Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.


Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

Expanded GUIDE TO SITE PURPOSE AND LAYOUT is in the lower blue section at the bottom of every home page.

Errors in warming skeptics’ troposphere data—it did warm after all

Today (Fri 12 Aug) Andrew Revkin fires a bombshell across the bows of the global warming skeptics by citing two Science articles which show that a key fact they depend on is an error—the lowest layer in the atmosphere, the troposphere, did not stay stable over the last two decades and cool in the tropics.

A laborious reassessment of the weather satellite data has shown that the troposphere did warm in line with other records and climate change model predictions, according to Science.

That settles that—or does it? Fred Singer’s weekly comment hasn’t come yet, but only recently he was saying in regard to another paper “this is not the first time Science has published an incorrect paper.” Can one have confidence in Singer? That is up to you to decide. But his tone and substance induce maximum confidence in us, however unpalatable his assessments might be to the environmentally concerned.

The depressing thing is that if he is right, environment anxiety has led to all kinds of negative results which all those who care about the invironment would actually deplore. One remarkable observation Singer makes is that the shuttle disasters were due to environment political correctness of a kind.

“Green orthodoxy may be responsible for both the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters”.

He quotes from a business periodical:

But the root cause for both the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia due to thermal tiles damaged by chunks of insulating foam falling off the large external fuel tank, the earlier loss of Challenger, and the repetition of the foam problem with Discovery, may be the decision imposed on NASA to use parts and materials that were more environmentally friendly.

In 1997, during the 87th space shuttle mission, similar tile damage occurred during launch. NASA’s Greg Katnik stated in his December 1997 review of the problems of STS-87: “During the STS-87 mission, there was a change made on the external tank. Because of NASA’s goal to use environmentally friendly products, a new method of ‘foaming’ the external tank had been used for this mission and the STS-86 mission.”

That’s from a piece, “Green For Launch”, in Investor’s Business Daily Issues & Insights Friday, August 5, 2005.

Nothing wrong with what NASA did, of course, unless safety was sacrificed in the environmental cause. Then you might wish they had looked after their crew members as assiduously as they cared for the environment.

Here is today’s piece by Revkin, Errors Cited in Assessing Climate Data:


August 12, 2005

Errors Cited in Assessing Climate Data


Some scientists who question whether human-caused global warming poses a threat have long pointed to records that showed the atmosphere’s lowest layer, the troposphere, had not warmed over the last two decades and had cooled in the tropics.

Now two independent studies have found errors in the complicated calculations used to generate the old temperature records, which involved stitching together data from thousands of weather balloons lofted around the world and a series of short-lived weather satellites.

A third study shows that when the errors are taken into account, the troposphere actually got warmer. Moreover, that warming trend largely agrees with the warmer surface temperatures that have been recorded and conforms to predictions in recent computer models.

The three papers were published yesterday in the online edition of the journal Science.

The scientists who developed the original troposphere temperature records from satellite data, John R. Christy and Roy W. Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, conceded yesterday that they had made a mistake but said that their revised calculations still produced a warming rate too small to be a concern.

“Our view hasn’t changed,” Dr. Christy said. “We still have this modest warming.”

Other climate experts, however, said that the new studies were very significant, effectively resolving a puzzle that had been used by opponents of curbs on heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

“These papers should lay to rest once and for all the claims by John Christy and other global warming skeptics that a disagreement between tropospheric and surface temperature trends means that there are problems with surface temperature records or with climate models,” said Alan Robock, a meteorologist at Rutgers University.

The findings will be featured in a report on temperature trends in the lower atmosphere that is the first product to emerge from the Bush administration’s 10-year program intended to resolve uncertainties in climate science.

Several scientists involved in the new studies said that the government climate program, by forcing everyone involved to meet five times, had helped generate the new findings.

“It felt like a boxing ring on occasion,” said Peter W. Thorne, an expert on the weather balloon data at the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research in Britain and an author of one of the studies.

Temperatures at thousands of places across the surface of the earth have been measured for generations. But far fewer measurements have been made of temperatures in the air from the surface through the troposphere, which extends up about five miles.

Until recently Dr. Christy and Dr. Spencer were the only scientists who had plowed through vast volumes of data from weather satellites to see if they could indirectly deduce the temperature of several layers within the troposphere.

They and other scientists have also tried to analyze temperature readings gathered by some 700 weather balloons lofted twice a day around the world.

But each of those efforts has been fraught with complexities and uncertainties.

The satellites’ orbits shift and sink over time, their instruments are affected by sunlight and darkness, and data from a succession of satellites has to be calibrated to account for eccentricities of sensitive instruments.

Starting around 2001, the satellite data and methods of Dr. Christy and Dr. Spencer were re-examined by Carl A. Mears and Frank J. Wentz, scientists at Remote Sensing Systems, a company in Santa Rosa, Calif., that does satellite data analysis for NASA.

They and several other teams have since found more significant warming trends than the original estimate.

But the new paper, by Dr. Mears and Dr. Wentz, identifies a fresh error in the original calculations that, more firmly than ever, showed warming in the troposphere, particularly in the tropics.

The error, in a calculation used to adjust for the drift of the satellites, was disclosed to the University of Alabama scientists at one of the government-run meetings this year, Dr. Christy said.

The new analysis of data from weather balloons examined just one possible source of error, the direct heating of the instruments by the sun.

It found that when data were examined in a way that accounted for that effect, the temperature record produced a warming, particularly in the tropics, again putting the data in line with theory.

“Things being debated now are details about the models,” said Steven Sherwood, the lead author of the paper on the balloon data and an atmospheric physicist at Yale. “Nobody is debating any more that significant climate changes are coming.”

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