Experts and the Temple of Orthodoxy

Most of us here in the Bookworm Room express a healthy skepticism of “experts” in general. Most of us revel in our ability to think and discourse critically for ourselves, while others lament that socially-anointed “experts” are not solemnly revered through incense, incantations and burnt offerings made before the Temple of Orthodoxy. Ah well.

Age plays a factor. As a student in the sciences, I revered all my profs until I learned to see through their intellectual facades. By graduate school, I was far more discriminating. Don’t get me wrong – I was privileged to be able to study and discourse with true intellectual giants.  I recognized that a common trait of these models and mentors was their ability to constantly question convention and reexamine their premises. They could also doubt themselves. I admire them to this day and I wanted someday to be like them. I am still trying.

However, there was also another group of intellectual wannabees, professors and classmates, for whom the sole objective of the id was the ego. Their entire sense of self revolved around a desperate need to be recognized for their “credentials”. This group was highly insecure and many were not particularly bright. I recall PhD students who were already penning their “expert” bestsellers before having completed their orals. Alas, such “scientists” were so intent on creating unwarranted reputations for themselves that they would cause great intellectual mischief in my professional field. Thus do I take any claim to self-proclaimed expertise  or consensus opinion with a healthy grain of salt.

The point I am making is that scientists are humans, subject to all the quirks, foibles and fallibilities of other humans. However, because of their credentials, it is too easy for lay people to accept uncritically what these scientists profess. Scientists, like all other people, can also fall prey to herd mentalities and egos too often pose insurmountable barriers to self-reflection. For many of us, as we get older, realism displaces idealism and teaches many of us the need to think for ourselves. It’s part of our journey into adulthood.

I bring all this up because, at No Frakken Consensus, there is a delightful book review on “The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation”, by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky.

The book is a historical record of the many, many times that scientific, political, historical and social thinking and consensus have been proven wrong…badly wrong. It’s an intellectual journey sprinkled with entertaining footnotes and guide posts to help one navigate beyond the intellectual facades of credentialed experts (one of my favorites: “funding and forecasting may be dependent variables”).

If you click on the image of the book, it takes you to the Amazon website, where you can peruse pages thereof.

It’s a fun read and I am sure that all critical-thinking Bookworm Room aficionados could have loads of fun for years to come in adding to the book’s list of defrocked orthodoxies (it was most recently republished in 1998). It certainly yields more-than enough holy water with which to give the Temple of Orthodoxy a thorough scrub.

Superstorms coming?

Are we entering the next ice age?

One of the foundations of scientific inquiry is skepticism. Contrary to what some believe, science is not about consensus but about leaving all doors of inquiry open to all possibilities. It takes only one point of evidence to disprove an entire theory. Progress in science has occurred largely because of breakthrough insights made by individuals, not committees. Another aspect of science is that it is the study of realities much bigger than ourselves: to think otherwise is hubris. We use science to understand the world around us, we use technology to try and manipulate such knowledge to our benefit. However, not all things are within our control. Third, scientific progress depends upon skepticism. Skepticism is good, because it constantly puts conventional wisdom to the test. Conformity to conventional wisdom doesn’t equate with progress.

This is why I present the link below (h/t, http://qando.net/). It provides a different perspective on our future and explanations for many of the weather and climate phenomena we have been witnessing. It provides a very dark and troubling alternative vision of our future. The points it raises are ones of which scientists were already well aware during my university days many years ago. Thus do I know that it contains at least a kernel of truth.

The thrust of this linked article is that we are about to lose the earth’s magnetic shield, resulting in massive and destructive climate disruption that could be civilization altering and plunge us into the next ice age.

http://salem-news.com/articles/february042011/global-superstorms-ta.php

Scared yet?

Well, this article just appeared in an MSM publication published for people who are likely to be only vaguely aware of its scientific merits. Many of the points made in the article appear logically presented and certainly square with information of which I am already aware. However, the article lacks the rigorous detail needed for me to make any judgment of its merits. It is sensational and manipulative. The citations include publications that I consider of highly dubious quality (Scientific American, National Geographic). It does not cite countervailing points of view (which I can be sure exist).

Do I believe the conclusions implied in this article? Nope. Do I disbelieve them? Nope.

I will thus file away the information as evidence of an alternate hypothesis to explain the weather and climate changes that we have observed in our world. A third hypothesis to anthropogenic climate change is solar cycle theory, which also predicts a period of protracted global cooling). It’s a hypothesis that demands a healthy skepticism rather than a frantic reaction. However, it does broaden the terrain of debate on climate change.

I shall file it under “interesting, possibly true”.

Corrupt science and climate

After reading this excellent article, it’s clear that, even if there is anthropogenic global warming, we’ll never know, because agenda-driven “scientists” have so hopelessly corrupted the available data that scientific truth is impossible.  As it is, you all know that, while I’m an environmentalist (I believe we should cherish our environment as much as reasonably possible), I rigidly refuse to believe in anthropogenic global warming.  Back in 1992, Rush said AGW was a Leftist scam aimed at taking down capitalism, and events proved him to be absolutely right.

Is global warming hysteria responsible for Egypt’s revolution?

Track me on this one:

1.  With help from Al Gore, Hollywood, and the entire Leftist panoply, global warming fears reach hysterical levels.

2.  As part of their apocalyptic battle against rising seas and dying polar bears, warmists declare ethanol is one of the answers (never mind that it turns out that it takes 1.5 gallons of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of ethanol).

3.  Did I mention that ethanol comes from corn?  In the old days, people used to eat corn.  Now they drive it.

4.  To satisfy the panic-stricken need for drivable corn, food crops are diverted into fuel production.

5.  The cost of staples rises substantially around the world.

5.  In 2008, food riots break out, including riots in Egypt.  (Here are three links supporting the ethanol/riot connection, one from a free market site, one from a technology site, and one from an organic food site.)

6.  Although food riots haven’t been in the headlines lately, what do you bet that, with ethanol production still causing producers to divert food crops into the energy market, marginal economic societies such as Egypt continue to feel the effects of food shortages?

7.  Voila — riot conditions.  For history aficionados, remember that, in the 1790s, the French had suffered aristocratic depredations for centuries; it was the food shortages that triggered revolt (a la “Let them eat cake,” not that Marie Antoinette actually said that).  The same pattern showed up in Russia, with rising discontent reaching a fever pitch with WWI shortages.

In other word, what’s happening in Egypt is Al Gore’s fault.  (And yes, I’m being snarky, but it’s not a completely unreasonable supposition.)

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Must see TV about the devastating costs of climate change hysteria

Hat tip:  small dead animals

Kind of like Al Gore

Doesn’t the information below about the lying autism/vaccination doc remind you of Green Billionaire  Al Gore and his fellow wealth redistribution (into their own pocket) fellow travelers?

According to new research published in today’s BMJ, Wakefield’s motive for the fraud was money — and lots of it. Wakefield “planned secret businesses intended to make huge sums of money, in Britain and America, from his now-discredited allegations,” according to a BMJ press release.

MSM is not connecting the dots (are we surprised?)

Every morning, partly out of habit, partly out of martyrdom, and partly out of the same fascination that drives us to rubber-neck roadway accidents, I check out the San Francisco Chronicle on line.  It is certainly a nicely laid out home page.  It has clear links to its own columns and articles, and a nice little box constantly updated with the latest from wire services.  This neat layout was what made two headlines — one the Chronicle’s own and one from the WaPo (which went out over a wire service) — leap out at me.

Here’s the Chronicle’s headline: “ Food prices rise sharply – and there’s more to come.”  The article describes huge price increases (oh, joy!) and adds at the end that the problem seems to stem, in part, from rising gas and diesel costs.

And here’s the WaPo/wire headline:  “Fox News bias on climate change shows in e-mail.”  This article tracks on an email release showing that Fox’s official policy about global warming stories was to be skeptical.  What’s so funny is that the data is showing that Fox’s skepticism was exactly right.  While the climate is certainly changing, as it has done with regularity and frequency for the past 300 years, there is less and less evidence that humans are responsible, and more and more evidence that (a) we’re not going to immolate any time soon and (b) the “science” driving the whole global warming furor was a politically motivated show aimed, in significant part, at forcing the US to redistribute its wealth to needy Leftists.

What I find amusing about the two headlines/stories in one paper is that I doubt anyone at the Chron is looking at the food prices story and thinking . . . hmmm, maybe if we stopped panicking about global warming, which leads to demonizing fossil fuels, rather than working to us them more productively and cleanly, we might have lower food costs.  And while we’re at it, perhaps it’s a mistake to let the enviro-nazis turn California, which was the most productive food supplier in the world, turn into a desert.

My blog’s motto (“Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts”) applies with startling force to the cognitive dissonance that is the MSM’s daily diet.

(Garbled writing in the first paragraph corrected.  I’m going on vacation soon, and that’s probably a good thing.  My brain seems to need a break.)