Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bad Science

Finally the full story is out on the fraudulent link between MMR vaccine and autism. It seems to me that the purveyors of this fraud beginning with the original 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield including celebrities like Jenny McCarthy should be libel for something. That is not likely going to happen, but the good news about this story is that investigative journalism is still alive and effective. Brian Deer of The Sunday Times certainly deserves credit here. The other good news is that science still works. Despite all the chicanery, and all the media attention, politics, bullying, all of it, the truth comes out. Science is still self-correcting, even though it takes 12 years!
The bad news, I suspect that the link between vaccination and autism or anything else will remain in the public psyche, kept alive by charlatans and conspiracy theorists.

While I'm on the topic of bad science, here is a lie that has yet to be squelched: its man-made global-warming. Yes, Earth is warming, and as I've stated previous posts, it has been warming since the most recent ice-age 10 to 12,000 years ago. I'm more convinced than ever though that humans play only a tiny role in that warming.
A recent article in the National Post by Lawrence Solomon points to fudging some of the numbers, maybe not to the degree that Wakefield did in his vaccine scam. Solomon's article, 97% cooked stats talks about the so-called scientific consensus that purports that anthropogenic global warming is settled science. Its that apparent certainty, supported by an unquestioning media, that has led people and governments to act in nothing less than self-destructive ways.
One just needs to spend a few minutes reviewing the electrical generation policy in my home province of Ontario, to realize the harm that bad science can foist on an economy. Lawrence Solomon is also the executive director of Energy Probe and has written often criticizing Ontario's Liberal government.    


  1. Allen, you continue to be blinded by your bias and refusal to learn about climate change and the impact of CO2.

    The scientists most knowledgeable about climate change are climate scientists, not 'earth' scientists. As the thesis points out, 97% of climate scientists are in agreement. There is no debate. Climate is changing and the problem is almost exclusively due to greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 in particular.

    I recommend you watch the following book talk by David Micheals (no relation to the fossil fuel shill Peter Micheals) or read his book. He explains how those who oppose established science do so by creating doubt to preserve profits (as opposed to providing convincing alternative evidence). Surely you remember how aspirin's connection to Reyes' Syndrome was obscured despite the scientific evidence, or CFCs and the ozone layer?

  2. One of the purposes of my posting was to show that sometimes bad science gets entrenched even when it is shown to be fraudulent, there is/will be a residual effect.
    As you know I believe earth is warming, I don't believe CO2 is the primary cause, and I think that view is becoming more prevalent among the media and therefore the public. I prefer that the discussion remains open not closed by saying things like "there is no debate." There is ALWAYS debate, science is a process and is self-correcting as I point out.
    Aspirins connection with Reyes syndrome was exposed eventually (although I'm not familiar with the details), as for CFC's have a look at this article from a colleague: It won't change your mind, but the discussion should remain open.

  3. "I think that view is becoming more prevalent among the media and therefore the public."

    You've exactly proven the point David Micheals makes. If you want to delay dealing with a problem (whether Aspirin causing Reyes, CFCs and ozone, second-hand smoke or C02 and global warming) you don't need counter-evidence. All you need to do is manufacture doubt in the media and the public will believe that doubt exists in the scientific community and therefore public pressure to address the problem diminishes.

    Doubt about C02 and global warming is, indeed, increasing in the media and THAT is what is feeding doubt in the public. However, among scientists, especially climate scientists, there is virtually no doubt. This is not being 'closed minded' it is about reaching a consensus based on continuing evidence.

    You may prefer that the "discussion remains open" but you have no authority or qualifications to say so. Those who do say that there is overwhelming statistical evidence that C02 is the problem and we are the cause.

    By coincidence, tonight I read the following in Thomas Friedman's book 'Hot, Flat and Crowded' (pg. 114-115):

    "The climate change deniers come in three basic varieties: those paid by fossil fuel companies to deny that global warming is a serious human-caused problem [Peter Michaels]*; those scientists, a small minority, who have looked at the data and concluded for different reasons that the rapid and extensive increase in greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution is not a major threat to the planet's livability; and, finally, those conservatives who simply refuse to accept the reality of climate change because they hate the solution - more government regulation and intervention."

    *addition mine

    That third definition just screams 'Libertarians!'

  4. Absolutely right in the first paragraph, it appears to be the only way to stop governments from aggravating a global economic crisis that is far from over. I expect there will be major reversals in Ontario's "greening" after the next election if the opposition convinces the electorate that their livelihood will be damaged (see many previous blogs) . The backlash against the McGuinty Liberals will I hope be large as has happened in Europe already.
    This "disagreement" we have, is ultimately a philosophical issue and it
    will not change until the underlying philosophy changes. What I'm talking about is the moral equivalent of slavery. Slavery was accepted by most people and governments once. Over time and struggle that is no longer true. The idea that governments have the right to engineer people's lives using the democratic lie of majority rule is what libertarians fight against. Government action should be strictly limited to very specific areas. I hope that will be realized soon, but it might take more time than I have. Controlling the climate of this planet is not and should not be a responsibility of any government.
    Since you are quoting from a book, maybe this should be your next. I'm reading Future Babble by Dan Gardner, see what he says about consensus based no doubt climate change.


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