Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Say it ain’t so, Randi!

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on December 16, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT PHARYNGULA

This is so disappointing: James Randi joins the ranks of the climate change denialists, and he does so on the basis of an extremely poor argument. I know, he’s a professional skeptic about everything, but skeptics must have some standard for evidence … a standard which the climatologists have reached, while the denialists have not. Here’s the core of Randi’s dissent from the scientific consensus.

I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid. I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth. This ball of hot rock and salt water spins on its axis and rotates about the Sun with the expected regularity, though we’re aware that lunar tides, solar wind, galactic space dust and geomagnetic storms have cooled the planet by about one centigrade degree in the past 150 years. The myriad of influences that act upon Earth are so many and so variable — though not capricious — that I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation. Please note that this my amateur opinion, based on probably insufficient data.

At least he’s self-aware enoughto realize that he has come to this conclusion on the basis of his personal ignorance. He has two main reasons otherwise to disagree with the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT PHARYNGULA

AGW, Revisited

Posted in JREF by Skepdude on December 16, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RANDI.ORG

Though this subject is not one that directly concerns the JREF, I’m very frequently asked if I’ll turn my skeptical eye to it. As a year-end fling, I’ll give it a try. To wit:

An unfortunate fact is that scientists are just as human as the rest of us, in that they are strongly influenced by the need to be accepted, to kowtow to peer opinion, and to “belong” in the scientific community. Why do I find this “unfortunate”? Because the media and the hoi polloi increasingly depend upon and accept ideas or principles that are proclaimed loudly enough by academics who are often more driven by “politically correct” survival principles than by those given them by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Bohr. (Granted, it’s reassuring that they’re listening to academics at all — but how to tell the competent from the incompetent?) Religious and other emotional convictions drive scientists, despite what they may think their motivations are.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a group of thousands of scientists in 194 countries around the world, and recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — has issued several comprehensive reports in which they indicate that they have become convinced that “global warming” is and will be seriously destructive to life as we know it, and that Man is the chief cause of it. They say that there is a consensus of scientists who believe we are headed for disaster if we do not stop burning fossil fuels, but a growing number of prominent scientists disagree. Meanwhile, some 32,000 scientists, 9,000 of them PhDs, have signed The Petition Project statement proclaiming that Man is not necessarily the chief cause of warming, that the phenomenon may not exist at all, and that, in any case, warming would not be disastrous.

Happily, science does not depend on consensus. Conclusions are either reached or not, but only after an analysis of evidence as found in nature. It’s often been said that once a conclusion is reached, proper scientists set about trying to prove themselves wrong. Failing in that, they arrive at a statement that appears — based on all available data — to describe a limited aspect about how the world appears to work. And not all scientists are willing to follow this path. My most excellent friend Martin Gardner once asked a parapsychologist just what sort of evidence would convince him he had erred in coming to a certain conclusion. The parascientist replied that he could not imagine any such situation, thus — in my opinion — removing him from the ranks of the scientific discipline rather decidedly.

History supplies us with many examples where scientists were just plain wrong about certain matters, but ultimately discovered the truth through continued research. Science recovers from such situations quite well, though sometimes with minor wounds.

I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid. I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth. This ball of hot rock and salt water spins on its axis and rotates about the Sun with the expected regularity, though we’re aware that lunar tides, solar wind, galactic space dust and geomagnetic storms have cooled the planet by about one centigrade degree in the past 150 years. The myriad of influences that act upon Earth are so many and so variable — though not capricious — that I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation. Please note that this my amateur opinion, based on probably insufficient data.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RANDI.ORG

Dishonorable killings continue

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on December 16, 2009

Yet more news of (dis)honor killings keep coming our way. This time it was a brother  who killed his  sister, with a sword, for marrying someone from another caste.

A case of “honour killing” was reported at Musapur village in the district on Tuesday, where Sukhdeep Singh (21) murdered her sister Rupinder Kaur (22) who had been living in the same village after solemnising inter-caste court marriage about four years ago.Raj Rani, mother-in-law of Rupinder Kaur, in her statement, said that in a frenzy, Sukhdeep holding a sword in his hand entered her residence in broad daylight and started attacking his sister with the sword. She tried to push him away and raised the alarm, but he continued to attack his sister.

Will this bullshit ever be defeated? And what can possibly motivate someone to have a “fit of rage” 4 years after the fact? You’d think that the fit of rage would hit when the “incident” happens not after 4 years. I guess peer pressure, mocking and insults added up until at some point this person exploded. But I wonder, why not take the sword to the folks giving you a hard time instead of your sister? I can pretty much guarantee that a couple of those kind of honor killings would put a damper on this nonsense.