Wattsupgate: Denialists claim all knowledge is wrong

January 31, 2010

It really is that bad.  Climate science denialists now attack any information simply for not being what they want it to be.  Lysenko’s Ghost smiles broadly.

Anthony Watts is just the most prominent of the bloggers making hoax charges of error and worse in the fourth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), because of a footnote that cites a rock climbing magazine.

Here’s the trouble for Watts:  There is no indication that the citation is in error in any way.  Watts’s move is more fitting of King George III’s campaign against Ben Franklin’s lightning rods, the prosecution of John Peter Zenger, the pre-World War II campaign against Einstein’s work because he was born a Jew, or the hoary old Red Channels campaign against Texas history told by John Henry Faulk.  It’s as bad as the Texas State Board of Education’s attack on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Watts’ and others’ complaint is simply that Climbing magazine’s story on the worldwide retreat of glaciers suitable for climbing is not published in a juried science journal.

In other words, they indict the science, not because it’s wrong — they have no evidence to counter it — but because it’s too American Patriot correct Jewish left Texan mistakenly thought to be political well-known, too accessible, (small “d”) democratically-reported.

And of course, any comment that points that out at Watts’s blog goes into long-term “moderation,” keeping it from the light of day in the best tradition of the Crown’s defense of Gov. Cosby’s misadministration of New York (see “John Peter Zenger”).  Watts said in a quote that should have been attributed to the Daily Telegraph:

The IPCC’s remit is to provide an authoritative assessment of scientific evidence on climate change.

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.

It comes after officials for the panel were forced earlier this month to retract inaccurate claims in the IPCC’s report about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

By those standards, Watts’s own readers should eschew his blog — it’s not peer reviewed science by any stretch, and Watts isn’t an established authority in climate science (he’s not even working for an advanced degree).  Consistency isn’t a virtue or concern among climate change denialists.  Watt’s entire modus operandi is much more anecdotal than the story in Climbing, which was written by a physicist/climber who studies climate change in the world’s mountains.

And did you notice?  They’re whining about research done by a scientist in pursuit of a degree, complaining about the second citation.  That’s the exaclty kind of research that they claim the magazine article is not.  Their complaint is, it appears, that a scientist in pursuit of education is not the right “kind” of person to do climate research. It’s the chilling sort of bigotry that we spent so much time in the 20th century fighting against.  In the 21st century, though, it appears one can still get away with demonizing knowledge, education and research, part of the campaign to indict “elitism,” the same sort of elitism aspired to by America’s founders.  Too much of the criticism against scientists involved in documenting global warming is the cheap bigotry the critics claim to find in science, falsely claimed in my view.

Topsy-turvy.

And the glaciers?  Yeah, the evidence tends to show they are in trouble.  Those Himalayan glaciers?  The IPCC report was accurate in everything except the speed at which the glaciers decline — they should be with us for another three centuries, not just 50 years, if we can reduce warming back to 1990s levels (oddly, denialists rarely deal with the facts of accelerating warming, preferring to point to a local snowstorm as a rebuttal of all knowledge about climate).

Oh, and the research?  The author of the story in Climbing magazine is Mark Bowen.  Dr. Bowen’s Ph.D. is in physics from MIT. He’s a climber, and he researches climate change on the world’s highest mountains.  His 2005 book, Thin Ice, focused tightly on what we can learn about climate from the world’s highest mountains.   Bowen is the expert Anthony Watts would like to be.

Bowen’s newest book:  Censoring Science:  Inside the political attack on James Hansen and the truth of global warming. Watts doesn’t want anyone to read that book.  It is easy to imagine Watt’s s attack is, he hopes, pre-emptive, against Bowen’s book.

I’ll wager Watts hasn’t read the article in Climbing, and didn’t know who Bowen was when he launched his attack, though.  The denials of bias coming out of the denialists’ camp will be interesting to watch.

Let the denialists roll out the rope far enough, they’ll inevitably hang themselves.

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Tracks on the beach, footprints in the sand

January 30, 2010

Maybe not the tracks you expected — pulse quickening, all the same:

Grizzly bear tracks, Sithylemenkat Lake, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska - photo by Steve Hillebrand USFWS, public domain

Grizzly bear tracks, Sithylemenkat Lake, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska - August 2006 photo by Steve Hillebrand USFWS, public domain


Former President Millard Fillmore writes to President Abraham Lincoln

January 30, 2010

May 4, 1861:  Millard Fillmore wrote:

May 4, 1861, letter from Fillmore to Lincoln, introducing a friend - Library of Congress

May 4, 1861, letter from Millard Fillmore to Abraham Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Transcription of the letter:

From Millard Fillmore to Abraham Lincoln, May 4, 1861

Buffalo May 4, 1861.

My Dear Sir,

The bearer, Dr. Martin Mayer, a Stranger to me, has asked of me a letter of Introduction to your Excellency, and produced such high proofs of character, that I do not feel at liberty to refuse it; and therefore while I decline any interference, in any appointment he may desire, (which is my uniform practice) I desire simple to ask that he may be heard.

Respectfully yours

Millard Fillmore


Look at the past: A class project?

January 30, 2010

Look at this stuff, at Pillar Post.  Could your students do something like this for your town?

image by Bu Yourself, at Pillar Post

image by Bu Yourself, at Pillar Post

Students would have to find the old photos at the library, or at your local historical association or museum.  Most of your students already have the electronic photo equipment though . . .

Just an idea.

Resources, and more:


Mushroom seminar in Brunswick, Maine – January 30

January 29, 2010

Biology covers vast fields, with experts in some areas able to spend entire lives without touching other areas of the science of living things.

Working on the effects of climate change, many different areas of biology need to be tapped to figure out what is going on, and what might happen.

Mushrooms, anyone?

Old friend Greg Marley, one of the very few I’d trust to identify edible wild ‘shrooms, presents a session on mushrooms in Maine, tomorrow.  Mushrooms had a tough go of it in Maine over the last season.  Why?  Marley may offer suggestions, you may have some data.

Mushrooms for Health, Greg Marley

Greg Marley is the author of Mushrooms for Health

In any case, if you’re in or near Brunswick, Maine, this is one of the better things you could do tomorrow; I hear from Marley:

The Maine Mycological Association is holding their second Winter Lecture this Saturday, Jan 30 In Brunswick.

Many people talk about the cold wet year that we just allowed to slip into history.  “Boy, it must have been a fantastic year for mushrooms!” they say.  Well, in reality it wasn’t.  We didn’t see many common species at all or in anything approaching normal numbers.  Other species were delayed or fruited in very different habitats that usual.  It was a very odd mushroom season.

Greg Marley will be leading a discussion and showing slides of mushrooms fruiting in 2009.  We will look at weather patterns and talk about out ideas on what happened and, more importantly, what we can learn from the year’s lessons.

Please come, bring your ideas and opinions along with your mushroom stories from 2009 and join the conversation!

Saturday, January 30.  9-11:30am
Free and open to all.
Curtis Memorial Library
Pleasant St
Brunswick, ME

Exit 28 from I-295 onto Route 1 (Pleasant St).  At the 3rd traffic light continue straight as Rt 1 bears left.   Curtis Library is 2.5 blocks down on the right, across from the Post office.


Geography education vs. geography learning

January 29, 2010

Angst over the state of education never goes away:

Much more important is the way we seem to have turned away from the very idea of education that sustains a healthy, vibrant liberal democracy.  As I write this I am conscious of how unfashionable it sounds. However, there has been a steady erosion of the notion that education can and should fuel our individual ability to think critically about the world as we find it – which requires knowledge and understanding of how the world has come to be. We are swamped with a language of targets, skills and 21st century ‘learning to learn’, but have forgotten what it is that distinguishes learning (a word that now seems to carry huge weight and always deemed a good thing in itself, when clearly it is not) from education.  All worthwhile education is, in the end self-education, based on the student’s curiosity, their need to know and readiness to rise to the challenge of finding out. Indeed, offering challenge to young people is one way to motivate them – so different from today’s orthodoxy which says we should make learning accessible, bite-sized and achievable by all.

These guys write from England, however, and they write from the vantage point of teaching geography and having just published their book on how better to teach geography.

See their take on what geography teachers should be teaching about Haiti right now.


More schools jump on “no-recess” recess bandwagon

January 29, 2010

How long will the madness persist?

Via Lenore Skenazy at Free-Range Kids comes word that MommaLou has a meeting to find out why her kid’s school wants the kids to spend recess time engaged in something other than recess.

Excuse me?

They aim to “change the perception of recess from free time away from learning to a valuable learning experience that will teach them and will help them cope in all social settings and environments. When children view recess as “free time” they have a tendency to act in a less responsible manner and push the limits of irresponsible behavior. In order to change the perception of recess, children must see that its content is respected and valued.”

The absolute best memories I have of my childhood consisted of me and my sister on the loose in our backyard making mud pies and playing “lost kids”. When I was in college studying early childhood education, I spent countless hours in classrooms learning about how kids learn. Kids learn through play. They just need the resources. The tools. And time.

Well, yeah, that’s what recess is all about, isn’t it?

Kids need recess to stay healthy, the studies show. Recess keeps them healthy.  In my corporate consulting, we counseled managers to provide recess.  Creativity and corporate problem solving experts, like Dr. Perry W. Buffington, recommend business people take a recess and get away from work for a while when things get tense, or when problem solvers get dense.  In one session I watched with Buffington, one manager didn’t get it and kept coming up with all sorts of things to do to avoid taking a recess.  Buffington finally spelled it out for him:  Get away from the office; make sure that the activity is AWAY from the building . . .

Heck, do they have an “organizational health” survey at that school?  The teachers need recess for the kids, too.

Recall these resources from my earlier post:

Nota bene: Even just a little movement worksIt works for adults, too.

Resources:

  • PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 2 February 2009, pp. 431-436 (doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2825) (subscription required for full text),  “School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior,” Romina M. Barros, MD, Ellen J. Silver, PhD and Ruth E. K. Stein, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Rose F. Kennedy Center, Bronx, New York

    OBJECTIVES. This study examines the amount of recess that children 8 to 9 years of age receive in the United States and compares the group classroom behavior of children receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.

  • See this year-old post at The Elementary Educator
  • Post in agreement from the venerable Trust for Public Lands, one of the best and best respected non-profits in America

Also, be sure to see this post from Ms. Cornelius at A Shrewdness of Apes.  If you’re having difficulty telling the difference between school and a prison — or if your school kid is having that difficulty, it’s time to act.

Cartoon - lawyers still get recess.  Andertoons

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