Category Archives: Science

What’s your point?

Ever since I put up my post (and made a video) suggesting Sheryl Crow should shut the fuck up, I’ve been formulating what I want to say about climate change “skeptics”. Skepticism is a good thing generally, being naturally skeptical will protect you more often than it will hurt you. Blind faith is far more likely to do you damage than healthy skepticism.

But I use the term “skeptic” loosely when describing climate change deniers because I strongly suspect that a significant majority of them aren’t true skeptics – they simply don’t care to know the truth about climate change. I’d also divide this “don’t care” brigade into two groups – those who believe the prevailing scientific consensus about climate change is probably true but still don’t care and those who don’t believe but don’t care to discover what the truth might be (as if there is a simple and all-encompassing truth on the topic).

Here’s the cynical part of me talking (yes, I know, the cynical part of me is clearly at least 90% of me. Shut up. Do you like how I have conversations with you, dear reader, as I type? I’m clearly insane. Unless that’s what you were thinking. That would make me psychic. Are you freaked out yet? Oh god, I’m getting off track.) The cynical part of me says the loudest voices speaking out against the scientific consensus of climate change are nothing more than paid shills for vested interests in governments and energy companies.

This scares me because the people running these companies aren’t stupid. I think the majority of them realise serious problems are coming, it’s incredibly unlikely that such a large body of scientific consensus would be utterly wrong (although it may well prove to be wrong in some important aspects.) It’s just that… well, they don’t give a fuck.

Either their thinking is literally “I’ll be dead before the worst hits, so I don’t give a fuck,” or they assume we’ll find some way to cope or some magical technological breakthrough will save the day (which may well happen) so they care more about their short term profits than they care about the prospect of long term damage. 

To defend themselves, they use their positions of power to sow seeds of doubt. Sometimes they make points that are true in isolation. These points don’t refute the concept of climate change but they pretend that they do. Sometimes they distort sort-of true statements to an absurd degree. Sometimes they tell outright lies. The thing I’ve noticed that all these approaches have in common is a tendency to focus on isolated aspects of the arguments supporting the notion of climate change without addressing the overall issue.

They pretend that by picking on these isolated issues they have refuted climate change in its entirety when they’ve done no such thing. They’re not even close, in fact they’re deliberately avoiding dealing with the larger issues. In my opinion, they do this because it isn’t possible to successfully discredit the full body of scientific knowledge on climate change so they spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the minds of the public.

The concept of FUD will be familiar to people who work in the IT field. Microsoft are past masters at spreading FUD to undermining competitors although they’re far from alone in the practice. When you can can’t take an opponent head-on, chip away at the edges and hope people start to lose faith.

For me, one of the best ways to counter FUD is to ask the person spreading it: “What’s your point?” And keep asking. If someone can’t clearly explain to you why they’re pushing a particular view it’s usually a good sign they aren’t being honest. 

When someone says “there is dissent among scientists,” ask: “What’s your point?  Are you saying because you can show there isn’t 100% consensus that you have conclusive evidence that climate change is not a serious problem?”  The argument here seems to be, as Stephen Colbert said, “Why can’t the 5% of dissenters have 50% of the time?”

When someone says “there are other important problems that are killing people now, like malaria,” say: “What’s your point?  Are you saying we must ignore climate change to deal with malaria?  Because I’m not saying we have to ignore all other problems and focus solely on climate change.  Why does it have to be an either/or proposition?  Why can’t we do both?”

When someone says “Al Gore wants us to give up our lifestyle because of global warming but he lives in a big house that uses lots of electricity,” say: “What’s your point?  Are you saying if you discredit Al Gore (despite the fact that the story was mostly a beat-up that omitted important facts and was laced with outright lies) you have proven that climate change is not an issue?  The worst you can do there is paint Al Gore as a hypocrite which does nothing to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change”

When someone says “if global warming is real, why is it so cold today?” say: “Shut the fuck up!”  OK, you could say “What’s your point?  Are you saying that the sum total of scientific thought on the issue of climate change is that it will always be warmer everywhere?  If so, you’re a fucking moron.  Shut the fuck up.”  But that would waste time.  With some people it’s much more efficient to go straight to shut the fuck up.

There’s a lot more I plan to go into on this topic, particularly an exploration of some of the worst, most evil lies propagated by climate change deniers.  The most dangerous position to take on either side of the argument is an absolute one that allows for no further discussion, hence my strategy of asking “What’s your point?”  The subject is not closed because someone makes some grand pronouncement that they think resolves the situation conclusively – the issue is far more complex than that.

There’s no single cause of climate change and there’s no one solution.  There isn’t even really a single thing called “global warming”.  You can’t point at a specific thing and say “that’s global warming” (an attitude spoofed hilariously on South Park).  There isn’t a convenient end point to discussions of climate change and I deeply distrust anyone who makes sweeping statements that suggests they are the holder of ultimate knowledge.  It’s important to at least listen to people when you disagree with their position.

But it’s even more important to realise when they’re talking shit.  That’s my point, what’s yours?

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Filed under Colbert, Politics, Science

Double Standards in Health Advice

Today I'm angry at my ear specialist for doing the exact opposite of what ear specialists (or doctors generally) always tell you to do. And for inflicting incredible pain on me. You see, I've troubles recently with an ear infection which spooked me because I had to have major ear surgery as a teenager to fix a previous infection and this was looking like it could be a return bout of those problems. And I'd really rather not go deaf. Or have my head collapse as my brain is consumed by some evil infection monster.

So, off to the doctor I go! A round of antibiotics and eardrops later – the infection is gone. Hurrah! But I don't want to take risks so I see a specialist to make sure there's nothing worse going on. The good news is it looks like all is basically OK. The bad news is he says there's a bunch of gross smelly crap in there (I wish he wouldn't use such big scientific words – it was so hard to understand him) and he has to clean it out.

I know what's coming now. This is what happened to me as a teenager. When an ear specialist cleans out your ear it means sticking this long skinny pointy thing (again with the scientific terms!) right in there EXACTLY LIKE THEY TELL YOU NEVER TO DO and scraping stuff right off the surface of your eardrum. Which really fucking hurts. And because it's your ear canal being worked on you get the bonus of disgusting sound effects.

So he wedges my earhole open with some sort of metal funnel then goes to work on me while looking through a microscope. He warns that I shouldn't move because if I move even a millimetre it goes out of focus. This I take as a not-so-subtle threat: "Piss me off and I'll jam this spike right through your fucking brain." So I'm trying not to move or scream even though these are the natural reactions when someone goes spelunking in your head with sharp objects. Occasionally, when it really hurts, I make a pathetic grunt which is my manly way of saying "I hope this isn't going to go on for much longer because I'm about to start crying like a little schoolgirl."

Finally it's over and he even has the temerity to show me all the crap he scraped out and complain how gross it is. Listen buddy, you chose to spend your live probing people's face-holes; don't blame me when you find something gross.

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Filed under General Angriness, Science

What the *bleep* are these hippies on?

Don't worry dear readers, I'm not suddenly getting coy on the language front. Fuck no. Just echoing my target for today. It's a literary device – you see, I'm erudite as well as psychotically angry. Okay, time to focus.

I haven't attacked the hippies for a couple of days so I decided to read their propaganda rag again to get fired up. The article that caught my eye this time was titled "What the bleep are ice crystals?" which they take from the title of a recent movie: "What the bleep do we know?" The film basically talks to people about "scientific" theories. I put the word scientific in quotes because a lot in the movie doesn't really match the mainstream definition of science. Even the more orthodox stuff is on the fringes of science but a lot of the stuff they go on about is plain fucking stupid.

And, surprise, surprise, the hippies decide to go with one of the really fucking stupid concepts. Ice crystals. It sounds innocent enough but I don't have to read far before I want to find a hippie head to kick. You see, apparently "water refects consciousness" or, if you prefer, "like a blank CD, water records information". And they have photos that "prove" it. There certainly is a nice array of pictures if ice crystal. I'm not exactly sure how providing a series of images "proves" anything but it seems rational questioning is not the strong suit of these hippies.

I'm not even talking issues of photoshop manipulation here – they simply put up a series of photos and say this is an ice crystal that has been "exposed" to a particular word; love, hate, angel, devil, "do it"… I could put up a series of photos of plants in various states of health and say one was told "I love you", one was told "I hate you" and one was told "George Bush is actually quite intelligent and deserving of our admiration and in fact the citizens of the world have just voted him "Emperor of the world in perpetuity" (that one would have committed suicide).

Saying something doesn't make it so. And photographs don't prove a damn thing. Possibly the stupidest cliche in existence is "the camera doesn't lie". Cameras lie by definition – they produce a fake representation of a real thing. Somewhat like these hippies.

And in case you think I'm being too harsh on them, they go on to christen this phenomenon "hado" – Japanese word meaning vibration. That seems innocuous enough, but then they go straight on to say that hado "is fast becoming the new word for the 'force' popularised by the Jedi knights of Star Wars". Okaaaaay, you guys know Star Wars was science fiction right, not science? That's right, these moronic hippies bolster their claims by tying them to a fictional story.

What the fuck?

Oh, and their world expert on the topic is "Dr Emoto". Yes, their expert on emotional resonance is Dr Emoto and their expert on love has the surname "Love". Do they think they're being funny or are they deliberately insulting our intelligence?

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Filed under Hippies, Science

Hippies are Asking for it

You probably have a whole bunch of free weekly papers where you live, they seem to be universal.  They cater for all sorts of things; music, entertainment, real estate, local news and art but they all really exist for the purpose of selling ads.  Anything that isn't an ad is really only filler designed to give the paper an excuse to exist so they can sell ad space.

All well and good, capitalism must be served.  I picked up one I hadn't seen the other day, an "holistic" magazine that gives its mission as "to inspire, nurture, inform and empower".  Cool – the hippie press.  Now, it should be blindingly obvious to even the most casual reader that I need some calming influence so I thought this paper might do me some good.

It starts off well enough – it has naked people reading in a park on the cover.  I'm all for naked people.  I start reading and it seems fine enough – going without your car, chronic fatigue, fairly predictable "bio-dynamic" products being advertised.  Then I stumble across the headline "How intelligent is your food?"

Maybe they mean how intelligent are the choices you make regarding food?  I read a bit.  No, that isn't what they mean.  Here are some actual quotes:

"Food contains intelligence."

"When we eat… we metabolise the life or intelligence of that food."

"The fresher the food the more intelligence it contains."

"Food can lose its intelligence the longer it sits around in the fridge."

And apparently this hippie didn't consider how much intelligence they lost sitting around on the couch taking bong hits. 

The more of this outrageous drivel I read the more angry I became.  Some might argue this is relatively harmless hippie waffle but these people are giving themselves titles like doctor, educator and, of course, swami.  They pitch this unmitigated horseshit as the truth and make no mistake – hippie or not, it's all about the money.

This paper is all about promoting an "expo" on the last weekend of April in Melbourne when these charlatans will be trying to bilk as much money as possible out of gullible and desperate people.  Want your cancer cure?  We got it right here.  

I will be spending quite a bit of time between now and then ripping into these quacks and idiots – there is a very dark underside to the commercialisation of this appalling non-science.  They are even dumb enough to put their names and photos after the articles and in their advertisements.  All I can say is they better not walk in front of my car while I'm driving.

Now, I'm not suggesting anyone should go out and inflict violence on these cretins – I think that's the army's job.  But I'll be damned if I'll let this pre-medieval quackery go unchallenged. 

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Filed under General Angriness, Science

Medical Science Marches Forward

OK, so a change of topic may have been well overdue.  I have just read that one Professor David Henry from the University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia will be presenting at a medical conference on “disease mongering”.  I don’t understand this concept, nor am I angered by it.
 
What caught my eye is that Professor Henry will be unveiling his diagnosis for Motivational Deficiency Disorder (MoDeD).  This condition is characterised by patients experiencing overwhelming and debilitating apathy.  If this doesn’t sound serious to you, get this: in extreme cases the patient may be too apathetic to breathe!  That’s right people, we have another potentially fatal disease to be paranoid about. 
 
Fortunately, a drug treatment is being developed.  It is called Indolebant and the science boffins say it is a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist capable of motivating the most apathetic of individuals – even if they haven’t left the couch in weeks.  This condition has been estimated to cost the Australian economy about $2.4 billion (that’s Australian money – so about $2.50 US) each year in lost productivity so it can’t be ignored.
 
Fortunately, the condition can be diagnosed using a combination of positron emission tomography and scoring the patient using a motivation scale.  We can only hope that this poorly understood, underdiagnosed and undertreated condition can be brought squarely into the public eye.
 
Why, you may ask, is Mr Angry so angry about this?  I’m bloody angry this diagnosis didn’t exist when I was in school.  It’s the perfect explanation for why I was such a lazy little bastard.
 
And for any cynics out there, this was reported in the prestigious British Medical Journal (April 1st edition) so it must be true.

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Filed under Science