By JR on Sunday, February 14, 2016
The record year 2015 and what helped
Below is just a machine translation from the German of Frank Bosse und Fritz Vahrenholt. I didn't feel like tidying it up as I think the messages get through anyway. They note that 2015 officially was thirteen hundredths of a degree warmer than 2014 and ask why. They make the obvious point that El Nino was a big contributor but what I think is of particular interest is their attack on the retrospective and controversial "adjustments" to ocean temperature by Tom Karl -- adjustments that wiped out the "pause".
Bosse and Vahrenholt below use the Argo floats to test the changes. They find that for the period covered by the Argo floats, the "old" temperature statistics match the Argo record better than did Tom Karl's adjusted statistics. Since the Argo floats provide the best ocean temperature record by far, it is clear that Karl's adjustments are not validated. The "old" measurements are the best and the "pause" is back!
The last sentence below is also very interesting. The entire terrestrial record may by now be too corrupt for any reliance to be placed on it
The 2015 ended with a record: The temperature range GISS recorded +0.87 ° C anomaly compared to the reference period 1951-1981. These were further 0.13° C was observed over the previous year in 2014 globally. They rose strongly on ocean temperatures. A look back at a few months earlier record GISS of May 2015 shows that the global mean temperatures were 2014 then still appear lower by 0.06 ° C than in January 2016.
How can that be? In summer 2015, a correction of ocean temperatures was introduced, we had, among other things here reported. The trigger: The measurement methods for detecting the surface temperatures of the oceans (SST Sea Surface Temperature) changed from 1998. Whereas previously the SST determined from ships, often by the water temperature was measured in buckets or the sucked cooling water, you went to later precise measurements over buoys. This transition was, according to the scientists to T. Karl. By NOAA, a negative distortion, which is minimized (for obvious to warm measurements of the past down to the precise measurements of the presence of upward) with corrections This measure was taken very quickly for the global soil temperature series.
We want to assess the validity of the corrections by T. Karl shortly. As a reference, we use the most homogenous temperature range that is available for sea surface temperatures: The buoy measurements of the Argo program , which since 2004 provides fairly accurate and closely defined data error. We consider the temperatures of the upper 100m globally and comparing the uncorrected series ERSSTv3b and the realigned series ERSSTv4 (NOAA).
Figure 3: The annual mean SST for ERSSTv3b (v3b- black) and ERSStv4 (NOAA red) and the reference of Argo measurements (NODC- blue) with the resulting linear trend of global SST.
It is striking that the trends for the unadjusted series (black) and for very precise reference number of the buoys measurements (blue) are virtually indistinguishable, the adjusted series (red) but provides a stronger by about 50% rising trend since of 2004. The difference is caused by lower values in the past, and slightly higher in the present. The comparison with the most modern and authentic data on sea temperatures in any case does not justify the correction of the SST by T. Karl. To record in 2015 was the introduction of the new SST-series at about 0.04 ° C.......
Moreover, the satellite measurements of the troposphere show no record increase: both series of measurements, both UAH and RSS, enter 2015 just as the third warmest year since 1979. That the troposphere temperatures rise more slowly than soil temperatures is a state of affairs that does not reproduce the climate models. You expect it the other way around.
By JR on Saturday, February 13, 2016
Warmists are not the only secretive scientists
Obama: "The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide"
Warmists have always been rock-solid in refusing to follow the general scientific practice of making their raw data available to others for analysis. And on the big occasion when Warmist data did leak out we saw why. In constructing his hockeystick Michael Mann simply left out proxy data that did not suit him: Totally crooked. Tom Karl's controversial "adjustments" to sea-surface temperatures are also now under attack -- even requests from Congressional committees have not been sucessful in getting the data released.
So a failure to release data shouts loudly that the secretive scientists have something to hide. It shows that they have no confidence in their own conclusions. They fear that a re-analysis will arrive at conclusions different from theirs.
But these days Warmists are not the only unscientific ones. There is a lot at stake in today's "publish or perish" academic climate and it seems that people in lots of disciplines have been taking "shortcuts" to get their stuff published. The example below concerns a controversial medical study. Because of the great disbelief in the study's conclusions, it was a prime candidate for data release -- so that doubts could be set at rest for once and for all.
The authors have however dug their heels in so that really tells you all you need to know. There will now be no-one who trusts their conclusions.
What I find most pathetic is the shallow reasons given for refusing to release the data. Requests for the data are described as "harassment". Michael Mann does that too. A request for normal scientific courtesy is harassment? It may indeed be harassment if people keep asking for the data and the authors keep resisting but if they had released the data straight away there would have been no reason for multiple requests
The integrity of science as a whole now seems uncertain and faith in it is probably badly damaged.
Data sharing is all over academic news now. We had Research Parasites, a noxious species of scientists who want to analyse others’ published data without granting its “owners” co-authorships and a certain control over the interpretations. Then there is a major battle between patients and clinicians about the release of the original data from the so-called PACE trial, originally published in The Lancet, which analysed medical efficiency and economic costs of different therapies for chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). Since the PACE study came out in 2011, the patients, but also a number of academic scientists, remained unconvinced of the published therapy recommendations and suspected a misinterpretation of data. The authors felt harassed and even threatened by the patients’ incessant demands. The relevant research institutions, the Queen Mary University London and the King’s College London, took the side of their clinicians and refused the release of data, using as argument the allegedly inappropriate nature of such requests and the privacy rights of trial participants.
Importantly, the data sharing requests always concerned anonymised patient data, where names and any other personal information of the trial participants was specifically deleted, to avoid any even approximate identification and breach of privacy. Yet even then, several attempts of patients as well as academics, to obtain the anonymised PACE trial data were converted by the universities from academic inquiries into the bureaucratic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which were then repeatedly rejected. At the same time, some of the original PACE authors have been apparently somewhat critical of their original interpretations.
In 2012, a cost-effectiveness analysis of the PACE trial therapies was published in the open access journal PLOS One, where the authors by default had to agree “to make freely available any materials and information described in their publication that may be reasonably requested by others for the purpose of academic, non-commercial research”. James Coyne, professor of Health Psychology at the Dutch University Medical Center in Groningen, has since used this clause to demand the release of the published PACE data (Coyne is also an academic editor at PLOS One and writes a PLOS blog). His request was once again converted into a FOIA and turned down by King’s College London as being “vexatious” (just as Queen Mary University did before). The official letter to Coyne read:
“The university considers that there is a lack of value or serious purpose to your request. The university also considers that there is improper motive behind the request. The university considers that this request has caused and could further cause harassment and distress to staff”.
Nevertheless, PLOS One has issued an editorial notification saying:
“we are seeking further expert advice on the analyses reported in the article, and we will evaluate how the request for the data from this study relates to the policy that applies to the publication”.
Coyne, it seems, brings it in his blog post to the point:
“No one forced Peter White [lead author of PACE study,- LS] and colleagues to publish in an open access journal committed to data sharing, but by doing so they incurred an obligation. So, they should simply turn over the data”.
By JR on Friday, February 12, 2016
Phil the deceiver is back
I have had a fair bit of fun with Phil Plait's writings over the years. He is not even clever in his deceptions. Below he hails a new study as refuting the skeptical claim that scientists at NOAA and elsewhere have been "fiddling" the historical temperature record. So I did my usual trick and looked up the study. It does not do what Phil wants it to do. It covers only the last ten years so is quite irrelevant to what skeptics say. Phil also implies that the new study shows ongoing warming. But it doesn't even attempt to do that. What a farce. I wonder what drives Phil? A hunger for approval, probably: Pretty infantile. The study Phil eulogizes is here
A common claim by climate change deniers is that scientists have been “altering” ground-based temperature data to make it look like the Earth is warming. This claim—which is not just wrong, but exactly wrong, as I’ll get to in a sec—has gotten more traction than most others offered by the forces of anti-science.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been using this false claim as a blunt hammer against scientists in NOAA, for example, holding hearing after hearing trying to pin charges of conspiracy on them. But of course he’s wrong and is wasting huge amounts of taxpayer money pursuing a lie. As I’ve written before, the scientists aren’t “altering” the data, they’re correcting them.
A new paper has come out reinforcing this. Researchers from Berkeley, the University of York, and NOAA have looked at the temperatures recorded at stations across the U.S. They assessed the corrections being applied to the data and have confirmed their accuracy. In other words, despite Smith’s claims, the techniques the scientists are using to calibrate the data are solid.
The basic idea is this: There are temperature stations all over the U.S., and many have been in use for more than a century. However, over the years, some have been moved, replaced, or their environment has changed. This, of course, changes the temperature they record.
To account for that, scientists apply a correction to the data to make sure that they are comparing apples to apples when looking at modern measurements versus older ones. But how do they know if the corrections are accurate?
Actually, there are quite a few ways, but in the new study the researchers looked at more modern stations that are known to be quite accurate and compared them to the data from nearby older stations during the 12-year period where the two different systems were both in operation at the same time. As was expected, the uncorrected data from the older stations didn’t match the newer ones well. However, when the corrections were applied, the older stations did in fact match the newer ones much better. This shows that the corrections being applied are in fact making the data more accurate.
Smith and his allies want you to think that scientists are nefariously altering the data, but that’s not the case. Calibrating data isn’t “altering” it. Think of it more like editing typos and bad grammar. Once those are gone, you get a far better picture of what’s actually happening*.
Wot! No hockeystick?
When Mike Mann's proxy-based "hockeystick" picture of the earth's climate history over the last 1,000 years came out, it was greeted with wild acclaim by Warmists. It even featured at the front of an IPCC report or two. It showed an unchanging temperature until the late 20th century, when the temperature suddenly shot up -- exactly the Warmist dream. It was however soon shown as a botch and the IPCC no longer mentions it.
But Mann and some others still find hockeysticks wherever they look so I thought a careful proxy study of the last 1,000 years would be useful. The one below is from 2011 but is notable for its careful assembly of all available proxies. Following the abstract, I present one of their graphs, which shows most clearly what they found. You will see that our climate history is one of ups and downs and we are just at an end of an up
Northern Hemisphere temperature patterns in the last 12 centuries
F. C. Ljungqvist et al.
We analyze the spatio-temporal patterns of temperature variability over Northern Hemisphere land areas, on centennial time-scales, for the last 12 centuries using an unprecedentedly large network of temperature-sensitive proxy records.
Geographically widespread positive temperature anomalies are observed from the 9th to 11th centuries, similar in extent and magnitude to the 20th century mean.
A dominance of widespread negative anomalies is observed from the 16th to 18th centuries. Though we find the amplitude and spatial extent of the 20th century warming is within the range of natural variability over the last 12 centuries, we also find that the rate of warming from the 19th to the 20th century is unprecedented. [More warming in the 19th century!]
The positive Northern Hemisphere temperature change from the 19th to the 20th century is clearly the largest between any two consecutive centuries in the past 12 centuries. [Reflecting recovery from the Little Ice Age]
Clim. Past Discuss., 7, 3349–3397, 2011
Australia's coal-fired power stations at risk of 'death-spiral' - report
This is mostly nonsense. The idea that "renewables" compete with thermal coal is a laugh. They are just an unreliable luxury of very little actual use. They CANNOT supply predictable power.
Competition from gas may be a problem but gas prices are in flux so we will have to wait and see on that one. Gas prices differ widely in different parts of the world so arbitrage must come into play eventually.
The cheapest electricity in Australia has always come from Victoria's brown coal generators in the Latrobe vallety, but they are hated by Warmists -- and a proposed new one was made unviable by environmental requirements in the Gillard years. Germany is however building a heap of brown coal generators so a return to brown coal in Australia seems likely. It is undoubtedly the cheapest option
Brown coal deposits are frequently close to the surface so big digging machines just scrape it up and feed it onto a conveyer belt to the power station next door, which is very efficient. No miners and no trucks needed
Australia's power sector is at risk of a "utility death spiral" due to its reliance on coal, along with utilities in the US, Japan and Germany, according to a report highlighting the environmental-related risk of coal producers.
Additional pressures on the coal industry is coming from the shift by countries such as China and India to rely on domestic sources for coal, rather than imports, to feed their surging demand for electricity generation.
The report, by the University of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise, pointed to the emergence of renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind, along with competition from gas as additional pressures for the sector.
Other issues include water stress, concerns over air pollution, changes to government policies and the challenge of carbon capture and storage technology, the report noted.
A 'death spiral' occurs as new energy sources take market share from coal-fired power stations, forcing stations to close while also undermining the economics of the centralised electricity grid by forcing higher distribution charges, according to the report.
The use of so-called 'sub-critical' coal-fired power stations which are poor converters of energy from coal into electricity, use high volums of water for cooling and release high levels of carbon emissions puts the utilities and coal companies at particular risk in countries such as Australia, according to work by the group.
That risk declines with the use of new generation technology, so-called "super-critical" power stations, which are more expensive to build.
The report comes after US energy giant ExxonMobil this week predicted that global demand for coal would peak in about 2025 and then fall into terminal decline.
In contrast to coal's decline, demand for natural gas would increase by 50 per cent over the next 26 years, ExxonMobil predicted in its 2016 Outlook for Energy report.
IDEOLOGY AS SHARED FANTASY
Much of what the psychohistorians write is either banal or fanciful, in my opinion, but the latest essay (below) by psychohistorian Richard A. Koenigsberg seems to me to be highly diagnostic of Leftism. So I will leave people to read it below and will offer some comments tying it in to Leftism at the foot of it
In "Constitutional Law of the Third Reich", Nazi political theorist Ernst Rudolf Huber wrote:
"The Fuhrer is himself the bearer of the collective will of the people. In his will the will of the people is realized. His will is not the subjective will of a single man, but the collective national will is embodied within him in all its objective, historical greatness. The people's collective will has its foundation in the political idea which is given to a people. It is present in the people, but the Fuhrer raises it to consciousness and discloses it." (in Murphy 1943)
According to Huber, Nazism did not arise out of the subjective will of a single man. Rather, Hitler embodied the “collective will of the people.”
The will of a people, Huber suggests, has its foundation in the political idea which is “given to a people.” This idea already is “present in the people”; but the Fuehrer “raises it to consciousness and discloses it.” In other words, a people’s political idea is latent. The role of the leader is to manifest this latent idea—to “disclose it” to the people.
Once an idea has become conscious within a people, what follows is the will to act upon it: to turn the idea into reality. The leader’s role is to create or invent ways to activate the people’s will and to set a path that enables a people to express its collective will.
Ideology, I theorize, represents or reflects a fantasy that is shared by members of a society. This shared fantasy lies at the core—constitutes the heart and soul—of a given culture. The leader’s role is to “divine” the cultural fantasy, to give it voice.
Through his language, the leader invents images and metaphors that contain the fantasy. His role, like that of a psychoanalyst, is to “make conscious the unconscious;” to enable society’s members to become aware of a fantasy that had been hidden or latent.
In order to have a significant impact, the leader himself must be deeply mindful of his culture, that is, of its central fantasies. He processes his own fantasies (the cultural fantasy that exists within him), then develops methods for presenting or “returning” the fantasy to his people. The ideology becomes the container for a people’s shared fantasies.
Why was Hitler able to hold his audiences spellbound? Why did Germans become so excited when he spoke? Because what he said evoked something deep within many of them. People were “turned on” by Hitler’s words.
We are on the wrong track if we imagine that ideas put forth by political leaders contain, or are intended to contain, some form of “truth”; that ideas correspond to some aspect of “external reality.” The coin of the realm in politics is fantasy: the leader’s ability to express his own fantasies, and to induce or seduce others to share those fantasies. The leader presents ideas that resonate with his audience. His utterances allow followers to externalize inner states of being.
Highly successful leaders are deeply plugged in to the ideological fantasies that they put forth. No one was more moved by Hitler’s ideas more than Hitler. By virtue of his ability to share his excitement and passion, he was able to evoke a similar experience within his followers.
Ideologies function to express, contain and engage society’s members’ fantasies. The ideology becomes the modus operandi: the vehicle allowing a shared fantasy to make its way into reality (man in culture, Norman O. Brown said, is “Man dreaming while awake”). They act as a gravitational force, “pulling” fantasies into the world—capturing or sequestering the energy bound to a fantasy.
Political history occurs when a group acts upon an ideological fantasy. Hitler worked to transform his fantasy of Germany into a societal discourse. His will was the will to persuade the German people to actualize propositions contained within the ideological fantasy.
Each ideology revolves around a central fantasy. This core fantasy constitutes the heart and soul of the ideology: a sublime or omnipotent object.
History is generated in the name of these omnipotent objects. For the Nazis, this omnipotent object was “Germany.” Japan fought the Second World War for the sake of “the Emperor.” The United States participated in the First and Second World Wars for “freedom and democracy,” while radical Islamic movements revolve around “Allah.”
Historians study the numerous “reasons” why specific conflicts arise at a particular moment in history, for example, the variables that lead to the outbreak of a war. But for action to be undertaken at all, there must be a core fantasy—an omnipotent object. Without “Germany” or “the Emperor” or “freedom and democracy” there could not have been a Second World War.
To understand a particular ideology is to uncover and reveal the core fantasy. In the case of Nazism, this fantasy revolved around the idea of Germany as an actual body (politic) suffering from a potentially fatal disease, the source of which was the Jew. Hitler put himself forward as “doctor” of the German people, the man who could root out and destroy the cause of Germany’s suffering, thereby rescuing the nation and saving it from death.
For any ideology, I pose and seek to answer the question: Why does this ideology exist?
* What fantasy or set of fantasies does the ideology contain or convey?
* What methods are used by the leader to encourage members of his society to believe in and act upon the ideological fantasy?
* Why are followers willing to perform violent acts in the name of the ideological fantasy?
* What do leaders and followers hope to achieve by acting upon their society’s ideological fantasy?
Ideologies constitute modus operandi for the expression and enactment of shared fantasies. They become central within a society precisely because they allow unconscious fantasies to be expressed and articulated. They are containers for shared fantasies, driving the historical process. Unconscious fantasies enter history through ideologies.
Where Freud interpreted individual dreams and dreaming, I interpret collective dreams and dreaming, seeking to ascertain latent thoughts beneath manifest content. This is what I mean when I speak of “making conscious the unconscious in social reality.”
The Nazi revolution constituted the acting out of a dream that many people were having at the same time—a shared fantasy powerful enough to give rise to an ideology and social movement. Dreaming this dream most deeply, Hitler was able to articulate the Nazi fantasy. To know why Nazism achieved popularity, one seeks to determine precisely what Hitler said that caused Germans to rise to their feet and shout "Heil Hitler."
I theorize that a necessary condition for the espousal of an ideology within a society is the existence of an unconscious fantasy shared by group members. The ideology is a cultural creation or invention permitting a shared fantasy to manifest as social reality.
It is through the medium of an ideology that a shared fantasy becomes part of the world. An ideology is believed, embraced and perpetuated—it achieves status and power as an element of culture—insofar as it resonates with a fantasy and permits this fantasy to be activated upon the stage of society.
Koenigsberg is an acute student of "Das dritte Reich". He draws a lot of conclusions from the Nazi phenomenon and the essay above is an example of that. So when he talks about ideology, he is primarily talking about a socialist ideology. And I see his remarks as quite applicable to the modern-day Left. The fantasy that drove Hitler is the same as the fantasy that drives both Communism and the the modern social democratic Left: The creation of a new Eden. Hitler had a rather clearer idea of what he wanted his new Eden to be like but he was in many ways a very smart Leftist and Koenigsberg is wise to study him and draw lessons from his words.
So it all goes back to Moses, the first articulator of an Edenic vision. And Western society has been so steeped in the Bible that it lies behind most of our ideas and traditions. It has made our mental world -- so that even non-believers are influenced by it. It is an inescapable part of Western thinking.
And that in turn explains why three strands of Leftism -- Nazism, Communism and democratic Leftism, all have the same fantasy. It goes back to Moses. The garden of Eden is a fantasy that became deeply embedded in us because of the historic influence of the Bible. Moses gave the Left its fantasy. And the fact that the modern world is so far away from an Eden explains the Leftist hate of it. Brazilian essayist Olavo de Carvalho is particularly good on Leftism as a search for a new Eden. See here
Conservatives, on the other hand are basically happy people who enjoy much about them -- their families, their traditions, their church, their sports, their clubs, their military connections, the friends they went to school with, tales of their forebears and a general feeling of connectedness with the past -- so need no fantasies of an Edenic state. They can look at the world about them calmly. They don't have to see it through a haze of hate.
Western Australia’s north hits 47C to become one of the hottest places on Earth
Western Australia has always had records for high temperatures so this is not at all new. Needless to say, however, Warmists are hopping on the bandwagon with claims that global warming is partly behind it. And equally needless to say, they are talking through their anus. There has been no global warming for over 18 years and things that don't exist don't cause anything.
Furthermore, the phenomenon is not only not global but it is also not Australia-wide. Where I live in Queensland we have had an unusually mild summer. Throughout December and January we had only a few very hot days and that is still so in February.
I am quoting my own long experience of Brisbane summers in saying that. I have no interest in seeing what the lying BOM say. But I do have strong confirmation of what I say. I have in my back yard eight Crepe Myrtle trees that in their time have always blossomed in January -- but it is now well into February and they are still not out. Their inbuilt thermometers too say it is not yet a real summer
WESTERN Australia may well be the hottest place on earth right now, and we don’t mean when it comes to being on-trend.
An isolated air strip in the state’s north west suffered through temperatures surpassing 45C yesterday which could be more than anywhere else on the planet.
By 8am this morning temperatures had already nudged 30C at Garden Island, south of Perth, and highs of 42C are expected in the city this afternoon. Further north, Gascoyne Junction, in the state’s north could reach a whopping 47C.
There is little relief in sight with the Western Australian capital set to swelter through four consecutive 40C days for the first time in 83 years. If Perth passes 40C each day to Wednesday it will equal a record set in 1933.
While temperatures may dip slightly heading towards the weekend, meteorologists say it’s likely to be a temporary reprieve with the sticky weather hanging around into next week
Meanwhile, the hot weather has brought out the Western Australian sense of humour with a slew of social media posts about the heatwave including one showing someone frying an egg with the aid of the scorching temperatures.
Shark Bay Airport, situated south of Carnarvon in the Gascoyne region in the state’s north, hit 47C yesterday. According to some reports that was enough to make it the hottest place on earth.
Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster, Paul Vivars, said it wasn’t surprising Western Australia was pushing the mercury higher than anywhere else.
“We’re in summer in the southern hemisphere and while I’m not sure what the temperature is in central Argentina, it’s very possible WA is hotter,” he said.
Nevertheless, Perth was easily the hottest city on earth on Monday, with a high of almost 43C in the city’s eastern suburbs, and no other region on the planet had such widespread scorching temperatures as WA.
Mr Vivers said a slow moving high pressure system parked near the coast was in no rush to move on. “It’s been a steady pattern and conditions around Perth haven’t really changed much.,” he said.
“It’s going to stay pretty warm until Friday. Saturday or Sunday night might see five or six degree drop on the coast but after Sunday another trough could bring more hot weather in the mid to high 30s.”
The extreme heat has sparked fire and public health warnings for much of the state, with a total fire ban for most of the south of the state.
All fires in the open air, hot work such as metal work, grinding, welding, soldering or gas cutting without a permit and any other activity that may lead to a fire are prohibited.
Firefighters are already battling one large bushfire in the shire of Harvey, which has burnt out 400ha, with authorities battling extreme fire conditions as they fight to bring it under control.
Western Power is expecting near record power demand, with overnight temperatures set to drop no lower than 25C for the next two nights.
If you thought the scorching weather was just a fluke, think again, with a climate scientist today saying we should expect more of the same. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW, said there had been an increase in heatwaves in the past five years particularly in southern parts of Australia.
“Rare heatwaves that we might only have seen every 20 years we could now see every two years which may not have happened if climate change hadn’t occurred,” Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said.
"Mr 97%" wimps out
On 31 January, I put up a challenge to Warmist John Cook. Cook runs a blog that purports to debunk skeptical challenges to Warmism and is the author of one of the famous "97% consensus" papers. He is much quoted by Warmists and could reasonably be regarded as one of the heavyweights of Warmism -- although he is in fact a young psychologist who has not even got his doctorate yet.
So my challenge stemmed from his claim that he can debunk all climate skepticism. As it happens, I live only about a 15 minute drive from where he works. So I invited him to visit me and give me the evidence that would prove imminent catastrophic global warming.
Somewhat to my surprise, he responded -- by email. He agreed to chat with me over coffee. I then emailed him asking if it would be OK if I recorded the conversation. I have not heard from him since! So we have the situation where a skeptic is not afraid to have his words recorded but a Warmist is. What does that tell you about who has something to hide? I think it speaks volumes.
But he is on to a good thing. He will undoubtedly get rapid promotion to a senior position. He knows on which side his bread is buttered: Definitely a young man going places -- JR
Anti-Vaccination Cranks Versus Academic Freedom
Lawyer Michael Brull below sets out very ably why the University of Wollongong should not have awarded a Ph.D. to an anti-vaxxer nut. But he also argues that stripping a PhD in response to bad science is not the solution.
Brull is one of those unhappy souls, an anti-Israel Jew. He doesn't like Australia or Christians much either, but he loves Muslims. Rather a waste of a good brain it seems to me. I have written before about his tergiversations. So his judgement is severely flawed. And judgement is what is involved here. As he shows below, the science is not in dispute.
And his judgement is that a dangerous bit of bad science should be tolerated in the name of free speech. As the proprietor of two free-speech blogs, I might be expected to agree, but just about everyone agrees that infinite tolerance is not possible. Toleration must have its limits.
We do not tolerate people who go around raping and murdering, for instance. And there is a similar issue here. The anti-vaxxers do kill. By persuading others of their cause they destroy herd immunity -- and it is only herd immunity that protects newborns from such dangerous diseases as whooping cough. Newborns cannot be vaccinated until their immune system is strong enough. And, for me, protecting children is a huge priority. It is a normal human instinct, in fact -- though one that can be submerged by both Islam and Leftism. So giving any credence to an anti-vaxxer is a fatal mistake. I would therefore support the many who argue that the University of Wollongong must rescue its scholarly reputation by withdrawing a foolishly granted Ph.D.
One might in passing note that Brull's defence of an anti-vaxxer is consistent with his Leftism. Anti-vaxxers destroy and that is the basic Leftist aim too. They hate "the system"
A little while ago, Judy Wilyman’s doctoral thesis was accepted by the University of Wollongong. Now with PhD, she will title herself a doctor, in recognition of her academic achievement. For some at least, this will increase the respectability of her advocacy, now that she has fancy new credentials for the arguments she set out in her dissertation.
This has alarmed many. This is because Wilyman is sceptical of the value of vaccinations.
Take for example, Helen Petousis-Harris. Her web page identifies her background as “predominantly biological sciences, and she did her PhD in Vaccinology, specifically around vaccine reactions. She has worked at the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland since 1998 where she has developed a passion for all things vaccine. Currently Helen has an appointment as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care and her teaching is largely around vaccination.”
She analysed the abstract of Wilyman’s dissertation. Her conclusion: “It is [a]litany of deceitful reveries. How it could possibly pass as a piece of Doctoral level work is inexplicable and it has made no contribution to knowledge. Shame on you University of Wollongong.”
Other scientific reviews were no more flattering. And a wave of academics at the University of Wollongong reacted too. As reported at the Australian Medical Association, “Sixty-five senior medical and health researchers including Professor of Public Health Dr Heather Yeatman, Dean of Medicine Professor Ian Wilson, and Professor Alison Jones, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, have jointly signed a public statement backing the evidence supporting vaccination and its importance in preventing disease.”
Meanwhile, “Professor Peter McIntyre, director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance and an advisor to the WHO, told The Australian that he had offered to advise Wilyman but withdrew his offer as she was “not willing to entertain” evidence which contradicted her beliefs.”
As far as I can tell, there are zero relevant experts who think Wilyman’s PhD has even the vaguest connection to what the relevant science actually shows. The dissertation is an embarrassment to the University of Wollongong, and the academic standards it supposedly upholds.
The dissertation, however, raises two interesting questions. The first is how it came to pass that this dissertation was able to gain acceptance. The second question is what is the appropriate response is to the dissertation.
As to how it was accepted, SBS explains that according to the requirements of UOW PhDs, “The requirements include that there be at least two external examiners who are from different countries and they do not have a relationship with the students’ supervisors and not affiliated with the university in question.” So it seems the blame can be shared around. If this protocol was followed, there were two external examiners who were adequately impressed by Wilyman’s purported scholarship. It is not on the public record who those two people are.
However, Wilyman’s supervisor is. His name is Brian Martin, and he is a professor of social sciences. He has a PhD in theoretical physics. He posted an essay in which he came to Wilyman’s defence against her many critics. Martin presents Wilyman’s dissertation as addressing question of policy, not purely questions of science:
“[Stop the Australian Anti-Vaccination Network] and some others apparently believe the only people qualified to comment about vaccination policy are “experts” who have degrees and refereed publications in scientific journals, for example in immunology or epidemiology. A moment’s reflection should reveal the flaw in this claim: being an expert in immunology or epidemiology — usually a narrow aspect of such a field — gives no special insight into vaccination policy, which involves many different areas of knowledge, and includes matters of ethics and politics. If anyone can lay claim to having special knowledge about policy, it is those who have researched policy itself, including critics of the Australian government’s policy such as Judy.”
So what issues of policy does the dissertation address? This is Martin’s summary:
“It makes four main critical points in relation to Australian government vaccination policy. First, deaths from infectious diseases had dramatically declined in Australia before the mass introduction of most vaccines, suggesting that vaccination is not the only factor in controlling these diseases. Second, Australian vaccination policies were adopted from a one-size-fits-all set of international recommendations, without consideration of the special ecological conditions in Australia, for example the levels of sanitation and nutrition, and the incidence and severity of diseases. Third, nearly all research on vaccination is carried out or sponsored by pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in selling vaccines; the conflicts of interest involved in vaccine research can lead to bias in the research design and conclusions drawn. Fourth, there are important areas of research relevant to vaccination policy that have not been pursued, but should have been; a plausible reason for this “undone science” is that the findings might turn out to be unwelcome to vaccination promoters.”
In fact, these questions are issues of both politics and science. The first is an empirical question, subject to scientific research. So is the second, though if its premises were established, then a policy question would arise. The third is indeed a policy question requiring no special expertise to investigate. The fourth is mixed.
Perhaps some areas of research aren’t being pursued – Wilyman would not be the first to observe that scientific research is biased towards wealthy or powerful interests. That this “undone science” would be unwelcome to vaccination promoters is again an empirical question.
Given that the focus of the dissertation, according to its lone defender, seems to mostly be scientific questions, one might think that the appropriate field to conduct this study in is one of the hard sciences where her findings could be subjected to rigorous and informed peer review.
Instead, Wilyman’s dissertation was conducted through UOW’s social sciences.
This seems like the most effective way to avoid serious scientific scrutiny of her claims. Her external examiners may have rapidly found themselves out of their depth in dealing with questions of vaccination science.
So how does Wilyman present herself? Her website is called “Vaccination Decisions”. She presents herself as a dispassionate scientist, who has studied the issue since 1993. Her critics, however, are not scientific, and are “consumer lobby groups”:
“During the last decade I have attempted to debate my academic research but the media will not report the other side of the vaccination debate with credibility. Whilst attempting to debate my research in public forums since 2010 I have been attacked by consumer lobby groups, in particular the Australian Skeptics and the ‘Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN)’. These consumer groups are not scientific organisations and many subscribers of this group have used false and misleading statements to disparage my reputation and reduce my credibility in public debates.”
Thus, it sounds like her motives are pure, unlike her critics, who it seems are simply mercenary thugs. Wilyman doesn’t even explain that she is anti-vaccination, whilst her critics are in favour of them.
What are her qualifications?
“I have a Bachelor of Science degree and I have practised as a science teacher for 20 years. In 2004 I began researching this public health issue at the University of Wollongong (UOW). I completed a Master of Science degree (Population Health) in the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences in 2007. This included a research project analysing the Australian Government’s Policy on Whooping Cough. In 2007 I continued my research with a PhD.
In 2008 – 2010 I transferred to the Environmental Science Department at Murdoch University to research and lecture in environmental health issues. I transferred back to Wollongong University in 2011 to complete my PhD investigating the Australian government’s reasons for its current National Immunisation Program (NIP). My PhD includes an examination of the science in the government’s vaccination policy and a critique of the influences in the decision to use an increasing number of vaccines in children.”
So, she sounds pretty scientific. And her PhD purportedly examines the science. Whilst Wilyman complains her critics aren’t scientific, she forgets to mention at that point that neither was the field in which her PhD was examined (it is later listed as “School of Humanities and Social Sciences”). We will return to the question of her Masters Degree.
Soon she gets to her position:
“In the 1990’s I became aware of the significant increase in chronic illness that was occurring in children. By 2004, 41 per cent of children (0 -14 years of age) had a chronic illness 1. The diseases that have been increasing since the late 80’s include allergies, anaphylaxis, ADHD, autism, coeliac disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases (e.g. arthritis and diabetes). The medical journals and animal studies link the ingredients of vaccines as a cause of these diseases. Although the increase in these diseases correlates to the increasing use of vaccines, the government has not funded research that would prove or disprove this plausible link. The Australian government claims it is a coincidence that these diseases have increased with the increasing use of vaccines but does not provide scientific-evidence to support this statement.”
That’s a pretty impressive list of diseases that vaccinations supposedly cause. Traditionally, when a scientist makes a breakthrough, and has a contribution to make in the sciences, they present their findings to a journal, so that it can be peer reviewed. Wilyman does not appear to have chosen to do this for some reason.
Anyway, Wilyman has dismissed her critics as “funded by industry interests” (I wonder how she’ll respond to this article). Critics at Mamamia don’t have relevant qualifications either (is her PhD a relevant qualification?).
Then I got to the part of her website that was most interesting.
“The Australian government appoints Ministers of Health who do not have qualifications in health and it has a duty of care to ensure that all science on the cause of autism is included in vaccination policy-decisions. Ministers should not be making pledges for public health policy on lobby group websites. There are many scientific articles that indicate vaccines are a valid cause of autism, for example, these articles 1 , 2, 3, 4 and 5, yet the government has not addressed these articles in the discussion of vaccination policy on the Immunise Australia Program (IAP) website.”
I have included her links in the quote above. What are these “scientific articles” proving “vaccines are a valid cause of autism”? Note: none are scientific articles; that is, essays by scientists published in scientific journals. They are all websites – like this one, which is just a commentary on a hearing in the US.
One is an essay, in PDF format. It is titled “An Essay on the Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism and the link to Vaccines”, and is by Mark Allan Sircus. I googled him, and naturally, he has a website.
When I saw that he treats cancer with marijuana, I naturally was interested in this pleasant sounding treatment. Sircus “practices and preaches Natural Oncology, an integrative medicine that… utilizes natural substances like magnesium, iodine, sodium bicarbonate and medical marijuana together with far-infrared heat treatments and oxygen therapies.”
So then I googled Natural Oncology. The first result was The Natural Oncology Institute, Vincent Gammill. Gammill is Wilyman’s favourite scientist. So who is Gammill? A 69-year-old man who told police he had “no formal education beyond high school, but then ‘remembered’ he had obtained a doctor of science degree sometime in the 1990s.”
Gammill then founded the Natural Oncology Institute. He was arrested by police after a 50-year-old woman complained that he treated her breast cancer with expired meds and a bag of dirt, for the princely sum of $2000.
Police proceeded to charge him with “practicing medicine without a license, dependent adult abuse and furnishing dangerous drugs without a license.”
His “patient” reported him after trying a concoction he showed her how to make, which caused a “burning sensation in her stomach”, according to police.
Anyway, though Sircus apparently practices the same type of Natural Oncology as its quack founder, I haven’t found any evidence that he’s been arrested for treating cancer with dirt. I suppose it isn’t entirely surprising that his paper wasn’t published in a peer reviewed journal.
Wilyman, for her part, lists her various publications at The Conversation. These include Medical Veritas: The Journal of Truth in Health Science.
When a journal has the word “truth” in it, you just know a conspiratorial mindset is lurking. Sure enough, it appears to be home to more anti-vaccine quacks.
Let us return to Wilyman’s Master of Science Degree from the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences in 2007.
As Wilyman noted, this included her analysis of vaccination policy. In 2014 two medical experts lodged a complaint about her thesis, though it appears nothing has come of this. You can get a sense of its high-minded presentation of quackery from this paragraph:
“The ecological evidence is showing a significant increase in chronic illness in children. This includes the increasing incidence of diabetes mellitus, leukaemia, food allergies, asthma, epilepsy, behavioural and intellectual disabilities and autism (AIHW, 2004). Refer Appendix 6. Whilst this increase in disease has occurred in children at the same time as vaccination use has increased it is not evidence for a causal link. However, the biological plausibility of vaccines as a cause of these diseases is demonstrated in animal studies, the clinical evidence from adverse reactions to vaccines and the volume of reports from parents claiming their child’s development changed after vaccination (Kirby D, 2005).”
So what next?
Regardless of what one thinks of Wilyman’s dissertation, any ex post facto policy designed to strip her of her PhD or Masters degree will be wrong as a matter of principle, and as a matter of policy.
Certainly, there are some who think that Wollongong can’t just stand by and let Wilyman have her PhD. The Australian editorialised that “this is a battle between life and death, and Wollongong has put itself on the wrong side”.
It is hard not to point out that one might equally suggest that the issue of climate change is a “battle between life and death” – yet the Australian has shown considerably less interest in campaigning on proper recognition of this issue.
Yet it was not just the Oz. A petition was launched against Wilyman’s PhD, acquiring 2,100 signatures. The petition announced that “Action is urgently required to address gross academic misconduct”. It called on the government to take “immediate disciplinary action” against the University of Wollongong, complaining that “federal funding of such dangerous myth-making is unconscionable.”
This kind of attitude pervades some of the critics of Wilyman’s work. For example, blogger Chrys Stevenson wrote, “Free speech is all very well. But, when propaganda and misinformation from uneducated rabble-rousers endangers the lives of children and vulnerable people, I think we can rightly argue free speech must have limits.”
Or to turn to the petition, which warns that the University’s acceptance of Wilyman’s work “demonstrates an anti-scientific culture at the University of Wollongong that is inimical to scholarship”.
For those who have studied in the humanities, there are indeed academics who partake in an “anti-scientific culture”. For example, there are postmodernists, social constructionists and so on who believe that science is all a social construct, an oppressive domain of white men which isn’t to be taken too seriously.
However distasteful one finds these views, the opinion that the humanities should reflect a particular viewpoint in an argument is an opinion that the humanities should not include intellectual diversity.
The point of intellectual inquiry is that it should be free. If there are sins in the academic work of Wilyman, they may be found in dishonest footnotes, or improper external examiners. The fact that her opinions are unorthodox or distasteful to many is not, in itself, grounds for her degree to be taken from her.
Those who think that the government should step in to settle this dispute between Wilyman and her critics are the ones who subscribe to a fundamentally “anti-scientific culture” which is “inimical to scholarship”.
The sciences are not built around policing of consensus and expulsion of dissenters. They are built around uncertainty, and progress is made by dissenters successfully persuading their peers that a new paradigm can better explain the way the world works.
If Wilyman’s work is left to the scientific community, I have little doubt they will filter her out, just as they do other anti-vax and unscientific cranks.
As it stands, it is clear to any lay person with the ability to Google that the overwhelming preponderance of scientific experts disagree with Wilyman, and in fact regard her scientific expertise as nil.
Attempts to discipline the university, or strip her of her PhD will only legitimise her opinions.
Rather than being a marginal quack with strange views, she will become a persecuted martyr, bravely defending her beliefs in the face of intimidation. The argument will shift from the evidence and the experts to whether someone in the humanities should be able to argue for a view that other people don’t like.
“What are they afraid of,” the anti-vaxxers will cry. “We just want an open debate”.
It is natural to want to combat the pernicious nonsense of people like Wilyman with the quickest, most powerful tool available. Yet this kind of attack on academic freedom would have very dangerous implications.
And ultimately, it is the wrong tool to counter the claims of anti-vaxxers. Ultimately, what is needed is persuasion, not coercion.
SOURCE (See the original for links)
Another example of not telling the whole story: The standard Green/Left deception technique
It's difficult to know where to start on commenting on the scare below but let me start by noting that an increased level of CO2 absorption by water is a sign of COOLING -- carefully not mentioned below. And because there are great uncertainties in measuring ocean temperatures exactly that could be going on.
OK. Next point. If CO2 levels in the ocean are "too" high, global warming will cure it. Because warming water will cause the CO2 to outgas. Just open a can of coke or Pepsi while it is at room temperature and watch it happen. So global warming will cure the "problem", not worsen it
Point 3: There are plenty of studies showing that crustaceans and shellfish are not affected by acidity in the simple way Warmists assume. They can in fact flourish in a more acid environmrent. See here and here.
Point 4: The oceans are quite alkaline and it would take a huge change to make them acidic. Measured in the open ocean, sea water has a pH of about 8.2. According to computer models, doubling of atmospheric CO2 would decrease ocean pH to about 7.9, still alkaline, but less so.
The North Atlantic absorbed 100 percent more man-made carbon dioxide over the last decade, than the previous one, researchers have found.
They say the find is a clear indication of the impact burning of fossil fuels has had on the world’s oceans in just 10 years.
The uptake of CO2 has massive impacts on the ocean's ecosystem, by decreasing the pH, and could affect as corals and mollusks, which require a certain pH level in the surrounding water to build their calcium carbonate-based shells and exoskeletons.
“This study shows the large impact all of us are having on the environment and that our use of fossil fuels isn’t only causing the climate to change, but also affects the oceans by decreasing the pH,” said Ryan Woosley, a researcher in the UM Rosenstiel School, Department of Ocean Sciences who led the research.
Decreasing pH in seawater can harm the ability of shelled organisms, from microscopic coccolithophores to the oysters and clams that show up on our dinner plates, to build and maintain their bony exteriors.
Burning oil, coal, and natural gas for energy, along with destruction of forests, are the leading causes of the carbon dioxide emissions
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 355 parts per million in 1989 to just over 400 ppm in 2015. [Quibble: Cape Grim has the level just under 400ppm]
To determine the total uptake and storage of carbon dioxide in the North Atlantic over the last several decades, researchers analyzed data collected from the same locations, but 10 years apart, to identify changes caused by man-made CO2.
The data were collected during two National Science Foundation-funded international ship-based studies, CLIVAR (Climate Variability CO2 Repeat Hydrography) and GO-SHIP (Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program).
The oceans help to slow the growth of human produced CO2 in the atmosphere by absorbing and storing about a quarter of the total carbon dioxide emissions.
The researchers hope to return in another 10 years to determine if the increase in carbon uptake continues, or if, as many fear, it will decrease as a result of slowing thermohaline circulation.
The study, titled “Rapid Anthropogenic Changes in CO2 and pH in the Atlantic Ocean: 2003-2014” was published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
Why the iPad is a far bigger threat to our children than anyone realises (?)
The writer below claims to be a psychologist but she is clearly not a research psychologist. She offers no objective evidence for her assertions. It's all just opinion. I am a research psychologist and my opnion is the opposite. I think that social media greatly enrich our environment -- for young and old.
The nearest the silly woman gets to evidence is: "It's little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages"
For a start she seems unaware of the most basic dictum in statistics: Correlation is not causation. And who says that "the physical and mental health of children of all ages" has deteriorated? That is at the least highly contentious and probably as well founded as her concludsions.
My son was a computer hog from age 2 and I put no restrictions on that. He is now a polite and friendly highly regarded IT professional with a circle of close friends -- and his only addiction is to flavoured milk. So immersion in computers didn't hurt him, did it?
Considering all the foul and dangerous things that many young people ingest these days, my son's addiction must seem an impossible dream
When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: 'No, they're bad for your teeth.' So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.
What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter's hands. Peace was restored immediately.
This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier. It certainly wasn't the last. Since then, I've seen many tiny children barely able to toddle yet expertly swiping an iPad - not to mention countless teenagers, smartphone in hand, lost to the real world as they tap out texts.
It's ten years since the publication of my book, Toxic Childhood, which warned of the dangers of too much screen-time on young people's physical and mental health.
My fears have been realised. Though I was one of the first to foresee how insidiously technology would penetrate youngsters' lives, even I've been stunned at how quickly even the tiniest have become slaves to screens - and how utterly older ones are defined by their virtual personas.
Indeed, when my book came out, Facebook had just hit our shores and we were more concerned with violent video games and children watching too much TV. Seems like ancient history, doesn't it?
Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they're often on two or more screens at once - for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad.
Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it's been difficult for parents to control it. And when it comes to spending a childhood in front of a screen, this generation are like lab rats. The long-term impact is not known.
Even before iPads hit the market in 2010, experts were warning that 80 per cent of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination, due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Along with colleagues in the field of child development, I'd seen a rise in prescriptions for Ritalin, a drug for attention deficit and hyperactivity - a four-fold increase in less than a decade.
And we'd collected a mass of research showing links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement.
It's little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages.
Sadly, we're seeing the rise of the 'techno-tot' for whom iPads have become the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket.
Recent research found 10 per cent of children under four are put to bed with a tablet computer to play with as they fall asleep.
One study of families owning them found a third of children under three had their own tablets. Baby shops even sell 'apptivity seats' into which a tablet can be slotted to keep toddlers entertained.
Because the earlier children are hooked on screens, the more difficult it is to wean them off.
This is not the only worry. It's not just what children get up to onscreen that affects their overall development. It's what screens displace - all the activities they're not doing in the real world.
Today's children have far fewer opportunities for what I call 'real play'. They are no longer learning through first-hand experiences how to be human and are much less likely to play or socialise outdoors or with others.
One of the most depressing examples of a totally screen-based childhood involved a ten-year-old in London. The overweight, pasty-faced little lad told me: 'I sit in my room and I watch my telly and play on my computer . . . and if I get hungry I text down to my mum and she brings me up a pizza.'
The change in children's play has happened in little more than a couple of decades. While many parents feel uneasy about all that screen-time, they haven't tackled it as they've been so busy keeping up with changes in their own lives.
And anyway, it's happening to children everywhere - so surely it can't be bad for them?
But real play is a biological necessity. One psychologist told me it was 'as vital for healthy development as food or sleep'.
If the neural pathways that control social and imaginative responses aren't developed in early childhood, it's difficult to revive them later. A whole generation could grow up without the mental ability to create their own fun, devise their own games and enjoy real friendships - all because of endless screen-time.
It's getting out and about - running, climbing, making dens and so on - that allows little children to gain physical skills. Playing 'let's pretend' is a creative process requiring lots of personal input.
Real play develops initiative, problem-solving skills and many other positive traits, such as a can-do attitude, perseverance and emotional resilience. It's vital for social skills, too.
By playing together, youngsters learn to get along with other people. They discover how others' minds work, developing empathy.
And, as real play is driven by an innate desire to understand how the world works, it provides the foundation for academic learning.
Real play is evolution's way of helping children develop minds of their own - curious, problem- solving, adaptable, human minds.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no screen-time for children under two and a maximum two hours a day there-after. This is not just due to a proven link between screen-time and attention disorders, but because it eliminates other activities essential for building healthy bodies and brains.
Babies are born with an intense desire to learn about their world, so they're highly motivated to interact with people and objects around them - the beginning of real play.
That's why they love it when we play silly games with them, such as peekaboo, or they manage to grasp some household object. This is what helps them develop physical co-ordination and social skills.
But when little ones can get instant rewards from high-tech devices, they don't need to bother with real play.
Images on a screen can be just as fascinating as the real world, and even a very small child can learn to control the images with a clumsy swish of podgy fingers.
Each time babies or toddlers make something happen on screen, they get the same sort of pleasure hit as they would from a cuddle or a splash in the bath.
When they can get instant rewards by swiping a screen, why bother with play that demands physical, social and cognitive effort?
Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield says: 'We cannot park our children in front of screens and expect them to develop a long attention span.'
She also worries about the effects of technology on literacy. 'Learning to read helps children learn to put ideas into logical order,' she says. 'On the other hand, staring at a screen puts their brains into suspended animation.'
Dr Aric Sigman, who has amassed a huge database of research linking children's screen-time to ADHD, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders, also points to the conflict between screen-based activity and reading.
'Unlike screen images, words don't move, make noises, sing or dance. Ultimately, screen images render the printed word simply boring at a crucial phase when the child's mind is developing,' he says.
Yet another problem with too much screen-gazing is that it doesn't develop resilience.
Real play gives children opportunities to learn how to cope with challenges for themselves. Finding how to learn from their mistakes, picking themselves up when they take a tumble and sorting out squabbles with playmates all help develop the self-confidence that makes children more emotionally resilient.
This is vital for mental health, especially in our high-pressure world. So I wasn't surprised when this month Childline warned Britain is producing deeply unhappy youngsters - sad, lonely, with low self-esteem and an increasing predilection to self-harm.
The charity painted a bleak portrait of our children's emotional state, blaming their unhappiness on social networking and cyber-bullying.
It's understandable parents feel unable to tackle their children's social media use. After all, it has spread like a virus. In 2012, just six years after Facebook arrived here, it was the favourite website of ten-year-old girls.
That year I interviewed three 15-year-old girls in Yorkshire who have been on Facebook since the age of ten. They said they didn't enjoy it as much as 'when we were young' because 'running our own PR campaigns' - as they wittily described the constant need to make their lives sound glamorous and exciting - was exhausting and they often felt miserable when others seemed to be having more fun.
But they couldn't give up the social media site as it would put them out of the social loop. 'There's lots of cyber-bullying,' one said. 'So you've got to try to be like everyone else.'
But we can't go on letting our children 'be like everyone else' when it's damaging them. If the next generation is to grow up bright, balanced and healthy enough to use technology wisely, parents need to take action.
And that means limiting screen-time, spending time together as a family and making sure get children out to play.
Some say children need to use technology because that's the way the world is going. But there's no need to give little children high-tech devices.
Modern technology develops at a phenomenal rate - any IT skills that children learn before the age of seven will be long past their sell-by date by the time they reach their teens.
But self-confidence, emotional resilience, creative thinking, social skills and the capacity for focused thought will stand them in good stead whatever the future brings.
Johnny Cash and the Democrats
I rarely listen to Country & Western music but when I do my favorite singer is, unsurprisingly, Johnny Cash. And I am far from alone in that. He was very popular for most of his life. And that is what I want to talk about. But a few preliminary comments first:
I have no information on how he voted while he was alive but his close friendship with Jimmy Carter suggests at least some Democrat sympathies. Plus he was a Southerner and the South in his early days mostly voted Democrat.
But if he was a Democrat he was a sincere one. Leftist politicians are just parasites in compassionate clothing but in the general population, many Leftist voters probably do have some real compassion for various groups. The Leftist appeal to compassion would not work otherwise.
Although he was himself never sent to jail, the group that Johnny Cash had compassion for was prisoners. And, as most will know, he put his money where his mouth was, or, more precisely, he put his mouth where the money was not. He did many jailhouse concerts and charged nothing for them, even though he could have got big money for them elsewhere. He used his talent to do whatever he could for prisoners.
So what was the secret of his popularity? There are a number of possible reasons: His marvellous bass-baritone voice plus he was quite good looking in his youth. He looked a lot like Elvis, in fact. And the intense romanticism of his songs no doubt helped a lot.
My favorite two songs of his are "Walk the Line" and "ring of fire". In the first he promises fidelity to his wife and in the second he compares being in love to being surrounded by fire. Those two songs would probably have some claim to being the greatest love songs ever written, with only "My love is like a red, red rose" by Robert Burns being clearly more deserving of that title.
But the lesson I draw from his work is the great simplicity of his writing. Each song has simple words that are repeated a lot. I give the words of both below:
Ring Of Fire Lyrics
Love is a burnin' thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire
"I Walk The Line"
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line
You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line
And the "freight-train" rhythm of both songs is simple too. So when extremely simple words and thoughts are immensely popular, can we learn something about politics from that? I think we can but it is a hard lesson: Simplicity is attractive. And the Democrat message is simple indeed. Listen to Bernie Sanders saying how bad many things are but without making any serious attempt at explaining why they are so or advancing any ideas to fix them that would in fact work. The Leftist message is simple but wrong. The conservative message is complex but right. It's not a happy thought for conservatives.
What can we do about it? I think we need a great communicator. Reagan was one and Trump seems to be another. His messages are simple too, way too simple for policy wonks, but maybe simple enough to win elections. He is a smart man so if he does win he would almost certainly take well-argued advice and not do anything too foolish
Australia should do more for Aborigines? If so how?
The self-righteous bleat below is an editorial from the Left-leaning Melbourne "Age". It exhibits all the brains of a flea. It shows no awareness of Aboriginal life or of the unending stream of government efforts that have been made to better the lot of Aborigines. I would be surprised if the writer had ever set foot in a black's camp. I have. I grew up with Aborigines around the place. They were in my Primary school and down the end of the street where I lived.
So the writer below has only his self-righteousness to put forward. He puts forward not a single suggestion about what to do to help Aborigines. He doesn't know what has happened and has no idea what should happen. He is just a brainless Leftist fool
The best he can do is end up with an unsubstantiated accusation. He speaks of "The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice." Where is his evidence that the poor situation of Aborigines is due to "ignorance or prejudice". He has none. It's just a verbal fart.
There are many ethnic groups in Australia and many of them came here when there was indeed prejudice against them. My mother's father told her when she was young that he would cut her off if she married an Italian. So did that hold Italians back? Hardly. Not long ago, Australia's most populous State -- NSW -- was run by second generation Italians and Greeks -- the Iemma administration. And they were put there by the NSW voters.
And note that most Italians who migrated to Australia in the early to mid 20th century were poor peasant people trying to escape poverty. They were by most criteria very "disadvantaged" people. But they thrived in Australia, as they did in the USA. In one generation they leapt to prosperity.
And look at the Jews. Can any group ever have been more hated than the Jews? If you want to talk about prejudice and discrimination, look at the experience of the Jews. Yet Jews ride high wherever they are. Israel even prospers despite constant attacks on it by Muslims.
Plainly, there is no systematic disadvantage inflicted on anyone by prejudice and discrimination. One could more plausibly argue that it spurs people on to a high level of achievement.
So our brainless Lefty editor is plain WRONG in his explanation of Aboriginal backwardness. That leaves Aborigines responsible for themselves. Self-responsibility? What a horrible thought to a Leftist! The State is their solution to everything.
Over 40,000 years, Aborigines evolved to lead a hunter-gatherer life and they are superbly adapted to that life. They are NOT however adapted to modern life and nothing will make them that. There are however some ways that they can be helped.
I see it in the contrast between elderly Aborigines and young Aborigines. The older ones are much better adapted to white society. They lead reasonably clean, orderly and sober lives while the young ones are plagued by every conceivable problem. Why? Because when the older ones were growing up, the Aboriginal settlements were run by missionaries. And Aborigines are a very spiritual people so religion has a big effect on them. It gave the missionaries the leverage to teach Aborigines habits that would be to their advantage.
But there is no political will to bring back the missionaries so is there anything else to be done? Just about everything that could be tried has been tried by successive State and Federal governments of all political stripes so there is really only one possibility left: Better policing.
The casual violence towards women and children by Aboriginal males is horrific. I have seen it. But if the women had somewhere to run to in their settlements, many could escape that violence. Most settlements already have a police presence but it is woefully inadequate. More cops are what is needed but I am quite sure that would not suit our brainless Leftist editor. Where would he get a warm glow out of that?
If you are yet to take the 8½ minutes to watch journalist Stan Grant speak on the topic of "racism destroying the Australian dream," make the time. His words are searing, a much-needed jolt to national complacency towards Aboriginal Australia, and a powerful statement of reality, both historical and present day.
But more than words, the accompanying passion – Grant's face and tone deeply imbued with sorrow, anger, hope and regret from personal experience as an Indigenous man – points to the emotional toll of unfinished business on the first people of this country. We must all strive to better acknowledge this suffering, even if it remains a lived experience most people can never truly understand.
Grant's speech, delivered in October, won prominence last week when released as an online video during a traditional time of introspection, both for the community and in our personal lives.
The new year is often a moment when people choose to take stock of goals, to resolve a fresh beginning, or rededicate themselves to cherished dreams. The symbols of nationhood are put on overt display just as languid summer weeks are about to be swamped by the reality of busy lives. As if to warm up dozing political muscles, we have developed a habit of adorning Australia Day with a ritual debate about changing the flag and becoming a republic.
But Grant's speech challenges the country to do more. Much more. His is a reminder that the personal and national experience is deeply intertwined for Indigenous Australians. The "Invasion Day" protests to mark the anniversary of the arrival of white settlers are illustrative, but cannot alone convey the discrimination felt each and every day in the Indigenous community.
"My people die young in this country," Grant reminds us. "We die 10 years younger than average Australians and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons .hs.hs. If you are a juvenile, it is worse, it is 50 per cent."
Statistics that alone are distressing, but in what stands as a national shame, Grant observes "an Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school." What a indictment on the supposed ethos of a fair go.
Australia can do and must do better. The steep difference in Victoria, where Indigenous children are more than 12 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be placed in state care is another indicator of woeful disadvantage. We have become far too comfortable with pledges to "close the gap" that the action necessary to make this a reality is rarely a priority.
Complacency also marks our debate about the place of Indigenous culture in our national story. We have become fixated on a slogan, "recognition", too often ignoring the concepts many Aborigines would prefer be debated, such as "self-determination", "sovereignty" and "treaty".
It is not that the proposal to change the constitution to acknowledge Indigenous culture is without merit. But the country must properly decide what such a change is meant to achieve. Megan Davis, a legal professor and member of the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution, has warned the idea has become mired in "bipartisan stage-managed process". We should be aspiring to more than piecemeal reform, but justice.
Like Grant's speech, Davis' essay "Listening but not hearing", published in the latest edition of Griffith Review, is a further reminder the country can grow from a frank, and importantly, inclusive debate about the life of Indigenous Australians. The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice is holding the nation back. To do better, the voices of the Aboriginal community must be listened to, and heard.
Free Speech and Pharmaceutical Regulation
The FDA kills more Americans every year than motor vehicle accidents do, so it was good to see its grip loosened a little recently. Because of the FDA, it takes something like 10 years and half a billion dollars to get a new drug approved. In that ten years many people who would have been helped by the drug die. Additionally, drugs for uncommon illnesses are not even researched, let alone approved, because not enough of them would be sold to recoup the half a billion needed to get them approved. So the FDA is a huge millstone around the neck of new drug development and a rational government would kill it off
The reason it survives is because the *intentions* behind it are good. It aims to make sure drugs are safe before people start to use them. But the question is how many lives does it in fact save? Probably only a few as there is always a great uproar when a drug is found to have adverse effects. Fear of being sued causes companies to take a drug off the market rapidly. Vioxx was taken off the market in that way.
So we have to weigh the chance of a few deaths from adverse reactions against the large and steady stream of people who die because their doctors cannot get the best drug for their condition to them.
A better system would be to put in the place of the FDA a "Drug Safety Authority" which would have authority to advise only. Individual doctors could then make up their own minds and take any risks that might flow from that. But the article below is from a medical journal and the author just defends the existing system with the usual corny arguments
It should be noted that the drug in contention below has already been certified by the FDA as safe. After that point the FDA should surely need strong reasons for further interventions. Such reasons would not seem to exist in the case discussed below
Recent research has not been kind to fish oil salesmen, or the value of ω-3 fatty acid supplements for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Amarin Corporation, in particular, has been hit hard. The company’s only approved product is icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), a prescription-based derivative of fish oil. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug to treat patients with very high triglyceride levels, but the company has long wanted to promote its use in a much larger group of patients: those with lower triglyceride levels and cardiovascular disease who were already being treated with statins.
In 2013, an FDA advisory committee voted 9 to 2 against approval for this use, in part because several recent studies of other drugs with similar effects on blood lipids showed no clinical benefit when they were added to statins. Amarin’s stock price plummeted, and investors brought suit claiming that they had been misled about the promise of the drug.
In May 2015, Amarin struck back, suing the FDA in US district court in Manhattan, arguing that the First Amendment gives the company the right to market its drug for this broader group of people despite the lack of regulatory approval and the lack of evidence of an outcomes benefit for patients. The company's argument hit at the heart of the drug regulatory system in the United States. For decades, that system has required companies that want to promote pharmaceutical products for new uses to first prove to the FDA that the drugs are safe and effective for these uses.
Amarin argued that this system is unconstitutional, and that companies should instead be allowed to market their products in any way that a judge would consider to be neither false nor misleading. Amarin relied in particular on a recent and much criticized judgment from a federal appeals court, US v Caronia. That 2012 decision came close to declaring the FDA’s prohibition of off-label marketing unconstitutional, citing recent Supreme Court cases that have strengthened constitutional protections for commercial speech.
In August 2015, the judge in the Amarin case, relying largely on the Caronia ruling, handed the company a major victory. He ruled that the company could market Vascepa for the desired broader population, and make many of the very claims that the FDA views as misleading —claims such as “supportive but not conclusive research” shows that the drug “may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” As of December 2015, the FDA had not decided whether to appeal or settle the case.
The stakes are high indeed: the Amarin precedent, if it holds, has the potential to unleash a flood of misleading marketing to physicians. Under Amarin, if a company wants to market its drug off-label, it need only convince a judge, not the FDA, that its claims are not “false or misleading.” In effect, the decision replaces drug regulators with judges—whose expertise in science and medical research varies considerably —when off-label promotion is concerned. The judge in Amarin saw the problem clearly: “You're talking to somebody who has difficulty using a toaster,” he said at the hearing. “I’m the last person who should opine on this.”
It is not merely that most judges lack the requisite training to effectively assess complex drug claims. They also lack access to the necessary data, and the tools that regulators have to evaluate and shape that data. When a company seeks approval from the FDA for a new indication for a marketed drug, it must submit extensive clinical research and trial data, as well as details about the trial design. FDA scientists can therefore reanalyze the data, detect flaws in protocols and case reports, and, when necessary, reject trial results or require more information. A recent FDA review conducted after safety concerns were raised about rosiglitazone (Avandia), for example, involved manual reviews of forms and efforts to collect additional data for hundreds of trial participants and revealed important new facts, including 8 deaths that had not previously been recorded.
The most insidious aspect of the Amarin decision, therefore, is that it undermines the structures that encourage companies to produce high-quality clinical evidence to support new uses of drugs. If the decision stands, companies with a drug approved for one use will have to produce only enough evidence to convince a judge, not the FDA, to market it for additional indications. To be effective, a company’s marketing must also influence the prescribing patterns of physicians.
Although physicians are a more sophisticated audience, they are not in a position to substitute for regulators. Relatively few have training in research methods. Those who do have such training lack access to comprehensive clinical trial data and rely heavily on the published literature, which is skewed toward positive results. In addition, there is a strong and specific association between pharmaceutical marketing and physician behavior, independent of the evidence supporting the products.
The Amarin decision—if it is neither modified nor reversed—may well put patients, and the evidence base for medical practice, at risk. Drugs that are prescribed for unproven indications can cause serious harm. For example, tiagabine (Gabitril), a medication to reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy, can cause seizures when used off-label for other indications. Risk-benefit ratios also shift when new uses are contemplated: a drug whose adverse effects may be acceptable when used to treat patients with serious illness may cause more harm than benefit if used to treat healthier patients. Even a drug that is safe, but ineffective, can be harmful, for example if it is used instead of an effective intervention. Because health care budgets are limited, spending on ineffective treatments also squanders money that might be better spent elsewhere.
Does our constitutional commitment to free speech really require this result? Not if the traditional legal standard for commercial speech protection prevails. Commercial speech serves an “informational function” and can be regulated to ensure that the public has access to accurate information. The FDA serves exactly this end. The agency aims not to censor company speech, but to foster the development of accurate and reliable information, and channel that information into settings where it can be rigorously evaluated.
For example, companies are not prohibited from marketing outright. They may make marketing claims if they provide adequate supportive evidence to the FDA. Nor are companies prohibited from conducting research, and publishing such research —whether meeting FDA standards or not —in the medical literature. Indeed, this is encouraged, and companies can distribute reprints of studies directly to physicians, if the publications have certain indicia of reliability, such as having undergone peer review.
The FDA did not appeal the ruling in the Caronia case. The ongoing settlement negotiations in Amarin suggest that the agency may not yet wish to take its chances in the higher courts in this case. At some point, however, the FDA will have to either take the underlying issue about off-label marketing up the chain, to the Supreme Court itself, or lose a key aspect of its regulatory authority by a thousand cuts.
If and when the FDA finally takes a stand, it will need the help of experts who can help judges understand our drug regulatory system and render vivid the acute dangers of deregulation where medicines are concerned.
If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no room for tinkers
My heading above is an old English proverb expressing skepticism about all sorts of theories, prophecies and maybes. It dates from the time when the Middle English word "an" (meaning "if") was still understood in the Middle English sense.
Tinkers were itinerant handymen who fixed up damaged pots and pans -- as pots and pans were valuable household goods in those days. Few people reading this will have seen a saucepan with a hole in it -- but I have. A couple of my mother's saucepans developed holes in them at one time when I was just a lad. Being a handy kid, however I went to Woolworths and bought a set of "Mendets" -- which I used to fix the saucepans concerned. So tinkering in its original sense existed within living memory.
I tell that little story because the article below immediately brought that old proverb to my mind. Putting it in modern English, I might have said: "More useless speculation". All it tells us is what would happen IF one of the hot periods of the earth's past were to be repeated. They assign no probability to that occurring, however. I wonder why?
They do however pop in a little bit of deceit. They talk of global warming "continuing". But it is not ongoing so it cannot continue.
Warming stopped over 18 years ago so all that can continue is stasis. And they claim that Antarctica is losing mass, when it isn't. It is gaining mass. Even Warmist scientists such as Zwally admit that. See here and here
Just the usual Warmist claptrap but it will worry some people
If the West Antarctic ice sheet was to melt in response to increasing global temperatures, sea levels could swamp coastal towns and cities around the world.
That's the warning from Scottish researchers who have plotted how the ice sheet is expected to respond to global warming.
In particular, they claim that loss of ice in West Antarctica caused by a warming ocean could raise sea levels by a staggering 10ft (3 metres).
In the first study of its kind, researchers were able to gauge how levels of ice covering the land have changed over hundreds of thousands of years.
They did this by studying peaks protruding through ice in the Ellsworth Mountains, on the Atlantic flank of Antarctica.
The team assessed changes on slopes at various heights on the mountainside, which indicate levels previously reached by the ice sheet.
They also mapped the distribution of boulders on the mountainside, which were deposited by melting glaciers.
Chemical technology - known as exposure dating - showed how long rocks had been exposed to the atmosphere, and their age.
Their results indicate that during previous warm periods, a substantial amount of ice would have been lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet by ocean melting, but it would not have melted entirely.
This suggests ice would have been lost from areas below sea level, but not on upland areas.
The study shows that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have existed continuously for at least 1.4 million years.
However, if global temperatures continue to rise, causing the oceans to become warmer, the a substantial amount of ice could be lost from the sheet.
This could see sea levels rise by as much as 10ft (3 metres).
Dr Andrew Hein, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, joint leader of the study, said: 'Our findings narrow the margin of uncertainty around the likely impact of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on sea level rise.
'This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly.'
Professor John Woodward of the University of Northumbria, who co-led the study, said: 'It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise.'
The study, published in Nature Communications, was carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh with Northumbria University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.