least two issues about this definition need to be addressed.

First, Christian faith is not an embrace of irrationality or lack of evidence. It is trusting, based on evidence already presented, that something will occur in the future (or has occurred in the past, in rare instances)...

Second, the mark of biblical faith is not one hundred percent emotional and intellectual certainty. It is obedience.
I esteem Teresa's legacy, and it gives me inspiration to think that despite a shortcoming of 100% emotional and intellectual certainty, she evaluated the evidence and then played her cards. That is precisely what Jesus calls for. That is faith.

Don's article is worth the read. So is the Time one I guess. Your choice.


Quick question: is your Safari screwed up?

On FireFox my blog looks normal, but today for some reason Safari is rendering it funny. Is anyone else having problems with Safari?

Dude, its cold here.

Orange is scheduled to have a high of 99 degrees tomorrow, while Coeur d'Alene has lows below freezing this week. Sheesh.

Ye Olde Calvin

Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day; set him on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.

-John Calvin

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Look what I can do...

Hover over THIS word. Do it.

Equine Cruelty

Have you ever told someone "there's no sense beating a dead horse?"
Honestly, you beat living horses? That's just sad.

Ye Olde Dashboard

Dashboard Confessional just released a new album, "The Shade of Poison Trees". It is somewhat of a return to his earlier acoustic-sounding tunes, but if he had released it right after "Swiss Army Romance" or even "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most", it would still have been labeled "progressive".

I, for one, like it a lot. And I just discovered that it makes for an exemplary work-out mix.


There is a fine line between coherent and circular.

2 + 2 Cambrian Explosion Links

I was talking to someone close to me who wasn't sure of what I meant by the phrase "Cambrian Explosion".

Here are two links from the mainstream macroevolutionary perspective:
Public Broadcasting Service

Here are two links from the antimacroevolutionary perspective:
Discovery Institute
Answers in Genesis

I like romantic comedies.

So sue me.

How NOT to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

My wife and I watched "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" last night. One thing I like about that movie is that it subtly demonstrates the power of commitment.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

You are all you've got.

In a lesson on the psychology of chess competition found in Chessmaster 9000, Josh Waitzkin says:
You are all you've got in chess.
Sometimes it's tempting to overestimate your opponent and make a blunder out of fear. But you should simply ask yourself what your opponent's plan is, and whether it is a good one. You have to analyze the game with the processing skills that you've got within your own mind, and trust your own conclusions, because you are all you've got.

Outside the game, you can talk to others. But is it really any different? You still have to process what they say. You have to process their arguments. You have to weight their testimonies according to a heuristic of your own design.

You are all you've got in life, too.

When my little sister Laura was really young, she would hold up her left hand and, showing three fingers on her right, she would sweep down four of the fingers on her left hand, saying:
Five, take away three is... one!
Laura didn't understand how subtraction worked. When she first learned how to perform subtractive operations, it was only because she went through the steps and trusted that the conclusions were correct. It wasn't because she apprehended the concept with her mind.

Somebody sold her on the validity of a method of subtraction.

I experienced something similar as an adult. I had to do some calculus in a physical science lab. I was sold on the method. I performed the steps in the right order and confirmed the conclusion in the back of the book. And I trusted it. But I still don't fully grasp the genuine mathematical truths of each step. I don't really actually fully know why it is that such a list of steps produces the correct answer to a given problem.

I couldn't have invented calculus. I just trust that it is veridical if done properly.

I am sure Laura has since been able to fully grasp what is being represented when subtraction is performed. I am sure she now understands why 5 - 3 = 2 and not just that it is so.

But even still, hasn't she just been sold on the concept of subtraction?

Isn't it true that subtraction just somehow makes sense to her? She is capable of reason, but even reason is something she came to trust.

Think about it this way: there are some people who say that reason is their highest authority. Others disagree. But on what basis?

You are all you've got in life.

When evidence stacks up over your head on both sides of an argument, it's tempting to mistrust yourself, and make a blunder.

This makes me think. As the evidence in favor of a position builds, my certainty builds. But at what point should I start believing in something, if I cannot find a conclusive, sound, deductive argument for or against it? At what point do I reorient my life? At what point in the process do I start living as if it were true? It has to happen sometime. And it will happen when I feel satisfied that I have evaluated enough evidence.


What determines that threshold?

Have you ever had somebody explain something to you and they got so upset because you didn't just understand it and believe it at the first go-around? They thought it was so obvious - it was like simple math!

But you weren't sold on it yet.

You had to first understand it, then meditate on it for a little while. And in merely understanding it and meditating on it, you saw its truth. The person was frustrated because there wasn't anything more simple they could say to convince you. The truth was self-evident. And yet you somehow didn't get it the first time.

Why did you get it the second time?

All any of us can do is estimate the best fit lines through the stars.

Does this mean one should throw out reason?

For me, quite the contrary.

Does the UK have a constitution?

I was talking to someone close to me the other day who said something like that the United Kingdom doesn't have a constitution.
Why do they need a constitution? They are a monarchy!
It struck me as odd because I thought I had grown up calling their government a "constitutional monarchy" in school. So I looked it up, and you can read about it to your heart's content on Wikipedia:
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as head of state; the monarch of the UK also serves as head of state of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The UK uses a parliamentary government based on strong democratic traditions, a system that has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire.

The UK's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and law considered to be "constitutional law," the British Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change... The United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution...

-United Kingdom. (2007, October 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:36, October 20, 2007, Available online.
But THIS is much more interesting, trust me.  I thought the pomp about titles was bad enough in the securities firm I used to work at.

4 Types of Logical Evidence

If all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, it is evidence that Socrates is mortal.  This type of evidence is conclusive.  It is as airtight as accurate mathematical statements like 2 + 2 = 4.  If the premises are true, and the reasoning is "valid", then the argument is "sound". This is called deduction.

If all pictures observed hang on nails, it is evidence that all pictures hang on nails. This type of evidence is not conclusive like deduction is. It is called strong induction.

If I always hang pictures on nails, it is evidence that all pictures hang on nails. This type of evidence is weaker than strong induction, so it is called weak induction.

There is one other type of logical evidence, called abduction.  Abductive reasoning involves using your imagination to speculate about the likely cause of a phenomenon - inferring the best explanation.  The jury is still out regarding how abduction should be performed and how strong abductive evidence is.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I am very certain of very little.  But I can't stop the progress of time, so I have no choice but to make decisions based on incomplete data sets.  I have to choose the best fit lines.  I have to look at what I have in front of me, and draw a constellation in the sky with my finger.  I have to ask myself "what picture makes the most sense out of these stars?"

I hope I have a good imagination.