By JR on Thursday, October 30, 2014
Another attempt to "psychologize" conservatives -- one which overlooks the obvious
Does the Study of Science Lead to Leftward Leanings? Not quite. Key excerpts from the latest article below. It is difficult to know whare to start in such a rubbishy article but I should note initially that the use of student attitudes to draw great inferences about people in general is an act of faith. In the very first piece of research I ever did (in the mid-60s) I used students and found a correlation of .808 between two variables -- which is very high. Being a very skeptical person even then, however, I repeated the research using a sample of Army conscripts, a much more representative group. The correlation dropped to negligibility. Plainly, you CANNOT draw reliable conclusions from student samples
But does the research below tell us anything about instututions of higher education? Perhaps it does, though what it shows is obvious and no surprise. It shows that universities and colleges are hotbeds of Leftism. So even some students who do not start out as Leftists eventually become brainwashed into it. The authors found that in the third and fourth year of study, the students had become more Leftist than they were in the first and second year.
So how come the authors found the effect among science students only? Probably because the social science and humanities students were already asymptotically Leftist from the outset. They started out Leftist in their studies so had little room to move further Left. The authors don't give their results in tabular form so I was not able to check that. It is however a common finding that social science and humanities students are the most Leftist
But even the interpretation of the results as showing us something about academe may be too incautious. The measuring instruments used by the authors were woeful. The ad hoc scale they used in Study I had a reliability (alpha) of only .58, which is simply too low to conclude that it is measuring any consistent trait. It implies that the items had virtually nothing in common. An alpha of .75 is the normal threshold for a usable research instrument.
And the rest of the research relied on an even more execrable instument -- the SDO scale, which assumes what it has to prove. The SDO scale must be one of the most uninsightfully put-together instruments in the psychology literature. See here for details on that.
So the only really safe conclusion is that the research proves nothing at all
According to a research team led by Harvard University psychologist Christine Ma-Kellams, immersion in the world of science tends to shifts students’ attitudes toward the left side of the political spectrum.
In the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Ma-Kellams and her colleagues describe four studies that support their thesis. In the first, 196 students from a New England university revealed their ideological positions by responding to 18 statements expressing political opinions.
“Across domains,” the researchers report, “those who are in scientific fields exhibited greater political liberalism compared to those in non-hard-scientific fields.”
Importantly, this was only found for students in their third or fourth year of college. This strongly suggests that, rather than political liberals being attracted to science, it was the hands-on study that made the difference.
The second study featured 100 undergraduates, who expressed their views on three hot-button political issues (same-sex marriage, affirmative action, and the Affordable Care Act). They also completed the Social Dominance Orientation Scale, in which they expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with such statements as “Sometimes other groups must be kept in their place,” and “In getting what you want, it is sometimes necessary to use force against other groups.”
Consistent with the first study, the researchers found that “for those with significant exposure to their discipline (i.e., upperclassmen), studying science is associated with more liberal political attitudes.” Furthermore, they found this was due to a lower level of support for the my-group-deserves-to-dominate positions outlined above.
Additional studies featuring Canadian students and a community sample from the Boston area came to the same conclusions.
“Relative to those studying non-sciences, students in the sciences exhibited greater political liberalism across a variety of domains (including foreign policy, health care, and the economy) and a variety of social issues (gay marriage, affirmative action), as well as in general self-reported liberalism,” Ma-Kellams and her colleagues write.
This, they conclude, is the result of “science’s emphasis on rationality, impartiality, fairness, progress, and the idea that we are to use these rational tools for the mutual benefit of all people in society.”
In one sense, these results are something of a surprise. Given the fact the social sciences involve people and politics more directly, one might think the study of these disciplines would be more likely to shape minds in a more liberal direction. But these students were no more liberal than those majoring in disciplines having nothing to do with science.
By JR on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Some excerpts from a diatribe by an Australian Green/Left law academic
He's certainly got a good imagination. He implicitly implies that "climate disruption" is going on but seems unperturbed that the 2003 prophecy he quotes (in red) shows no sign of being fulfilled. Mr Obama is in fact letting poor Hispanics flood into America these days. Some fortress! The usual Green/Left lack of reality contact.
And where do we see these days "a dramatic growth in violent political and social unrest over dwindling resources"? I know of none.
And another loss of reality contact in saying that police forces are also adopting military ideas and tactics "to confront demonstrations about climate change". Tactics of that sort are indeed growing in the USA but they are used to confront crime, especially black crime (check Ferguson, Missouri). If middle-class Greenies make a big enough nuisance of themselves they might experience such approaches but that is entirely their doing.
And his last paragraph below is sheer fantasy -- and a good laugh. A definite ivory tower inhabitant
For over a decade, the Pentagon and other Western militaries such as Australia have put serious thought into the medium and long-term implications of climate change. For example, in 2003, the Pentagon released a paper titled “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security.”
The report predicted massive flooding, storms, forced migration, food shortages, starvation and water crises. Moreover, as a result of diminishing carrying capacity, the report also foresaw a dramatic growth in violent political and social unrest over dwindling resources.
The authors of the Pentagon report also predicted “boom-times” for militarized security, as nations that have food, water, energy and other resources mobilize high-tech technology to separate themselves from the masses outside of their geographical borders. By 2025-2030, the authors predicted:
The United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortress around their countries because they have the resources and reserves to achieve self-sufficiency… Borders will be strengthened to hold back unwanted starving immigrants.
Such an outcome would make current LNP immigration policy look like “an evil child's fumbling toys” to quote Hannah Arendt. And yet, the Australian government already uses the Navy to prevent asylum seekers from landing on Australian soil. Moreover, it has continued to build an “economic fortress” around itself by dramatically cutting its foreign-aid budget and refusing to commit to the United Nations Green Climate Fund.
Police forces are also adopting military ideas and tactics to confront demonstrations about climate change and other justice issues. Stephen Graham highlights in his book Cities Under Siege, the way that large defence and IT companies have created a multi-billion dollar market in civilian technologies directed at crowd control and civilian disturbances. Geographic mapping and drone technology are perhaps the best-known examples utilised by the Australian police.
This might sound like hyperbole, but I do not think it is a stretch to imagine a time when the US-Australian Great Green Fleet (complete with biofuel planes) is deployed in the name of national security to “hold back unwanted starving” climate refugees or masses of people suffering from climate related disease.
By JR on Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Revising Southern hemisphere ocean heat
The article below has excited some Warmists (e.g. "Scientists Say Global Warming Has Been "Hugely Underestimated"), offering, as it does, another explanation for the "missing" heat that Warmists believe to be "hiding" somewhere that normal thermometers cannot reach. The starting point of the article is that measured Southern hemisphere temperatures are even more at variance with Warmist models than are Northern hemisphere temperatures. Hemispheric differences are not inherently surprising considering that there is less land in the South and that it is differently distributed (with a major continent straddling the pole, unlike in the North). But the writers below think it is suspicious and say that the measured temperatures must be wrong. From that point they offer some speculative "adjustments" to the observed temperatures that make them fit the Warmist models better. If you don't like real data, invent nicer data! So the article proves nothing
Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming
Paul J. Durack et al.
The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with observed greenhouse-gas-attributed global warming1, 2, 3, 4. Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, we conclude that observed estimates of 0–700 dbar global ocean warming since 1970 are likely biased low. This underestimation is attributed to poor sampling of the Southern Hemisphere, and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimate temperature changes in data-sparse regions5, 6, 7. We find that the partitioning of northern and southern hemispheric simulated sea surface height changes are consistent with precise altimeter observations, whereas the hemispheric partitioning of simulated upper-ocean warming is inconsistent with observed in-situ-based ocean heat content estimates. Relying on the close correspondence between hemispheric-scale ocean heat content and steric changes, we adjust the poorly constrained Southern Hemisphere observed warming estimates so that hemispheric ratios are consistent with the broad range of modelled results. These adjustments yield large increases (2.2–7.1 × 1022 J 35 yr−1) to current global upper-ocean heat content change estimates, and have important implications for sea level, the planetary energy budget and climate sensitivity assessments.
By JR on Monday, October 27, 2014
A silly little Leftist lady tries to "psychologize" conservatives
One does not expect much in the way of profundity from the crusading Australian Leftist organ, "New Matilda", but a rather long diatribe just up there is particularly feeble. Author Lissa Johnson starts out claiming that conservatives are psychopaths but gives neither reasoning nor evidence that could lead to that conclusion. She particularly targets Tony Abbott, Australia's conservative Prime Minister.
So what psychopathic characteristics does Mr Abbott show? Is he, for instance, extremely self centred? Seeing Mr Abbott has for many years taken substantial time out to work hands-on in Aboriginal communities, creating and upgrading facilities for the use of the community's people, that accusation has to earn a resounding "Not Guilty" verdict. I know of no Leftist who has shown anything like Mr Abbott's personal committment to Aboriginal welfare. It is because of that committment that the reviled Prof. Spurr called Abbott an "Abo lover".
So what about the various other attributes of the psychopath? Ms Johnson is a clinical psychologist so she should know them well. Which of those does she find among conservatives? She does not say. She offers no evidence for her assertion. What she does do is however amusing. She offers a survey of the psychological literature on the psychology of conservatism. And her survey is a broadly accurate one. But nowhere in that literature are conservatives accused of psychopathy! Her own literature survey refutes her opening assertion! The evidence that Leftists are pychopathic is however abundant.
So let us look at the psychology literature Ms Johnson believes in. The big problem with it is that it is almost entirely written by Leftists -- with all the lack of ethics and objectivity that one expects from that. The author in that literature most favoured by Ms Johnson is the amusing John Jost, senior author of a paper that purported to be a meta-analysis of the literature on the psychology of conservatism, and which claimed, inter alia, that Stalin, Khrushchev and Castro were conservatives!
And one of his co-authors was the anti-scientist Frank Sulloway, who tried to use litigation to suppress publication of a research report that contested one of his theories. Leftist attempts to suppress speech that they disagree with are notorious (See TONGUE-TIED) but Sulloway stands out even in that company.
And suppressing contrary evidence was Jost's bag too. His article purported to be a meta-analysis and should, as such, have offered a comprehensive view of the relevant literature. It did not. It omitted about half of the relevant research. Which half? The half that disagreed with his foreordained conclusions, of course! Any hope of finding truth in the writings of Prof. Jost and his ilk is therefore highly likely to be disappointed.
And even if one conceded every claim about conservatives made by Leftist psychologists, the gruel is thin. They have such a lot of trouble finding something wrong with conservatives that they confine themselves almost entirely to cognitive style variables. And such variables can be seen in a variety of lights. Even Jost ended up admitting that. For instance, one of the earliest accusations hurled at conservatives was that they are "intolerant of ambiguity". But that can equally be parsed as showing that conservatives seek order. And seeking order in natural phenomena is precisely what real scientists do. The idea that such a cognitive style is in any way aberrant is simply ludicrous.
I in fact have had many papers published in the academic literature on cognitive style research and repeatedly found that the measuring instuments used fell far short of accepted psychometric standards. So even the literature that Jost & Co. reviewed was inadequate to support their conclusions. My most recent article in that genre is here
And I would be remiss if I did not take some note of two more of Ms Johnson's academic inspirations: Altemeyer's RWA research and the SDO scale associated with Jim Sidanius. Both are fairly hilarious pieces of work, as I show here in the case of SDO and most recently here in the case of Altemeyer.
The unfortunate Ms Johnson is simply credulous. But Leftists believe what they want to believe anyway, and damn the evidence
By JR on Sunday, October 26, 2014
A Leftist witch-hunt in Australia
Brilliant Australian comedian Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) is fairly conservative on the rare occasions when he is being serious and one of his serious comments appears below. It appeared as a letter in "The Australian" newspaper, a Murdoch creation. He is appalled at the furore generated when some private emails from a professor of poetry at the University of Sydney, Barry Spurr, were leaked to the Leftist press. I think I should add a few points here in addition to the points made by Humphries.
The opinions expressed by Spurr were basically old-fashioned these days and being an oldster myself, I share many of them. But the main thing that has the Left up in arms is the type of language Prof. Spurr uses. His vocabulary is the antithesis of political correctness, probably deliberately. For instance, when describing the undoubted increase in obesity in recent years, he refers to "fatties" instead of "people of girth" or whatever the politically correct term is these days.
And obesity figures prominently in the ways Spurr disapproves of modern life. He bewails a loss of standards these days and thinks that social customs, values and such things were better in the old days. And the fact that people were a lot slimmer back in the '40s and '50s is one of the examples he gives of slipping standards these days. But that is simply truthful. Politicians worldwide have declared a "war" on obesity, accompanied by a claim that we and our waistlines are going to the dogs these days. Spurr is right that standards have slipped.
Basically, Spurr offends against Leftist pieties without, I believe, saying much that would disturb the average Australian. But people who breach those Leftist pieties publicly earn such a torrent of Leftist abuse that people have become cautious about plain speaking. And the dominance of the Left in the media, in education and in the bureaucracy has made plain speaking simply dangerous to one's career on many occasions.
And Prof. Spurr was clearly aware of that. He confined his uninhibited language to private emails. But, with typical Leftist lack of scruple, someone (presumably someone involved in looking after the university email system) "hacked" Spurr's emails and forwarded them to a far-Left publication, which promptly reproduced them. Read them here for yourself.
And the very mention of some social groups is automatically called "racist" by Leftists, let alone claiming differences between those groups, and let alone using mocking language about such groups. So Spurr's references to Muslims as "mussies" is deep-dyed offensiveness to leftist minds.
And Spurr's failure to respect feminism was also deemed offensive, despite the fact that most men and many women would concur with that. We even had some good evidence of that in Australia a couple of years ago, when our Leftist Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made an angry feminist speech condemning "misogyny". The speech was applauded by feminists worldwide but it sank Julia. Her popularity among men reached such catastrophic low in the public opinion polls that her own party booted her out of the Prime Ministership not long thereafter.
Spurr also despairs of the obsessive attention paid to Aborigines in Australian universities and elsewhere. You cannot go to a graduation ceremony in an Australian university these days without being addressed by some Aboriginal person about things that have little or nothing to do with the university. It is just political correctness and I deplore it too. It is simply boring and irrelevant. It does nothing for anyone as far as I can see. I am sure that the drunken Aborigines who infest many public places in Queensland, where I live, are not uplifted by it. It is just Leftist tokenism.
And it seems unlikely that even Leftists believe in their own pieties. Every now and again their real beliefs do leak out. A prime example comes from the constant arguments about voter ID in America. There is a lot of fraudulent voting in America. As that great authority on crime, Al Capone, said: "Vote early and vote often". In response American conservatives have pushed hard for people to present photo ID before they are allowed to vote. But because a lot of the fraudulent voting is in favour of Leftist candidates, Leftists have repeatedly gone to court to block the requirement for voters to present photo ID.
And what argument do Leftists constantly use to support their case? They argue that it would "disenfranchise" blacks. They claim, in other words, that blacks are too dumb to be able to acquire such ID, even though you need photo ID to do almost anything in America. And the whole Leftist program of "affirmative action" reveals a barely hidden belief that blacks are unable to make it in open competition with whites. With their constant obessing over race, it is Leftists who are the real racists and the big hypocrites. More on that here
I saw that hypocrisy repeatedly in my research career. Although nothing could be more authoritarian than Leftism (they want to MAKE people behave in a way they approve of) my survey research always revealed great reluctance for Leftists to approve of anything authoritarian or pro-authority. They could not admit their own motivations. Leftists rely heavily of the psychological defence mechanisms of denial and projection. On many issues, they just cannot let reality in at all.
And I showed long ago. that Leftists will espouse views that they actually disagree with if it suits their purpose. And in the run-up to the 2004 American presidential election, John Kerry and other Leftists even argued for the status quo and something very similar to the venerable Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 in order to criticize GWB's military excursions in the Middle East! See here and here
And their condemnation of "racism" is of a piece with their hypocrisy. As psychological research has often shown, it is completely natural for people to have a preference for people like themselves, for their own group. And they do. But say so out loud and Leftists will come down on you like a ton of bricks. As human beings, they too have such feelings but for political expedience, they deny it. There are many Barry Spurrs out there and many of them will be Leftist.
HAS Australia gone slightly mad? I read in the London press of some poor professor in Sydney who has been persecuted and suspended for sending emails to a friend in which he employs outrageous vernacular epithets for race which would be offensive if they were not so clearly jocular.
His reported response to the storm in a teacup which followed this revelation is, unsurprisingly, bewilderment. How could anyone take such deliberate touretting seriously? The answer, I fear, is that there are a lot of Australians these days who are totally bereft of a sense of humour. The new puritanism is alive, well and powerful.
Not long ago some poor guy was actually prosecuted for saying that the Aboriginal welfare services were sometimes exploited by faux Aborigines, even though we knew it was true.
Recently, I announced that when I curate next year’s Adelaide cabaret festival I will ban the F-word, and there was a howl of protest, indeed outrage, particularly from comedians. What kind of comedians were they, do you suppose? Why, comedians with no sense of humour of course! Or comedians whose stand-ups would be meaningless if deprived of one over-used word.
We really ought to be aware of this malignant brand of cultural fascism, and restore our reputation as a funny country before it’s too late.
Barry Humphries, London, UK
By JR on Saturday, October 25, 2014
A New Documentary Profiles "Liars for Hire"
The story below -- based on a book by Naomi Oreskes -- calls distinguished climate scientist Fred Singer (a man who has made enormous contributions to atmospheric physics research) a liar and a snake-oil salesman. It is as we constantly get from Warmists -- all abuse with not a single scientific datum mentioned. Logicians refer to such discourse as the "argumentum ad hominem" -- one of the classic informal fallacies of logic. But who expects logic from Warmists?
So why the extreme abuse of a prominent and truth-telling scientist? It is the old Leftist tactic of projection -- accusing others of what is true of yourself. As I have pointed out recently, it is Naomi Oreskes who is the fraud and a liar. She published a claim that all the scientific journal abstracts she could find on global warming agreed with it. Benny Peiser, however, tried to replicate her study but got radically different results. Skeptics can PROVE who the fraud is
Fred Singer has been taking advice on whether he should sue over the libels against him but there is no way he can match the deep pockets of the Greenies. If Oreskes & Co. appeal a verdict against them, the cost could run to well over a million and even if they lose the appeal Singer would still face a huge loss. In America, unlike most other jurisdictions, costs are usually not awarded against the unsuccessful party. Very few Americans can afford to contest a libel
The New York Film Festival, now in its fifty-second year, is unusual in that it combines big-money extravaganzas like Gone Girl and Birdman with small, worthy films whose publicity budgets would barely cover the cost of Ben Affleck’s body waxings. Given the presence of so much of the film world in one place, the festival allows these latter movies to vastly increase their ability to secure media attention without the tens of millions of dollars that the studios devote to their superheroes.
A new documentary shown twice at the festival, and scheduled to be released in March, got my attention. Merchants of Doubt is directed by Robert Kenner and based on the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, two esteemed historians of science. The film, simultaneously entertaining, instructive and extremely important, traces the techniques through which profit-seeking corporations seek to undermine honest science in the public mind so that they might continue to make money poisoning our bodies and destroying our planet.
The argument can be condensed to one simple idea: the tactics perfected by the tobacco industry, which were designed to obfuscate the cancer-causing nature of its products back in the 1950s and ’60s, are now widespread throughout corporate America. When an internal Brown & Williamson memo declared decades ago, “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public,” it created the template for countless oil, coal, chemical, agricultural, tobacco and manufacturing companies, as well as the front groups they fund and, more than occasionally, invent. By paying off members of Congress and exploiting the structural vulnerabilities of “objective” journalism, these companies have been able to fool the public and enrich themselves through a kind of slow-motion “murder for hire” operation.
The book is a first-rate piece of journalistic investigation and scientific inquiry. But we live in a culture in which the influence of books pales in comparison with that of cinema (to say nothing of television or even video games). Naomi Oreskes, who appears extensively in the film, told me that, yes, “the technical content is greatly simplified…. In the book, we had extensive but (hopefully) clear explanations of the science, including how and when scientists had come to understand the threats represented by acid rain, ozone depletion, climate change, etc. The film, however, has greater emotional impact. It’s less intellectual, but more visceral.”
The pioneers in the field are not only the liars for hire employed by the tobacco industry for so many decades, but also Cold War scientists like Robert Jastrow, Fred Seitz and William Nierenberg, who initially founded the George C. Marshall Institute to promote Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars boondoggle and then switched gears to lie about climate change—a task in which they’ve been joined by scientist/snake-oil salesman Fred Singer, who also cares more about opposing all forms of corporate regulation than he does about truth.
But the star of this show is the astonishingly charming rogue Marc Morano, a frequent cable-television guest who admits, “I’m not a scientist, but I do play one on TV.” Morano, the founder of ClimateDepot.com, not only spouts his nefarious nonsense about science everywhere he goes but is also in the business of ensuring the mau-mauing of genuine scientific researchers who have felt a responsibility to go public with the dangers we face. “We went after James Hansen and Michael Oppenheimer and had a lot of fun with it…we mocked and ridiculed,” Morano brags. He has also published their private e-mails, both as a means of harassment and as a warning to other scientists who might be considering doing the same thing.
Where are the media in all of this? As Oreskes explains, “It was an explicit part of the strategy of merchandising doubt to use the media to create the impression of controversy. If the media are not pulled in, the strategy fails. So a large part of the story is industry courting and, where necessary, pressuring the media to give ‘equal time’ to its views. Interestingly, what we found was that overt pressure was fairly rare. The media didn’t need to be pressured.”
By JR on Friday, October 24, 2014
Do Italian chamois prove global warming?
In the Italian Alps there are records of the weight of animals shot by hunters -- and the carcasses of chamois goats are now quite a bit lighter than they used to be. Why?
The Warmist researchers below discovered that betwen 1979 and 2010 temperatures in the study area rose substantially -- by around 3 degrees. And that is the first oddity. Global temperatures over that time rose by only tenths of a degree. So there were some LOCAL effects at work on temperatures in the area. The results tell us nothing about GLOBAL warming.
But do they tell us anything about what might be if the whole world warmed by the same amount?
Probably not. In best Warmist style they used models to analyse their data, thus introducing possibilities of arbitrariness. And the result is that there is no clear test of whether temperature was the driver of the effects observed. And there was another clear driver -- population density. The population of animals in the study area rose during the time of the study. So if there are more goats competing for feed each goat is likely to be less well-fed. And calorie deficiency is well know to shrink body mass.
So competent research would have used some type of regression analysis to remove the effect of density before temperature effects were looked for. The authors did not do that. They simply plugged in both density and temperature into their models -- leaving unanswered whether there was any statistically significant effect of temperature after the variations in density had been allowed for. Very sloppy!
Goats are shrinking as a result of climate change, researchers have claimed. They say Alpine goats now weigh about 25 per cent less than animals of the same age in the 1980s. Researchers say it is a stark indication of how quickly climate change can affect animals.
They appear to be shrinking in size as they react to changes in climate, according to new research from Durham University.
The researchers studied the impacts of changes in temperature on the body size of Alpine Chamois, a species of mountain goat, over the past 30 years. To their surprise, they discovered that young Chamois now weigh about 25 per cent less than animals of the same age in the 1980s.
In recent years, decreases in body size have been identified in a variety of animal species, and have frequently been linked to the changing climate. However, the researchers say the decline in size of Chamois observed in this study is striking in its speed and magnitude.
The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council is published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.
Lead author Dr Tom Mason, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University, said: 'Body size declines attributed to climate change are widespread in the animal kingdom, with many fish, bird and mammal species getting smaller.
'However the decreases we observe here are astonishing. 'The impacts on Chamois weight could pose real problems for the survival of these populations.'
The team delved into long-term records of Chamois body weights provided by hunters in the Italian Alps.
They discovered that the declines were strongly linked to the warming climate in the study region, which became 3-4oC warmer during the 30 years of the study.
The team believes that higher temperatures are affecting how chamois behave.
'We know that Chamois cope with hot periods by resting more and spending less time searching for food, and this may be restricting their size more than the quality of the vegetation they eat,' said Co-author Dr Stephen Willis.
'If climate change results in similar behavioural and body mass changes in domestic livestock, this could have impacts on agricultural productivity in coming decades.'
Environmental change and long-term body mass declines in an alpine mammal
By Tom HE Mason et al.
Climate and environmental change have driven widespread changes in body size, particularly declines, across a range of taxonomic groups in recent decades. Size declines could substantially impact on the functioning of ecosystems. To date, most studies suggest that temporal trends in size have resulted indirectly from climate change modifying resource availability and quality, affecting the ability of individuals to acquire resources and grow.
Here, we investigate striking long-term body mass declines in juvenile Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), within three neighbouring populations in the Italian Alps. We find strong evidence that increasing population density and warming temperatures during spring and summer are linked to the mass declines. We find no evidence that the timing or productivity of resources have been altered during this period.
We conclude that it is unlikely that environmental change has driven body size change indirectly via effects on resource productivity or phenology [growth cycles]. Instead, we propose that environmental change has limited the ability of individuals to acquire resources. This could be due to increases in the intensity of competition and decreases in time spent foraging, owing to high temperatures. Our findings add weight to a growing body of evidence for long-term body size reductions and provide considerable insight into the potential drivers of such trends. Furthermore, we highlight the potential for appropriate management, for instance increases in harvest size, to counteract the impacts of climate change on body mass.
Frontiers in Zoology 2014, 11:69 doi:10.1186/s12983-014-0069-6
By JR on Thursday, October 23, 2014
The great phthalate scare rumbles on
The study described below is an unpublished one so is difficult to evaluate fully. There is enough detail below to question its conclusions, however. It is established that phthalate exposure can be increased by eating certain foods, "junk" food in particular. But since the toxicity is in the dose nobody knows if the amounts concerned are cause for alarm.
So the study below looks important. We do appear there to have evidence of harm: Higher levels of serum phthalates were found to go with decreased libido.
But as I have pointed out many times, correlation is not causation and the fact that it was not phthalates behind the loss of libido can very readily be inferred from the fact that working class people, particularly poor people, are much more likely to eat "junk" food than are middle class people. And as has been shown just about whenever it is examined, working class people have poorer health. And that loss of libido might be one aspect of poor health scarcely needs stating.
So phthalate levels were simply a proxy for social class and it was social class behind the lower levels of libido, not phthalates themselves.
All that is fairly obvious so poverty should have been the first thing controlled for in the study. Was it? I would be surprised. I would be surprised if income was even asked of the patients. We will have to wait for the study to be published before we know, however. Given the ubiquity of class effects, however, a class effect has to be the default interpretation of the results. Evidence that phthalates are harmless is summarized here
Chemicals found in PVC flooring, plastic shower curtains, processed food and other trappings of modern life may be sapping women’s interest in sex.
A study has linked low libido with the additives used to soften plastics which are found in every home.
Women with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies were more than twice as likely to say ‘not tonight dear’ as those with the lowest amounts.
Phthalates are man-made chemicals thought to interfere with the natural hormones that are crucial to overall health.
They are found in everything from PVC flooring and shower curtains to car dashboards – and may also be in our food. Tiny particles can enter our systems either through breathing or eating.
Previous studies have linked them to diabetes and asthma. They have also been blamed for feminising the brains of baby boys and last year the World Health Organisation warned they have ‘serious implications for health’.
The latest research, presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual conference in Honolulu, suggests they are doing psychological, as well as physical, damage.
In the first study of its kind, Dr Emily Barrett, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine in the US, measured levels of phthalates in the urine of 360 pregnant women in their 20s and 30s.
She also asked them how often they lost interest in sex in the months leading up to their pregnancy.
Those with the most phthalates in their bodies were two and a half times as likely to say they had frequently lacked interest in sex as those with the least.
Dr Barrett suspects that phthalates interfere with the production of sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone, both of which are involved in female libido.
She said that food is a significant source of phthalates, particularly processed and highly-packaged products. It is thought to get into into food from processing equipment and from packaging.
Dr Barrett, who tried to avoid fast food when pregnant over fears that the chemicals it contains would harm her unborn baby, said: ‘One of the recommendations... to potentially lower your exposure is to eat less processed food and to pick fresh things without packaging.’
A spokesman for the Chemical Industries Association, which represents manufacturers, said: ‘We are not aware of any globally accepted tests which can yet measure the effect chemical exposure may have on libido.’
He added that phthalates are among the most researched chemicals and the use of any that affect fertility is restricted.
Certain phthalates are banned from use in cosmetics, toiletries and toys in the EU and further restrictions are due next year.
By JR on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
End of the road for Edward Gough Whitlam: aged 98
The memoir below is kind, as befits the dead but I think I should add a few comments here to balance the account. It is not fully set out below WHY he was sacked as PM by Sir John Kerr -- his own appointee as Governor General. It was because Gough had brought on a constitutional crisis by attempting to govern without parliamentary consent, the consent of the Senate, in particular. That he played fast and loose with parliament generally via the "Khemlani affair" was what motivated the Senate to refuse him supply. So Gough was hardly honourable.
One thing that has always amused me about the patrician Mr Whitlam is that he always used his second Christian name. Being a common old "Eddy" was obviously not to his taste.
Although he was undoubtedly a most erudite man, Eddy had a strange and disastrous intellectual gap. He himself admitted that he did not understand economics. And the economic disasters under his regime were unending -- with inflation reaching 19% at one stage.
Somehow or other he did nonetheless manage one very worthwhile economic innovation: He cut tariffs by 25% across the board.
And as a libertarian I have to applaud his ending of conscription. The motive for that was however anti-military -- as we can see from the fact that he also abolished Army cadets in the schools -- who were doing nobody any harm and were in fact a good influence on teenagers. But Leftists resent any power but their own. And his vaunted withdrawal of the troops from Vietnam was only the final stage of a withdrawal that was already almost complete.
His "free" universities did not last. Fees were reimposed by the subsequent Labor party government of Bob Hawke, a man who DID understand economics. And Malcolm Fraser reinstated the cadets.
And as for his free and universal medical care, you can judge the quality of that by the fact that 40% of Australians -- just about all who can afford it -- have PRIVATE medical insurance these days. Australia's "free" public hospitals are like such hospitals everywhere -- only for the desperate or the optimists
Gough Whitlam remained one of Australia's most admired figures despite being the country's only prime minister to be sacked, a key moment in the nation's political history.
Mr Whitlam, who died on Tuesday aged 98, was a flamboyant and erudite war veteran who ushered in a series of important social reforms during just three years in power from 1972 to 1975.
His centre-left Labour government stopped conscription, introduced free university education, recognised communist China, pulled troops from Vietnam, abolished the death penalty for federal crimes and reduced the voting age to 18.
But Mr Whitlam will be best remembered for the events of November 11, 1975, when he became the nation's only leader to be dismissed by the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, governor-general Sir John Kerr.
Mr Whitlam's dismissal was prompted by a refusal by parliament's upper house, where his Labour Party did not hold a majority, to pass a budget bill until the government agreed to call a general election.
To end the impasse, the governor-general took the unprecedented step of sacking Mr Whitlam, installing Malcolm Fraser, then opposition leader, as caretaker prime minister.
Mr Freudenberg said it would never had occurred to his friend to fight Sir John's decision. "The idea of going to barricades would have been inconceivable for a parliamentarian like Whitlam," he said.
"He believed deeply in the parliament as an institution for social reform and the expression of Australian democracy. He had a great love and respect for the parliament. The irony is that it was through the parliament he was destroyed."
David Burchell, of the University of Western Sydney, who has written widely about Australian politics, said it was ironic that the 1973 oil crisis, inflationary pressures and economic stagnation provided one of the worst times for Mr Whitlam's big-spending, socially reforming government to be in power. [The inflation and stagnation were CAUSED by Gough's free-spending and anti-business policies]
"Even though the government was dismissed, a lot of their policies remain popular," he added. "Few of the social reforms enacted were ever rolled back."
By JR on Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Proud Australian patriotism not a cause for shame
Because of their basic dislike of the society in which they live, Leftists are anti-patriotic. So to condemn patriotism as racist comes easily to them. The fact of the matter, however, is that patriotism and racism are essentially unrelated. See here, here and here. Some other research that is not online is listed here
PATRIOTISM has been declared racist. Just when we must insist Australia is worth defending, we’re told only scum would say so.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt was outraged this week that two Woolworths outlets sold singlets printed with the Australian flag and “If you don’t love it leave”.
Bandt reposted a tweet blasting these “racist singlets”, fanning the fury of the Twitter Left.
Woolworths took instant fright, declaring the patriotic slogan “totally unacceptable” and promising to never again sell such a wicked thing.
But exactly how is the singlet racist? Which “race” does it attack? Which “race” does Bandt think hates Australia so much that they are the obvious target?
No, the haters of the singlet are not trying to protect some Australia-hating “race” they cannot even identify and would insult if they tried.
They are instead offended by patriotism. They are instead vilifying proud Australians who cannot understand why people who openly shout they loathe this land don’t try their luck somewhere else in a world full of options.
Yet it was only nine years ago that this sentiment was still acceptable enough for even Australia’s longest-serving treasurer, Peter Costello, to voice it. Costello was puzzled why some extremist Muslims, especially immigrants, were demanding sharia law — extremists such as Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Ismael al-Wahwah, who wants Australia under a caliphate in which “those who are guilty of apostasy ... from Islam are to be executed”, according to his party’s website.
Said Costello: “Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you.”
Or as the Woolies singlet sums up, if you don’t love us, leave. But now the invitation Costello offered is “totally unacceptable”.
What’s helped to change the climate is the media coverage of the 2005 Cronulla riot. That was mischaracterised as a racist uprising by flag-waving white Australians, rather than an ugly reaction to a minority of ethnic Lebanese youths throwing their weight around.
Now the flag, flown from a house or car, is seen as the summonsing to a racist riot.
Adding to the angst is that mass immigration and the Age of Terror have left us with more ethnic tensions than ever since Federation. The Left particularly seems to fear that peace is now so fragile that just showing the flag is like showing a red rag to a paddock of foreign bulls.
And yes, some Australians do indeed now feel threatened by what immigration and multiculturalism have wrought. The backlash one day could be ugly.
But the trashing of patriotism goes far beyond this often exaggerated fear of bogans carrying flags. Take the campaign even by schools to promote a retribalising of Australia, symbolised by the flying of the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian one.
Add also extreme multiculturalism, which most rewards the ethnic groups that most keep their distance.
Then add the constant preaching of a largely invented history of genocide, “stolen generations”, racism and environmental devastation until Australia seems faintly disgusting.
So it’s not surprising that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appeal for a “Team Australia” was widely mocked by the Left, even though I’m sure most voters backed it.
In fact, the very idea of such a nation state is starting to strike “progressives” and the “alienated” as so last century.
LAST weekend, the ABC’s Encounter program explored what life would be like under a caliphate instead.
“If you’re not a Muslim, it might seem all rather in-house and speculative,” presenter David Rutledge conceded.
“But if you consider that the nation state — like many other products of secular modernity — is beginning to look like a concept whose time could be drawing to a close, then suddenly the caliphate seems less like a medieval fantasy and more like, well, the future.”
It may be crude and even provocative, but “if you don’t love it leave” begins to sound like Socrates against this exhausted toying with totalitarianism. It is also more likely to be just what we need.
Powerful forces today threaten to tear Australians apart, with calls for jihad, sharia law, treaties with the “First Australians”, new racist divisions in the constitution and more mass immigration of the kind that now looks like colonisation.
No society can survive such threats without prizing its past and its symbols and without insisting what members have in common is far greater than what divides them.
Sure, we must stay open to criticism, to make a great country greater. But don’t love it? Then, please, feel free to leave.
By JR on Monday, October 20, 2014
Education and religion
The article below notes a correlation between more education and less religion. The inference is that education squashes religion and that religious people are therefore ill-educated dummies.
But that misses an elephant in the room: The overwhelming presence of Leftism in the current educational system. And Christianity is abhorrent to most of the Left. Leftism is itself a religion and they resent rival religions. So the longer you spend in the educational system, the more you will be exposed to anti-religious messages -- and we must not be too surprised to find that those messages have some impact. It is therefore entirely reasonable to explain the correlation between religion and education as an effect of educational bias, not as telling us something about religious people
Note also that there are two large and important nations with high levels of Christian belief where about 40% of the population are regular churchgoers: Russia and the USA. Lying geographically in between them, however, is another large group of important nations where religious observance is very low: England and Western Europe. Yet from the USA to Russia and in between IQ levels are virtually the same: About 100. That sounds like a zero correlation between belief and IQ to me. Education is not IQ but average IQ rises as you go further up the educational tree
And there is a comprehensive study which shows little relationship between religion and IQ. It shows that just over 5% of the variance in religious attachment is explainable by intelligence. In other words, IQ DOES influence religious attachment but only to a trivial degree. And that triviality is probably a product of the fact that high IQ people tend to undertake more education. So there are almost the same number of high IQ religious people as there are high IQ non-religious people. IQ is unimportant to an understanding of religion. So religious people are not dummies. Personality and cultural factors are presumably the main drivers of religious adherence
JUST one extra year of schooling makes someone 10% less likely to attend a church, mosque or temple, pray alone or describe himself as religious, concludes a paper* published on October 6th that looks at the relationship between religiosity and the length of time spent in school. Its uses changes in the compulsory school-leaving age in 11 European countries between 1960 and 1985 to tease out the impact of time spent in school on belief and practice among respondents to the European Social Survey, a long-running research project.
By comparing people of similar backgrounds who were among the first to stay on longer, the authors could be reasonably certain that the extra schooling actually caused religiosity to fall, rather than merely being correlated with the decline. During those extra years mathematics and science classes typically become more rigorous, points out Naci Mocan, one of the authors-and increased exposure to analytical thinking may weaken the tendency to believe.
Another paper, published earlier this year, showed that after Turkey increased compulsory schooling from five years to eight in 1997, women's propensity to identify themselves as religious, cover their heads or vote for an Islamic party fell by 30-50%. (No effect was found, however, among Turkish men.) And a study published in 2011 that looked at the rise in the school-leaving age in Canadian provinces in the 1950s and 1960s found that each extra year of schooling led to a decline of four percentage points in the likelihood of identifying with a religious tradition. Longer schooling, it reckoned, explains most of the increase in non-affiliation to any religion in Canada between 1971 and 2001, from 4% of the population to 16%.
The most recent paper also showed that each extra year in the classroom led to a drop of 11 percentage points in superstitious practices, though these remain common. Two-fifths of respondents said they consulted horoscopes, and a quarter thought that lucky charms could protect them. Other research has shown that religious beliefs and practices seem to make people happier, and in some circumstances healthier and wealthier, too. But to argue that such benefits more than offset the gains from extra education would require a leap of faith.
By JR on Sunday, October 19, 2014
Some Christians are promoting death for Muslims
An amusing rant from a Leftist atheist below. He fulminates at great length about a small number of Christians who want to take the battle to Muslims but says that Muslim sadism, terrorism etc is no cause for action. Why? Because "They can't invade us, occupy us, or overthrow our government. They pose no existential threat to America or to the world". Tell that to the Kurds and the Yazidis!
So he is quite relaxed about a vast and merciless barbarism that is right now taking lives on a large scale while being very censorious about a bit of trash talk from nobodies. Very Leftist
He is right that what YHWH commanded of the Israelites when they took Canaan is similar to what Jihadis think they are doing today. He fails to mention however that Mohammed took a lot of his thinking from the Bible and that is one part of it. Christians and Jews have however almost entirely outgrown those ideas whereas Muslims have not. Theologically, the settlement of the land of Israel was a one-off event, not any kind of precedent for other times and places
A leading Evangelical magazine is calling for the destruction of Islam. It's not the outlier we might like to think. Recently, Charisma magazine, a major media outlet for evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, published an open call to genocide. The article in question, titled "Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic" [sic] and written by Gary Cass, begins with the premise that "every true follower of Mohammed" wants to "subjugate and murder" non-Muslims, and therefore it's impossible for Christians to live together peacefully with them.
Cass proposes three solutions to this problem. One is for Muslims to undergo mass conversion to Christianity; the other is mass deportation combined with eugenics - either "force them all to get sterilized" or kick them out of America "like Spain was forced to do when they deported the Muslim Moors." But he says both of these plans are unlikely to work, so "really there's only one" solution, which is:
Violence: The only thing that is biblical and that 1,400 years of history has shown to work is overwhelming Christian just war and overwhelming self defense.
Notice Cass' statement that war has been "shown to work" by "1,400 years of history." The only thing he could be referring to is the Crusades (presumbly beginning with the Spanish Reconquista, around 700 AD), which often entailed the massacre of civilians in captured areas. Most of us know the Crusades as a bloody and barbaric era in our history and think that a repeat is something to be avoided at all costs, but Cass is openly cheering the idea.
"Overwhelming self defense" is another bizarre and disturbing contradiction in terms. By definition, anything more than the minimum amount of force to stop an imminent threat isn't self-defense. The idea that self-defense requires waging "overwhelming war" on entirepopulations, rather than against specific aggressors, is the hallmark of paranoid and racist fantasies which believe civilization is under threat by "the other" and must be protected at all costs.
Like many deluded, macho wannabe crusaders, he fantasizes about the collapse of society, urging his readers to buy guns and form militias:
First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if some thing catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down.
Finally, he closes with a bloodcurdling statement that can only reasonably be interpreted as a call for genocide against Muslims:
Now the only question is how many more dead bodies will have to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus’ Name? …May we be willing to take the lesser pains now so our children won’t have to take greater pains later.
Notice, again, that he envisions "pil[ing] up" dead bodies, and not just "abroad", but also "at home." Most assuredly, the irony of this escapes Cass, but he himself is advocating exactly the same thing as what he accuses his enemies of wanting. He wants to subjugate or kill Muslims (with either mandatory sterilization and deportation, or "overwhelming war"). Most chilling, he calls this the "lesser pains" and says it's necessary so that we won't have to take even more drastic actions later.
After facing a storm of criticism from both Christians and atheists, Charisma pulled Cass' article down. But there's no explanation, no retraction, no apology; the original link now just goes to a 404 error page. Rather than reflect on what that led them to consider this piece reasonable to publish in the first place, or acknowledge they were wrong to run it and say what they'll do differently in the future, they chose to flush it down the memory hole, to try to pretend it never happened. (It's still available at its author's personal website, where it's prefaced with a banner that reads "Why We Cannot Coexist" - further proof that he's advocating violence against Muslims in general and not merely those who commit acts of terrorism).
Cass is by no means the first or the only Christian to defend genocide. Phil Robertson (star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty) appeared on Sean Hannity's show recently to argue that we should either "convert them or kill them", referring to ISIS. Ironically, this is exactly the choice that ISIS offers to religious minorities under their dominion - either convert to their brand of Islam or die. Robertson, like Cass, is the mirror image of the radical theology he claims to despise.
The roots of this genocidal mindset come from the Bible itself. In the Old Testament, after the Israelites escape from Egypt, they arrive at the promised land only to find that it's already populated by the Canaanites and other pagan peoples. What follows, according to the biblical book of Joshua, is a campaign of slaughter in which God instructs his people to invade and massacre everyone already living there:
“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.” —Deuteronomy 7:1-2
And, according to the Bible, God's people did as they were instructed:
"And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain… So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded." -Joshua 10
Prominent Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig have defended these ghastly verses, arguing that if God commands you to do it, you're justified in committing any act of violence, up to and including the slaughter of helpless men, women and children. (In fact, Craig argues that the most morally troubling part of this is the psychological toll that would have been inflicted on the Israelite soldiers who were tasked with carrying out the mass execution.) As we see with Cass, this genocidal, God-is-on-our-side mindset isn't purely a matter of ancient history, but continues to inform the beliefs and ideas of Christians today.
Of course, there's no question that Islamic terrorism does exist. Groups like ISIS are extraordinarily violent and brutal. Moreover, they seem to take sadistic glee in broadcasting proof of their own atrocities, like the killings of journalists. But in the final accounting, they're no more than a bunch of thugs with guns. They're no match for America's military. They can't invade us, occupy us, or overthrow our government. They pose no existential threat to America or to the world. But they count on us overreacting, lashing out with disproportionate and irrational panic (which is, after all, why they're called "terrorists" - they seek to accomplish their aims by creating terror).
Meanwhile, mundane, ordinary, everyday gun violence kills more Americans every year than international terrorism ever has or ever will.
If ISIS and similar groups are a threat to anyone, they're first and foremost a threat to other Muslims, who've suffered the most from their ruthless and violent quest to impose a harsh theocratic state. But, again, the starkly black-and-white worldview of American fundamentalists doesn't allow for this kind of nuance. In their eyes, all Muslims think and believe the same way, want the same things, and are all equally and irredeemably evil. Conversely, they believe all true Christians are good and righteous by definition. Good and evil, in the worldview of both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, has no relation to your actions; it's solely a matter of whether you profess allegiance to the right side.
By JR on Saturday, October 18, 2014
Projected sea level shrinks
Al Gore warned of a 20ft rise in sea level so the latest bit of Warmism is interesting. The MAXIMUM estimated sea level rise is now down to 6ft. It's all based on Warmist assumptions and modelling but it's some progress, I suppose. I reproduce the journal abstract below. Note the words I have highlighted. Unusual humility!
Upper limit for sea level projections by 2100
By S Jevrejeva et al.
We construct the probability density function of global sea level at 2100, estimating that sea level rises larger than 180 cm are less than 5% probable. An upper limit for global sea level rise of 190 cm is assembled by summing the highest estimates of individual sea level rise components simulated by process based models with the RCP8.5 scenario. The agreement between the methods may suggest more confidence than is warranted since large uncertainties remain due to the lack of scenario-dependent projections from ice sheet dynamical models, particularly for mass loss from marine-based fast flowing outlet glaciers in Antarctica. This leads to an intrinsically hard to quantify fat tail in the probability distribution for global mean sea level rise. Thus our low probability upper limit of sea level projections cannot be considered definitive. Nevertheless, our upper limit of 180 cm for sea level rise by 2100 is based on both expert opinion and process studies and hence indicates that other lines of evidence are needed to justify a larger sea level rise this century.
By JR on Friday, October 17, 2014
"Slate" rediscovers IQ -- though they dare not to call it that
They recoil with horror about applying the findings to intergroup differences however, and claim without explanation that what is true of individuals cannot be true of groups of individuals. That is at least counterintuitive. They even claim that there is no evidence of IQ differences between groups being predictive of anything.
I suppose that one has to pity their political correctness, however, because the thing they are greatly at pains to avoid -- the black-white IQ gap -- is superb validation of the fact that group differences in IQ DO matter. From their abysmal average IQ score, we we would predict that blacks would be at the bottom of every heap (income, education, crime etc.) -- and that is exactly where they are. Clearly, group differences in IQ DO matter and the IQ tests are an excellent and valid measure of them
We are not all created equal where our genes and abilities are concerned.
A decade ago, Magnus Carlsen, who at the time was only 13 years old, created a sensation in the chess world when he defeated former world champion Anatoly Karpov at a chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the next day played then-top-rated Garry Kasparov—who is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time—to a draw. Carlsen’s subsequent rise to chess stardom was meteoric: grandmaster status later in 2004; a share of first place in the Norwegian Chess Championship in 2006; youngest player ever to reach World No. 1 in 2010; and highest-rated player in history in 2012.
What explains this sort of spectacular success? What makes someone rise to the top in music, games, sports, business, or science? This question is the subject of one of psychology’s oldest debates. In the late 1800s, Francis Galton—founder of the scientific study of intelligence and a cousin of Charles Darwin—analyzed the genealogical records of hundreds of scholars, artists, musicians, and other professionals and found that greatness tends to run in families. For example, he counted more than 20 eminent musicians in the Bach family. (Johann Sebastian was just the most famous.) Galton concluded that experts are “born.” Nearly half a century later, the behaviorist John Watson countered that experts are “made” when he famously guaranteed that he could take any infant at random and “train him to become any type of specialist [he] might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents.”
The experts-are-made view has dominated the discussion in recent decades. In a pivotal 1993 article published in Psychological Review—psychology’s most prestigious journal—the Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues proposed that performance differences across people in domains such as music and chess largely reflect differences in the amount of time people have spent engaging in “deliberate practice,” or training exercises specifically designed to improve performance. To test this idea, Ericsson and colleagues recruited violinists from an elite Berlin music academy and asked them to estimate the amount of time per week they had devoted to deliberate practice for each year of their musical careers. The major finding of the study was that the most accomplished musicians had accumulated the most hours of deliberate practice. For example, the average for elite violinists was about 10,000 hours, compared with only about 5,000 hours for the least accomplished group. In a second study, the difference for pianists was even greater—an average of more than 10,000 hours for experts compared with only about 2,000 hours for amateurs. Based on these findings, Ericsson and colleagues argued that prolonged effort, not innate talent, explained differences between experts and novices.
These findings filtered their way into pop culture. They were the inspiration for what Malcolm Gladwell termed the “10,000 Hour Rule” in his book Outliers, which in turn was the inspiration for the song “Ten Thousand Hours” by the hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the opening track on their Grammy-award winning album The Heist. However, recent research has demonstrated that deliberate practice, while undeniably important, is only one piece of the expertise puzzle—and not necessarily the biggest piece. In the first study to convincingly make this point, the cognitive psychologists Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli found that chess players differed greatly in the amount of deliberate practice they needed to reach a given skill level in chess. For example, the number of hours of deliberate practice to first reach “master” status (a very high level of skill) ranged from 728 hours to 16,120 hours. This means that one player needed 22 times more deliberate practice than another player to become a master.
A recent meta-analysis by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Brooke Macnamara and her colleagues (including the first author of this article for Slate) came to the same conclusion. We searched through more than 9,000 potentially relevant publications and ultimately identified 88 studies that collected measures of activities interpretable as deliberate practice and reported their relationships to corresponding measures of skill. (Analyzing a set of studies can reveal an average correlation between two variables that is statistically more precise than the result of any individual study.) With very few exceptions, deliberate practice correlated positively with skill. In other words, people who reported practicing a lot tended to perform better than those who reported practicing less. But the correlations were far from perfect: Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained. For example, deliberate practice explained 26 percent of the variation for games such as chess, 21 percent for music, and 18 percent for sports. So, deliberate practice did not explain all, nearly all, or even most of the performance variation in these fields. In concrete terms, what this evidence means is that racking up a lot of deliberate practice is no guarantee that you’ll become an expert. Other factors matter.
What are these other factors? There are undoubtedly many. One may be the age at which a person starts an activity. In their study, Gobet and Campitelli found that chess players who started playing early reached higher levels of skill as adults than players who started later, even after taking into account the fact that the early starters had accumulated more deliberate practice than the later starters. There may be a critical window during childhood for acquiring certain complex skills, just as there seems to be for language.
There is now compelling evidence that genes matter for success, too. In a study led by the King’s College London psychologist Robert Plomin, more than 15,000 twins in the United Kingdom were identified through birth records and recruited to perform a battery of tests and questionnaires, including a test of drawing ability in which the children were asked to sketch a person. In a recently published analysis of the data, researchers found that there was a stronger correspondence in drawing ability for the identical twins than for the fraternal twins. In other words, if one identical twin was good at drawing, it was quite likely that his or her identical sibling was, too. Because identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, whereas fraternal twins share only 50 percent on average, this finding indicates that differences across people in basic artistic ability are in part due to genes. In a separate study based on this U.K. sample, well over half of the variation between expert and less skilled readers was found to be due to genes.
In another study, a team of researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden led by psychologist Miriam Mosing had more than 10,000 twins estimate the amount of time they had devoted to music practice and complete tests of basic music abilities, such as determining whether two melodies carry the same rhythm. The surprising discovery of this study was that although the music abilities were influenced by genes—to the tune of about 38 percent, on average—there was no evidence they were influenced by practice. For a pair of identical twins, the twin who practiced music more did not do better on the tests than the twin who practiced less. This finding does not imply that there is no point in practicing if you want to become a musician. The sort of abilities captured by the tests used in this study aren’t the only things necessary for playing music at a high level; things such as being able to read music, finger a keyboard, and commit music to memory also matter, and they require practice. But it does imply that there are limits on the transformative power of practice. As Mosing and her colleagues concluded, practice does not make perfect.
Along the same lines, biologist Michael Lombardo and psychologist Robert Deaner examined the biographies of male and female Olympic sprinters such as Jesse Owens, Marion Jones, and Usain Bolt, and found that, in all cases, they were exceptional compared with their competitors from the very start of their sprinting careers—before they had accumulated much more practice than their peers.
What all of this evidence indicates is that we are not created equal where our abilities are concerned. This conclusion might make you uncomfortable, and understandably so. Throughout history, so much wrong has been done in the name of false beliefs about genetic inequality between different groups of people—males vs. females, blacks vs. whites, and so on. War, slavery, and genocide are the most horrifying examples of the dangers of such beliefs, and there are countless others. In the United States, women were denied the right to vote until 1920 because too many people believed that women were constitutionally incapable of good judgment; in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, they still are believed to be. Ever since John Locke laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment by proposing that we are born as tabula rasa—blank slates—the idea that we are created equal has been the central tenet of the “modern” worldview. Enshrined as it is in the Declaration of Independence as a “self-evident truth,” this idea has special significance for Americans. Indeed, it is the cornerstone of the American dream—the belief that anyone can become anything they want with enough determination.
It is therefore crucial to differentiate between the influence of genes on differences in abilities across individuals and the influence of genes on differences across groups. The former has been established beyond any reasonable doubt by decades of research in a number of fields, including psychology, biology, and behavioral genetics. There is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that genes contribute to individual differences in abilities. The latter has never been established, and any claim to the contrary is simply false.
Another reason the idea of genetic inequality might make you uncomfortable is because it raises the specter of an anti-meritocratic society in which benefits such as good educations and high-paying jobs go to people who happen to be born with “good” genes. As the technology of genotyping progresses, it is not far-fetched to think that we will all one day have information about our genetic makeup, and that others—physicians, law enforcement, even employers or insurance companies—may have access to this information and use it to make decisions that profoundly affect our lives. However, this concern conflates scientific evidence with how that evidence might be used—which is to say that information about genetic diversity can just as easily be used for good as for ill.
Take the example of intelligence, as measured by IQ. We know from many decades of research in behavioral genetics that about half of the variation across people in IQ is due to genes. Among many other outcomes, IQ predicts success in school, and so once we have identified specific genes that account for individual differences in IQ, this information could be used to identify, at birth, children with the greatest genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would probably create a society even more unequal than the one we have. But this information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would probably create a more equal society than the one we have, and it would do so by identifying those who are likely to face learning challenges and provide them with the support they might need. Science and policy are two different things, and when we dismiss the former because we assume it will influence the latter in a particular and pernicious way, we limit the good that can be done.
Wouldn’t it be better to just act as if we are equal, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? That way, no people will be discouraged from chasing their dreams—competing in the Olympics or performing at Carnegie Hall or winning a Nobel Prize. The answer is no, for two reasons. The first is that failure is costly, both to society and to individuals. Pretending that all people are equal in their abilities will not change the fact that a person with an average IQ is unlikely to become a theoretical physicist, or the fact that a person with a low level of music ability is unlikely to become a concert pianist. It makes more sense to pay attention to people’s abilities and their likelihood of achieving certain goals, so people can make good decisions about the goals they want to spend their time, money, and energy pursuing. Moreover, genes influence not only our abilities, but the environments we create for ourselves and the activities we prefer—a phenomenon known as gene-environment correlation. For example, yet another recent twin study (and the Karolinska Institute study) found that there was a genetic influence on practicing music. Pushing someone into a career for which he or she is genetically unsuited will likely not work.
By JR on Thursday, October 16, 2014
Those moving goalposts again
Warmists are good at moving the goalposts. Catastrophe (runaway warming) was once slated to strike once atmospheric CO2 levels reached 400 ppm. We are now there with NO change in the temperature. So do they say "Sorry. We were wrong"? No way. They are just more vague about when warming will strike. And there were LOTS of bad things that were supposed to happen by 2014 which have not happened. Still no sign of penitence. They just don't name dates much anymore.
So rather a lot of laughs in the report below. The authors claim to have shown that sea levels suddenly started rising 150 years ago. So is that evidence of man-made global warming? It certainly runs counter to the usual Warmist claim that manmade global warming got going only in the second half of the 20th century. So the finding must contradict Warmism, right? It must show that sea-level was rising long before the industrial upsurge of the postwar era?
Not on your Nelly! We read below that 150 years ago was "the same time humanity began to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels". The onset of manmade global warming has suddenly been shunted back by around 100 years! VERY mobile goalposts!
And a small niggle. In the journal abstract also reproduced below the number of readings they took is given as ~1,000. Note the tilde (~), meaning "approximately". Don't they know how many records they used? Amazingly sloppy data processing if so.
But the whole enterprise is a nonsense. Present-day readings of sea level are difficult enough without thinking you can do it accurately 6,000 years back. See here where it shows that the sea level rise since 1970 has been 4.7 inches in Boston and 8.02 inches in Atlantic city. The rise in Atlantic city has been double what it was in Boston! So which is the true sea level? The obvious answer is that there is no such thing. So what these authors measured was just one sampling of sea levels which may tell us nothing about any general sea-level over the last 6,000 years
Melting glacial ice and ice sheets have driven seas to levels unmatched in the past 6,000 years, says a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers studied examples of past sediments in Australia and Asia that dated back 35,000 years and found that overall, the planet's sea level was fairly stable for most of the past 6,000 years.
Things began to go haywire about 150 years ago, the same time humanity began to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
"There's something going on today that wasn't going on before," said Kurt Lambeck of the Australian National University, who was lead author of the study, in an interview with the Australia Broadcasting Corp. He said the sea level rise is affected by increasing temperatures.
As the Earth's temperature warms, so do the seas. Heat-trapping greenhouse gases cause more land ice (glaciers and ice sheets) to melt and water to expand.
Lambeck told the Guardian that the sea level increase of the past 100 years is "beyond dispute."
Sea level has risen nearly 8 inches worldwide since 1880, but it doesn't rise at the same level. In the past century or so, it has climbed about a foot or more in some U.S. cities such as Charleston, Norfolk and Galveston because of the added influence of ocean currents and land subsidence.
Global sea level will rise 1 to 3 feet around the world by the end of this century, according to this year's Fifth Assessment Report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Sea level and global ice volumes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene
By Kurt Lambeck et al.
Several areas of earth science require knowledge of the fluctuations in sea level and ice volume through glacial cycles. These include understanding past ice sheets and providing boundary conditions for paleoclimate models, calibrating marine-sediment isotopic records, and providing the background signal for evaluating anthropogenic contributions to sea level. From ~1,000 observations of sea level, allowing for isostatic and tectonic contributions, we have quantified the rise and fall in global ocean and ice volumes for the past 35,000 years. Of particular note is that during the ~6,000 y up to the start of the recent rise ~100−150 y ago, there is no evidence for global oscillations in sea level on time scales exceeding ~200 y duration or 15−20 cm amplitude.
The major cause of sea-level change during ice ages is the exchange of water between ice and ocean and the planet’s dynamic response to the changing surface load. Inversion of ~1,000 observations for the past 35,000 y from localities far from former ice margins has provided new constraints on the fluctuation of ice volume in this interval. Key results are: (i) a rapid final fall in global sea level of ~40 m in <2,000 y at the onset of the glacial maximum ~30,000 y before present (30 ka BP); (ii) a slow fall to −134 m from 29 to 21 ka BP with a maximum grounded ice volume of ~52 × 106 km3 greater than today; (iii) after an initial short duration rapid rise and a short interval of near-constant sea level, the main phase of deglaciation occurred from ~16.5 ka BP to ~8.2 ka BP at an average rate of rise of 12 m⋅ka−1 punctuated by periods of greater, particularly at 14.5–14.0 ka BP at ≥40 mm⋅y−1 (MWP-1A), and lesser, from 12.5 to 11.5 ka BP (Younger Dryas), rates; (iv) no evidence for a global MWP-1B event at ~11.3 ka BP; and (v) a progressive decrease in the rate of rise from 8.2 ka to ~2.5 ka BP, after which ocean volumes remained nearly constant until the renewed sea-level rise at 100–150 y ago, with no evidence of oscillations exceeding ~15–20 cm in time intervals around 200 y from 6 to 0.15 ka BP.
By JR on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
How donuts cause global warming
What they fail to mention is that food firms use palm oil because food freaks have demoninized first saturated fats and then trans fats. Palm oil is what is left. So it is the do-gooders who have created the demand for palm oil -- and the resultant cutting down of native trees to grow the trees that produce the palm oil. So it is clear who is to blame for any adverse effects
McDonald's, Burger King, Yum Brands (Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut) and other members of the fast food industry are often the focus of negative attention for the effect on our heath, but did you know they are also having a big effect on our climate?
America's top fast food brands use palm oil, an ingredient linked to climate change and deforestation, in their products. As tropical forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, carbon is released into the atmosphere, driving global warming and shrinking habitats for endangered species. Tropical deforestation currently accounts for about 10 percent of the world's heat-trapping emissions.
The good news is that two of the country's largest fast food chains, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Brands (who owns both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins), just pledged to buy deforestation-free palm oil. The rest of the fast food industry should also set the bar high and make a firm commitment to use only deforestation-free palm oil.
By JR on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
The documentary "Merchants of Doubt"
Below is a review of a Warmist film based on the work of an old hag named Naomi Oreskes -- who some years ago did a literature survey that showed 100% agreement in the academic journals on the reality of global warming. The test of any scientific claim, however, is replication and when Benny Peiser attempted to repeat the Oreskes results using her methods, he found radically different results. For instance: "Of all 1117 abstracts, only 13 (or 0.1%) explicitly endorse the 'consensus view'". Oreskes is just an ugly old lady seeking attention. She is a fraud. So anything based on her work is on very shaky ground.
Some excerpts from a review of the film below that will surprise no skeptic. It's just the usual Warmist boilerplate. Paragraph 3 below does however make the surprising claim that (unidentified) media pundits have made death threats against Warmists. I am sure we would all like to hear details of that! It would seem that the reviewer is as imaginative as Naomi
Note that the review is just the usual rage-filled smears one expects from those who have no chance of surviving a debate based on facts. As usual, there is of course no mention of a single climate datum or of arguments from the skeptic side
UPDATE: Oreskes can actually be amusing. She is by training a geologist and has worked on scientific methods, in particular model validation in the Earth sciences. So why have we not heard from her about the repeatedly invalidated models used by Warmists? Surprising answer. She says: "Verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible... Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question". But no sign from her of climate skepticism, despite the total reliance on models by Warmists
"Merchants of Doubt," a new documentary which had its U.S. premiere Wednesday at the New York Film Festival, is a film that will likely sow despair in anyone who would like to believe that truth always wins in the end, or that the rational sides of peoples' (or even Congressional members') brains -- when choosing between the facts that will protect us and the misinformation intended to protect special interest -- will go with the facts every time.
Sadly, they don't. And certainly not in a world with 24 hours of cable news airtime filled with gladiatorial battles of sound bites and screaming Cassandras.
Directed by Robert Kenner (the Oscar-nominated 2008 documentary, "Food, Inc."),"Merchants of Doubt" is inspired by the 2010 book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, which explored the plethora of media pundits consistently throwing sand in the gears of action on climate change. These pundits -- many with no scientific training or experience -- trumpeted the existence of scientific discord over climate change when there was none. They slandered climate scientists as socialists, and attacked them with death threats. They skewed the contents of leaked emails to suggest climate data number-crunchers were cooking the books. And even if they do bend to admit that climate change IS real (hard not to after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy), they dig their heels in by denying a causal relation to human industrial activity, and scare the populace with dire warnings of lost jobs and government overreach. To them, reducing coal and oil = Big Brother.
The film points to the origins of this pundit class in the late 1950s, within the PR efforts of the tobacco companies, whose secret documents (revealed by whistleblowers or as evidence in lawsuits) detailed the playbook that a company peddling a hazardous product should follow to avoid financial ruin: cast doubt upon medical research (or even produce studies of your own); warn against the economic impacts in terms of job losses; rail against regulations as government overreach impinging upon people's liberties (it doesn't hurt to liberally throw the terms "Socialist" or "Communist" around); and make the culprit in any public health issue the consumer, as a matter of "personal responsibility."
Fred Singer, of the Heartland institute (a libertarian think tank funded in part by Exxon), is a well-known climate change denier who for years has called scientific evidence of a warming planet a lie. He proudly displays the publications his group produces that mimic actual scientific publications but which are meant to confuse Congressmen.
Also interviewed is Marc Morano, a former producer for Rush Limbaugh and staffer for James Inhofe (a major climate change denier in the Senate), who specializes in spin. He proudly tells Kenner about his role in "creating chaos" through on-air debates with actual scientists; and he shows no remorse for the public attacks he launched against NOAA scientist James Hansen, who was among the first to warn of the dangers of CO2 pollution to irreversibly affect the Earth's climate. Morano laughs off having sent or encouraged threats of violence to Hansen, saying he's entertained by reading the threats he receives.
UPDATE from Russell Cook about the movie:
In just a quick internet search of where this movie is showing in the US, I had to resort to using the Google Cache to read what the http://movietimes.com/movies/merchants-of-doubt.html web page said, since its current page shows a "movie you were looking for doesn't appear to be with us anymore" message. The Oct 10 Cache version of that page showed the movie as only being released in LA and NY. This may end up to be a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' movie release. For those of you on Facebook, the movie's FB page only has 24 'Likes' for it so far. By way of comparison, when I went to see "Greedy Lying Bastards" in order to review it last year, there were only around a half dozen or so other people in the theater and I don't think it played for more than a week in the Phoenix metro area.