Roundup is Not the Problem

Countable

A recently published study found that glyphosate “may serve as one of the drivers for antibiotic resistance,” and that it may contribute to “the proliferation of plant and animal pathogens.”

Many in the scientific community say that we don’t know enough about the ecological and health effects of glyphosate, and that more research is necessary.

What do you think?

Should the U.S. ban glyphosate? Increase funding to scientific research into its impacts? Why or why not?

Roundup is not the problem. Being afraid of things we don’t understand is the problem. Roundup is one of the safest herbicides we have, but the word safe applied to things that are designed to kill something, even plants, is deceiving. Compared to other treatments, glyphosate (Roundup) requires fewer, lighter treatments, completely the opposite of what most people think. I wrote a length about Monsanto and Roundup in this post a few years back. Monsanto isn’t evil and neither is Roundup. What is evil is the targeting that environmentalists do in association with their delusions about clean food.

I also find myself repeating this more and more often these days. One study does not a science make. One study is possibly a anomaly. Two studies begins to look like real data. Three studies and you might be onto something. Get back to me when there is as much evidence that Roundup causes cancer as there is evidence (or a lack of evidence) that it is cancer causing. The entire paragraph that the sentence is in on the Countable.com site is fallacious; as in begging the question, the real begging the question not the popular refrain begging the question, which is the opposite of fallacious. But confusing fallacy names aside, there can’t be any of the scary things mentioned associated with the herbicide, because there is no data linking it to the scary things other than popular belief trying to find causes for things that may not even be happening.

Learn and understand, not fear and react. That should be a modern mantra.

Countable.com comment expanded.


Inquiring Minds Up To Date | Monsanto Cancer Case and Kids Believe Lying Robots

The Beginning is The Ending

Back when I was first arguing the concepts behind Atheism is Not a Belief System my main antagonist on the BBS cited the Big Bang as proof of god’s existence on more than one occasion. It was one of his cherished arguments, one that he was convinced there was no answer to. According to him god willed the creation of existence from nothingness, in his eyes an absolute proof of his Catholic god. The rebuttal to this particular line of argument involves understanding physics and extrapolating data to its ultimate conclusion. Essentially there was existence before there was what we know as spacetime today, and what we see as matter today existed then, perhaps in some other form. We don’t know what that form is or how before was measured before there was time, but you can’t get something from nothing without god, ergo there was something before.

Unless you want to posit god the continuance of existence is a fact, due to the law of conservation of energy. In order for the bang to occur the matter had to be there to explode in the first place. You can’t have an explosion of nothing. An explosion of nothing is a miracle of godlike proportions, and positing god just adds the complexity of the creator of god and then his creator’s creator, in an infinite loop of creator beings that mirrors the common expression turtles all the way down. Either existence always was and always will be, or there is something else we don’t yet understand at play here, as far as the cosmos is concerned.

As a baseline, our understanding of what is occurring really is in question. What we casually refer to as dark matter and dark energy makes up most of what we refer to equally as casually as the universe. Dark matter is no more certain to be one simple thing than dark energy is. These are merely placeholders like unobtainium, a number to plug into the missing holes in our understanding of the universe. We don’t know what most of the universe is made up of, and we don’t know what kind of energy is pushing it to expand at the rates that we can measure from astronomical observations. We simply can’t see everything we need to see to understand the universe at a fundamental level.

In much the same fashion, black holes exist both in this spacetime and outside of it. The Schwarzschild boundary marks the point at which normal space ceases to exist. Inside that radius we can’t know what is occurring because spacetime breaks down beyond that point. We can, and do, theorize as to what occurs and maybe, someday, we will  be able to test some of these theories. But until we can go and directly measure a black hole what we are left with is mathematical proofs that we must accept as true because the math is valid to the extent that we understand it. In the meantime we have found black holes in our observation of the universe, so their existence is an established fact, much like the matter that we can calculate is present in them even though we can’t see them directly. That is the part of them that is outside of our spacetime, the matter we can’t see because it passed the Schwarzschild radius and is invisible beyond the lensing effect of that radius.

The above is simply the prequel of this entry to the blog. The bare minimum explanation that I feel I need to include before even linking the podcast that spawned this little jaunt down hypothetical lane.

Inquiring Minds, 135 Sean Carroll – Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Inquiring Minds is a show that I listen to pretty regularly. There have been two or three episodes that I passed up over the run of the series, but as a rule I try to give them a listen because I find their reliance on science to be pretty solid. This episode though, this episode pushed the limits for me. I liked the conversation, but I disagree with the conclusions that Sean Carroll comes to in the episode. Conclusions that he states with far more certainty than we can possibly justify, even with my limited knowledge of the math involved. We simply don’t know how the universe will end, or even that it will end. We don’t know that it ever began, either. He said as much in the podcast, but then he went on to repeat the heat death story that most physicists fall back on these days.

If any part of string theory is real then there are other dimensions to spacetime than the four dimensions that we currently can measure. In any one of the many other possible dimensions, gravity may have effects that we can’t predict and that gravity might very well exert forces that would explain some of the measurements that we currently mask with the labels dark matter and dark energy. To phrase it the way I prefer to think about it, the universe is currently accelerating into the big bang. The universe is a nearly indescribably complex toroidal shape, in my estimation, but even that is a gross oversimplification. Hawking radiation hasn’t been demonstrated to exist, so black holes don’t necessarily evaporate away. Nor do we know that space without mass and time is really a thing that exists at all. What we can say is that the universe appears to have sprang from what we think is on the other side of a black hole.

Who is to say it isn’t the same one at both ends? I’m certainly not well-versed enough in the math required to argue this conjecture knowledgeably. What I’m attracted to is the poetry, the symmetry of the circular rhythm created by the universe expanding and contracting over eternity, spawning and collapsing the multiverse or many worlds hypothesis that seems to be the most promising explanation for observed quantum effects that we’ve come up with. Maybe, just maybe, they are occurring simultaneously on different dimensions.

This article was inspired by two paragraphs written about this episode on Facebook. I’ve added it to the blog as a demonstration of the fact that I have beliefs, that atheists can and do have beliefs. This is one of the few things that I believe without concrete proof. I’ll generally defer to a scientist to tell me about science. That deference ends at what they can concretely say about what they know and why.

The Psychology of Hate?

I had a few objections to this episode of Inquiring Minds. All of this ties back to the episode that aired right before the election last November, the episode where the hosts and journalists being interviewed just assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election, that Trump voters were some crazy fringe of American society that just wanted to be heard? Yeah, that one. In this one they just assume that the internet trolls that pushed the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) onto the GOP stage and then laughed themselves all the way to the foreign-intervention inquest hearing, had a larger point they wanted to make other than to prove that Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans (#MAGA) would believe anything they read on the internet. I’m sure those same trolls are still laughing after this episode.

Inquiring Minds – 192 ALI MATTU – The Psychology of Hate – September 11, 2017

OK. Here’s the problem with the guest’s take on polarization in the form of the sitting president. Setting aside the ingroup/outgroup bias that I have towards conservatives whom I consider barely capable of thought on a pretty regular basis considering who they allow to lead their party; I would say “since Reagan” but it’s actually been since Nixon, Republicans and conservatives are in love with money politics. It’s bad on the Democratic left as well, because that is the name of the game in this day and age, and that name is corruption. But their leaders don’t even pretend to disguise that they are doing the bidding of their funders. Trickle-down is a completely bankrupt theory of economics, but they still propose giving tax cuts to the wealthy because the wealthy don’t want to pay taxes. It certainly isn’t for the reasons that they pretend because it’s been demonstrated that money just pools in the wealthy people’s hands when you let wealthy people keep more money.

But I’m getting sidetracked into the bankrupt ideas. The problem with their leaders is that they get more and more corrupt. Nixon authorized a little B&E but that’s child’s play next to Reagan who bribed the Iranians or Bush the first who ran the CIA or the second that lied us into war in Iraq. And all of them ALL OF THEM pale beside the criminal, the huckster, the complete fraud that is Donald J. Trump. His connections to the Russian mafia go so deep you will need a rectal exam to figure out where they end. The election tampering was nothing compared to his dirty money ties to them that are just now coming to light and this is the guy they chose as their leader?

I mean, I sit down and break bread with conservatives everyday. I live in Texas after all, it is unavoidable. But Trump? Even David Frum can’t put enough distance between himself and Trump. The problem isn’t that the left has gone too far left or that there even is such a thing as “too liberal” (which is probably a point worth arguing) but if there is a thing called too liberal it’s going to be found somewhere residing in the heads of people who are willing to give a criminal like Trump a chance. He started his campaign with racism and I”m not waiting for his followers to start filling up concentration camps (currently referred to as immigration detention, just FYI) with their undesirables before I decide to do something.

There really is such a thing as a stupid idea, and giving a demonstrable criminal, a fraudulent deal-maker who has been sued nearly 6,000 times, a chance to run the country is the dumbest idea I’ve heard yet. But I’m sure I’ll hear something dumber from the Republicans pretty shortly, unless your guest beats them to it. 

The Orange Hate-Monkey

There is a definite sense of the surreal in my reality this week. I was behind in most of the podcasts I listen to because I was trying to follow the news right up to election day. I have blissfully ignored most of the news since Tuesday, November 8th 2016, with a few glaring exceptions that I will get to shortly. I have been wading into the swamp of audio that has flooded my feed in the last two weeks, putting off listening to episodes of Waking Up, as one example. I’m saving those for when I have the capacity to concentrate on serious philosophical subjects again. I’m tossing out the dross that is no longer relevant now that reality has shifted post-election. Don’t really need to keep abreast of the latest tech, so no TWiT.tv for awhile. The science podcasts are my bedrock, though; which is why the last episode of Inquiring Minds has deepened the surreality I’ve been experiencing since Tuesday.

INQUIRING MINDS – 154 Changing Political Minds – November 4, 2016

(the eyeless, open-headed logo for the show is creeping me out as it stares at me now)

Listening to the people who attempt to defend their affinity for the Orange Hate-Monkey in the podcast isn’t helping. Oh poor, misunderstood me whining by rural whites strikes me as just this side of pathetic. As if urban blacks don’t have problems, haven’t had worse problems for the better part of two hundred years. The fact that the researchers on this podcast are so divorced from the truth of the matter, that the reality-disconnected people they have been interviewing actually turned out to be the ones who had the last laugh, that they got their American Psycho candidate on a collision course with the White House, in the face of the researcher’s own blithe belief that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the presidency, isn’t helping with the surreality of this moment in time.

When I coined the phrase Orange Hate-Monkey, I wasn’t just being mean or childish. Repeating Chris HayesBirther-in-Chief label is something I do mean and childishly. Like the label for his profession, Real Estate Developer, which is just another form of epithet for an architectural design professional like myself, the moniker Orange Hate-Monkey is an attempt to describe the particular type of reality disconnect I perceive when this dangerously psychotic man speaks.

The man (and I use that term loosely. I assume he has working male parts because he has children he claims as his own. He isn’t a man in any other fashion that I can determine) does love to talk, and other people seem to find his blather endlessly amusing for reasons which I cannot fathom. No matter how many times I yelled at my television screen “why are you asking this liar questions when you know he will just lie to you?” in the last year, no one ever seemed to stop and ask if this person they were talking too was really all there, mentally.

All I ever heard in his voice was deception and hatred. All real estate developers have a looser than average grip on reality. It is a hazard of the job, sizing up the real estate you can afford and then putting lipstick on that pig so that you can get the best price. Sincerity sells, so they learn to believe their own bullshit more fervently than anyone else around them, more fervently than used car salesmen, even though they know it is all bullshit. As a real estate developer, these delusions are an asset to be utilized.

You sell the delusion. The delusion is all you sell, as a real estate developer. The sales receipts go in your own pocket, the development bills go to the corporation you create as a front. When the time comes you walk away with the cash, leaving the corporation on the rocks to soak up the costs your delusions incurred. This is the business model of the real estate developer in question, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Theft of service, his standard of practice. He is still in the same business.

Politics is almost pure delusion, stories we tell ourselves and each other to further a social agenda. Every single one of us creates a narrative in our heads that is mostly false, except to us. That we are more important than we are. That our opinions matter. That our votes count. That we know what is real and what isn’t. That what we think is real is real, as if our thinking it makes it real. That our leaders think of us when they do their jobs. That our leaders value us beyond the vote we cast, the duties we can perform. None of this is true, except to us individually. Internally. As a part of our narrative.

The notion that eleven million people can be deported from the United States, as the Orange Hate-Monkey stated when he launched his campaign, is pure delusion. No matter how many racists and sociopaths work the numbers in pretense that this is an exercise divorced of prejudice or bias, the fact is that Hitler wanted to deport the Jews prior to having to institute the final solution, and he only had to get rid of six million people. All the hand-waving in the world will not change what it is they want to do when they actually embark on the road to doing it. He and they are the American fascists we have been warned about, and that isn’t even touching on the promise to exclude Muslims from the country.  The corollary with the holocaust is even firmer there, and so is pointless to belabor.

The great wall he wants to build, can’t be built. This is also a delusion. Engineers have weighed in on this. It would alter climate (explain that one away, please) and render several bird species extinct, even if it could be built. Mexico won’t pay for the wall that can’t be built, either.  Insisting otherwise is just that much more evidence of mental instability, not a firmness of resolution.

Then we get to the real subject of his mental instability, aside from the beliefs about the place of Obama’s birth. That would be his blatant denial of science.

Science is almost the opposite of politics. Science is one of the very few things which we can say for certain is real. Science is quite likely our only link to objective reality; and that only briefly, in glimpses. Science can determine when someone is lying or not. Science can determine when the globe is warming, and what those warming effects might be. Science can say that evolution is a fact, even though I’ll lose half of America’s attention asserting this fact as fact.

I add that last point consciously, just as I crafted the phrase Orange Hate-Monkey consciously. It’s all well and good to talk about being able to establish facts, it is another thing to start telling people they might need to get an electric car, or that they are related to their dogs and cats far more closely than most religious people are comfortable accepting. But those are facts all the same, and denying those facts sets you on the trail to madness, to insanity.

Like the moniker Orange Hate-Monkey, I crafted the phrase Conspiracy Fantasist for a reason. I have consciously rejected grand conspiracy theories and derided them as fantasies ever since I started noticing the woo, the craziness, which is rampant in health discussions. Almost without trying I can summon a dozen arguments I’ve heard concerning Big Pharma and GMO’s and I could spend all day and all night for the rest of my life arguing fruitlessly with science deniers on these subjects, but that isn’t why I bring this subject up. I bring it up because once you start questioning science as a basis for determining the likelihood of truth, all logic goes out the window and anything can be real. Everyone has a conspiracy fantasy that they hold dear including yours truly, but if you don’t know that what you are harboring is a fantasy you leave yourself open to manipulation by people who do that for a living.

A real estate developer is one of those kinds of people. A real estate developer that appears to believe every single conspiracy fantasy that comes along, believes it right down to his soul, will use those fantasies to sell you on what they want you to buy and they will drink that kool aid right along with you, because they believe just as strongly as you do.

Therein lies the problem.

As much as I am ignoring the news this week, I can’t help but notice certain facts that rise to the surface. The Birther-in-Chief is floating cabinet appointments and Supreme Court nominees and the disconnect with reality that is present in these selections begins to be painfully obvious. Ben Carson for Health and Human Services? Yeah, the guy who is in the back pocket of an MLM (read that as Pyramid Scheme) he’s got his own problems with perceiving reality. A fracking billionaire for Department of Energy. An oil man for Secretary of the Interior. Bridgegate Chris Christie as the Attorney General. That will be pretty hard to pull off after he is disbarred. Serial philanderer Giuliani is even less attractive. Flynn for Defense. A climate denier for the EPA.

Big Bang Theory card, pre-election

As you go down this list, this basket of deplorables, you begin to notice that all of those names, all of them, are vociferous supporters of the Orange Hate-Monkey’s conspiracy fantasies. Nearly all of them are climate deniers, birthers and other types of fringe-thinking lunatics. The dangerous disconnection with reality that he already displays will not get any better with any of the names he offers up as his advisors.

Our problems just get worse.

There is no requirement that the president be of sound mind, even if we wanted to advance the Birther-in-Chief’s soundness of mind as a basis for disqualification. Here is the passage from the Constitution,

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

The oath of office doesn’t mention it,

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Big Bang Theory card, post-election

Although any attempt to imprison a person without due process, as he has threatened to do on the campaign trail several times, would be an impeachable offense. Consequently anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton should go to jail can just sit down and shut up now, unless they want him impeached. Go ahead and goad him, I will not stop you.

Our last hope to keep this dangerously deranged person, this person who is only going to get more deranged in office, is the electoral college, and I see little hope in that. As Robert Reich noted recently, Hillary Clinton only needs forty-two electors to change their vote to her, and we avoid the cost, pain and violence that will be required to pull the Orange Hate-Monkey out of our government by the short-hairs. As much as I will be right there with Senator Sanders when the Stormtrumpers show up for minorities and Muslims, it would be so much simpler if the electors just did their jobs and made sure the person who won the popular ballot is named as the president-elect. That the person they name isn’t under federal indictment. That the person isn’t currently awaiting trial. That the person isn’t actually dangerously psychotic, mentally deranged and a sexual pervert to boot.

I’d settle for it being Hillary Clinton, but I think you get the point. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2,000,000 votes. She is the third Democratic candidate to do this and not win the election in the last twenty years. City residents, people who tend to be more liberal, are clearly at a disadvantage electorally. What is needed is a change in state laws, something like this. Maryland is the latest state to say #TrumpNotMyPresident 11 other states have also passed this. Let’s see if we can get all 49 to pass it. It is either that, or we liberals will have to occupy all the state houses until they do. State houses which are all inside large cities. Where the liberals are.

In any case, I’ll see you on the other side of December 19th, at least when it comes to the subject of someone officially becoming the President-Elect, which the Real Estate Developer is not and hopefully will never be. Maybe the world will look brighter then.

Global Warming Versus Global Greening

For Jason Pratt

Climate science. Climate science features highly in my laundry list of reasons for why I no longer consider myself a libertarian. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in libertarian gatherings without hitting a conspiracy fantasist or a climate denier when I left the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I find the phrase knows just enough to be dangerous to be quite apt when it comes to most things climate science. This applies even more strongly to those within the scientific fields than it does to the man on the street who is just trying to get by in life working three jobs and sharing an apartment with 3 other people.

The video (and transcript) below were shared by a friend the other day. I tuned out of watching the video when I realized that the article beneath it was just a transcript of the video presentation. The fact that my friend didn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change the last time I checked influenced my dismissal of the video as Not. Real. Science. There was also the looming risk of being sucked into another conspiracy fantasy to factor into the weight I would give any data found within the article.

Everyone has a bias. Especially people who disagree with science.

My friend insisted that I had to watch the video or at least read the transcript, so I bit the bullet and watched. I’m not making any promises on producing insights that would be accepted by anyone who would deny climate changes, the determinable causes of climate changing, but I’ll give it my best shot.

There is a transcript available at this link.

First off, if I had realized that the video was from the GWPF I would have been a little slower to dismiss it. I don’t write about climate change on this blog very much because, quite frankly, I’m one of the dangerous people. I know just enough about the subject to get myself into trouble and can be (demonstrably have been with other subjects) lead down rabbit holes unless I keep my guard up.

I was slow to buy in to the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was,

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

Ice cores demonstrate that throughout human history (several hundred thousand years in fact) CO2 levels have remained low. What CO2 was prior to human history is hard to determine. Hard to determine because discovering clues to that data in geologic strata is hard. However, as this study notes,

The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperature and sea level. For earlier periods in Earth’s history, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is much less certain, and the relation between pCO2 and climate remains poorly constrained. We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the past 20 million years. During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels. Decreases in pCO2 were apparently synchronous with major episodes of glacial expansion during the Middle Miocene (~14 to 10 million years ago) and Late Pliocene (~3.3 to 2.4 million years ago).

If you need help converting meters to feet, it’s about 3 feet to 1 meter. About floor 9 of a beachfront Miami condo for those still not getting the impact of sea level changes in our modern world. Manhattan will eventually be right on the water, which will mean it will take quite a trick to keep water out of those subways in the future.

In any case the speaker, Matt Ridley,  agrees with virtually everything the IPCC concludes are science. The one verifiably true thing aside from these concessions of agreement I heard by the 20 minute mark is that,

“We should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.”

Well, that is a no-brainer. I was reading books like ICE when I was in my teens. I was well aware that we were supposed to be caught up in a returning ice age by the time we got to 2000, according to the doom & gloom types, as the speaker goes into in the video (this is a myth, just FYI. A myth that I believed) I never bought into Al Gore’s propositions of global disaster from global warming; but the science is pretty solid as I noted above, and it is just the models which fail to predict outcomes in any meaningful way.

As far back as 2010 I was noting things like this,

Trees in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the last two centuries in response to Earth’s warming climate, a new study finds.

For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker, based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center outside Washington, D.C., has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland.

Parker’s tree censuses over this period have revealed that these forested areas are packing on weight at a much faster rate than expected; on average, the forests are growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That works out to the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet (0.6 m) sprouting up over a year.

And this in 2014,

Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what’s the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades.

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

I replied with this article in the facebook comment thread where this argument started,

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well).

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

Washington Post – Thanks to climate change, the Arctic is turning green

Before being pestered into watching the full video, commenting on the full transcript. The greening argument is old news for me. I’ve already looked into it. It is an interesting development. Its full impact is still unknown.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Matt Ridley’s note that most dire projections are based on RCP 8.5. I can agree with him on the lunacy of projecting based on this worst-case-scenario outcome. It just makes you look foolish when your predictions turn out to be so incredibly wrong.

Then he goes off the reservation and never returns.

No renewable energy subsidies? Fine. You first. Get the entirety of the rest of the fossil fuels industry to give up their subsidies and we’ll talk. Worse than being disinterested on the subject of Global Warming or Climate Change (which ever label you prefer) Matt Ridley is invested in coal. Lives and dies by demand for coal. I suggest, as I have about a dozen times, that we either remove subsidies from all ventures, or encourage all sound ventures with subsidies.

Sound ventures. That doesn’t me we subsidize ethanol, which I have never understood being considered a green product. However, creation of wind farms across the windier areas of the world, and solar cells on every rooftop that gets moderate sun are completely reasonable propositions and should be subsidized if other forms of energy production are subsidized.  I can generate electricity and to spare with solar cells on my roof, and that includes charging my electric car. That is a benefit to me and the planet in general.

He also never mentions that while sea level rise isn’t as bad as projected, any rise in sea levels produces larger disasters than we’ve seen in the past, as both hurricane Sandy and Katrina demonstrated. I’m still betting we are surfing through the ruins of Miami long before the arguments about climate change are settled, and I’m willing to bet the current residents of Miami would find that outcome pretty disastrous.

For what it’s worth, The next to last video loaded on the GWPF stream is the one I find most relevant.

GWPF Report: Why scepticism about peer-reviewed research is essential

This is the problem with modern science. Findings are reported as if they are science by most journalists, when the complete opposite is the case, as the short video goes into. Findings are not science. Findings are discoveries. Duplication of findings is science, the drudge work of science that far too few people show any interest in doing, to the detriment of us all.


With time comes addendum and additional information. After watching the GWPF feed for awhile and tracking the general tone of their reportage, I have to agree with the assessment of others who dismiss them as a nexus of science denial.  The name of the group itself screams of astroturfing and their latest video goes out of its way to defend Breitbart and their unapologetic science denial on the subject of global warming. I was really hoping for a group that I could rely on for reportage that wasn’t gloom and doom on the climate change front, but the GWPF doesn’t appear to be that group.

This episode of Inquiring Minds fits the hopeful bill pretty well.

Inquiring Minds 159 David Grinspoon – Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future

Even in the face of the triumph of climate deniers and outright economic criminals (the looming election of the OHM) the astrobiologist David Grinspoon sounds a hopeful note for the future, pointing out that we are already moving in new directions climate-wise with or without our governments attempts to influence our behavior. 

Godwin’s law, the GMO Version

Of all the contentious arguments I’ve engaged in over the last few years, the most contentious has been the irrational fear revolving around GMO crops.  On this weeks Skeptic’s Guide the Universe they get into the latest example of the kind of rancor that occurs on the subject of GMO; namely, the targeting of people deemed sympathizers with the Nazi labeled antichrist of corporations, Monsanto.

I myself have been accused of being on the payroll of Monsanto.  I wish that were the case.  If any Monsanto executives are reading this and want to pay me, please let me know.  I am not a journalist, I do not care if anyone considers my opinion unbiased or not; I will gladly take your payola.

However, targeting people who rightly suggest that the phobic froth around the mouth of the anti-GMO crowd is just this side of crazy is completely uncalled for and really should be investigated;

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence (if he lived in a Europe or a Commonwealth country like the U.K., he would probably already have been served).  

(GLP Article)

I’ve never had any use for Mike Adams or NaturalNews.com, although I have been vilified by many, many people who mistakenly go to his website thinking that his information is reliable, it isn’t; and with his death threats and targeting of science journalists he has finally crossed a line that I hope he will be punished for.

courtesy The Genetic Literacy Project

GMO is not Monsanto. GMO is not a thing. GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organisms) is many things, some of them quite beneficial; but that doesn’t stop people with a phobic response from loosing their shit over the subject. Nor does its beneficial results get recognized by the self-same phobic types who decry it’s very existence.  Case in point, this article offered by an anti-GMO friend on Facebook that I have since blocked due to his (Mike Adams like) insistence that I was a Nazi sympathizer for Monsanto.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic on May 14 announced a clinical trial that had been carried out in 2013, in which a Minnesota woman was injected with enough measles vaccine to treat 10 million people. Over the course of several weeks, the multiple tumors growing throughout her body shrank and vanished.  

After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants, Stacy Erholtz’s myeloma — a blood cancer affecting the bone marrow — had spread into her skull and other parts of her body. The virus she was injected with had been engineered by researchers for cancer therapy.

You read that right. GMO cured that woman’s cancer. That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mexico has halted planting of a GM corn that was engineered specifically to address dietary deficiencies in their poor diet (which is largely corn) based on anti-GMO fears, and the threatened profit margins of competitors.

Mexico already imports tens of thousands of tonnes of GMO yellow corn each year, largely for animal feed, and permits planting of other GMO crops, mainly cotton and soybeans.

Supporters of GMO corn like Mexico’s corn farmers’ federation argue it can boost yields by up to 15 percent.

Their peers in the United States, Brazil and Argentina – the world’s top three corn exporters – are already producing large quantities of GMO corn. 

(Reuters Article

They could cross-breed corn in the traditional method of genetic manipulation for a thousand years and potentially never get the results that they achieved by simply taking the code out of one corn plant and splicing it into corn that grows in the Americas. It will end vitamin deficiencies in many poorer areas that rely on corn for sustenance in the same way that Golden Rice will potentially end vitamin A deficiency blindness in areas of Asia that rely on rice.

Because many children in countries where there is a dietary deficiency in vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification to make rice produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is seen as a simple and less expensive alternative to vitamin supplements or an increase in the consumption of green vegetables or animal products. 

(from the Wiki article) 

Our first world fears should not be given more credence than their very real needs. I think we should let them decide if they want to eat or not, want to see or not. It is a lot like the fear surrounding vaccination. When your kids start dying, you’ll discover you like medicine after all. GM foods are not health risks in and of themselves, no matter how many times you say otherwise; but, ya know, Round Up ready corn! It causes cancer!  Except it doesn’t.

The biggest criticism of the study is the combination of two features – the small sample size and lack of statistical analysis. The entire study is premised on comparing various dose groups with control groups that were not exposed to GMO or glyphosate. And yet, the authors provide no statistical analysis of this comparison. Given the small number of rats in each group, it is likely that this lack of statistical analysis is due to the fact that statistical significance could not be reached.

In other words – the results of the study are uninterpretable. 

(ScienceBasedMedicine article)

Uninterpretable; read as “the essence of bad science”.

Let me see if I can explain what is going on here. There is a tendency to grant that something that is natural is good. This is fallacious reasoning.  Everything that is toxic is also natural; or nearly everything. That is aside from the fact that none of the other varietals that are being farmed are natural in a fashion that varies from the GMO varieties. The methods used previously to manipulate crops are hardly natural. Chemical and radioactive treatment to force mutation, as well as cross-breeding. If you compare food crops to their natural variants, you would be hard pressed to identify what they have in common.

So the fear of the unnatural really is a phobia, unsupported by science. Understanding that, you might get a feel for why companies that market products might not want to be subjected to labeling mandates that cover GMO content in their products.

GMOs are just one efficient tool that people using bad farming practices can also utilize. This is akin to arguing that because crop dusting huge volumes of chemical pesticides is bad, we should boycott airplanes. Herbicide and pesticide resistance were cropping up long before genetic engineering came onto the stage, necessitating much greater use of those chemicals or turning to more toxic alternatives. The introduction of Roundup ready crops actually began as a wonderful thing in this regard, since Roundup was less toxic than many of the alternatives being used previously, and could be used in much lower amounts. That happy state of affairs was mis-managed and now much larger doses are needed because of resistant weeds, but again, this isn’t the fault of the GMOs. 

(Scientific American Article on labeling)

The fearful just want to boycott, and the manufacturers don’t want to be boycotted. Consequently labeling mandates will continue to hit brick walls (even though full disclosure should include such labeling) until there is less unreasoning fear in the public at large.  In Other Words, educate yourselves and you might get what you want in return.

There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from ingesting GM food. Although labeling of GMO products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA. 

(Wikipedia Article on GMO)

I hear you saying “But patenting of organisms! Evil Monsanto!”  If you want to change patenting, then change patenting. You won’t get much argument from me.  Patenting itself is a government subsidized monopoly on production, I much prefer competition.

Monsanto, separate from the subject of GMO in general, is its own worst enemy.  Every attempt that it makes to limit its liability through law, or to manipulate the media to cast itself in a better light ends up being picked up and used by its enemies to make it look all the more evil and manipulative.  It’s hard to imagine that you can make a company responsible for creation of Agent Orange look more evil, but that is a failure of imagination, as the article I lead off with should illustrate.

[Read this article about Monsanto and see if you can understand just how wrong the common knowledge about the corporation actually is. They didn’t create Agent Orange. That’s the start.]


Inquiring Minds, 98 Fred Perlak – Inside the Mind of a Monsanto Scientist

Digging into the issue of farmer suicides and various accusations leveled at Monsanto, it becomes hard to connect the dots reliably;

Studies dated 2004 through 2006 identified several causes for farmers suicide, such as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. The survey cited “government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state.” 

(Wikipedia Article on farmers’ suicides) 

Over and over again I attempt to enlighten friends who fall for the natural fallacy offered by people like Mike Adams. Over and over again I’m told that I don’t understand the first thing about the subject.  Because they know. Monsanto is evil. GMO is bad. Never mind that neither of those accusations are true, as I (and others) illustrate over and over again. Humor doesn’t work.  Information doesn’t work.  Maybe the problem is psychological?

Orthorexia nervosa is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM-5 currently lists anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, “other specified feeding or eating disorder” and “unspecified feeding or eating disorder”.

Some clinicians argue orthorexia nervosa should be recognised as a separate eating disorder and have proposed clinical DSM diagnostic criteria. They note distinct pathological behaviours with orthorexia nervosa, including a motivation for feelings of perfection or purity rather than weight loss, as they see with anorexia and bulimia.

I don’t want to introduce fallacious reasoning into the mix, use the “Oh, you’re just crazy” dodge to dismiss the people who disagree with me. I genuinely do want to understand why people fear GMO’s as much as they do, and why.  Time and again, though, the answers are not quantifiable in any way that I can make sense of. I’m left with little else to explain the issue.


The Genetic Literacy Project is an excellent go-to site for information on GMO.  Here they offer up a TED talk that goes into exactly what GMO is and why we must embrace it if we are to feed future generations of people.

(h/t to SGU for the original link)

His central question in the video “Could the future of food production be genetically modified organic food production?” challenges us to understand exactly how misguided the current atmosphere is when it comes to the subject of GMO.  The video is a must-see.

Years of Living Dangerously & Katharine Hayhoe

I’ve been watching “Years of Living Dangerously” every week (it’s moving to Monday this week) since it first aired. It’s free for the rest of today on Showtime online.

I like the presentation of the episodes through the eyes of the various personalities (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, etc) but I especially can appreciate the careful approach they’ve taken to show just how far climate denial is from the reality of climate change, and taking the time to talk to some of the more vociferous climate deniers, as well as including the wide range of people who want to act to prevent further harm to the climate, including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

Katharine Hayhoe was also the featured interview last week on what is rapidly becoming my favorite podcast; Inquiring Minds. Here is a snippet of the blurb from their Soundcloud page;

Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, 25 to 30 percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. “I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to,” explains Hayhoe on this week’s episode. “We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it’s entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values.” 

I highly recommend both the podcast and the show. Give them a try, you may learn something.

(Originally posted here)

George Johnson, Inquiring Minds, Cancer, Evolution

I keep having to come back to this episode of Inquiring Minds. I keep having to refer back to it over and over in conversation because people just want to believe that living better will keep you from getting cancer. I get so much pushback from people who want to believe that this or that strategy will keep them from getting cancer that I’m going to backdate the episode to the the blog with some descriptive text that didn’t get pulled out in the blurb, but does state the point I keep having to make.

Mother Jones, Inquiring Minds #7, George Johnson – Why Most of What You’ve Heard About Cancer is Wrong

In the book, Johnson cites a stunning estimate by MIT cancer researcher Robert Weinberg: About 4 million of our body’s cells are dividing and copying their DNA every second of every day. With every replication, there is a potential for mistakes, and a risk of developing cancer. Thankfully, we’ve evolved solutions to rogue errors, and our bodies can repair or destroy precancerous cells the vast majority of the time. Yet the risk can never be zero, because without this process of cell division and regeneration, we would quickly cease to live.

In fact, without the capacity for cellular mutation and the ability to pass on reformatted DNA to our offspring, our species would not have been capable of evolving. We wouldn’t be who we are today. “There’s something unfortunately natural about cancer,” explains Johnson. “It’s a natural tradeoff of evolution.”

Paraphrasing the pertinent quote from this episode If you live long enough you will eventually get cancer. The errors in cell replication that lead to cancer are the same errors that allow for genetic diversity. We get cancer because evolution occurs even within our own bodies, and most evolution produces bad outcomes. Cancer is definitely not the result of poor diet or GMO foods. Cancer is a natural process gone horribly wrong, a side effect of living so long that the evolutionary process takes place inside your body. For those of you who deny evolution, think of this as payback from mother nature for doubting that her mechanisms exist. Mutation is how we got from single celled organisms to humans in 3.8 billion years. Mutation which frequently shows up as cancer in the individual. Them’s the breaks.

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