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AGW, Revisited - James Randi

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AGW, Revisited - James Randi
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post AGW, Revisited - James Randi

Though this subject is not one that directly concerns the JREF, I'm very frequently asked if I'll turn my skeptical eye to it. As a year-end fling, I'll give it a try. To wit:

An unfortunate fact is that scientists are just as human as the rest of us, in that they are strongly influenced by the need to be accepted, to kowtow to peer opinion, and to "belong" in the scientific community. Why do I find this "unfortunate"? Because the media and the hoi polloi increasingly depend upon and accept ideas or principles that are proclaimed loudly enough by academics who are often more driven by "politically correct" survival principles than by those given them by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Bohr. (Granted, it's reassuring that they're listening to academics at all -- but how to tell the competent from the incompetent?) Religious and other emotional convictions drive scientists, despite what they may think their motivations are.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- a group of thousands of scientists in 194 countries around the world, and recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize -- has issued several comprehensive reports in which they indicate that they have become convinced that "global warming" is and will be seriously destructive to life as we know it, and that Man is the chief cause of it. They say that there is a consensus of scientists who believe we are headed for disaster if we do not stop burning fossil fuels, but a growing number of prominent scientists disagree. Meanwhile, some 32,000 scientists, 9,000 of them PhDs, have signed The Petition Project statement proclaiming that Man is not necessarily the chief cause of warming, that the phenomenon may not exist at all, and that, in any case, warming would not be disastrous.

Happily, science does not depend on consensus. Conclusions are either reached or not, but only after an analysis of evidence as found in nature. It's often been said that once a conclusion is reached, proper scientists set about trying to prove themselves wrong. Failing in that, they arrive at a statement that appears -- based on all available data -- to describe a limited aspect about how the world appears to work. And not all scientists are willing to follow this path. My most excellent friend Martin Gardner once asked a parapsychologist just what sort of evidence would convince him he had erred in coming to a certain conclusion. The parascientist replied that he could not imagine any such situation, thus -- in my opinion -- removing him from the ranks of the scientific discipline rather decidedly.

History supplies us with many examples where scientists were just plain wrong about certain matters, but ultimately discovered the truth through continued research. Science recovers from such situations quite well, though sometimes with minor wounds.

I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid. I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth. This ball of hot rock and salt water spins on its axis and rotates about the Sun with the expected regularity, though we're aware that lunar tides, solar wind, galactic space dust and geomagnetic storms have cooled the planet by about one centigrade degree in the past 150 years. The myriad of influences that act upon Earth are so many and so variable -- though not capricious -- that I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation. Please note that this my amateur opinion, based on probably insufficient data.

It appears that the Earth is warming, and has continued to warm since the last Ice Age, which ended some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. But that has not been an even warming. Years of warming followed by years of cooling have left us just a bit warmer than before. This conclusion has been arrived at from data collected at some 1,200+ weather stations in the USA, though bear in mind that there are very few weather stations over the vast oceans that cover 70% of our planet, or on the continents Africa, South America, and especially Antarctica.

We can now record temperatures with much better than the former fraction-of-a-degree accuracy we had just a decade ago, but that temperature change appears to be just about half a degree Centigrade.

Our Earth's atmosphere is approximately 80% nitrogen, 20% oxygen. Just .04% is carbon dioxide -- a "trace" amount. But from that tiny percentage is built all the plants we have on Earth. CO2 is a natural molecule absolutely required for plant life to survive, and in the process of growing, those plants give off oxygen. We -- and all animal life -- consume that oxygen and give off CO2. (No, this is not an example of Intelligent Design.) If that balance is sufficiently disturbed, species either adapt or perish. And the world turns...

Incidentally, we have a convenient phenomenon that contributes to our survival. Doubling the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere will not double the temperature rise, small though it is. The basic principle of what's known as the "greenhouse effect" is quite simple: in a glass-enclosed environment, sunlight enters through the glass and strikes a surface, where it is transformed into longer infrared rays which do not easily reflect back through the glass; they're trapped. and raise the temperature. However, the greenhouse effect as applied to our planet is more complicated. The infrared rays that are reflected back from the Earth are trapped by the greenhouse gases, water vapor and CO2 -- a process that warms those gases and heats the Earth. This effect makes Earth habitable, preventing extremes of temperature. The limit of the influence of CO2 is dictated, not by the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but by the amount of solar radiation reflected back from the Earth. Once all the infrared rays have been "captured" by the greenhouse gases there is no additional increase in carbon dioxide.

Yes, we produce CO2, by burning "fossil fuels" and by simply breathing. And every fossil fuel produces CO2. Some products produce more than others, varying with their chemical composition. Methane gas produces less CO2, wood produces more. But almost paradoxically, when wood burns it produces CO2, and when a tree dies and rots it produces yet more CO2. Oceans are huge storage tanks for CO2, but as they warm up, they hold less of the dissolved gas. They release it into the atmosphere, then more of it is absorbed back into the oceans. And as far as humans are concerned, ten times more people die each year from the effects of cold than die from the heat. This a hugely complex set of variables we are trying to reduce to an equation...

It's easy enough to believe that drought, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are signs of a coming catastrophe from global warming, but these are normal variations of any climate that we -- and other forms of life -- have survived. Earth has undergone many serious changes in climate, from the Ice Ages to periods of heavily increased plant growth from their high levels of CO2, yet the biosphere has survived. We're adaptable, stubborn, and persistent -- and we have what other life forms don't have: we can manipulate our environment. Show me an Inuit who can survive in his habitat without warm clothing... Humans will continue to infest Earth because we're smart.

In my amateur opinion, more attention to disease control, better hygienic conditions for food production and clean water supplies, as well as controlling the filth that we breathe from fossil fuel use, are problems that should distract us from fretting about baking in Global Warming. From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1891 A Scandal in Bohemia, I quote:

Watson: "This is indeed a mystery," I remarked. "What do you imagine that it means?"

Holmes: I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts...


http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/805-agw-revisited.html
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:56 pm
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

First post in the new(ish) scepticism forum (thanks webhamster). I put it here because I am sceptical of Randi's reasons for not accepting climate change, the whole item is quoted above with a link if you want to check it out. I think Randi makes a number of errors one of which is his seeming rejection of the IPCC reports. These reports are drafted by hundreds of scientists and other experts, they are reviewed by hundreds more reviewers, and the whole thing is subject to approval by government delegates. The reports are the lowest common denominator of climate science, even sceptics should accept them with out too many objections. Anyone else want to point out another one?
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:06 pm
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borrofburiModeratorPosts: 3527Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 5:27 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

Interesting. One thing I have always found interesting is that so called "skeptics" are skeptical of new age medicine, ionic footbaths, homeopathy, etc. but then "climate change skeptic" is a derogatory term.

As for me personally, I am skeptical, but only slightly more so than quantum mechanics. Why? Because I have not seen the evidence for either, however I recognize that a lot of that is I haven't looked and haven't bothered to spend to the time to learn the things I need to learn to understand the evidence and why it's evidence, and thus I defer to "authority". Why am I more skeptical of global warming than quantum mechanics? Because so far as I know, there is essentially perfect consensus on quantum mechanics (even if there are disagreements on the mechanisms and details (for analogy, there is perfect consensus on the fact that evolution happens, even if there are disagreements on the mechanisms and details on how it happens)), however, perhaps because of marketers, I am not convinced that there is such consensus among the scientific community regarding climate change.

However Randi is an interesting one, for I would think that before he formed an opinion he really would look at the evidence and the consensus, for, in many senses, it is his job to do so.
Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:40 am
GiliellUser avatarPosts: 1218Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:29 am Gender: Female

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

What I find most diturbing is this paragraph:
It's easy enough to believe that drought, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are signs of a coming catastrophe from global warming, but these are normal variations of any climate that we -- and other forms of life -- have survived. Earth has undergone many serious changes in climate, from the Ice Ages to periods of heavily increased plant growth from their high levels of CO2, yet the biosphere has survived. We're adaptable, stubborn, and persistent -- and we have what other life forms don't have: we can manipulate our environment. Show me an Inuit who can survive in his habitat without warm clothing... Humans will continue to infest Earth because we're smart.


It is very cynical and Eurocentristic.
Yes, we're a smart lot and I'm totally sure that we as a species will survive even 10,° of global warming.
But seemingly, those worst affected by global warming so far are those least responsible and least capable of coping: the poor in the third world.
Farmland turns into deserts, Tuvalu and the Maledives are drowning. Even when Katrina hit the first world, it wasn't the rich people in New Orleans who drowned.

To me, apart from an seemingly overwhelming consensus there are several other factors that make me in favour ecological conservation and finding better energy sources:

-Even if we didn't cause the warming, -carbondioxide seems to be a working regulator. So if we can perceive an oncomming disaster and have the means to prevent it, we have to, since we're not god who obviously has fun watching people suffering.

-Fossil fuels will run out. Live with it. So we better start now saving them, make them last longer and find other sources and technologies to exploid them while we have time.
Go to heaven, we don't want you in hell with us!
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:47 am
AndromedasWakeLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 598Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:38 pmLocation: Captain's Chair, League HQ Gender: Cake

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

borrofburi wrote:As for me personally, I am skeptical, but only slightly more so than quantum mechanics. Why? Because I have not seen the evidence for either...


Your computer performs literally trillions of experiments for QM every second. The transistors in your computer are semiconductors, and it would simply not be possible to engineer them unless the fundamentals of QM as formalised by 20th century physicists are true and accurate.

The IPCC's AR4 is an impressive summary of the evidence for AGW, and highly recommended reading to all so-called "sceptics".

borrofburi wrote:...however, perhaps because of marketers, I am not convinced that there is such consensus among the scientific community regarding climate change.


How many climatologists have you spoken to? For example, over the years I've met many astronomers, some of whom have made considerable contributions to the consensus, none of whom doubt there is a consensus of big bang cosmology. The number of climatologists I've spoken with is a lot less, but still a fair number. Every one I've ever met respects the consensus of AGW, and every so-called sceptic I've ever met has not been a climatologist. The scientific community has a very strong consensus on the matter, and there has been no failure on their part to communicate. The vast, vast majority of all CC scepticism is predicated on partial or complete ignorance of the subject at hand. Two climatologists who are friends of mine, working off the coast of Greenland are quick to tell me just how sick they are of hearing the public express doubts about the scientific consensus, purely because those members of the public have read such things in the media. Cliamte Change denial is always more newsworthy, because legitimate, scientific doubt is so phenomenally overwhelmed by evidence in favour of AGW, and more often than not, news outlets that triumph denialist claims or research are "sceptic" mouthpieces.

Denying the consensus on AGW is only a shade better than denying the consensus on Evolution. The only reason it is not quite as bad, is because unlike "creation scientists", there are deniers who adhere to the scientific method when conducting and publishing their research. The research itself, however, is lightweight and cannot account for the truly enormous amount of evidence confirming AGW over the last few decades.

I hate using the term 'sceptic' in this instance, because it truly gives sceptics a bad name. Sceptics do not stand up to a large body of evidence and deny it on the thinnest of unanswered questions. Sceptics stand with a large body of evidence and challenge the far-fetched claims. The real sceptics are the climatologists who take time to investigate the opposing research from a scientific perspective.
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Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:44 pm
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obsidianavengerPosts: 840Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:44 am Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

he's posted a "clarification"

I Am Not "Denying" Anything
Swift
Written by James Randi
Thursday, 17 December 2009 11:01

Well, my piece on AGW -- Anthropogenic Global Warming -- has elicited a huge response, both positive and negative. The subject, dealing with the influence of our species on the observed increase in overall temperatures around the globe -- said to be about 0.7,º Celsius -- is apparently a matter of great contention, and I almost regret having entered into it. Almost...

I must say that much of the commentary I see refers to "about one degree" without specifying Celsius or Fahrenheit scales. I'm so old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy that I sometimes refer to the Celsius scale as Centigrade, though it was Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius -- almost two centuries ago -- who came up with the plan to divide the span between the temperature at which water ice melted, and water boiled, into 100 parts. Only at -40,º do the Fahrenheit and Celsius thermometers agree, but life is complicated, and we have to deal with such facts. Since about 1980, Celsius has become fashionable. For some perverse reason, and at risk of another storm of comments, I rather think that the USA should drop Fahrenheit -- a German/Dutch scientist even more dead than Celsius -- along with inches, pounds, quarts, miles, yards, furlongs, and other cute but incompatible units we inherited from the UK. But then, I'm a confirmed fuddy-duddy, as you know.

Back to business. Somehow, my AGW commentary was seriously misunderstood by some. Part of the reason for that is probably due to the fact that I took a much longer, 5,000-word piece, and cut it down to about 1,400 words to better fit Swift's needs. Along the way, some clarity was lost. For that, I apologize. But here are a couple of the typical negative comments I received, which are unfounded:

"Randi just came out against the science that indicates that Global Warming is happening, that it is man made, and that it will harm our biosphere (and is currently doing so)."

"I was also saddened by Randi siding with the GW denialists. He seems to have fallen for a number of logical fallacies, and apparently prefers self-deception and ignorance when it comes to this issue. Very, very sad."

Sad? Yes, if it were true. But it's not. There were a good number of other, similar comments, all quite wrong. I do not, and did not, deny the established fact -- arrived at by extensive scientific research -- that average global temperatures have increased by a bit less than one Celsius degree. My commentary was concerned with my amateur confusion about the myriad of natural phenomena that obviously bring about worldwide climate changes and whether we can properly assign the cause to anthropogenic influences. Yes, I'm aware of the massive release of energy -- mostly heat -- that we've produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We've also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn. My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable. I remain respectful of science and its participants. I stand outside the walls of academe, in awe.

Here are a few of the comments that are kinder and much closer to the truth:

"Whether Randi is correct or not, he is honest enough to say that he does not know enough or does not have the expertise to make a fully informed decision. Right there he is 100% more honest than any denier (or religionista for that matter). When in the future he is given the requisite climate change information, if he changes his mind, he will change his mind (again, unlike deniers and religionistas). For that, my respect for him remains intact."

"I find it kind of strange to admonish James Randi here. He's a skeptic like most of us, and he disagrees with the common scientific opinion right now, with qualifications. He's not even trying to be convincing. He's reserved, repeatedly showing that he has doubts of the conclusion he's indicating. He even states that his opinion is uninformed."

"This kind of response, that he should be ashamed for expressing his opinion (especially in such a humble manner) is unnecessary. I'd be surprised if most of the people (climatologists excluded) who have concluded that AGW is occurring have looked at any more data than Mr. Randi here; the venom is a knee jerk reaction to someone disagreeing with them. Let's face it, we're (mostly) all armchair experts here. That said; I also disagree with James Randi here, but I'm more confused that he came to his conclusion than saddened or upset."

"For what it's worth, I think PZ [Paul Zachary Myers, a biology professor and the author of the science blog Pharyngula] is wrong to say Randi has joined the denialists. Randi simply said he doesn't know."

I must quickly add that PZ and I are friends and allies, and that we're not at odds. However, I perceive that he often tends to rush to publication without first checking with the author of some provocative item. This provides PZ with lots of controversy and attention, but at the expense of the author in question.

I'll close this matter with very appropriate comments from Dr. Phil Plait, who serves as President of the JREF for another two weeks, after which his position will be taken by D. J. Grothe, who I'm sure is known to all my readers. Phil effectively clarified a few points for me:

"Like many others, I was surprised when I read your Swift entry on global warming. I agree with much of what you said, but as I'm sure some have pointed out to you, there were two key issues I think you may have not considered.

"One is the Petition Project; while it has a veneer of respectability, it is only that: a thin veneer. It's not a scientific document, and many of the signatories are not climate scientists. It's been dissected pretty well on the net, for example, on e-skeptic."

In consulting this source, I suggest that you go directly to "Case Study: The Oregon Petition" to see just how this "project" was created and distributed. I admit that I was unaware of the true nature of the Petition, and I thank Dr. Plait -- and several others -- who pointed me to this reference and a much better grasp of the situation. Phil continues:

"That's an excellent deconstruction of why this project is not valid. Note also that only about 10% of the signers at best are actually educated in the field of climatology, and it's unclear what 'educated' means, exactly, in this context. Do they perform current research in climatology, and are they up-to-date with current thinking in the field? There's no indication of this in the petition.

"Also, you had mentioned how complex GW is and how difficult it is to model. That too is true, but the observations of the climate are very clear and indeed overwhelming: the Earth is warming, and the effects are entirely consistent with CO2 increase. The Sun has been shown clearly not to be the cause of this (there is no increase in solar output, for example), and the climate change we observe is too rapid to be due to vagaries in the Earth's orbit. It must be something local. The lack of a simple model doesn't prevent climatologists from understanding many of the key issues underlying global warming."

As I've indicated, I do not deny the finding of GW. AGW, to me, is less clear, though I accept that it is likely true. Phil again:

"Your claim that 'we're aware that lunar tides, solar wind, galactic space dust and geomagnetic storms have cooled the planet by about one centigrade degree in the past 150 years' is at odds with the instrumental records of NASA, NOAA, the University of East Anglia and the Japan Meteorological Agency, all of which show a warming of approximately 0.7 degrees C since 1850."

I'm still trying to find where I discovered this gem of text. I suspect that "cooled" should have been "warmed," but my currently chemo-altered encephalon stumbled... Both my enecephalon and I stand corrected. Phil again:

"While we are both amateurs, I think it behooves us to give in to those who have devoted their professional lives to understanding this complex subject. And what they have to say can be boiled down to this: the world is warming and humankind is responsible for at least half of that rise in global average temperatures."

Accepted. Again, the importance and the impact of this phenomenon is well beyond my grasp. I merely expressed my thoughts about the controversy, and I received a storm (no pun intended) of comments, many of which showed a lack of careful reading that led to unfair presumptions and interpretations. Will I do it again with other subjects? Without fail, I promise you. This is what human interaction is all about, what makes it important. I've shown that I can make observations on subjects barely within my understanding, while admitting my shortcomings, and provoke reactions that are interesting, constructive, and sometimes furious. That's okay. Language is a means of expressing one's thoughts and opinions without resorting to fisticuffs or worse. This encounter was bloodless, gentlemanly, and civilized.

And I thank you all for the use of the hall, as I used to say in simpler times...



Correction: The last two quotations in this piece were incorrectly attributed to Phil Plait. In fact, they come from journalist James Hrynshyn, who was kind enough to call our office yesterday to discuss the evidence for and against AGW.


http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... thing.html
Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:53 pm
AndromedasWakeLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 598Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:38 pmLocation: Captain's Chair, League HQ Gender: Cake

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

To those following, Phil Plait, who recently stepped down as president of the JREF weighed in on the issue.

Yesterday, James Randi posted an entry on the JREF's Swift blog about global warming. In it, he expressed some doubt over the consensus that humans are causing global warming. He does not doubt that warming is happening, as he made clear, just the role of humans in that change.

Unfortunately, one source he used in his essay was the Petition Project. This was an attempt by global warming denialists to muddy the climate issue, and one that has been thoroughly trashed , it's really just as awful as the similarly ridiculous, and just as thoroughly nonsensical, attempt by the Discovery Institute to get a petition by scientists who doubt evolution. Randi also made a claim about the complexity of global warming, and how difficult it is to model, casting some uncertainty on it. As he said, this makes it very difficult for someone not well-versed in the field to come to a well-informed decision on climate change.

I was unaware that Randi had just posted his essay when, yesterday, I wrote a post asking for donations to the JREF. Obviously, the comments focused on Randi's post. While some were fair, I was taken aback by the vitriol of many of the comments; some people were out-and-out calling Randi a denialist, which is ridiculous. Other comments were worse.

Needless to say, this made quite a splash in the skeptical blogosphere as well. Posts and comments sprouted up everywhere about it. Some were thoughtful, others, um, not so much. I was surprised by how many skeptics were quick to vilify Randi, again accusing him of being a global warming denialist. I got emails from people fearing for the skeptical movement as a whole!

Instead of rending my garments over this, I read Randi's post carefully, and then sent him a note outlining why the Petition Project is a crock, as well as saying that yes, mathematical models of climate are very complex, but that doesn't change observations indicating the reality of global warming or our role in it. Randi told me he was writing a followup, so I decided not to say anything about it here until his new post went up. I wanted to make sure I had all the facts before commenting.

Randi posted that followup blog entry today. As I expected, he took the new information into account, admitting that he was unaware of the dubious nature of the petition, and re-affirming that he is not denying global warming is occurring.
So what are we to make of all this?

One is that anyone, everyone, is capable of making mistakes, from grand to minor, from basic ones we never should have made to ones that are inevitable. Skeptics make these same mistakes, too. Even noted skeptics. I've done it, Randi's done it, every human has done it. Apropos of exactly this, Michael Shermer changed his stance on global warming after sufficient evidence swayed him.

Another is that even skeptics can be quick to jump to conclusions based on our own preconceived notions and methodology. Randi made an error, yes. Pointing that out politely and clearly is fine, as can be seen by the fact that he followed up on his post once he was given better data. But the ways in which many people attacked him were, in my opinion, unfair. If someone has a history of spinning the truth, of lying, of distorting reality for their own agenda, then sure, have at them. But when it's someone who has devoted their life to prying the scales from everyone's eyes, I think they've earned a modicum of decorum when they make a mistake.

Of course, on blogs (either writing them or commenting on them) it's very easy to simply react. Again, we have all done this, and usually with some regret later. I've had to go back and retract things I've written when better evidence has arisen, or simply when someone has pointed out where I blew it.

Part of being a skeptic , and it's a big part , is admitting when you're wrong.

And finally, there is a really good takeaway point from this: when it comes to reality, no one and no thing is sacrosanct. If something is wrong, it gets called out. That's what skepticism is all about. If Randi makes a mistake, he gets called on it. If scientists do, or the Pope does, or anyone, then it is up to all of us to speak up. And I think that how we do it is just as important as the content of our claims.

I've known Randi many years, and I know that for him, truth trumps all. May all of us be so inclined.


Source (Bad Astronomy): http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badas ... l-warming/

I for one shared his distress at seeing how quick some commenters were to vilify Randi. I do feel however, that Randi's followup was light on intellectual reflection regarding the actual issue. I think he could learn quite a bit by following RealClimate or speaking with friends who are climatologists. I've no doubt that after his long career and meeting many interesting folks, he probably has a few!

But the overreaction left me with a tainted impression of the wider sceptical community (speaking of sceptic sceptics, not CC deniers).
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Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:33 pm
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GiliellUser avatarPosts: 1218Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:29 am Gender: Female

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

Looks like there's the AGW's "scientists against evolution" list now

@Randi
Don't forget that he's getting old, too
This isn't meant to disqualify him, but it's a tendency in older people to become more stubborn, too. Actually, he's very sceptical compared to other people I know.
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Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:10 am
AerosteonPosts: 20Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:39 am Gender: Tree

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

AndromedasWake wrote:Your computer performs literally trillions of experiments for QM every second. The transistors in your computer are semiconductors, and it would simply not be possible to engineer them unless the fundamentals of QM as formalised by 20th century physicists are true and accurate.



..err.. No.
The first transistor was built by a team with no background in QM, just 20th century electrical and chemical theory. Quantum computing hasn't exactly become consumer technology yet; although lasers and LEDs using quantum well sandwiches sure have. The semiconductors in our computers are built with something in the range of 10^10 atoms and operated by a similarity large number of electrons. Engineers always treat electricity as a continuous wave function not discrete quonta of electrons when designing circuits unless they're perusing Quantum technology. QM isn't a required course for any electrical engineering degree.
Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:35 pm
Master_Ghost_KnightContributorUser avatarPosts: 2750Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:57 pmLocation: Netherlands Gender: Male

Post Re: AGW, Revisited - James Randi

Aerosteon wrote:..err.. No.
The first transistor was built by a team with no background in QM, just 20th century electrical and chemical theory. Quantum computing hasn't exactly become consumer technology yet; although lasers and LEDs using quantum well sandwiches sure have. The semiconductors in our computers are built with something in the range of 10^10 atoms and operated by a similarity large number of electrons. Engineers always treat electricity as a continuous wave function not discrete quonta of electrons when designing circuits unless they're perusing Quantum technology. QM isn't a required course for any electrical engineering degree.

..err.. No.
We are not talking about quatum computing here. Intel has invested for quite sometime in Quatum research to be able to minimize and produce smaller processors (the ones that you are probably using right now), because at those scales the continuum mediums aproximation is no longer valid.

You would also be surprised that electromagnetic theory is also not requiered to engineer micro processors, although it is also a good idea to have someone knowledgeable of electromagnetic theory to build the transistors and logic gates. You can have several different people with different competences and still be able to provide a product that requiers multiple competences that noone posses individually. But to tell that this is the case with Intel I would probably be lying, because the list of competences of a computer engineer is not set in stone and it is a good thing that they can build and learn competences that better suit their working requierments. If a industry requiers a set of competences that are not standard in academia, they don't cross their arms and whait to build a new academic pathway, they invest in the education of their personel in several already existing different fields requiered to do the job.
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Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:44 pm
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