Jul 26, 2009


Daybreak on Lake Simcoe.

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Jul 24, 2009

Big Water

The waves off Oahu, Hawaii, are among the world's most spectacular. See more photos like this and download wallpaper versions here:



Jul 22, 2009

Al Gore Thinks Your Brain Is Too Primitive

For 20 years, Al Gore has been a global warming activist. He has delivered speeches, written books, starred in a documentary film, won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. But Mr. Gore has a big fat problem. Most of us have tuned out.

"Any measure that we look at shows Al Gore's losing at the moment," declared a Gallup Poll spokesperson in May. "The public is just not that concerned." When asked what they worry about, most people say the economy. Only two percent even mention the environment.

In 2007, when NBC television devoted three hours of prime time to Mr. Gore's celebrity-studded Live Earth event, the network came last in viewership that evening. Only 2.8 million people tuned in, compared to the 4.2 million who watched reruns of Cops and America's Most Wanted on Fox, and the 3.4 million who preferred the five-year-old animated movie Monsters, Inc. on ABC.

Every era has its doomsayers who bemoan some threat or another. The planet is cooling, so we'd better stockpile food. Now it's warming and catastrophe looms. Zealots who insist we must repent before it's too late are hardly a new phenomenon.

In free and democratic societies, ordinary people get to decide how much attention they pay to gloom-and-doomsters. But Mr. Gore appears to be having trouble with this concept. Instead, he's proposed a novel explanation for why the public isn't buying his message.

According to a breathless account published on a blog associated with Nature (one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals), Mr. Gore recently explained to an Oxford University conference that there are evolutionary and neurological reasons why others don't see the world the way he does.

"Gore opened by talking about human psychology and physiology" rather than climate, reports the blogger. "I was amazed to be treated to a pop neuroscience lecture." It seems that Mr. Gore now views environmental awareness as being "ultimately a problem of consciousness." Referring to MRI scans and human brain structure, he insists that "What is being tested is the proposition of whether or not the combination of an opposable thumb and a neo cortex is a viable construct on this planet."

I'm no psychologist, but this sounds to me like an attempt to apply a natural science veneer to self-serving rationalization, to invent a clinical-sounding explanation for what are, in fact, shortcomings associated with Mr. Gore's powers of persuasion.

It seems not to have crossed his mind that some of us consider his arguments flawed, his data suspect, his climate analysis simplistic, and his rhetoric overwrought. It's as though it has never occurred to Mr. Gore that, to paraphrase the title of a popular book/movie, we're just not that into him.

Nor does he appear to have considered the idea that Joe the Plumber might resent being told to desire/consume less by a man who owns three homes (including a 20-room mansion), travels by private jet, and charges $175,000 to deliver a speech. And let's not even talk about the company he keeps – such as his science advisor, James Hansen, who advocates crimes-against-humanity trials for oil executives and refers to coal-fired power plants as "factories of death."

Rather than recognizing our rejection of his worldview, Mr. Gore prefers to regard the rest of as defective. If we don't behave the way he thinks we should, there's only one explanation. Our neo cortexes are too primitive to grasp what someone of his intellect and discernment considers self-evident.

visit NOconsensus.org for more on the global warming debate

Jul 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July

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Jul 3, 2009

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Greens reject the scientific consensus on genetically modified foods

In the global warming debate, those of us who are skeptical that catastrophic climate change is just around the corner are repeatedly bludgeoned with the cudgel of "scientific consensus." We're told that thousands of scientists, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have examined all the evidence and made a decision. We're reminded that prestigious scientific bodies endorse the idea of man-made global warming - and that the best scientific journals do, as well.

Don't we understand the debate is over? That science has spoken? That challenging the theory of global warming is on a par with believing that the moon landings were faked?

Over and over again we're advised that this "scientific consensus" trumps all else. Greenpeace tells us this. So do its activist pals, Friends of the Earth.

Except that neither of these groups display one bit of respect for scientific consensus when the topic isn't global warming but is instead genetically modified foods. The consensus that such foods are safe for humans, animals and the environment is extraordinarily broad-based. Indeed, one might argue that the list of scientific bodies that agree on this point is longer than the list of organizations that concur with global warming theory.

On June 28th, scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) joined this consensus. They ruled that there is no reason to forbid the planting of genetically-modified corn in the European Union.

How did Greenpeace respond? It so happens that Greenpeace opposes genetically modified foods for philosophical reasons. It argues that, no matter what humanity might gain from biotechnology (such as drought-resistant crops, blindness-preventing rice and medical discoveries) these aren't sufficient "justification to turn the environment into a giant genetic experiment by commercial interests."

So rather than being swayed by "scientific consensus," Greenpeace chose to attack. It says the scientists who made this decision are unqualified. "Allowing EFSA to express opinions on GM crops while it cannot assess long-term environmental impacts is like allowing someone into a Formula 1 race just because they have a driving license," says Marco Contier.

The response by Friends of the Earth was even more disturbing. Its spokesperson, Helen Holder, isn't fazed by the fact most scientists appear to support genetically modified organisms [GMOs]. "It's time to sack the EFSA scientists, to disband its GMO panel, and move GMO risk assessment" into the hands of a different decision-making body she says.

In other words, because they disagree with her, she thinks these scientists should all lose their jobs – and that their organization should not only be restructured, but stripped of its responsibilities. A tad harsh, don't you think?

So it turns out that "scientific consensus" appears to be meaningless to these folks. When it suits them, they'll use it as a club to beat people like me into submission. Otherwise, they're fully prepared to ignore its existence. Which is something worth thinking about.

And here's one more thought. Skeptics are sometimes accused of being conspiracy theorists. Why would so many scientists go along with the idea of global warming if it weren't true, we're asked? Is it really plausible that so many people would sign on if they weren't absolutely convinced it were happening?

Well, if you were a scientist who knew that your honestly-held belief would get you bad-mouthed in the media by aggressive environmental groups, might you not be tempted to go with the flow? If you knew that expressing certain views would result in people loudly attacking your credentials and calling for your dismissal, might you not take the path of least resistance, too?

visit NOconsensus.org for more on the global warming debate

Jul 1, 2009