Climate denial and the Industry of FUD

I’ve had this link to Climate Crocks on my tabs for forever, intending to blog about it as soon as possible. Today I was listening to Minnesota Atheists Talk Radio, on AM 950 KTNF, and Stephanie Zvan was interviewing Greg Laden about the climate denialists who’ve been trying to sue him into the ground for talking about the settled science that is whether or not the climate is changing for the worse, and whether or not humans are responsible. During one of the intro/outros Stephanie mentioned how similar the astroturf seems to the progenitor of the corporate-interest-sponsored organized disinformation campaign that was the Big Tobacco industry in the 90s, and I remembered this tab immediately.

This talk documents the origins of the US’s “Tea Party”, built by corporations to prey on the anti-liberal sentiments of the far-right segments of the already-far-right Republican party, calving off a chunk of them to be a populist movement against corporate regulation.


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Has a grad student invented the instant wound cure?

If this is true — and I have to admit more than a little skepticism about this, given the just-so story near the end — it could be the single biggest medical breakthrough in decades. You know how in Mass Effect, characters can take life-threatening damage and after one little button-press, they’re right back in the fight? Bullet wounds, rockets, whatever — just slap on your medi-gel dispenser button and your armor seals up the wound and lets you keep fighting.

A grad student has supposedly taken that Mass Effect equivalent of a magic healing potion, Medi-Gel, and turned it into a reality.

It is a synthetic version of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that holds our cells together and tells them what to do in the event of a bleeding injury, instructing them to get clotting. It also binds together with the damaged ECM cells of the patient, working with them to form a seal over the area of the wound.

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Michael Shermer on Nazi analogies

Let me tell you, in a climate as polarized as ours, especially in a contentious topic of discussion as our current, it’s refreshing to have an intellectual giant such as Michael Shermer tweet something like this:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/michaelshermer/status/289901671570624512"]

People who equate America with gun control to Nazi Germany do not know anything about history. Read Richard Evans 3-vol history Nazi Germany

Right on, Michael! I’m so glad you said –

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemöller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for …” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a….”

what
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The Troll History of the Secular Movement

I’ve been thinking more about the parallel universes we apparently inhabit within the secular movement, where there are factions on either side of a great rift who see certain narratives as being more useful to their ends, even where they hardly match anyone else’s memories or documented facts of the events in question. When I noticed a large number of the narratives against harassment policies were predicated on misreads of timing or misreads of intent or misreads of targeting of arguments, I put together my widely-referenced timeline to stomp some of those memes flat. This seems to me like evidence that one side of the divide is reality-based, and the other significantly less so. And the only remedy for that is chronicling the events so you can point to that chronicle and show why people are getting things so wrong so consistently.

This time, however, I thought it might be useful to put together a timeline of that parallel universe. I’ll extend this service mostly to benefit “our side”, so we can get our bearings whenever talking to someone who inhabits that other universe. Care to help crowdsource some of it for me while I travel today? No need for extensive references, just point out those things that people seem to think actually really happened and we’ll, I’m reasonably sure, eventually hone in on a close approximation of the alt-reality history of the movement. This all assumes the alt-reality idea that there is a single secular movement comprising atheism, skepticism and secularism that involves all practitioners thereof.

Allons-y!
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Asteroid 2011 AG5 missed the keyhole

Welp, there goes another apocalyptic prophecy — this one grounded in reality, mind, but it means we can scrub the 2040 doomsday off our calendar.

Earlier in 2012 only a few observations of AG5 could be made before it got too close to the Sun to see. Those allowed the crude estimate of where it would be in 2040, and that big fuzzy volume of space included the Earth.

However, new observations taken with the monster Gemini telescope in Hawaii allowed a far better orbit to be calculated. The path of the asteroid in 2040 was found, and now clearly does not include the Earth. It will be a clean miss, by about 900,000 kilometers (550,000 miles). This is more than twice the distance to the Moon, if that helps.

With this new calculation, we have little to worry about in 2040. Though, it seems, humanity does love a doomsday. I don’t expect this will truly dissuade people who want another hit of that doomsday high.

Hat tip to Phil Plait in his new digs at Slate.

Welcome to day one of the 14th b’ak’tun

Milk expiry: DEC 21 12. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Milk expiry: 2012.12.21. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Travelling today. On precious little sleep, too. My sleep schedule has been a complete shambles recently — been only getting a few hours of sleep a night, discontinuously, for at least a week. And I know I can’t sleep on planes, so today might be a bit rough.

I had previously blogged about how patently incorrect the whole idea of a doomsday on December 21, 2012 was. Now that the day has come and gone, and all those doomsayers are eating crow (or, more likely, shutting up for a month or so until the whole “we were wrong again about the apocalypse” blows over til the next big ridiculous prophecy comes along for them to latch onto), I wanted to say something about how horrid the meme and its counter-memes were.
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Tryptophan isn’t to blame for your food coma

Even at Thanksgiving, even as a child, I was always “that kid”, who couldn’t leave well enough alone when someone said something blatantly false, or worth questioning and examining further. My father kept admonishing me to be on my best behavior for company, which invariably meant not challenging unevidenced or ridiculous beliefs.

This was one of the ones that filtered into my subconscious and I even caught myself thinking this very thing a few years ago, til I was corrected on it. All because I was asked to turn off my skepticism as a child.

I guess I’m posting this to tell you not to squelch people’s skepticism of strange unevidenced beliefs even if those beliefs are seemingly harmless.

Unless you know there’s absolutely no goodwill to burn, let the walking Snopes database do their thing, because as annoyed as the person may be who is corrected, they’ve actually had a valuable service done to them even at the cost of a little holiday peace. A service that helps insulate people from making mistakes, and having factoids filter into their brains as though they were facts, which might introduce errors in their reasoning later in life.

And if there’s absolutely no goodwill to burn at the Thanksgiving table, and you must suffer the tyranny of someone spewing factoids, both harmless and harmful? Well, consider a smaller and more intimate Thanksgiving meal next year.

But yeah. Sorry for the tangent. Turkey doesn’t cause food comas. And I wish I could spend the American holiday with my American friends and family, so enjoy your time with them. And I hope you find a balance between the factoid-spewers and the fact-checkers so you can all enjoy your meal.

Debbie Goddard is CFI’s new Director of Outreach

Holy hell, this is great. I am 100% behind this choice by CFI — if anyone knows outreach, it’s Debbie Goddard. The CFI press release:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is proud to announce that Debbie Goddard, formerly CFI’s campus outreach coordinator, has accepted the position of Director of Outreach. She replaces Lauren Becker in that role, who has shifted to her new position as Director of Marketing, as previously announced.

“Debbie has been a part of the heart of CFI for a long time now, embodying what it means to be a dedicated CFI employee. She has given a great deal of herself to this organization and its cause: bringing about a world that values science, reason, and compassion over dogma and superstition,” said Ron Lindsay, CFI’s President and CEO. “We are all proud to see Debbie take on this crucial leadership role in which we know she will excel.”

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More Republicans believe in demonic possession than global warming

Yeah.

Alternet reports on a Public Policy Polling Hallowe’en poll (pdf) and cross-references this poll on global warming:

A staggering 68 percent of registered Republican voters stated that they believe demonic possession is real. Meanwhile, only 48 percent of self-identified Republicans believe in another equally if not more scary natural phenomenon: climate change.

I would say it’s more scary, because it’s real. And the evidence provided by actual scientists is ironclad.

The scientists are unanimous, as long as you include actual climate scientists and not geologists or meteorologists or other pretenders at authority on the complex subject of climate. And yet, only 45% of all people agree that scientists generally agree about global warming. The misinformation efforts by liars like “Lord” Christopher Monckton are working.

To make matters even worse, 49% of Democrats also believe in demonic possession, even while 85% of Democrats say there’s solid evidence for global warming. It’s not that they’re smarter, it’s that they’re only marginally less prone to superstitious belief and more prone to trusting scientific evidence.

I’d say “let the mouth-breathers secede”, but it’s not like they’re all Republican secessionists.

All hail our new reptilian overlord

Well, it was bound to happen, as Travis Irvine so ably points out in this pre-election video — both Obama and Romney are reptilians, humanoid lizards, so no matter how the election panned out the new leader of the free world was bound to be a lizard person.

Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos. Err, I mean, I’m Canadian and couldn’t vote.