Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

The Debunking Handbook

This guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download. 

Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas who encounter misinformation.

The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as:

-The Familiarity Backfire Effect
-The Overkill Backfire Effect
-The Worldview Backfire Effect

It also looks at a key element to successful debunking: providing an alternative explanation. The Handbook is designed to be useful to all communicators who have to deal with misinformation.

It’s 8 pages and a must read for anyone who cares to correct misinformation and debunk myths in themselves and others.

The Debunking Handbook

This guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download.

Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas who encounter misinformation.

The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as:

-The Familiarity Backfire Effect
-The Overkill Backfire Effect
-The Worldview Backfire Effect

It also looks at a key element to successful debunking: providing an alternative explanation. The Handbook is designed to be useful to all communicators who have to deal with misinformation.

It’s 8 pages and a must read for anyone who cares to correct misinformation and debunk myths in themselves and others.

Nature v technology: climate ‘belief’ is politics, not science


Remember the Theory of Relativity sceptics? As with the Einstein debate, the modern climate debate is based on politics and strawmen, not facts and details.

It is hard to imagine a scientific breakthrough more abstract and less politically contentious than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet in Weimar Germany in the 1920s it attracted fierce controversy, with conservatives and ultra-nationalists reading it as a vindication of their opponents – liberals, socialists, pacifists and Jews. They could not separate Einstein’s political views – he was an internationalist and pacifist – from his scientific breakthroughs, and his extraordinary fame made him a prime target in a period of political turmoil.

There was a turning point in 1920. A year earlier a British scientific expedition had used observations of an eclipse to provide empirical confirmation of Einstein’s prediction that light could be bent by the gravitational pull of the Sun. Little known to the general public beforehand, Einstein was instantly elevated to the status of the genius who outshone Galileo and Newton. But conservative newspapers provided an outlet for anti-relativity activists and scientists with an axe to grind, stoking nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment among those predisposed to it.

In a similar way today, conservative news outlets promote the views of climate deniers and publish stories designed to discredit climate scientists, all with a view to defending an established order seen to be threatened by evidence of a warming globe. As in the Wiemar Republic, the effect has been to fuel suspicion of liberals and “elites” by inviting the public to view science through political lenses…

Read More

sagansense:


Scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date. Follow our live news and reaction as the UN’s climate science panel publishes the first part of its fifth assessment report Image: Julien Behal/PA
Climate change report: live reaction to IPCC conclusions | On Friday, scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date | Guardian
What we’ve learned this morning
Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the UN WMO said"it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”
We’re likely to go over rises of 2°C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. “What is very clear is we are not” on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today’s report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.
Sea level rises are coming. “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century,” says today’s report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said ”there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises.”
Scientists said that claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture and temperatures are going up in the longterm. Climate trends “should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years,”said Stocker.
The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. “The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigaton carbon. 531 GTC had already emitted by 2011. So we have 350GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves.”
Keep up to date 
Further reading:

IPCC | Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers
BBC | Are ideas to cool the planet realistic?
Guardian | Global warming likely to breach 2C threshold, climate scientists conclude
Guardian | Climate change will hit poor countries hardest, study shows
Planetary ‘Runaway Greenhouse’ Climates More Easily Triggered than Previously Thought
A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis
Climate research nearly unanimous on human causes


via probablyasocialecologist

sagansense:

Scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date. Follow our live news and reaction as the UN’s climate science panel publishes the first part of its fifth assessment report Image: Julien Behal/PA

Climate change report: live reaction to IPCC conclusionsOn Friday, scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date | Guardian

What we’ve learned this morning

  1. Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the UN WMO said"it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”
  2. We’re likely to go over rises of 2°C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. “What is very clear is we are not” on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today’s report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.
  3. Sea level rises are coming. “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century,” says today’s report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said ”there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises.”
  4. Scientists said that claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture and temperatures are going up in the longterm. Climate trends “should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years,”said Stocker.
  5. The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. “The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigaton carbon. 531 GTC had already emitted by 2011. So we have 350GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves.”
Keep up to date 
Further reading:

via probablyasocialecologist

Global Warming Denial Is Science-Proof

goodreasonnews:

This is a great article on understanding:

a) Climate change

b) The nature of science as a tool

c) The major malfunction with right-wing, anti-intellectual, climate change denier, asshats.

The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change

“The idea that you could look a huge amount of evidence straight in the face and, for purely ideological reasons, deny it, is anathema to me.” —Kerry Emanuel, former Republican

…“There is a divide within the party,” says Samuel Thernstrom, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality and is now a scholar of environmental policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “The position that climate change is a hoax is untenable.”

“The country’s going to become more educated, and that’s not going to break our way, as a party, if we are denying what 90 out of 100 scientists say,” Croswhite argues. “If the scientific community is generally accepting of something, you need to trust that.”…

5 Charts About Climate Change That Should Have You Very, Very Worried

wildcat2030:

See on Scoop.it - The Future of Water & Waste

Two major organizations released climate change reports this month warning of doom and gloom if we stick to our current course and fail to take more aggressive measures. A World Bank report imagines a world 4 degrees warmer, the temperature predicted by century’s end barring changes, and says it aims to shock people into action by sharing devastating scenarios of flood, famine, drought and cyclones. Meanwhile, a report from the US National Research Council, commissioned by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies, says the consequences of climate change—rising sea levels, severe flooding, droughts, fires, and insect infestations—pose threats greater than those from terrorism ranging from massive food shortages to a rise in armed conflicts.

Here are some of the more alarming graphic images from the reports.


See on theatlantic.com

Why Conservatives Turned Against Science

Remember when environmental protection was a bipartisan effort?

A prediction: When all the votes have been counted and the reams of polling data have been crunched, analyzed, and spun, this will be clear: Few scientists will have voted for Republican candidates, particularly for national office. Survey data taken from 1974 through 2010 and analyzed by Gordon Gauchat in the American Sociological Review confirm that most American scientists are not conservatives. A 2009 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 9 percent of scientists self-identified as conservative, while 52 percent called themselves liberals. Only 6 percent of American scientists self-identified as Republicans. This state of affairs is bad for the nation, and bad for science.

It was not always this way. In the 1968 election, Richard Nixon won the votes of 31 percent of physicists, 42 percent of biologists, 52 percent of geologists, and 62 percent of agricultural scientists (compared with 43.4 percent of the popular vote). While these data do not include party affiliation, they suggest that the scientific community of the late 1960s was much more evenly divided between the two major parties than it is now, and, with the exception of physicists, slightly more conservative than the American voting public at large.

Why have scientists fled the Republican Party? The obvious answer is that the Republican Party has spurned science. Consider Mitt Romney’s shifting position on climate change. As governor of Massachusetts in 2004, he laid out a plan for protecting the state’s climate. As presidential candidate, he has said that climate change is real, but has questioned whether humans are causing it. His stance is consistent with the Republican Party platform, which unambiguously calls for expanding the production and use of the fossil fuels that drive climate change. In 2009, Paul Ryan accused climate scientists of “clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change,” echoing false accusations leveled against climatologists at the University of East Anglia. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan exemplify the conservative turn against science, but what explains it?

(continue)

atheismforthewin:

As much as we like to debate over religion, any disagreement will always be a secondary thought to keeping our world- and those on it- safe. No killing, no hurting, no taking away others’ rights. That’s the way it should be, no matter what creed you follow.

atheismforthewin:

As much as we like to debate over religion, any disagreement will always be a secondary thought to keeping our world- and those on it- safe. No killing, no hurting, no taking away others’ rights. That’s the way it should be, no matter what creed you follow.

The Republicans say that we can’t afford to pay for cutting the carbon emissions which climatologists assert are largely responsible for rising global temperatures and the spike in violent weather. What we truly cannot afford, according to our nation’s leading insurers, is to continue to deny a problem whose price tag is slated to go through the roof if we don’t act quickly.

npr:

Climate, Controversy And Strangers On A Plane
He looked like a former linebacker, tall and solidly built. After stowing his wife’s luggage in the overhead, he squeezed past me, sat down and looked straight at the astronomy textbook I was reading. “You’re a scientist?” he asked. “Are you involved in that big controversy over climate?”
I looked into his face and could see he wasn’t angry or hostile or combative. He seemed like a good guy and, by the way his wife gently rolled her eyes, I could see he liked to talk. So I took a chance and replied.
“What controversy?”
What followed was a long conversation, 30,000 feet above the American West, about a great and dangerous gap. On the one hand we spoke of science and what it looks like on the ground to those who practice it. On the other hand we waded knee-deep into the wreckage that is science in the sphere of politics.
From my seatmate’s perspective the field of climate studies must be awash in controversy. Was the planet warming, or not?
(Image credit: Berkeley Earth)

npr:

Climate, Controversy And Strangers On A Plane

He looked like a former linebacker, tall and solidly built. After stowing his wife’s luggage in the overhead, he squeezed past me, sat down and looked straight at the astronomy textbook I was reading. “You’re a scientist?” he asked. “Are you involved in that big controversy over climate?”

I looked into his face and could see he wasn’t angry or hostile or combative. He seemed like a good guy and, by the way his wife gently rolled her eyes, I could see he liked to talk. So I took a chance and replied.

“What controversy?”

What followed was a long conversation, 30,000 feet above the American West, about a great and dangerous gap. On the one hand we spoke of science and what it looks like on the ground to those who practice it. On the other hand we waded knee-deep into the wreckage that is science in the sphere of politics.

From my seatmate’s perspective the field of climate studies must be awash in controversy. Was the planet warming, or not?

(Image credit: Berkeley Earth)

Climate Scientists' editorial rebuttal published in the WSJ!

jtotheizzoe:

climateadaptation:

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an anti-climate change op-ed signed by 16 scientists. None of the authors are climate scientists, nor do peer review research in the field.

No matter, it got published anyway. And shortly after the piece was published, real climate scientists came out off the woodwork to condemn the WSJ and the so-called scientists that wrote it. Andrew Revkin of the NYTimes has been tracking the pushback, here.

I’m happy to say that the WSJ published a rebuttal from real climate scientists and researchers, and it is epic. A taste:

Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations.

You published “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology. While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science. The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert. This happens in nearly every field of science. For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science.

Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter.

Via Revkin

Previously, for background.

James Taylor of Forbes is at it again.

cwnl:

returntothestars:

James Taylor of Forbes magazine, the same James Taylor and Forbes magazine who attempted to debunk global warming using a paper published by a creationist and ExxonMobil associate, is at it again.

This time, Taylor has dug up a 2007 debate, at the end of which, 46% of the non-climate-scientist-audience was persuaded that climate change was “not a crises.” That’s up from 30% before the debate. Taylor finds this persasuive enough to declare victory for the climate science denialists.

Yeah, that’s nice. Meanwhile, 97% of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is real.

What an interesting but expected duo; Creationism and climate change denialists.

Climate denial is, if nothing else, a sign of the dumbing down of conservatism in the United States. Just as climate change threatens the physical environment, so too does climate denial threaten the cognitive environment. After all, what happens when one’s intellectual shoreline has been eroded?

Conservative writer and former climate denier D.R. Tucker

via Climate Denial Crock of the Week

(via jtotheizzoe)