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

 

Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)

(Source: alwaysmoneyinthebnanastand)

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.

Sir David Attenborough: Enough With the Creationists and Climate Change Deniers!

“To simply say that you must accept unquestioningly what you learned at your mother’s knee is not the act of an intelligent person”


…You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”…

The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist

Believe me, I sympathize. You are in possession of a truly incredible breakthrough that offers the prospect of changing the very face of science as we know it, if not more. The only problem is, you’re coming at things from an unorthodox perspective. Maybe your findings don’t fit comfortably with people’s preconceived notions, or maybe you don’t have the elaborate academic credentials that established scientists take for granted. Perhaps you have been able to construct a machine that produces more energy than it consumes, using only common household implements; or maybe you’ve discovered a hidden pattern within the Fibonacci sequence that accurately predicts the weight that a top quark would experience on Ganymede, expressed in femtonewtons; or it might be that you’ve elaborated upon an alternative explanation for the evolution of life on Earth that augments natural selection by unspecified interventions from a vaguely-defined higher power. Whatever the specifics, the point is that certain kinds of breakthroughs just aren’t going to come from a hide-bound scholastic establishment; they require the fresh perspective and beginner’s mind that only an outsider genius (such as yourself) can bring to the table….

…Happily, we are here to help. It would be a shame if the correct theory to explain away dark matter or account for the origin of life were developed by someone without a conventional academic position, who didn’t really take a lot of science classes in college and didn’t have a great math background but was always interested in the big questions, only for that theory to be neglected because of some churlish prejudice. So we would like to present a simple checklist of things that alternative scientists should do in order to get taken seriously by the Man. And the good news is, it’s only three items! How hard can that be, really? True, each of the items might require a nontrivial amount of work to overcome. Hey, nobody ever said that being a lonely genius was easy..

1. Acquire basic competency in whatever field of science your discovery belongs to.
2. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.
3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

climateadaptation:

Obama’s science advisor describes the #PolarVortex and climate change. Seriously! Check it out.

President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, explains the polar vortex in 2 minutes—and why climate change makes extreme weather more likely going forward. Learn more at http://wh.gov/climate-change.

Climate Change: The Moral Choices - MIT Technology Review

confrontingbabble-on:

"One of the defining characteristics of climate change is poorly appreciated by most people: the higher temperatures and other effects induced by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will persist for a very long time. Scientists have long realized that carbon dioxide emitted during the burning of fossil fuels tends to linger in the atmosphere for extended periods, even for centuries. Over the last few years, researchers have calculated that some of the resulting changes to the earth’s climate, including increased temperature, are more persistent still: even if emissions are abruptly ended and carbon dioxide levels gradually drop, the temperature will stubbornly remain elevated for a thousand years or more. The earth’s thermostat is essentially being turned up and there are no readily foreseeable ways to turn it back down; even risky geoengineering schemes would at best offset the higher temperatures only temporarily.

It’s a shocking realization, especially given how little progress has been made in slowing carbon dioxide emissions. But it is precisely the long-term nature of the problem that makes it so urgent for us to limit emissions as quickly and radically as possible. To have a decent chance of meeting the widely accepted international goal of keeping warming at or below 2 °C, emissions need to be cut substantially over the next few years. By 2050 they must be reduced by half or more from 2009 levels.”

Read http://m.technologyreview.com/review/513526/climate-change-the-moral-choices/

See Also “Climate Change Worse Than We Thought, Likely To Be ‘Catastrophic Rather Than Simply Dangerous’” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/climate-change-worse_n_4523828.html

Further “How the Religious Right and the Corporate Right are Joining Forces to Fight Environmental Protection” http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/the-green-dragon-slayers-how-the-religious-right-and-the-corporate-right-are-joining-fo

Billion-dollar climate denial network exposed

wilwheaton:

A network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible.

An extensive study into the financial networks that support groups denying the science behind climate change and opposing political action has found a vast, secretive web of think tanks and industry associations, bankrolled by conservative billionaires.

"I call it the climate-change counter movement," study author Robert Brulle, who published his results in the journal Climatic Change, told the Guardian. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

His work, which is focused on the United States, shows how a network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible for conservative opposition to climate policy. Almost 80 percent of these groups are registered as charitable organizations for tax purposes and collectively received more than seven billion dollars between 2003 and 2010.

This isn’t really surprising, and it’s one of those things we all knew but couldn’t prove until now. I’m not holding my breath while I wait for the charitable status of these front organizations to be revoked, though.

jtotheizzoe:

What if all the ice melted?

The ocean holds most of Earth’s water. After that, it’s ice. 5.7 million cubic miles of the stuff.

What if, thanks to natural and man-made climate change, it all melted? What if, by burning enough deep-Earth carbon (dead dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, or as we call it… fossil fuels) we raised Earth’s average temperature to around 80˚ F?

Thanks to National Geographic we know: This is is what 216 feet (66 meters) of sea level change looks like. 

If an outsider perceives ‘something wrong’ with a core scientific model, the humble and justified response of that curious outsider should be to ask ‘what mistake am I making?’ before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong.

David Brin

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

A New Scorecard Explains How the World Is Getting Better. Really.

wildcat2030:

See on Scoop.it - Knowmads, Infocology of the future

For centuries, optimists and pessimists have argued over the state of the world.

-

For centuries, optimists and pessimists have argued over the state of the world. Pessimists see a world where more people means less food, where rising demand for resources means depletion and war, and, in recent decades, where boosting production capacity means more pollution and global warming. One of the current generation of pessimists’ sacred texts, The Limits to Growth, influences the environmental movement to this day.

 

The optimists, by contrast, cheerfully claim that everything—human health, living standards, environmental quality, and so on—is getting better. Their opponents think of them as  “cornucopian” economists, placing their faith in the market to fix any and all problems.

But, rather than picking facts and stories to fit some grand narrative of decline or progress, we should try to compare across all areas of human existence to see if the world really is doing better or worse. Together with 21 of the world’s top economists, I have tried to do just that, developing a scorecard spanning 150 years. Across 10 areas—including health, education, war, gender, air pollution, climate change, and biodiversity—the economists all answered the same question: What was the relative cost of this problem in every year since 1900, all the way to 2013, with predictions to 2050.


Wildcat2030's insight:

A must read..


See on slate.com
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

Rush Limbaugh: ‘If You Believe in God, Then Intellectually You Cannot Believe in Manmade Global Warming’

Rush Limbaugh made the argument on his show yesterday that you can’t believe in both God and manmade global warming, an idea many evangelical Christians have long embraced:

"See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.

You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create…”

Even for Christians, that’s a weird belief to hold, especially since they tend to believe in the idea of free will. Why doesn’t God stop murder? Because he gave us free will to make our own decisions. Similarly, if God created the universe, you could argue that it’s our responsibility to protect it.

There’s also the fact that—-oh, why bother. It’s Rush Limbaugh. If you’re listening to him, you’re not concerned about facts, anyway, only rhetoric and misguided talking points.

(Source: patheos.com)