Editing Science Textbooks for Desired Public Opinion

 

An article at Science Daily is  Uncertainty on climate change in textbooks linked to uncertainty in students.  The author shows how important it is not to leave students in any doubt regarding politically correct opinions. Excepts in italics with my bolds.

A new study suggests textbook wording that portrays climate change information as uncertain can influence how middle and high school students feel about the information, even for students who say they already know about climate change and its human causes.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Education Research, has implications for how teachers can prepare students to face misinformation about climate change.

“I thought students’ knowledge or social norms surrounding climate change would buffer them from misinformation,” said study author K.C. Busch, an assistant professor of STEM education at NC State. “But it didn’t matter how much knowledge students had; they did not react to the text differently. That’s problematic. We think that if we could improve students’ knowledge, they can integrate that knowledge in the real world to sniff out misinformation or disinformation that’s being presented to them. That didn’t happen.”

In the study, Busch surveyed 453 students in California about how certain they felt about climate change before and after they read one of two articles about climate change. The articles’ wording suggested either low or high uncertainty about climate change.

Busch took the high uncertainty text directly from an earth science textbook published in 2008 in California. For the other reading, she adapted the textbook language to remove uncertainty. For example, she changed “not all scientists agree about the causes of global warming” to “97% of scientists agree about the causes of global warming.”

“The cleanup of what I’ll call the ‘bad text’ was actually super slight,” Busch said. “It was so slight that I was almost thinking that it wasn’t going to have any effect whatsoever. This study showed strategies that are subtly used to cue the reader did have an effect.”

Although students in both groups began the experiment with similar average certainty about climate change, students’ certainty changed after reading the texts. The survey students took used a four-point scale, with 4 meaning students were “extremely sure” climate change is caused by people, and 1 meaning they were “not at all sure.”

For students who read the text framing climate change as uncertain, average certainty decreased from a 2.81 to a 2.67 average on the four-point scale. Meanwhile, students’ certainty increased from an average of 2.89 to 3.16 if they read a text that used a more straightforward wording.

Before the study, the students reported that, on average, they were knowledgeable about the causes and effects of climate change, and very sure it was caused by humans.

They were also moderately concerned about climate change, and confident they could do something about it. However, Busch saw that knowledge and beliefs of students and of the people in their social circle didn’t have a statistically significant impact on how students reacted to the textbook information.

The findings built on a previous study that found language in four sixth grade textbooks adopted in California presented climate change as uncertain in terms of whether it will happen, as well as its human causes. Busch said that there are other signs that climate change topics are absent or mistreated in classrooms. A report from the National Center for Science Education found 10 states received a grade of D or worse for their standards for climate change education, and that included some of the country’s most populous states.

“We chose a sixth grade text for this study, and my son was in sixth grade at that time. This was the textbook that he had in his science classroom,” she said. “Textbooks last in classrooms forever, so it very well could still be in circulation.”

But beyond replacing textbooks, Busch said it could be that educators need to teach students about the process and language that scientists use to describe their conclusions to help them evaluate information in real-time, as well as to bolster their ability to critically evaluate information and misinformation.

“My recommendations for education are teaching more basic skills, including an understanding of how science is done and the language of science and certainty,” Busch said. “Science has often been presented as a book of canonical, established fact. We need students, and the general public, to have a stronger understanding of the scientific process.”

More research is needed to understand how teens use their outside knowledge, beliefs and the beliefs of their friends and relatives to evaluate climate change information, Busch said. Other studies have found that social norms — such as the beliefs and attitudes of their friends and family members — can be very influential for teens, and can predict how accepting young people are of climate change. It could be that the students in the study saw the survey as a test, and it may not reflect their actual views.

The study, “Textbooks of Doubt, Tested: The Effect of a Denialist Framing on Adolescents’ Certainty about Climate Change,” was published online Sept. 9, 2021, in Environmental Education Research. It was funded with a research fellowship from the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Fellowship and with a research grant from Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Comment:  Where to start?  The author acknowledges that science is not a canon of beliefs to be adopted, and then seeks to remove any doubt in textbooks which students regard as authoritative.  She edits a text to claim as a fact 97% of scientists agree, apparently unaware this is an activist fabrication.  She presumes a consensus on global warming/climate change, and advocates students should believe this instead investigating the range of viewpoints. She wishes to whitewash away the uncertainties, lest students discover dissonance in their preconceptions from social interactions.

Welcome to the snowflake academy, where critical intelligence is not allowed.

Science Also a Pandemic Victim

John P.A. Ioannidis writes at The Tablet How the Pandemic Is Changing the Norms of Science. Excerpts in italics with my bolds aand some added images.

Imperatives like skepticism and disinterestedness are being junked to fuel political warfare that has nothing in common with scientific methodology

Before the pandemic, the sharing of data, protocols, and discoveries for free was limited, compromising the communalism on which the scientific method is based. It was already widely tolerated that science was not universal, but the realm of an ever-more hierarchical elite, a minority of experts. Gargantuan financial and other interests and conflicts thrived in the neighborhood of science—and the norm of disinterestedness was left forlorn.

As for organized skepticism, it did not sell very well within academic sanctuaries. Even the best peer-reviewed journals often presented results with bias and spin. Broader public and media dissemination of scientific discoveries was largely focused on what could be exaggerated about the research, rather than the rigor of its methods and the inherent uncertainty of the results.

Nevertheless, despite the cynical realization that the methodological norms of science had been neglected (or perhaps because of this realization), voices struggling for more communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism had been multiplying among scientific circles prior to the pandemic. Reformers were often seen as holding some sort of a moral higher ground, despite being outnumbered in occupancy of powerful positions. Reproducibility crises in many scientific fields, ranging from biomedicine to psychology, caused soul-searching and efforts to enhance transparency, including the sharing of raw data, protocols, and code. Inequalities within the academy were increasingly recognized with calls to remedy them. Many were receptive to pleas for reform.

Opinion-based experts (while still dominant in influential committees, professional societies, major conferences, funding bodies, and other power nodes of the system) were often challenged by evidence-based criticism. There were efforts to make conflicts of interest more transparent and to minimize their impact, even if most science leaders remained conflicted, especially in medicine. A thriving community of scientists focused on rigorous methods, understanding biases, and minimizing their impact. The field of metaresearch, i.e., research on research, had become widely respected. One might therefore have hoped that the pandemic crisis could have fostered change.

Indeed, change did happen—but perhaps mostly for the worst.

Lack of communalism during the pandemic fueled scandals and conspiracy theories, which were then treated as fact in the name of science by much of the popular press and on social media. The retraction of a highly visible hydroxychloroquine paper from the The Lancet was a startling example: A lack of sharing and openness allowed a top medical journal to publish an article in which 671 hospitals allegedly contributed data that did not exist, and no one noticed this outright fabrication before publication. The New England Journal of Medicine, another top medical journal, managed to publish a similar paper; many scientists continue to heavily cite it long after its retraction.

The pandemic led seemingly overnight to a scary new form of scientific universalism. Everyone did COVID-19 science or commented on it. By August 2021, 330,000 scientific papers were published on COVID-19, involving roughly a million different authors. An analysis showed that scientists from every single one of the 174 disciplines that comprise what we know as science has published on COVID-19. By the end of 2020, only automobile engineering didn’t have scientists publishing on COVID-19. By early 2021, the automobile engineers had their say, too.

Many amazing scientists have worked on COVID-19. I admire their work. Their contributions have taught us so much. My gratitude extends to the many extremely talented and well-trained young investigators who rejuvenate our aging scientific workforce. However, alongside thousands of solid scientists came freshly minted experts with questionable, irrelevant, or nonexistent credentials and questionable, irrelevant, or nonexistent data.

Social and mainstream media have helped to manufacture this new breed of experts. Anyone who was not an epidemiologist or health policy specialist could suddenly be cited as an epidemiologist or health policy specialist by reporters who often knew little about those fields but knew immediately which opinions were true. Conversely, some of the best epidemiologists and health policy specialists in America were smeared as clueless and dangerous by people who believed themselves fit to summarily arbitrate differences of scientific opinion without understanding the methodology or data at issue.

Disinterestedness suffered gravely. In the past, conflicted entities mostly tried to hide their agendas. During the pandemic, these same conflicted entities were raised to the status of heroes.

For example, Big Pharma companies clearly produced useful drugs, vaccines, and other interventions that saved lives, though it was also known that profit was and is their main motive. Big Tobacco was known to kill many millions of people every year and to continuously mislead when promoting its old and new, equally harmful, products. Yet during the pandemic, requesting better evidence on effectiveness and adverse events was often considered anathema. This dismissive, authoritarian approach “in defense of science” may sadly have enhanced vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vax movement, wasting a unique opportunity that was created by the fantastic rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. Even the tobacco industry upgraded its reputation: Philip Morris donated ventilators to propel a profile of corporate responsibility and saving lives, a tiny fraction of which were put at risk of death from COVID-19 because of background diseases caused by tobacco products.

Other potentially conflicted entities became the new societal regulators, rather than the ones being regulated. Big Tech companies, which gained trillions of dollars in cumulative market value from the virtual transformation of human life during lockdown, developed powerful censorship machineries that skewed the information available to users on their platforms. Consultants who made millions of dollars from corporate and government consultation were given prestigious positions, power, and public praise, while unconflicted scientists who worked pro bono but dared to question dominant narratives were smeared as being conflicted. Organized skepticism was seen as a threat to public health.

There was a clash between two schools of thought, authoritarian public health versus science—and science lost.

Heated but healthy scientific debates are welcome. Serious critics are our greatest benefactors. John Tukey once said that the collective noun for a group of statisticians is a quarrel. This applies to other scientists, too. But “we are at war” led to a step beyond: This is a dirty war, one without dignity. Opponents were threatened, abused, and bullied by cancel culture campaigns in social media, hit stories in mainstream media, and bestsellers written by zealots. Statements were distorted, turned into straw men, and ridiculed. Wikipedia pages were vandalized. Reputations were systematically devastated and destroyed. Many brilliant scientists were abused and received threats during the pandemic, intended to make them and their families miserable.

Politics had a deleterious influence on pandemic science. Anything any apolitical scientist said or wrote could be weaponized for political agendas. Tying public health interventions like masks and vaccines to a faction, political or otherwise, satisfies those devoted to that faction, but infuriates the opposing faction. This process undermines the wider adoption required for such interventions to be effective. Politics dressed up as public health not only injured science.

It also shot down participatory public health where people are empowered, rather than obligated and humiliated.

There was absolutely no conspiracy or preplanning behind this hypercharged evolution. Simply, in times of crisis, the powerful thrive and the weak become more disadvantaged. Amid pandemic confusion, the powerful and the conflicted became more powerful and more conflicted, while millions of disadvantaged people have died and billions suffered.

I worry that science and its norms have shared the fate of the disadvantaged. It is a pity, because science can still help everyone. Science remains the best thing that can happen to humans, provided it can be both tolerant and tolerated.

John P.A. Ioannidis is Professor of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, as well as Professor (by courtesy) of Biomedical Science and Statistics, at Stanford University. His complete COVID-19-related publications can be found here.

 

Socialists Command, Failures Ensue. Here’s why.

quote-social-engineering-the-art-of-replacing-what-works-with-what-sounds-good-thomas-sowell-133-50-80We are witnessing again politicians attempting to command social outcomes, which in market societies not only fails but makes matters worse.

An insight is provided by an observer of the “Blue State Model” example of NY under Cuomo and DeBlasio.  At AMAC newsline Cuomo Might Be Leaving Office, But His Failed Blue State Model Remains.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Following a sexual harassment scandal that captured the attention of the nation over the past several months, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he will resign as governor, effective two weeks from yesterday. But while New Yorkers may finally be rid of their creepy, handsy governor, the legacy of Cuomo’s disastrous policies will unfortunately continue its negative impact on the Empire State and weigh down attempts at economic recovery and growth.

Ironically, if Cuomo had prioritized working with small businesses, eliminating bureaucratic red tape, and removing onerous taxes, he could have had more small businesses and lower costs. But he instead chose to move in the opposite direction and, as is usually the case, more government involvement in private industry created a nightmare for companies and consumers.

One law in particular from earlier this year is a perfect case study, not only in Cuomo’s dreadful governing record, but in the bullying, Big Government, Blue State model that he so vividly represented. On April 16, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to impose price controls on high-speed internet. Under this bill, providers were only allowed to charge $15 a month to low-income residents, regardless of the cost of providing service. Governor Cuomo celebrated the law, stating, “This program – the first of its kind in the nation – will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forego having reliable home internet service and no child’s education will have to suffer due to their economic situation.

Almost immediately, the law was challenged by representatives of the telecommunications industry. They asserted that it was grossly illegal and that the state has no legal basis that would permit them to set or regulate the price of internet access.

Cuomo’s office was defiant. They immediately declared, “If these companies want to pick this fight, impede the ability of millions of New Yorkers to access this essential service, and prevent them from participating in our economic recovery, I say bring it on.” The infamously pugilistic Governor made it clear he wasn’t backing down – a trait that would again haunt him during his trial by media over sexual assault allegations a few months later.

In June, a federal court found merit in the industry’s challenge and temporarily banned the measure from being instituted. In the proceedings, it was revealed that the ban and its justification were almost ludicrously ill prepared and planned. When the state was challenged as to how it could legally set the price of a private industry service, they insisted that they weren’t actually setting the price at $15 because providers were free to charge less than $15. Additionally, the $15 price point wasn’t based on any research or knowledge. Even a cursory understanding of the telecom industry would reveal that many providers pay more than $15 per person in taxes and fees alone.

Needless to say, the judge wasn’t buying Cuomo’s argument. Within a matter of months of signing the bill, the state of New York abandoned it and chose to discontinue the case. The decision surprised few insiders. Some analysts theorized the Cuomo plan was mere “political theater.” They alleged that it was an attempt by the Governor to appear tough on corporations while accomplishing very little.

While Cuomo attempted to portray himself as standing up against “big business,” the truth is far more complicated. Many of the fiber optic cables laid across the country are not placed by large corporations. There are a number of small providers who specifically service areas that large providers ignore due to perceived inefficiency and cost. Currently, hundreds of thousands of homes are serviced by these small providers.

These companies had to spend millions of dollars and countless hours fighting Cuomo for their very survival. Additionally, although they technically won the battle, the legacy of the law could lead to a major chilling effect in which providers will be hesitant to provide low-cost fiber optic cables, out of fear they will be financially ruined should a future court rule in favor of a more cunning and well-prepared administration. In effect, Cuomo’s attempt to make internet access more ubiquitous and affordable would have made it more restricted and expensive.

Mercifully, with the three-term governor on his way out, New Yorkers will have a chance to pursue a different direction under hopefully more capable leadership. Unfortunately, however, the failed progressive model that tale exemplifies remains stubbornly in place in Blue State capitals across the country.

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Of course the same Blue State model of governance has produced a mess in California, resulting in a recall campaign against the perpetrator, Gavin Newsom.  Meanwhile at the US federal level, 2021 has seen political command behavior on steroids, and social and economic destruction unprecedented in such a short period of time.

Lisa Benson cartoon

A deeper discussion of failed progressive administrative behavior is from a previous post reprinted below.

Why Technocrats Deliver Catastrophes

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Mark E. Jeftovic writes insightfully on the ways technology backfires when applied by bureaucrats in his article Why the Technocratic Mindset Produces Only Misery and Failure. H/T Tyler Durden at zerohedge. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Technocrats have the most fundamental aspect of reality backwards

Saw this article come across, come across my news alert for “Transhumanism”. In it Dr. David Eagleman talks about how not only can we augment human senses with fantastic new abilities (like to “see” heat and electromagnetic patterns), but how we’ll even be able to build machines that think too.

There is a line in his thinking that one can glean from the article: on one side of the line are enhancements and augmentations to the human experience which are startling and amazing and which will transform our societies: even more radical life extension will be in the cards quite soon (for those who can afford it).

Where Eagleman crosses into technocratic thinking is when he veers into the idea of being able to build thinking machines. The logic is that because we’ll be able to increasingly bioengineer our own living bodies, it means we should also be able to bioengineer a mind into machines using the same principles.

I think this is wrong and it’s the same theoretical mistake that leads directly to technocratically inspired catastrophes.

Yes, we continue to build on technological advancements, but we also commit a lot of unforced errors that inflict incalculable misery on humanity. These errors may manifest as policy blunders, economic crises and worse. Most recently, for example, we seem to have gotten ourselves into a global pandemic because a bunch of technocrats funded some gain-of-function experiments in hopes of preempting the next pandemic. Do you see the dynamic here?

Over the years a lot of thinkers have pointed out that technocratic policy tracks, devised by centralized groups of experts within an elite managerial class, often bring about the very conditions they were impaneled to obviate.

• Raising minimum wages increases unemployment.
• Holding interest rates to zero creates economic instability and increases wealth inequality.
• Forcing green energy initiatives creates systems with lower energy efficiency and higher carbon footprints.
• Banning guns increases gun violence.
• Censoring “hate” speech fosters more hatred and polarization.

It’s almost as if the managerial class has no awareness of second-order effects. When they inexorably come to pass they are often blamed on the very people who were counselling against the initial policy in the first place.

Thus, financial meltdowns are blamed on runaway free markets and capitalism gone wild. Global warming (if it truly plays out along prognosticated lines) is blamed on industries who are most rapidly transitioning toward greener energy anyway (like Bitcoin mining).

Climate change is another theme that exemplifies the technocratic dynamic: As a society we’re going to transition off of fossil fuels no matter what anybody thinks about the environment because we’re already past peak oil, and peak demand will probably flatline around 100M bpd and start coming down from there in a secular downtrend, for a variety of reasons (prolonged economic malaise and the ascent of green energy).

Yet the most viable pathway toward transitioning away from fossil fuels, nuclear (and in this I include Thorium), is currently relegated as problematic by technocrats and ideologues.

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It all seems backwards and for a long time I’ve been positing a fundamental root cause of this backwardness. The premise is: We have the mind/matter equation completely backwards in the way we think about how the world works.

Conventional thought is that what we experience as consciousness is something that emanates from the brain. Like steam from a kettle. This is also the core assumption of AI. If we build something that resembles a brain, it’ll think. It’s a kind of Frankenstein approach that Eagleman alludes to in his article.

That won’t work and AI will never be achieved as long as the mechanistic, material reductionist worldview persists. Yet, technocrats put a lot of faith in AI, and they think models derived from AI are or will be superior to anything we can figure out on our own because they were outputted by machines with a bigger/faster/hardware brains.

It is completely… wrong.

I think that what we experience as matter are energy patterns that emanate from an underlying, and conscious sub-strata of reality. This is basic quantum theory. Quantum theory can be problematic because it opens the door to all kinds of New Age Woo Woo, which may not even be entirely wrong at its core, but is prone to deeply flawed implementations (like anything, I guess).

People, and probably most living things, have a sense, an intuitive awareness of this sub-strata of reality. Our mythology and sacred texts are probably the stories of sometimes being more attuned to it and sometimes less so. The late British writer Colin Wilson wrote at length on the consciousness of the Egyptians of the upper kingdom, possibly over 7500 years BC. Their consciousness and language was pictorial not linear. It may even be possible (my extrapolation, not his) that the demarcation point between conscious awareness between individuals was blurred somewhat. 

So what happened?

Into this awareness came religions. Organized structures that would begin to dictate the basis on which members of society were to comprehend and approach this Great Sub-Carrier. Priesthoods evolved – the first monopolies. Religions. Hierarchies. Rulers. Subjects.

One of the earliest forms of social deviance was heresy: approaching the Divine Sub-Carrier from a direction outside the religious structure. Can’t have that.

This dynamic is as old as humanity. It could even be argued that historical progress is the story of the public coming to realize that the monopoly thought structure they were in was flawed or obsolete and then society moving on to the next one. The elites of the day would endeavour to halt the progression or when that failed, co-opt whatever came next.

Then new elites would erect a new orthodoxy that placed them directly in the nexus of what was unknowable and what the rabble thought they needed to know in order to perform their primary function of ….servitude.

Today the great sub-carrier is best described by science, not religion. But again, the priesthood is saying that all knowledge of the sub-carrier should come through them. That’s Scientism. That’s Technocracy. Management by Experts.

The last two years of life on earth are a foretaste of a full blown technocracy. Follow The Science™, plebes.

Only our elites can fathom how to approach and extract knowledge from The Great Externality, but this time they’ve made things even worse because they have it exactly backwards. They think the Great Externality doesn’t even exist. It’s for flakes and Bible bangers. The technocratic priesthood holds that material reality is near completely understood and that our minds are side effects of chemical reactions in our brains.

They hold that if only we can crunch enough Big Data and calculate out all the models we’ll be, like God (who doesn’t exist), able to fix everything and eliminate all bad outcomes, for everybody, everywhere. We may even be able to eliminate death, and we could upload our consciousness (which is an illusion) into the cloud and live forever.

Because of this backwardation, we will always be careening from one catastrophe to the next, and most of them will be of our own making. We collectively suffer from an illusion that we are in control.

But we are not in control. We’re a pattern. A dance. A cycle. Waveforms. Vibrations. What we as humans do specifically well, which is our superpower and has led to our technological advancement which could conceivably continue on a trajectory that makes humanity an interstellar phenomenon, is adapt.

What technocrats can’t understand, or admit is that we can’t control what is going to happen. Either on an individual scale of people thinking in ways they’re not supposed to think, or geological, cultural, geopolitical or cosmic scales. We can’t get interest rates right, we can’t get everybody to agree on whether it’s “Gif” or “jif” and somehow we’re going to change the trajectory of the climate? Achieve immortality? Crank out a Singularity?

That is highly unlikely and in trying to preempt theoretical bad outcomes we typically bring about horrible actual outcomes.

The lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, if it occurred and it is looking increasingly likely that it did, was the result of gain-of-function studies on bat coronaviruses. They didn’t do it as a bioweapon. It’s not a global conspiracy to institute a Great Reset (all that talk is opportunism more than planning).

They were trying to figure out how to plan for a future global pandemic that may catch humanity off guard and cause incalculable damage. What did they accomplish? They unleashed a global pandemic that caught humanity off guard and caused incalculable damage. Soon to be compounded by global, de-facto compulsory inoculations with experimental vaccines that have a distinctly politicized impetus behind them.

That same dynamic is applied to economics (its where the .COM crash and Global Financial Crisis came from), and social policy (the Woke movement), to climate is all the same technocratic mindset that doesn’t understand the order of reality (mind, then matter) but even worse thinks it knows it.

We’re stuck with that for awhile because the technocratic mindset is incapable of introspection or entertaining the possibility of being wrong about anything. The only move it knows is to double-down on failure.

The antidote to all this is massive decentralization on a global scale, which has the added benefit that decentralization by definition, is not something that gets decided from the top (it never is). It just happens, even in spite of the people in the centre of power who may feel something about their gravitas melting away.

That’s what has started to happen. A global opt-out. The Great Reject. As sure as the Reformation gave way to the Enlightenment despite the protestations of the Church, we’re headed into a world of networks and the sunset of nations. All the while the propagandists of the old order shrieking that in this direction lies certain doom.

The Enlightenment arose from an increase in the level of abstraction, structurally the universe changed from the Ptolemaic worldview (the world as the centre of all existence) to the Heliocentric solar system.

Now we’re experiencing a similar shift away from static top-down hierarchical structures as the natural shape of civilization and toward shifting, impermanent, overlapping networks.

Footnote:  Another Example of Technocratic Adventurism

From American Thinker The Grave Perils of Genetic Editing.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A company called Oxitec, based in the U.K., is piloting a program using gene-/information-modified mosquitos to eliminate the invasive female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The mosquitoes potentially spread diseases such as Dengue fever and Zika.

Dr. Nathan Rose, head regulator of Oxitec, said mosquito-borne diseases are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. According to the CDC, in a ten-year span between 2010 and 2020, there were 71 cases of Dengue fever transmitted in Florida. In essence, the experiment is being conducted for fear of climate change causing a drastic increase in incidence of Dengue fever. In the Fox article, Rose states that Oxitec will first experiment in Florida, collect data, then “go to the U.S. regulatory agencies to actually get a commercial registration to be able to release these mosquitoes more broadly within the United States.”

Don’t think the Florida Keys just opened their arms with a great big bear hug to this experiment. No, there were pushback and questions. In fact, Oxitec had been pushing this experiment to Key Haven and Key West for years, only to be rejected. Many other places have also declined this experiment. When it was conducted in Brazil, it initially seemed to work, but in the end, the mutated mosquitos transferred mutations to the general public. Thankfully, gene drive was not used in the Brazil experiment, for this type of gene manipulation cannot be reversed and can wipe out a species over time.

Evidently, Oxitec has created a second-generation “friendly mosquito” technology, where new male mosquitoes are programmed to kill only female mosquitoes, with males serving and passing on the modified genes to male offspring for generations. Yes, they are programmed to kill. Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen announced in 2020 that Oxitec looked forward to working with the Florida Keys community to “demonstrate the effectiveness of our safe, sustainable technology in light of the growing challenges controlling this disease-spreading mosquito.”

Let’s hope the Florida mosquitoes experiment is truly a necessity and not some type of climate-change fear-mongering “sustainable” technology based on speculation.

Wokeness Worms Eating Science Academies

J. Scott Turner writes at American Mind The Brainworms Come For Big Science.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

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The parasite leucochloridium paradoxum, shown here infecting a snail, is a flatworm that takes over the brains of gastropods and forces them into self-destructive behaviors. As this essay demonstrates, woke social teaching has been known to do the same with academic departments.

Woke grievance is eating expert inquiry from the inside out.

A large gathering of scientists and engineers was brought together by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We were there to compete for a very large sum of money.

At stake was funding for a “research center,” something akin to national laboratories like Brookhaven Labs or Livermore Labs. Research centers are built around a strategic theme, like nuclear physics, and are intended to provide a venue for scientists nationwide to come together to explore that theme. Research centers are high-stakes competitions, involving tens of millions of dollars doled out over a term of ten years or so. The prizes are big, and the prestige immense. They are intended to go to the best of the best.

If a team is awarded a planning grant, the next step is a “planning meeting,” where the NSF gathers the successful teams together to provide detailed guidance on what might make for a successful proposal. I was on one of those teams, and that is how I came to be in that hotel ballroom.

At the opening session, we were told that proposals would be judged on four “foundational components,” or “pillars,” as they were styled in the PowerPoints. A successful proposal would be strong on all four: weakness in one would cast the proposal into the abyss, we were told, no matter how strong the other pillars might be. At the planning meeting, each pillar was to have a dedicated panel discussion, just to make clear to us what the NSF’s expectations were. Three of the four pillars were conventionally scientific and academic: innovation, training, etc. The remaining pillar was “Diversity and Culture of Inclusion” (DCI).

That was where things took a bizarre turn.

The DCI panel consisted of bureaucrats from the NSF’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). Naturally, there were many questions from the floor about what the criteria for a strong DCI pillar would be. We are talking about engineers, remember, whose culture is: “give us ‘the specs’ and we will solve any problem.” The assembled engineers were looking for “the specs” they needed to build that DCI pillar.

I remember the scene. Each team was seated at its own round table on the ballroom floor. The DCI panel was seated on a raised platform, looking down on us, as from thrones on high. 

One engineer at a neighboring table kept trying to pin the DCI panel down on those DCI specs. They kept deflecting the question. We’ll know it when we see it, was the blithe answer, issued with the monotonous imperiousness of the entitled ruler indulging inconvenient questioning from the proles. Engineering is too white and too male, was one panelist’s message to us, and that needed to be corrected. Irony alert: the engineer pressing the point was not white, but an Indian immigrant.

It became clearer with every question that the specs not only would not be laid out: they would in any event change according to inscrutable whim of the ODI bureaucrats. Foolish engineers, one might imagine Jabba chortling, the “specs” are not to help you solve a problem: they are there to keep you off-balance, uncertain, and in my power. It is enough for you to know you depend upon my mercy for funding.

How the Parasite Takes Over

All are familiar with the Left’s “long march” through the institutions. What might not be so well known is just how thorough the conquest has been. Evidence of this sometimes pops up into prominent public view, as in the recent exposure of “critical race theory” training in federal agencies (including places like Sandia National Labs, where one would expect such hokum to be laughed out the door). Such incidents, though quite frequent, are only the tips of a very large iceberg.

In the academic sciences, where I have spent my career, “diversity, inclusion, and equity” (DIE) has become as pervasive as one might expect it to be in any grievance studies department.

How did this happen? More to the point, how could it happen to the supposedly sensible people that scientists are generally thought to be?

The concept of “zombie parasites” provides an apt metaphor for how things got to this point. These are parasites that colonize the brains and nervous systems of their hosts, taking the controls, so to speak, over the host’s behavior. One striking example of a zombie parasite is a worm that infects the brains of snails, which normally crawl around stealthily at night. A snail infected with the parasite crawls out onto a grass stalk during the day, where it is now visible to birds that gobble them up. The parasite then breeds in the bird’s digestive tract and deposits its eggs in the bird’s feces. When uninfected snails eat the feces, the parasite’s life cycle is completed.

DIE has spread into the academic sciences as a kind of zombie parasite. It is not a real worm at work, of course, but a metaphorical “brainworm”—three of them, in fact, that together spread a kind of altered cognitive reality through any institution that is infected by them.

The route of infection usually starts with a “study” that identifies a “problem” that no one knew existed: the overwhelming whiteness of, say, fishery science. Once an unwitting host takes the bait, the next phase of the infection kicks in: all are invited to contemplate with horror the dark future that awaits should fishery scientists not take immediate steps to correct the “problem.” In the final stage of the infection, the brainworm plants its “diversity is our strength” meme in the host’s nervous system. The infected now babble about solving the impending crisis through a crash outreach program to “under-represented” or “marginalized” groups, who, by virtue of their class membership, think differently about fisheries, and so can save the field from stultifying white maleness.

As in those parasitized snails, the DIE brainworm induces a cognitive disconnect in the infected. None of the assertions planted by the DIE zombie parasite have a sound basis in fact or reason. The accusation of too much whiteness usually is based upon a simple observation that the ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation mix in, say, fishery science, departs from the statistical distributions found in the general population. Why this should be, where it is considered at all, is usually buried under a panoply of repetitive charts and diagrams of dubious critical value.

What makes the DIE brainworm a zombie parasite is how it hijacks the host’s behavior to facilitate its spread, to the host’s ultimate detriment. Universities, where future scientists are trained, are a common target. Incubating a future scientist has traditionally involved a very close relationship between a professor and a student (“mentor” and “mentee,” in today’s clumsy parlance).

Fishery scientists, to trot them out again, become fishery scientists because, well, they love fish. They want to devote their lives to getting to know fish better. The same may be said of nearly every scientific endeavor in academia: at the vital core is a love that can verge into obsession. The genius of the academy is that it provides a place where that love can give value to the society that supports it. Disrupt that elemental drive, and you degrade the real social value of the sciences.

This almost primitive love provides a kind of immunity to the DIE brainworm, which makes it a particular target. To spread, the parasite must plant the idea that the familial network of relationships cloaks a hostile and dangerous climate, propped up by cronyism, privilege, racism, sexism, and hostility to the non-binary. The only way to make science “safe” for the marginalized, or excluded, or under-represented, is to disrupt the traditional mentoring family. Students and new faculty who are members of “under-represented” or “marginalized” groups are drawn from their intellectual families into self-referential bubbles of grievance: support groups, safe spaces, counseling services, etc., where the normal stresses of academic life can be transformed into evidence of the hostile climate without.

At some point, earnest administrators, who know nothing about science and understand even less how it works, are brought in to “listen” to the newly aggrieved. At that point, discontent is turned into actionable grievance: committees and study groups are appointed, action plans formulated. Excluded from all this, of course, are the keepers of the academic traditions which, inconveniently for them, have already been condemned in absentia as the problem.

Pressure is brought on these erstwhile traditionalists to conform, to “listen” to other voices, to “check your privilege,” to be “open” to different “perspectives.” If the brainworm has spread far enough to implant a DIE bureaucracy on campus, penalties for non-conformity will be quietly placed in a corner of the room, a visible reminder of the consequences of resistance to the brainworm. Once that happens, the path is open for the entire academic institution to become infected, triggering the next, and most dangerous, stage of the infection.

Follow the Money

Parasites do not simply invade a host: they require fertile ground and food. For the DIE brainworm, the mother’s milk is money. And it is the academic sciences, not the humanities, where the ground is lushest. Compare two sources of federal funds that are often tied to woke ideology on campuses: the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These are NSF-style agencies that fund academic work in the arts and humanities, and in similar ways. Artists and scholars submit proposals, these are scrutinized by peers, and funds are doled out to the successful proposals.

How much money? The NEA presently enjoys an annual appropriation of about $150 million. For the NEH, it is about $160 million. In contrast, the federal money directed to academic science in 2017 stood at around $40 billion: 250 times more. Over the course of the 50 years of its existence, the NEH has funded a cumulative total of roughly $4.7 billion dollars in grants. The cumulative tally of federal support of academic research over the same time span has been nearly $900 billion: about 200 times more.

It is to the sciences, then, that the DIE brainworm has gone to feed, and there it has spread as if it were an epidemic. Evidence for this can be ferreted out from the NSF’s searchable databases of its grant awards, by searching for keywords such as “under-represented,” “minority,” or “marginalized” in the grant documents. Prior to 2010, no award carried these keywords. The first to do so was in 2010, when the NSF awarded a large research center grant to MIT, which contained within it a significant program of outreach to marginalized groups.

Since that year, NSF expenditures on research grants containing the “woke” keywords have risen exponentially, doubling at a rate of about 50% each year, just as a novel virus would when spreading through a new population. In 2018, the last year for which a complete picture can be discerned, the NSF funded nearly a thousand research grants devoted in whole or part to DIE aims, to the tune of more than $1.3 billion. From 2010 to 2018, a total of more than $4 billion have been awarded to more than 2,200 DIE-oriented grants.

Which is how we get to that scene in the Arlington hotel ballroom, where DIE now holds the trump card in deciding what science is worthy of funding. No matter how stellar the science, the message is clear: gobble up the DIE brainworm, or your funding will dry up, and your career along with it.

Footnote:  The DIE acronym reminded me of this poem by e.e. cummings
nobody loses all the time

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle

Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
it needlessly
added

my Uncle Sol’s farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when

my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died and so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner

or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who’d given my Uncle Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scruptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and
i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol’s coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
my Uncle
Sol

and started a worm farm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bug Apocalypse Not!

Jon Entine writes again lamenting false alarms by scientists and journalists The Insect Apocalypse That Never Was.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

For the past four years, journalists and environmental bloggers have been churning out alarming stories that insects are vanishing, in the United States and globally. Limited available evidence lends credence to reasonable concerns, not least because insects are crucial components of many ecosystems. But the issue has often been framed in catastrophic terms, with predictions of a near-inevitable and imminent ecological collapse that would break ecosystems, destroy harvests, and trigger widespread starvation. Most of the proposed solutions would require a dramatic retooling of many aspects of modern life, from urbanization to agriculture.

Considering the disruptive economic and social trade-offs being demanded by some of those promoting the crisis hypothesis, it’s prudent to separate genuine threats from agenda-driven hyperbole. Are insect declines really threatening to precipitate a catastrophic ecological crisis? And, given the available data, what should a responsible society be doing?

The silver lining around the cloud of gloomy advocacy-focused studies and reporting is that entomologists are doing a deeper dive into the reasons behind the global declines. Goulson’s upcoming media blitz notwithstanding, the most thorough studies to date on insects in North America challenge the catastrophe narrative (although you may not have heard about them as they have been almost ignored by the media), and even offers some reassuring news.

The Moran study, published last August, specifically examined four to 36 years of data on arthropods (insects and other invertebrates) collected from US Long-Term Ecological Research sites located in ecoregions throughout the country. The authors found that: “There is no evidence of precipitous and widespread insect abundance declines in North America akin to those reported from some sites in Europe.”

The robustness of the Moran study data suggests the insect population story is much more complicated—and less dire—than many headlines suggest. If a thorough examination of the data on one continent can lead to such a dramatically different and more hopeful conclusion, broad trends in the vast, highly diverse, and relatively unstudied continents of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Australia cannot be characterized through extrapolation with any assurance.

The overall paucity of data provides an opening for alarmists to speculate, and Goulson and others have taken advantage of that. But why are the data so fragmentary? Moran attributed the lack of corroborating studies supporting the consensus view that insect populations are mostly stable to what he calls “publication bias … more dramatic results are more publishable. Reviewers and journals are more likely to be interested in species that are disappearing than in species that show no change over time,” he wrote in the Washington Post.

It’s a reinforcing feedback loop, with journalists playing a key role in this misinformation cycle. Scientific publications are more likely to publish reports of declining species. Then, when researchers search for data, “declines are what they find.” The media often seize on incomplete or even biased conclusions to build a compelling narrative—an insect apocalypse or insectageddon or zombie-like resurrections of debunked reports of birdpocalypses and beepocalypses.

Background previous post:  Epic Media Science Fail: Fear Not Pollinator Collapse

Jon Entine returns to this topic writing at the Genetic Literacy Project: The world faces ‘pollinator collapse’? How and why the media get the science wrong time and again. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

As I and others have detailed in the Genetic Literacy Project and as other news organizations such as the Washington Post and Slate have outlined, the pollinator-collapse narrative has been relentless and mostly wrong for more than seven years now.

It germinated with Colony Collapse Disorder that began in 2006 and lasted for a few years—a freaky die off of bees that killed almost a quarter of the US honey bee population, but its cause remains unknown. Versions of CCD have been occurring periodically for hundreds of years, according to entomologists.

Today, almost all entomologists are convinced that the ongoing bee health crisis is primarily driven by the nasty Varroa destructor mite. Weakened honey bees, trucked around the country as livestock, face any number of health stressors along with Varroa, including the use of miticides used to control the invasive mite, changing weather and land and the use of some farm chemicals, which may lower the honeybee’s ability to fight off disease.

Still, the ‘bee crisis’ flew under the radar until 2012, when advocacy groups jumped in to provide an apocalyptic narrative after a severe winter led to a sharp, and as it turned out temporary, rise in overwinter bee deaths.

Colony loss numbers jumped in 2006 when CCD hit but have been steady and even improving since.

The alarm bells came with a spin, as advocacy groups blamed a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the 1990s, well after the Varroa mite invasion infected hives and started the decline. The characterization was apocalyptic, with some activist claiming that neonics were driving honey bees to extinction.

In the lab evaluations, which are not considered state of the art—field evaluations replicate real-world conditions far better—honeybee mortality did increase. But that was also true of all the insecticides tested; after all, they are designed to kill harmful pests. Neonics are actually far safer than the pesticides they replaced, . . . particularly when their impact is observed under field-realistic conditions (i.e., the way farmers would actually apply the pesticide).

As the “science” supporting the bee-pocalypse came under scrutiny, the ‘world pollinator crisis’ narrative began to fray. Not only was it revealed that the initial experiments had severely overdosed the bees, but increasing numbers of high-quality field studies – which test how bees are actually affected under realistic conditions – found that bees can successfully forage on neonic-treated crops without noticeable harm.

Those determined to keep the crisis narrative alive were hardly deterred. Deprived of both facts and science to argue their case, many advocacy groups simply pounded the table by shifting their crisis argument dramatically. For example, in 2016, the Sierra Club (while requesting donations), hyped the honey bee crisis to no end.

But more recently, in 2018, the same organization posted a different message on its blog. Honeybees, the Sierra Club grudgingly acknowledged, were not threatened. Forget honeybees, the Sierra Club said, the problem is now wild bees, or more generally, all insect pollinators, which are facing extinction due to agricultural pesticides of all types (though neonics, they insisted, were especially bad).

So, once again, with neither the facts nor the science to back them up, advocacy groups have pulled a switcheroo and are again pounding the table. As they once claimed with honeybees, they now claim that the loss of wild bees and other insect pollinators imperils our food supply. A popular meme on this topic is the oft-cited statistic, which appears in the recent UN IPBES report on biodiversity, that “more than 75 per cent of global food crop types, including fruits and vegetables and some of the most important cash crops such as coffee, cocoa and almonds, rely on animal pollination.”

There’s a sleight of hand here. Most people (including most journalists) miss or gloss over the important point that this is 75 percent of crop types, or varieties, not 75 percent of all crop production. In fact, 60 percent of agricultural production comes from crops that do not rely on animal pollination, including cereals and root crops. As the GLP noted in its analysis, only about 7 percent of crop output is threatened by pollinator declines—not a welcomed percentage, but far from an apocalypse.

And the word “rely” seems almost purposefully misleading. More accurately, most of these crops receive some marginal boost in yield from pollination. Few actually “rely” on it. A UN IPBES report on pollinators published in 2018 actually breaks this down in a convenient pie graph.

Many of these facts are ignored by advocacy groups sharpening their axes, and they’re generally lost on the “if it bleeds it leads” media, which consistently play up catastrophe scenarios of crashing pollinator communities and food supplies. Unfortunately, many scientists willingly go along. Some are activists themselves; others hope to elevate the significance of their findings to garner media attention and supercharge grant proposals.

As John Adams is alleged to have said, ‘facts are stubborn things.’ We can’t be simultaneously in the midst of a pollinator crisis threatening our ability to grow food and see continually rising yield productivity among those crops most sensitive to pollination.

With these claims of an impending wild bee catastrophe, as in the case of the original honeybee-pocalypse claims, few of the journalists, activists, scientists or biodiversity experts who regularly sound this ecological alarm have reviewed the facts in context. Advocacy groups consistently extrapolate from the declines of a handful of wild bee species (out of the thousands that we know exist), to claim that we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis. But just as with the ‘honey bee-mageddon, we are not.

Those of us who actually care about science and fact, however, might note the irony here: It is precisely the pesticides which the catastrophists are urging us to ban that, along with the many other tools in the modern farmer’s kit, have enabled us grow more of these nutritious foods, at lower prices, than ever before in human history.

Footnote:  Activists have played both sides with their insect warnings Alarmists: Global Warming Destroys Good Bugs and Multiplies Bad Bugs

insect

Summary: These scares always sound plausible, but on closer inspection are simplistic and unrealistic. The above shows that each type of insect has a range of temperatures they can tolerate and allow them to develop. They are stressed and populations decrease when colder than the lower limit and also when hotter than the upper limit. Every species will adapt to changing conditions as they always have. Those at their upper limit will decline, not increase, and their place will be taken by others. Of course, if it gets colder, the opposite occurs. Don’t let them scare you that insects are taking over.

Imperfect Climate Scientists

josh-knobs

Tom Chivers writes with insight as Unherd’s science editor Can we trust the climate scientists?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The reaction to Steven Koonin’s book highlights just how toxic this debate has become

There’s a problem with writing about science — any science — which is that scientists are human like the rest of us. They are not perfect disembodied truth-seeking agents but ordinary, flawed humans navigating social, professional and economic incentive structures.

Most notably, scientists, like people, are social. If they exist in a social or professional circle that believes X, it is hard to say not-X; if they have professed to believe Y, they won’t want to look silly and admit not-Y. It might even be hard to get research funded or published if it isn’t in line with what the wider group believes.

All this makes it very hard, as an outsider, to assess some scientific claims. You can ask some expert, but they will be an expert within the social and professional milieu that you’re looking at, and who will likely share the crony beliefs of that social and professional milieu. All of which often makes it hard to disentangle why scientists do and say the things they do. Especially when it comes to scientific claims that are politically charged, claims on hot-button topics like race, sex, poverty — and of course climate.

I couldn’t help thinking about that as I was reading Steven Koonin’s new book, Unsettled. Koonin is (as it says, prominently, on the front of the book) the “former Undersecretary for Science, US Department of Energy, under the Obama administration”. The publishers are obviously very keen to stress the Obama link: “…under the Trump administration” might not have carried the same heft.

Koonin came to public attention a few years ago, after he wrote a controversial opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal headlined “Climate science is not settled”. It was a response to what he considered the widely held opinion among policymakers and the wider public that, in fact, climate science is settled. His particular concern was that we can’t yet accurately predict what the future climate shifts will be. The book itself is best thought of as the extended version of that op-ed, with added graphs.

Climate Science is not Settled:  We can break down his thesis into, roughly, three areas.

One, is that despite “the mainstream narrative among the media and policymakers”, it is hard to be sure that the climate has changed in meaningful ways due to human influence. In particular, floods, rainfall, droughts, storms, and record high temperatures have not become more common, and although the climate is unambiguously warming and sea levels have gone up, it’s hard to confidently separate human influence from natural variability.

Two, he says, climate models are highly uncertain and struggle to successfully predict the past, let alone the future, so we shouldn’t trust confident claims about the climate future. And if we do accept the IPCC’s predictions, they aren’t of imminent catastrophe. Instead, they point to slow change to which humanity can easily adapt, and, broadly speaking, to humanity continuing to prosper.

And three, he continues, there is basically nothing we can do about it anyway, partly because carbon dioxide hangs around in the atmosphere for so long, but mainly because the developing world is developing fast, and using ever more carbon to do so, and actually that’s a good thing.

These are — according to Koonin — all, by and large, only what the IPCC assessment reports and other major climate analyses say.

The public conversation, which he says is full of doom and apocalypse and unwarranted certainty, has become unconnected from the state of the actual science. And he blames scientists — and policymakers, the media and the public — for that disconnection.

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So is he right? Certainly he has a case when it comes to Point One: I think he is correct that the media narrative about climate change is not especially well correlated with the IPCC’s own central assessments. For instance, I think it’s fair to say that the recent floods in London, China and Germany have been held up as examples of a changing climate. But the IPCC’s most recent assessment report, 2014’s AR5, found studies showing evidence for “upward, downward or no trend in the magnitude of floods” (see p214 of the AR5 Physical Science Basis document; be warned it’s a big PDF), and concluded that they were unable to be sure whether, globally, river floods had become more or less likely.

Similarly, I think there is a perception among many commentators and policymakers that storms, hurricanes, and droughts are all more common as a result of climate change, but the IPCC’s own report (see p.53 of AR5) has “low confidence” that those things are more common than they were 100 years ago. I know some scientists think the IPCC is overoptimistic, but it is the closest we have to consensus climate science.

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That said, there is some fairness in accusing Koonin of cherrypicking. He spends a lot of time arguing about extreme daily temperatures, convincingly (to my mind) debunking a claim in the 2017 Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), the flagship US government climate science assessment, that US extreme daily temperature records have gone up. In fact, CSSR is comparing the ratio of extreme high temperatures to extreme low temperatures, and what in fact has happened is that extreme low temperatures have become less common. Which is interesting.

But the IPCC does think extreme daily temperatures have gone up globally (see p53 again). In his chapter on “Hyping the Heat”, Koonin doesn’t mention the IPCC, and the IPCC outranks the CSSR. His detective work is interesting, but he is fighting a henchman, not the end-of-level boss. Maybe the IPCC is wrong as well, but we don’t learn that here.

On Point Two, I don’t feel competent to assess the models; certainly it seems highly plausible to me that there are enormous uncertainties in predicting something as inherently chaotic as the climate, especially when to do so you first have to predict something as inherently chaotic as people. But my non-expert understanding is that broadly speaking the models have been getting it about right.

That said, I think he is right that, if you were to ask the average person in my social circle, you would hear that climate change will lead to catastrophe in the near future. And I think that is overstating what the IPCC reports actually say. For instance, it is true that the IPCC predicts more people will go hungry than otherwise would have: it says that almost 140 million children will be undernourished, in a world where climate change goes unmitigated, compared to 113 million in a world where there is no climate change (see p730 of this IPCC report). But that is still fewer than went hungry in 2000 – almost 150 million, out of a much smaller population. The IPCC predicts that a world with climate change will be worse than one without; but not so much worse that other things, such as economic growth and technological progress, won’t broadly keep the big things, like life expectancy and human health, improving. That does seem worth saying.

And Koonin’s Point Three is worth making too. If India were to increase its per capita emissions to those of Japan, “one of the lowest emitting of the developed countries”, he says, then that change alone would raise global emissions by 25%1. Realistically, we’re not going to be able to stop India — or China, or Brazil, or Mexico, or any of the other middle-income countries — from developing, and development at the moment means carbon.

More importantly: we don’t want them to stop developing. Richer countries have healthier, longer-lived citizens and are better able to cope with a changing climate. Even huge, swingeing cuts to Western emissions — politically unrealistic — would only go some way to offsetting the inevitable growth in the developing world. Those cuts may be worth doing, but there are limits to how much good they can do.

But even if Koonin is right about almost everything — if the best guess of the science is that we’re heading towards things merely getting better more slowly, rather than getting worse — then I think he’s missing a major point. That is, climate change models are uncertain. In fact Koonin claims they’re even more uncertain than we think. So they could easily be erring on the side of optimism.

And the one thing we should have learnt from the Covid pandemic is that it’s not enough to say “the most likely outcome is that it’ll be fine, so let’s act as if it’ll be fine.” The correct thing to say is “the most likely outcome is that it’ll be fine, but if there’s a 10% chance that it’ll be completely awful, then we need to prepare for that 10% chance.” Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world reduces the chance of some unforeseen but plausible disaster: as a happy bonus, it makes our cities more pleasant places in which to live. It will come at some cost, but hopefully not too high, because green technology is getting so cheap and effective these days.

Reviews by climate scientists have been unimpressed. “I would normally ignore a book by a non-climate scientist,” starts one review, which goes on to not ignore it. Another accuses him of cherry-picking his fights (not entirely unfairly, as I said). A third says the book is “distracting, irrelevant, misguided, misleading and unqualified”.

But none that I’ve read really addresses the nitty-gritty of his arguments — which is hard to do in a 900-word review, of course, but still. They usually pick some line out of the first chapter or two, disagree with it, and then say the whole book is therefore rubbish. But I wanted a bit more meat to the objections.

The third review, for instance, quotes Koonin as saying “The warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years,” and then asks “According to what measure?” Well, Koonin tells you the measure, at length: absolute record extreme daily temperatures. Maybe he’s wrong, but he does answer that in the book. (And your next sentence is “Highest annual global averages?” He’s talking about the US! You just quoted that bit!)

Similarly, it complains that Koonin says that the sea is only rising about a foot per century, saying “The trouble is that while seas have risen eight to nine inches since 1880, more than 30 percent of that increase has occurred during the last two decades.” But again: Koonin addresses this, for pretty much an entire chapter. His point is that most of the rest of the rise came during an (unexplained by climate models, according to him) period of rapid warming from 1910 to 1940, before human influence should have been relevant. That, he says, is good evidence that natural variation is driving the current acceleration. Is he right? I don’t know. But the reviewer is not attacking Koonin’s argument at its strongest point.

In fact, none of them seem to: they just want to dismiss the book. They attack Koonin’s credibility and credentials, his temperament. They say he was only hired by the Obama Energy Department because of his contrarian views; they call him a “climate denier”, which seems de trop since he accepts most of the central claims of the climate consensus. The response felt more like a circling of the wagons than a serious effort to counter a serious argument. After all, it is unpleasant to hear reasons why you might be wrong about something: cognitive dissonance is painful.

I started this book confident that climate change is a serious concern, and I finished it only slightly less confident; Koonin has not persuaded me. But I’m glad Unsettled, flawed though it is, has been written. As I said at the beginning, science in a politically charged environment is very hard to assess. Scientists are as prone to groupthink and motivated reasoning as anyone else, and I know very well that there are some who feel they need to keep heterodox views quiet. The reviews, which make so little effort to engage with the substance of the arguments, do not reassure me that climate science is a uniquely groupthink-free discipline.

One thing Koonin suggests is a so-called “Red Teaming” of climate scientists: getting scientists to act as adversarial critics of the existing consensus, a method used by superforecasters, among others, to improve their accuracy by actively hunting out flaws in their reasoning. Science can only progress if assumptions are tested. Red teams in climate institutions — any institutions — seem like a good idea, and I’d support them.

Whether it’s possible or not, of course, is tricky to say. The climate debate is so highly charged, so borderline toxic, that it might be difficult for any climate scientist to take on the red-team role without making their own life more difficult. According to Koonin, one senior climate scientist told him “I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, but I don’t dare say that in public.” The old “in my emails, everyone agrees with me” line is hardly a new one, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a bit of truth in it.

But if the Catholic Church was able to stomach someone advocating for the Devil, then climate science should be able to stomach one doing it for the sceptics. And in the meantime, this book does an acceptable job.

ramirez

Footnote:  I encourage you to read the comments at the Unherd website.  For example this from Norman Powers:

I feel that’s a bit unfair to Tom. Reading the arguments of people who disagree, thinking about them carefully and weighing up debate is a large part of critical thinking, and he does all those things in this article. Just because he hasn’t arrived at the same conclusions as you (yet?) doesn’t make it not critical thinking.

Moreover, the social factors that apply to scientists apply to journalists as well. Do you think it’s easy for Chivers to talk about climatology and criticize climatologists so directly? He basically says none of their reviews of the book even meet basic standards of coherence, let alone being convincing. There aren’t many media outlets that would pay for such journalism, regardless of the truth.

Beyond your criticism of the author I feel all your points are well made.

For me, what really shook my belief in climatology to the core was the discovery that the temperature record itself is the output of modelling. Yes, you read that right. Not merely predictions about the future or truly ancient temperatures come out of models. Temperatures recorded by thermometer, in Europe and the USA, in the past 100 years or even just the past decade, are also the output of models. Although the raw data is given as an input the models proceed to heavily modify it; the outputs are then presented as “the history of temperature” without making it obvious what’s happened.

One of the consequences of this is that temperature time series often have multiple “versions”, reflecting the fact that the model software evolves over time. These new versions invariably seem to create warming when the prior versions didn’t show it. This has been going on for decades. They have a variety of justifications, all of which sound plausible on first glance, some of which seem less plausible on deeper analysis.
But. At school I was taught in no uncertain terms that in science you are not allowed to edit your raw data. All the marks for science assignments were allocated to the methodological correctness, and if you did an experiment and the data didn’t line up with the theory but what you did followed the rules, you wouldn’t be marked down (of course, in practice, if you failed to replicate a simple and famous experiment you probably did make a mistake somewhere so the distinction rarely mattered).

This was their way of teaching us that the rules are there for a reason, and that scientists aren’t allowed to tamper with their data post-facto. That’s taboo. Except, not in climatology. The risks are obvious: climatologists only really have one theory, so data that shows temperatures not going up undermines the entire community. Once the Rubicon has been crossed and model outputs are being substituted for real data, it’s very easy for people to try lots of different ways to “fix” errors in the data and then select only the ones that line up with what everyone knows “should” be happening. Over time this process keeps repeating until the theories become unfalsifiable.

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Leftists Obsessed with Bogus Numbers

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Lubos Motl writes with insight gained from the Czech experience with imposed Communism in his blog article CO2 emissions, “cases”, … fanatical leftists love to worship meaningless quantities as measures of well-being.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Leftists hate money and the conversion of things to money. Why is it so? In the old times, the leftists were the losers who didn’t have much money. The decision based on the “maximization of money” was a decision usually made by “some other people, e.g. the capitalists”, and those may have had different interests than the Marxist losers, and that’s why the Marxist losers generally didn’t like the decisions based on the maximization of the financial benefits. They had a low influence on the society’s decision making (because they were broke) and the interests of the capitalists weren’t always the same as the interests of the Marxist losers. (In reality, what was in the interest in the capitalists was ultimately good for the Marxist losers as well but the latter just didn’t understand it.)

That is the likely reason why the leftists always wanted to switch to some “more objective” measures of well-being. They saw all “subjective” (i.e. money-based) decisions to be dominated by evil people, the class of enemies. Where did this leftist strategy go?

Well, during the 40 years of communism in Czechoslovakia,
the communist party often mindlessly wanted to

maximize the production of coal and steel in tons.

Steel and coal are just two major examples that were used to “objectively measure the well-being”. You may see that within a limited context, there was a grain of truth in it. The more machines we make, the more hard work they may replace, and we need steel and coal for all those good things. But the range of validity of this reasoning was unavoidably very limited. They could have used the U.S. dollars (e.g. the total GDP, or in sustainable salaries) to measure the well-being (that should be maximized by the communist plans) but that would already be bad according to their ideology. Needless to say, it was a road to hell because in the long run, there is no reason why “tons of steel or coal” should be the same thing as “well-being” or “happiness”. And it’s not. We kept on producing lots of steel and coal that was already obsolete, that was helping to preserve technologies and industries that were no longer needed, helpful, or competitive, and the production of coal and steel substantially decreased after communism fell in 1989. We found out that we could get richer despite producing less steel and coal!

In 1989, communism was defeated and humiliated but almost all the communist rats survived. This collective trash has largely moved to the environmentalist movement that became a global warehouse for the Bolshevik human feces, also known as the watermelons. They are green on the surface but red (Bolsheviks) inside. They were willing to modify some details of their ideology or behavior but not the actual core substance. The detail that they modified was to “largely switch the sign” and consider the coal and steel to be evil.

Instead of maximizing steel and coal, the goal became to minimize the CO2 emissions.

The obsession with the CO2 emissions (which now carry the opposite sign: CO2 emissions are claimed to be bad!) is similar to the obsession of the Leninists and Stalinists with the maximization of the steel and coal production except that the current watermelons, the gr@tins of the world, are far more fanatical and unhinged than the Leninists and Stalinists have ever been. And one more thing has changed: these new, green Marxists promote these “objective measures of well-being” because it reduces the freedom, wealth, and power of everyone else. In that sense, they are still Marxists. However, they don’t protest against some people’s getting very rich as long as it is them. By this not so subtle change, we are facing a new class of Marxists who are still Marxists (more fanatical than the old ones) but who are often very rich, too. It is an extremely risky combination when such creatures become both powerful and rich.

Needless to say, the CO2 emissions aren’t the same thing as “evil”, the reduction of the CO2 emissions is in no way the same thing as “well-being”. Instead, if you are at least a little bit rational, you know damn too well that the CO2 emissions are totally obviously positively correlated with the well-being. The more CO2, the better. CO2 is the gas we call life. Its increase by 50% since 1750 AD has allowed the plants to have fewer pores (through which they suck CO2 from the air) which is why they are losing less water and they are better at water management (and at withstanding possible drought). Just the higher CO2 has increased the agricultural yields per squared kilometer by some 20% (greater increases were added by genetic engineering, fight against pests etc.). And the man-made CO2 has freed us from back-breaking labor etc.

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The obsession to minimize the CO2 emissions is completely irrational and insane, more insane than the maximization of steel and coal has ever been – but its advocates are more fanatical than the steel and coal comrades used to be. On top of that, most of the projects proposed to lower the CO2 emissions don’t even achieve that because there are always some neglected sources or sinks of CO2 (and lots of cheating everywhere, contrived public “causes” are the ideal environment for corruption, too). Also, the price of one ton of CO2 emissions is as volatile as the Bitcoin and depends on the caps that may be basically arbitrarily chosen by the rogue politicians.

Tons of CO2 are a different quantity to be extremized than tons of coal or steel. But the obsession to “mindlessly minimize or maximize these quantites” is exactly the same and builds on the leftists’ infinite hatred (often just pretended hatred, however) to money as an invention. The hatred towards money is equivalent to the hatred towards the “subjective conversion of costs and benefits to the same unit”. Leftists hate the subjective considerations like that (which are equivalent to counting the costs and benefits in the Czech crowns) because they hate the “subjective thinking” in general. Well, they hate it because the subjective thinking is the thinking of the free people – i.e. people who aren’t politically obedient in general. They prefer “objective thinking”, i.e. an imbecile or a clique of imbeciles who are in charge, have the total power over everybody, and tell everybody “what they should want and do”! When whole nations behave as herds of obedient sheep or other useless animals, the leftists are happy.

Such a general scheme is bound to lead to a decline of the society,
regardless of the detailed choice of the quantity that is worshiped
as the “objective measure of the human well-being”.

In 2020, the epoch of Covidism, if I use the term of the Czech ex-president Václav Klaus, began. The most characteristic yet crazy quantity that the new leftist masters want to minimize (in this case, like the CO2 emissions, it “should be” minimized) are the “cases” of Covid-19, i.e. the number of positive PCR tests (or sometimes all tests, including Ag tests). From the beginning, it’s been insane because most people who are PCR tested positive for Covid-19 aren’t seriously sick. A fraction is completely asymptomatic, a great majority suffers through a very mild disease. On top of that, the number of positive tests depends on the number of people who are tested (because most positive people are unavoidably overlooked unless everyone is tested at least once a week); on the number of “magnifying” cycles in the PCR process; on the strategy to pick the candidates for testing, and lots of other things.

These are the reasons why it has been insane to be focused on the number of “cases” from 2020. But when the methodology to pick the people is constant, when the percentage of the positive tests is roughly kept constant, and when the virus doesn’t change, it becomes fair to use the number of “cases” as a measure of the total proliferation of the disease, Covid-19, in a nation or a population. However, there’s an even deeper problem, one that is related to the main topic of this essay:

Even when the testing frequency and techniques (including the selection) are constant, the number of cases may in no way be considered a measure of the well-being.

The reason is that “being PCR positive” is just a condition that increases the probability that one becomes sick; or one dies. And the number of deaths from Covid-19 is clearly a more important measure of the Covid-related losses than the number of cases – the filthy Coronazis love to obscure even elementary statements such as this one, however. The conversion factor e.g. from the “cases” to “deaths” is the case fatality rate (CFR) and that is not a universal constant. This is particularly important in the case of the Indian “delta” variant of the virus because it also belongs among the common cold viruses. It is a coronaviruses that causes a runny nose. This makes the disease much more contagious, like any common cold, and (in a totally non-immune, normally behaving urban, population). On the other hand, the nose cleans the breathing organs rather efficiently and the disease is unlikely to seriously invade the lungs where it really hurts. In fact, the runny nose indicates that this variant of the virus “likes” to play with the cosmetic problems such as the runny nose, it is not even attracted to the lungs. The same comments apply to any of the hundreds of rhinoviruses, coronaviruses… that cause common cold!

You may check the U.K. Covid graphs to see that despite the growing number of “cases” in recent weeks, the deaths are still near zero. The ratio of the two has decreased by more than one order of magnitude. A factor of 5 or so may be explained by the higher vaccination of the risk groups (older people); the remaining factor is due to the intrinsic lower case fatality rate of the delta variant. It is simply much lower than 0.1%, as every common cold virus is. That is much smaller than some 0.4% which is the expected fraction of the people in a civilized nation that die of Covid-19 (to make these estimates, I mainly use the Czech data which seem clean and I understand them extremely well: some 80% of Czechs have gone through Covid-19 and 0.3% of the population has died, so the case fatality rate must be around 0.4%).

So the conversion factor from a “case” to a “death” may have dropped by a factor of 30 or more in the U.K., relatively to the peak of the disease (the more classical variants of Covid-19). So it is just plain insane to pretend that “one case” is the same problem or “reduction of well-being” as “one case” half a year ago. The disease has turned into a common cold which is nearly harmless. But the society has been totally hijacked by the moronic, self-serving, brutally evil leftists who have simply become powerful assuming that they socially preserve the (totally false) idea that “the number of cases is an important quantity that must be minimized for the society’s well-being”. It is not important at all. The number of cases means absolutely nothing today because almost all the U.K. cases are just examples of a common cold that just happens to pass as a “Covid” through a test because this is how the test was idiotically designed. Everyone who tries to minimize the number of cases as we know them today is a dangerous deluded psychopath and must be treated on par with the war criminals, otherwise whole nations will be greatly damaged. The damage has already been grave but we face the risk of many years (like 40 years of the Czechoslovak communism) when a similar totally destructive way of thinking preserves itself by illegitimate tools that totally contradict even the most elementary Western values.

“Cases” mean nothing, especially when the character of the disease that is detected by the tests becomes vastly less serious. They mean even less than the “CO2 emissions” and even that favorite quantity of the moronic fanatical leftists hasn’t ever been a good measure of anything we should care about. Stop this insanity and treat the people “fighting to lower the cases” as war criminals right now. Thank you very much.

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Why Technocrats Deliver Catastrophes

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Mark E. Jeftovic writes insightfully on the ways technology backfires when applied by bureaucrats in his article Why the Technocratic Mindset Produces Only Misery and Failure. H/T Tyler Durden at zerohedge. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Technocrats have the most fundamental aspect of reality backwards

Saw this article come across, come across my news alert for “Transhumanism”. In it Dr. David Eagleman talks about how not only can we augment human senses with fantastic new abilities (like to “see” heat and electromagnetic patterns), but how we’ll even be able to build machines that think too.

There is a line in his thinking that one can glean from the article: on one side of the line are enhancements and augmentations to the human experience which are startling and amazing and which will transform our societies: even more radical life extension will be in the cards quite soon (for those who can afford it).

Where Eagleman crosses into technocratic thinking is when he veers into the idea of being able to build thinking machines. The logic is that because we’ll be able to increasingly bioengineer our own living bodies, it means we should also be able to bioengineer a mind into machines using the same principles.

I think this is wrong and it’s the same theoretical mistake that leads directly to technocratically inspired catastrophes.

Yes, we continue to build on technological advancements, but we also commit a lot of unforced errors that inflict incalculable misery on humanity. These errors may manifest as policy blunders, economic crises and worse. Most recently, for example, we seem to have gotten ourselves into a global pandemic because a bunch of technocrats funded some gain-of-function experiments in hopes of preempting the next pandemic. Do you see the dynamic here?

Over the years a lot of thinkers have pointed out that technocratic policy tracks, devised by centralized groups of experts within an elite managerial class, often bring about the very conditions they were impaneled to obviate.

• Raising minimum wages increases unemployment.
• Holding interest rates to zero creates economic instability and increases wealth inequality.
• Forcing green energy initiatives creates systems with lower energy efficiency and higher carbon footprints.
• Banning guns increases gun violence.
• Censoring “hate” speech fosters more hatred and polarization.

It’s almost as if the managerial class has no awareness of second-order effects. When they inexorably come to pass they are often blamed on the very people who were counselling against the initial policy in the first place.

Thus, financial meltdowns are blamed on runaway free markets and capitalism gone wild. Global warming (if it truly plays out along prognosticated lines) is blamed on industries who are most rapidly transitioning toward greener energy anyway (like Bitcoin mining).

Climate change is another theme that exemplifies the technocratic dynamic: As a society we’re going to transition off of fossil fuels no matter what anybody thinks about the environment because we’re already past peak oil, and peak demand will probably flatline around 100M bpd and start coming down from there in a secular downtrend, for a variety of reasons (prolonged economic malaise and the ascent of green energy).

Yet the most viable pathway toward transitioning away from fossil fuels, nuclear (and in this I include Thorium), is currently relegated as problematic by technocrats and ideologues.

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It all seems backwards and for a long time I’ve been positing a fundamental root cause of this backwardness. The premise is: We have the mind/matter equation completely backwards in the way we think about how the world works.

Conventional thought is that what we experience as consciousness is something that emanates from the brain. Like steam from a kettle. This is also the core assumption of AI. If we build something that resembles a brain, it’ll think. It’s a kind of Frankenstein approach that Eagleman alludes to in his article.

That won’t work and AI will never be achieved as long as the mechanistic, material reductionist worldview persists. Yet, technocrats put a lot of faith in AI, and they think models derived from AI are or will be superior to anything we can figure out on our own because they were outputted by machines with a bigger/faster/hardware brains.

It is completely… wrong.

I think that what we experience as matter are energy patterns that emanate from an underlying, and conscious sub-strata of reality. This is basic quantum theory. Quantum theory can be problematic because it opens the door to all kinds of New Age Woo Woo, which may not even be entirely wrong at its core, but is prone to deeply flawed implementations (like anything, I guess).

People, and probably most living things, have a sense, an intuitive awareness of this sub-strata of reality. Our mythology and sacred texts are probably the stories of sometimes being more attuned to it and sometimes less so. The late British writer Colin Wilson wrote at length on the consciousness of the Egyptians of the upper kingdom, possibly over 7500 years BC. Their consciousness and language was pictorial not linear. It may even be possible (my extrapolation, not his) that the demarcation point between conscious awareness between individuals was blurred somewhat. 

So what happened?

Into this awareness came religions. Organized structures that would begin to dictate the basis on which members of society were to comprehend and approach this Great Sub-Carrier. Priesthoods evolved – the first monopolies. Religions. Hierarchies. Rulers. Subjects.

One of the earliest forms of social deviance was heresy: approaching the Divine Sub-Carrier from a direction outside the religious structure. Can’t have that.

This dynamic is as old as humanity. It could even be argued that historical progress is the story of the public coming to realize that the monopoly thought structure they were in was flawed or obsolete and then society moving on to the next one. The elites of the day would endeavour to halt the progression or when that failed, co-opt whatever came next.

Then new elites would erect a new orthodoxy that placed them directly in the nexus of what was unknowable and what the rabble thought they needed to know in order to perform their primary function of ….servitude.

Today the great sub-carrier is best described by science, not religion. But again, the priesthood is saying that all knowledge of the sub-carrier should come through them. That’s Scientism. That’s Technocracy. Management by Experts.

The last two years of life on earth are a foretaste of a full blown technocracy. Follow The Science™, plebes.

Only our elites can fathom how to approach and extract knowledge from The Great Externality, but this time they’ve made things even worse because they have it exactly backwards. They think the Great Externality doesn’t even exist. It’s for flakes and Bible bangers. The technocratic priesthood holds that material reality is near completely understood and that our minds are side effects of chemical reactions in our brains.

They hold that if only we can crunch enough Big Data and calculate out all the models we’ll be, like God (who doesn’t exist), able to fix everything and eliminate all bad outcomes, for everybody, everywhere. We may even be able to eliminate death, and we could upload our consciousness (which is an illusion) into the cloud and live forever.

Because of this backwardation, we will always be careening from one catastrophe to the next, and most of them will be of our own making. We collectively suffer from an illusion that we are in control.

But we are not in control. We’re a pattern. A dance. A cycle. Waveforms. Vibrations. What we as humans do specifically well, which is our superpower and has led to our technological advancement which could conceivably continue on a trajectory that makes humanity an interstellar phenomenon, is adapt.

What technocrats can’t understand, or admit is that we can’t control what is going to happen. Either on an individual scale of people thinking in ways they’re not supposed to think, or geological, cultural, geopolitical or cosmic scales. We can’t get interest rates right, we can’t get everybody to agree on whether it’s “Gif” or “jif” and somehow we’re going to change the trajectory of the climate? Achieve immortality? Crank out a Singularity?

That is highly unlikely and in trying to preempt theoretical bad outcomes we typically bring about horrible actual outcomes.

The lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, if it occurred and it is looking increasingly likely that it did, was the result of gain-of-function studies on bat coronaviruses. They didn’t do it as a bioweapon. It’s not a global conspiracy to institute a Great Reset (all that talk is opportunism more than planning).

They were trying to figure out how to plan for a future global pandemic that may catch humanity off guard and cause incalculable damage. What did they accomplish? They unleashed a global pandemic that caught humanity off guard and caused incalculable damage. Soon to be compounded by global, de-facto compulsory inoculations with experimental vaccines that have a distinctly politicized impetus behind them.

That same dynamic is applied to economics (its where the .COM crash and Global Financial Crisis came from), and social policy (the Woke movement), to climate is all the same technocratic mindset that doesn’t understand the order of reality (mind, then matter) but even worse thinks it knows it.

We’re stuck with that for awhile because the technocratic mindset is incapable of introspection or entertaining the possibility of being wrong about anything. The only move it knows is to double-down on failure.

The antidote to all this is massive decentralization on a global scale, which has the added benefit that decentralization by definition, is not something that gets decided from the top (it never is). It just happens, even in spite of the people in the centre of power who may feel something about their gravitas melting away.

That’s what has started to happen. A global opt-out. The Great Reject. As sure as the Reformation gave way to the Enlightenment despite the protestations of the Church, we’re headed into a world of networks and the sunset of nations. All the while the propagandists of the old order shrieking that in this direction lies certain doom.

The Enlightenment arose from an increase in the level of abstraction, structurally the universe changed from the Ptolemaic worldview (the world as the centre of all existence) to the Heliocentric solar system.

Now we’re experiencing a similar shift away from static top-down hierarchical structures as the natural shape of civilization and toward shifting, impermanent, overlapping networks.

Footnote:  Another Example of Technocratic Adventurism

From American Thinker The Grave Perils of Genetic Editing.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A company called Oxitec, based in the U.K., is piloting a program using gene-/information-modified mosquitos to eliminate the invasive female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The mosquitoes potentially spread diseases such as Dengue fever and Zika.

Dr. Nathan Rose, head regulator of Oxitec, said mosquito-borne diseases are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. According to the CDC, in a ten-year span between 2010 and 2020, there were 71 cases of Dengue fever transmitted in Florida. In essence, the experiment is being conducted for fear of climate change causing a drastic increase in incidence of Dengue fever. In the Fox article, Rose states that Oxitec will first experiment in Florida, collect data, then “go to the U.S. regulatory agencies to actually get a commercial registration to be able to release these mosquitoes more broadly within the United States.”

Don’t think the Florida Keys just opened their arms with a great big bear hug to this experiment. No, there were pushback and questions. In fact, Oxitec had been pushing this experiment to Key Haven and Key West for years, only to be rejected. Many other places have also declined this experiment. When it was conducted in Brazil, it initially seemed to work, but in the end, the mutated mosquitos transferred mutations to the general public. Thankfully, gene drive was not used in the Brazil experiment, for this type of gene manipulation cannot be reversed and can wipe out a species over time.

Evidently, Oxitec has created a second-generation “friendly mosquito” technology, where new male mosquitoes are programmed to kill only female mosquitoes, with males serving and passing on the modified genes to male offspring for generations. Yes, they are programmed to kill. Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen announced in 2020 that Oxitec looked forward to working with the Florida Keys community to “demonstrate the effectiveness of our safe, sustainable technology in light of the growing challenges controlling this disease-spreading mosquito.”

Let’s hope the Florida mosquitoes experiment is truly a necessity and not some type of climate-change fear-mongering “sustainable” technology based on speculation.

How Green are my Plastics?

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FINALLY – the Truth about Plastics & the Environment

I recently became aware of this research and video presentation The Great Plastics Distraction  (H/T Patrick Moore).  For those who prefer reading a text to watching a video, I prepared a transcript of the talk below in italics with my bolds added.

My name is Dr Chris DeArmitt and I’m going to tell you about plastics and the environment.

But first i’m going to start with a story. I once read a wonderful book called Factfulness, and it told a story about how important it is that we act based on facts. Before the early 1990s parents were advised to place their infants to sleep on their front, contrary to advice from clinical research. If they had listened to that scientific evidence then they might have prevented over 10,000 infant deaths in the UK and at least 50,000 infant deaths in Europe, the USA and Australasia. But they didn’t listen. In fact it took decades for doctors to change their advice even when the data was so clear that thousands more died unnecessarily.

This talk aims to reset the way we think about plastics in the environment by showing that our current beliefs don’t match reality. The science tells us the exact opposite of what we’re being told online. And the reason it’s important to know the truth is that when we ignore the facts and the science we end up destroying the very thing we set out to protect.

Here’s an outline of the topics we will cover. First a summary of what we believe now. Then a look at what the evidence tells us, and finally we examine reasons why these two things don’t match up.

We all recognize that we can’t believe everything we see in the media. Traditional media is less reliable than it used to be and social media is even worse. Here’s a study that shows us some numbers. Only 20 percent of people believe in the local news and only four percent of people strongly believe in social media. So we all know that we can’t trust the usual sources of information that we use. And yet that’s where our information is coming from.

So how bad is the accuracy of this information? Well they did a study on millions and millions of tweets and they found out that the lies are 70 more likely to be spread than the truth. That means that we absolutely cannot trust anything we hear on social media. Why? Because the lies are more sensational and sound newer than the truth. The truth’s too boring and even when the truth is spread it never really catches up with the lies.

That’s part of what I’m trying to address here. So what are the consequences of being told all of these lies online? Well it turns out that if you repeat a lie enough times people believe it, and it doesn’t matter how smart you are or how good you are at critical thinking, everybody’s susceptible to this. They’ve done large studies on it.

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So these lies that we’re being told all the time sound like the truth because they sound familiar after a while, and we end up becoming brainwashed. And you’ll notice on all the slides that I’m presenting here there’s a little text at the bottom which (I don’t know if you can see it) here at the bottom of the page. “Every time I say something because I’m a scientist I support it with scientific evidence.” That means that there are giant scientific studies to prove what I’m saying and that’s the opposite to what you hear online. When you see something online they just claim something sensational with zero proof. Everything I say here and everything I say in my book is proven.

I just mentioned my book The Plastics Paradox. Let me tell you a little bit about that. I’ve made it my personal mission to collect and read hundreds of scientific articles to uncover the truth. I didn’t go around looking for articles that supported a pre-existing opinion. I went out and found every single piece of information I could. And why me? Well for one thing my kids were being taught lies at school and I found that totally unacceptable. So I decided to go and find the information to present to the teachers and it mushroomed into the book.

Also I’m a leading PhD. polymer scientist, so I’m uniquely qualified for this task. As a scientist I do not make, market or sell plastics. Some people say that they can’t trust a plastics expert to talk about plastics. And I find that interesting. I ask them whether they refuse to speak to a medical expert when they’re sick. Or if they’re sick do they ask a car mechanic for an opinion or a journalist. Of course you go and ask a medical expert when you want a medical opinion. So when you want an opinion about the technical details of plastics, go and ask a doctor in plastics. And that’s me.

Some of my friends ask me why I’ve devoted thousands of hours and thousands of dollars of my own money to this topic when it’s not my job. I sometimes ask myself the same question. This is why. I’m a professional scientist so I believe we should base our opinions and our actions on fact not fiction. Everything we do has an impact on the environment so we have two choices: Either we have to go and move back into caves or we can continue to enjoy the modern lifestyle we love so much while making choices that minimize our impact.

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How do we do that? Well life cycle analysis is the only proven and accepted way to know what is green and what is less green. It considers all environmental impacts. That means raw materials, the manufacturing of a product, the transporting the product, the function of the product in use (for example driving your car around), repairing the product, and also waste and recycling. Companies, governments and environmental groups all rely on life cycle analysis: It’s standardized and also peer-reviewed for consistency and to make sure that nobody cheats. Any system can be improved upon but if we were to abandon life cycle analysis then we’d have to toss a coin to decide what’s green? It’s better to use a tool that’s good but imperfect than to have no tool at all.

The outcome of a life cycle analysis depends on many things including the geographical location that you’re considering so there’s no universal answer. However if you read a hundred of these life cycle analyses, the geographical aspects start to cancel out and average out. And you get some trends. So here are the trends that I’ve noted after reading a bunch of these life cycle analyses. If you can make something out of a hunk of wood, that’s usually the greenest option. So for example, wood decking and wine corks are examples where wood is greener than plastic.

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But most things can’t be made out of wood, so plastic is then usually the greenest choice.  Paper is sometimes greener than plastic, but usually it isn’t. Examples where plastic are greener include shopping bags or grocery bags. I found 24 life cycle analyses on grocery bags and plastics coming out greener in every single case, in every country no matter where they analyzed it. In 24 studies plastic bags were greener than paper bags and not a single case saying the opposite so here we are banning something which is categorically proven to be the greenest option. Banknotes is another example. A lot of bank notes are made of plastic and they’re proven to be greener than the paper ones because they last so much longer.
And mailer envelopes is another example.

Steel, aluminium and glass are far worse due to the extreme heat and the energy needed to make them, and their density which increases the impact of transportation. So these are the general trends that we see.

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Here’s a quick summary of what I discovered when writing The Plastics Paradox and reading all the science. As I said, all of this is soundly proven and you’ll find all the citations in the book and on the website. Statements I quote are verbatim so I copy and paste the statements from the scientific articles to make sure that there’s no spin on it. And as i said it’s all cited so you can check it yourself. If this information is different to what you’ve heard online or in the press, that’s because this is the first time you’ve actually heard the truth backed by hard data and presented by a professional scientist instead of some hack.

Now I want to show you some very very powerful new information I discovered after the book was published. So part of the reason for this talk is to zoom out and not just focus on plastics but look at the overall picture. I was reading a book about materials and the environment and I was absolutely shocked to my core when I turned the page and saw this pie chart on the left.

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The pie chart shows that plastics are only about one percent of the material we use. All we hear about all day long is plastic, as if it were the only material, and we’re drowning in plastic. And now i suddenly discover from this book that plastics are less than one percent. I found this information so incredible that i decided to double and triple check it. And when i did I found out that a number was actually wrong. It’s actually too high: The amount of plastics we use is only 0.4 percent of materials. You can check this yourself using siri and alexa and google to ask: What’s the annual global consumption of plastics; what’s the annual global consumption of materials? And then work out the percentage.

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This is absolutely shocking to hear that we’re obsessing about plastics and it’s 0.4 percent of our problem. So based on that finding I decided to do a little bit more digging. We’re told every day that we’re drowning in plastic waste. Of course no data is ever given. So I decided to go and check the data on how much of this waste is actually plastic. In the book I already found out that 13% of household waste is plastic and about 10 percent of what goes into a landfill is plastic. What i didn’t know then was that household waste is just 3% of all waste; the other 97% is industrial waste. So it turns out that plastic waste is 13% of 3%, which is 0.3% of all waste. So once again we’re told online without evidence that plastic is the cause of all of our worries and it turns out to be 0.3 percent of the waste problem.

And as we saw in The Plastic Paradox book and on the website plastics have actually dramatically reduced waste on top of that. So we’re obsessing about a tiny fraction of the problem. There’s no way we can solve the world’s problems by putting a hundred percent of our effort into 0.3 of a problem.

We hear about plastic in the oceans all the time. In the book I explained there are no huge floating islands, they just don’t exist. Scientists say they don’t exist; the man who discovered the gyres also say that they don’t exist. And there’s no soup either; it’s just been all dramatized for the sake of getting your money out of your pockets by certain environmental groups and journalists who don’t care about the facts. It turns out even in these gyres the maximum amount of plastic that you is about one game die if you were to take a game die from monopoly and put it in an olympic-sized swimming pool. that would be too much.

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I decided to check how much plastic is actually entering the ocean. We see and hear big numbers but we don’t know what it means. It’s very hard to conceptualize these numbers. So it turns out that the amount of plastic entering the oceans is this tiny tiny number I can’t even say it, but the percentage is many many zeros with a six at the end. Clearly I’m not saying there should be plastic in the oceans, but the number is rather small compared to what we’ve been led to believe. No, there will not be more plastic than fish in the sea; that was debunked as well.

I showed that last slide to a friend and he said it would be more meaningful to compare the amount of solid sediment being washed into the oceans from rivers to the amount of plastic. So once again i went looking for the scientific data and I was able to find it. Plastics make up about 0.05 percent of the solid sediment being dumped into our oceans and rivers. It’s mainly polyethylene polypropylene polyethylene terephthalate and polystyrene; which means the plastics that we eat our food out of every day, so they’re not very much of a concern from a health point of view.

Interestingly there are also massive amounts of deadly chemicals, munitions and even nerve gas in the ocean, but no one talks about that. I wonder why they would rather focus on plastics and ignore the things which are actually proven to be toxic. So-called environmental groups are very keen to bring out the turtle pictures. There’s even a famous video of a turtle with a brown cylinder of some kind in its nose; but there was never any evidence that it was made of plastic.  They never analyzed it when they were doing the video; in fact they thought it was a worm, as you can hear in the video soundtrack. They say, “Oh, is it a worm, is it a worm?” and then afterwards they suddenly declare it’s plastic without any analysis whatsoever.

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If you’re concerned about turtles you should be looking at these statistics on the left hand side because I looked up turtle mortality rates and here they are. You can see that shrimp trolling accounts for up to 50,000 turtle deaths; fishery is up to 5000; collisions with boats up to 500; dredging up to 50; and other 200. And nothing at all about plastics. So that’s interesting isn’t it? If you do care about turtles, and you’re not just trying to get sympathy votes out of people and pry their money out of their pockets in terms of donations, then you would be looking at these causes of death which are the actual things that turtles suffer. But they’d rather focus on plastics because it suits their purposes.

As well as turtles we hear a huge amount about whales. I saw another article today about whale deaths, so I decided to look up the many studies on whale deaths. And once again I’ve quoted them all. From the scientific studies quoted the causes of whale deaths: entanglement in fishing gear; natural causes, and vessel strikes where boats hit them. So why are they incessantly telling us that plastics are harming whales when not one single one of these articles even had a mention of the word plastic or bag. These are multi-decade studies with thousands and thousands of whale deaths listed and not one mention of plastic or bag.

I find it absolutely reprehensible a while ago several newspapers covered a story saying that there were these massive amounts of micro plastic raining down on our national parks. They said it was several tons of microplastic deposited every year and I thought wow, that’s hard for me to imagine; let me work it out as a percentage, for example, of dust that’s deposited. So I went and found some studies on that; and i can tell you it’s a lot of work to look up all of these studies. The environmental groups like to argue with you and they like to come out with these claims, and they produce no studies whatsoever. And I’ve been working on my own with no funding, and I’ve turned up all of these studies and double checked and triple checked everything. How much hard work it is to actually check the facts, when it’s easier to spout nonsense.

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So anyway let’s look at the grand canyon. You can calculate there’ll be 12 tons per year of microplastic dust on the grand canyon and that sounds like a lot. And it is a lot, but it depends on how big the grand canyon is. So i went and checked that and correlated that with the total amount of dust that would be deposited on an area that size which is 50 000 tons a year; meaning that microplastics make up 0.03% of all the dust deposited per year. So instead of hearing this tonnage number which means nothing to us, while the actual percentage is rather small. I’m not saying it should be there but again it’s safe plastics like polyethylene polypropylene and things we eat our food out of. But what’s the rest of this dust made of? The 99.97% in large proportion is quartz which is known to cause cancer; it’s also made up of a large amount of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium which are known to be toxic.

So isn’t it interesting that people would rather focus on 0.03% of safe material because it’s plastic and easy to demonize, and totally ignore things which are known to be toxic and known to cause cancer and are being breathed in in giant quantities.

There’s an example where ignoring the science leads you in the wrong direction.  Here I’ve put together an NGO scorecard to see how well these so-called environmental groups are doing at telling us what’s green and what isn’t and what to do. In The Plastics Paradox book as you saw I showed that pretty much everything they’ve told us is untrue; meaning that the science says the exact opposite. And in this talk we’ve zoomed out a little bit to look at the bigger picture. And we found that if we were worried about materials use, concrete, metal and woods would be the things we would focus on.

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But instead these non-governmental organizations want us to talk about plastics. If we’re worried about material waste we will be focused on manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, but instead they want us to focus on plastics. If we were worried about turtles we would be worried about trawling, fishing and boat strikes, but they want us to concentrate on plastic instead. If we’re worried about whales we’ll be looking at trawling, fishing and boat strikes, but instead they want us to talk about plastic. If we were worried about dust we’d be worried about this inorganic dust which contains quartz and heavy metals, but instead they want us to look at plastic. If we were worried about materials that use giant amounts of energy and create co2, we would be worried about gold, platinum and palladium, but they want us to talk about plastic instead. And when it comes to grocery bags, if we’re worried about things that cause harm we’d be looking at paper, cotton and bio plastic bags, but instead they want us to focus on plastic bags which are proven in every single study to be the greenest.

So if we look at how well these so-called environmental groups are doing, they’re not doing very well at all. In fact I can’t find a single area where they’re given evidence which helps the environment or matches the evidence and the science. This means one of two things: Either they’re wildly incompetent, in which case they don’t deserve our funding and our donations. Or they’re actually corrupt, in which case they also don’t deserve our funding and our donations.

How do we know which one of these two things it is? Well, it’s impossible to know somebody’s intent without being inside their mind, but recently there have been some very interesting books by former environmental group members. And they’ve come out and said, I’m ashamed to have been a part of this group. They’re just corrupt and they’re just telling you lies and scaring you to get your donations. So there are insider reports like Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout by Patrick Moore; and there’s Apocalypse Never by Michael Schellenberger. You can find several other books along those lines regarding environmental groups where former members have left ashamed and embarrassed, and published books explaining that these guys are just trying to rip you off.

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So here are the conclusions.
We’ve been lied to again and again by groups keen to enrage us and trick us out of our money.
We need to start basing our opinions and our policies on facts and evidence.
Let’s focus on cleaning up the environment by making wise choices

And if you want to do that please tell your friends about the truths you’ve learned today.
If you know a reporter please tell them;
If you know a CEO or a politician, then please tell them.
And if you know Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, so we can get some publicity for the truth, then please tell them.

As you’ve seen facts don’t catch up with lies. We need every bit of help we can get because the lies are already in people’s brains. They spread farther and faster than the truth and we’re playing catch up. We really need to make an impact if we’re ever going to change people’s minds. Stop making stupid policies and stop enriching these groups that are lying to us.

The Plastics Paradox book was written so that people could get the story. But all the information is at plasticsparadox.com. And it’s important for you to know I’m not trying to make money out of this presentation. All this information, all the peer-reviewed science is available for free at plasticsparadox.com. No registration; I’m not selling you one thing. All I’m doing as a professional scientist is telling you it’s time to look at the facts and start making progress instead of pedaling backwards.

Sadly some people are so passionately against plastics that they don’t care about the facts. They prefer to attack me online for example and that’s a shame because well-intentioned people are making harmful choices due to bad information. Just like the story about those infant deaths that we told in the beginning. So if you care about making progress please remember what we’ve said here. Go and visit the website and tell anyone you know who’s an influencer that we’ve got to redress this and start to create a brighter future together.

Thank you very much for your time.

Footnote: 

Dr. DeArmitt wondered about why activists target plastics when they are trivial compared to other problems.  To many of us, the answer is obvious:  Plastics are derived from oil and gas, and therefore anathema to climatists.  Fear of climate change is the driving bias behind efforts to demonize plastics, as well as many other products that make modern life possible.

Cogito ergo sum→→Sentio ergo ita est

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Historians consider that this René Descartes statement epitomizes the spirit of the Age of Reason.  The 17th century philosopher was looking for an unalterable foundation to build the knowledge, a fixed point from which knowledge could be erected. The quote comes from the Discourse on Method by René Descartes, writing which altered the course of history, ushering in a transformation also known as the Enlightenment.

Sentio ergo ita est

Now we have a new awakening and a shift away from reason and objectivity in favor of emotion and subjectivity.  The effects of this spirit are apparent in the Twitter mobs, legacy media propaganda,  in academic intolerance, and extends into virtue signalling corporate executives.  H/T to Pat Frank for his recent comment summarizing this distubing retreat from rationality.  Excerpt in italics with my bolds.

“In woke “science” there is no falsifiable hypothesis. In its place, we have the official orthodox consensus view.”

These areas of science have succumbed to sociology and culture studies. They not only include Covid and climate change, but extend to gender dysphoria, critical race theory, white supremacy, intersectionality, implicit bias, systemic racism, efficacy of diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI; right-think/quota/prejudice), the root cause of crime, and on and on.

These areas make claims that political extremism and violent riots have leveraged to the status of knowledge. Pseudo-knowledge. Things not true that are accepted widely and hotly.

Their general category is the subjectivist narrative. They assume what should be proved, the assumptions are granted the status of evidence, and all the studies are self-confirmatory.

Equivocal language and the flabby tendentious thinking of critical theorists (academic third-raters, all) makes subjectivist narratives the perfect tool for the political demagogue.

This is where universities are headed. Intolerant, prejudicial mediocrity fiercely overseen by Commisars of right-think.

Overseen because university presidents and boards, and heads of national labs, will be judged by their commitment to right-think. If an unseemly interest in merit undercuts DEI, the Commisar will see to their exit. Today, disemployment; later on, execution.

To this, the halls of science have surrendered.

It seems far too many scientists are just methodological hacks. Unable to distinguish knowledge from pseudo-knowledge, the cultural theorists have effortlessly rolled them over.

Background from previous post Revolution: Sentiment Now Overrules Sense

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Dominic Green describes the sociopolitical coup in his Spectator article Meghan ’n’ Joe’s empire of the sentiments.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Biden dispenses serotonin the way Barack Obama dispensed drone strikes

If your facts don’t care about my feelings, then my feelings aren’t obliged to care about your facts. The facts in Joe Biden’s energetic, inspiring and exhilarating address to the nation last night were frequently as unsteady as the speaker. But the feelings that Biden expressed were, unlike the previous president who must not be named, unimpeachable.

He knows how it feels, he said with that now-customary surge of anger, as if he’s not fully in control of his frontal cortex. And we know how it feels when someone says they know how we feel. Consider everything fixed: COVID, racism, opioids, deficits, the collapse of the schools, the children at the border. The Therapeute-in-Chief is here, dispensing serotonin the way Barack Obama dispensed drone strikes.

It doesn’t matter whether Biden means what he says, any more that it matters whether Meghan Markle told the truth when she implied that her son was denied a prince’s title because he might have dark skin. It’s the feelings that matter: feelings of security, empathy and contentment, and especially the feeling that Nietzsche correctly foresaw as the root feeling of modern life, resentment.

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The result is the rule of sentiment over thought and symbols over reality. The Biden administration didn’t invent the moral and humanitarian disaster at the southern border. But it has produced a new crisis by altering the laws to satisfy sentiment.

It feels cruel to return unaccompanied minors, as the Trump administration did, and to hold them in prison-like conditions, as both the Obama and Trump administrations did. But the fact is, Biden’s policies have fostered a greater cruelty.

Biden has created new incentives for human trafficking and the worse kinds of child exploitation.

The result is a surge in border crossings that even a professional euphemist like secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas calls ‘overwhelming’, and the spectacle of would-be illegal immigrants kneeling at the border while wearing t-shirts reading ‘Biden let us in’.

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This is what Biden gets for taking a knee as a craven genuflection to BLM. This is what he gets for accusing Donald Trump of being a racist and sadist for caging unaccompanied minors — even though Biden was vice president when the cages were built, and even though Biden now presides over a greater influx. And this is what we get: a theater of the sentiments, in which the actors and audience are so jaded that their senses and check books can only be stimulated by that reliable and obscene soap-opera trick, putting children’s lives in the balance.

Asked if the word ‘crisis’ applied, the President’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, refuses to call it anything at all — because she would feel bad, and we would feel bad, and Biden would look bad, if we called it for what it is. It is easier for the administration to resent the Mexican children for putting us in this moral bind, and resent the Republicans, who aren’t short of their own resentments when it comes to immigration, for making hay with it.

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The fact is that this is a crisis. It reflects the corrupt failure of Washington DC and the cold self-interest of corporations who want cheap labor, unions who don’t want it, and, in the middle, the upper-middle-class donors who dislike foreigners who don’t speak English, but need them to bus their tables, do their lawns and wipe their children’s backsides.

Given the complexities of the facts and the appeal of a flight into sentiment, it’s no wonder that this week the administration and media did direct us to pity the children. Meghan and Harry, that is.

Jennifer Psaki commends Meghan and Harry for the ‘courage’ it took to sit down with Oprah and make unsubstantiated allegations against his family. Their kind of fact-light, sentiment-heavy self-promotion and self-therapy was, Psaki told us, one of the areas that Biden is ‘committed to in the future’.

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Biden’s increasingly vague routines of empathy are the symbolic face and velvet glove of a bureaucracy of the sentiments whose offices run from government to the media.

Biden is very old. After him, the gloves will be off and the face will be hardened with more than Botox. We’ll get this decayed form of democracy good and hard, and we’ll be told it should feel good. And that’s a fact.

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See also Head, Heart and Science

Tom Wolfe tells the story about the Revenge of the Humanities against science and engineering disciplines. Synopsis and link to full essay in post Warmists and Rococo Marxists.