25. November 2009 · Comments Off on PT Barnum Was Right · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General, General Nonsense, Rant, Science!

There is a sucker born every moment, and who else should have known better, but the shameless old huckster? Even though it’s most probably one of his competitors who actually voiced that deathless observation, PT is the one that we remember today. Fleecing the credulous for a living is not a game which was thought up yesterday. People who desperately want to believe something are as common now as they were in the 19th century; they lined up then to gawk at the so-called Cardiff Giant, and now and again, there are enough poor gullible schmucks who answer a Nigerian spam email . . . and really think that someone with an uncertain grasp of vernacular English and indifferent punctuation skills is really going to transfer umpty-million dollars into their bank account. But belief in such improbabilities is not a crime, and does not generally do any more harm than to the believers’ pocketbook.

Part of this whole ‘free country’ thing is that you are free to believe in any such improbable thing you want to, like Megan Fox can act, or that Dan Brown can write a good book. Or as is sometimes the case – to not believe in something. I, for example, do not believe in global warming, or that sort of alleged global warming supposed to have been caused by human activity, the sort of global warming that calls down unexpected blizzards where-ere Al Gore doth appear, and causes polar bears to fall out of the sky. Never did, don’t and never will. As I have been tiresomely reminding certain of my friends over the years – it was warm enough in Roman times to grow wine grapes in Britain, and in the 10th century for European-style subsistence-farming in Greenland. It was also cool and wet enough for the Pueblo tribes in various places in the American southwest to do pretty much the same. Conversely, during the 16th and 17th centuries it was cold enough in some English winters for the Thames to freeze solid, at or above London. Once there were lush oases in the North African desert, and glaciers covering most of Europe and the North American continent . . . and all of that happened before human kind existed, or that our technologies, and our presence created nothing more than a gentle burp in the cosmos.

So, are we all clear now on the concept? The earth’s climate has changed in the past, sometimes quite drastically, it will change in future, and in fact the weather changes every darned minute. We don’t even have that much precise and reliable data about it anyway: systematic records are spotty at best, much before the 19th century. So, thinking human activity does much to change the climate of the Earth one way or the other? It’s a theory yet to be proven, and massaging, or vigorously pummeling the existing data, and not being able to provide enough of it for anyone else to reproduce the same result? There is a word for that – several ones, actually, but the one I have in mind is ‘opinion’. And dragooning scientific peers and rivals into seeming to share it by monstering or ostracizing them does the actual science no favors. (I would agree, in passing, that generally it is not good to foul our own nests, and to be tidy-minded and to refrain from spilling dangerous pollutants into the air, the earth, or the water; on the whole that has proved to be one of those Good Things that a concern for the environment has engendered over the last forty years.)

The assumption that mere human activity is having Dangerous World-wide Consequences And We Must Do All In Our Power To Ensure Perfect Entropy; that is marvelous to behold, how it became the trend of the moment, among public, the media, corporations and politicians . . . old PT Barnum thought only to fleece the gullible masses by exercising his own creativity! The suspicion about the Global Warmenists – that they were hoping to fleece the gullible by drawing governments into it, as well as corporations – or at the very least, score some more grant money and fat speaking fees for beating the good ol’ Global Warmest/Coolenist/Changiness Drum like a rented mule has been richly rewarded by the leaking of a body of emails from the institution most prominent in recent years for propagating the theory as if it was a matter of established fact. So, no surprise to me, the revelation that the smugly certain Global Warmenist/Coolenist/Changiness advocates were swapping e-mails about how to reward their friends and punish the insufficiently enthusiastic comrade-scientists. What is a bit of a surprise is how miserably like a bunch of middle-school snots deciding among themselves who is really cool enough to hang with the in-crowd that they appear . . . and alternately, how much like a cat trying to hide the crap on the kitchen floor by frantically scratching at the linoleum.

The theory of anthropomorphic global warning is certainly up for more discussion, and for more research . . . that is, honest research in the sense of the search for pure data, uncontaminated by any thought of arriving at the predestined conclusion, or corrupted by receiving the monetary benefits derived from magisterially insisting that it is settled, no more discussion. That’s what a theory is – and to bend the observations in order to serve a conclusion, which is what appears to have happened here – this is not good science. Or it isn’t the science that my dear old Dad taught to us. Science is never settled – what we think to be true is ever-evolving, and one of the first requirements is to be rigorously honest about the data. Fudging the data in order to provide the expedient and much-desired answer? That is not good science. And making social and political demands based on it is even less desirable.

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