LALALALA – I Can’t hear you!

A draft report on climate change has been completed by thirteen federal agencies and now awaits approval for public release from the Trump administration.

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The report shows temperatures have risen drastically since 1980, and that Americans are feeling the effects right now. It contradicts statements made by the Trump administration, including citing the effects of human activity in the form of increased greenhouse gasses as the principal contributor. The authors base their findings on thousands of studies by tens of thousands of scientists.

According to the Failing New York Times, which has received a draft copy, the report states, “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.” You can read the draft copy here.

We all eagerly await the response of President Jackass. Will he say something like, “When new facts come to light, it would be insane not to change your opinion”? Or perhaps, something like, “Given the universally agreed-upon conclusions of the best scientific minds in the world, we have decided to rejoin the Paris climate accord.”

He’s a reasonable guy after all, isn’t he? I mean, it’s a pretty dire situation not just for Americans, but everyone in the world – and we’re the most influential country in the world, right?

And even if reason and science and common sense aren’t enough for him to do the right thing here, wouldn’t it have political advantages as well? Nothing will shake the support he has from his “base”, and this would be the perfect opportunity to silence some critics and win over some new constituencies, right?

And it would be a great opportunity to show people that Steve Bannon isn’t really calling all the shots, and that those who say Bannon and Pruitt duped him into leaving Paris are all wrong about everything.

The Climate Change Denial Department here at GOML has officially gone on the record. The smart money is betting that man-baby will do what the man-baby always has done.

baby

 

The water is rising

Al Gore has been making a lot of appearances lately in the effort to drum up interest in his new movie, called “An Inconvenient Sequel”, which is a follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Inconvenient Truth”.

I saw the trailer for it in a theater recently and it looks like an even more dire assessment of  the effects of climate change, with a lot of documentation showing how predictions made in the first movie have been coming true. Here’s what the New Yorker has to say about it.

Obviously Gore hopes to get some of the people who stubbornly resisted acknowledging reality eleven years ago to wake up. Of course, this is not going to happen. “Science” is a liberal conspiracy, as everyone knows, and climate change is a hoax.

Gore got into a back-and-forth with a fisherman at a “town hall” event, where the fisherman claimed that if sea-level was rising, he would certainly see evidence of it and he doesn’t. The guy said his island was disappearing under water all right, but it was wave damage causing it, not sea level change. Gore tried to get him to see it was the same thing, but of course it was hopeless. Tweety called this guy up to congratulate him on his brilliant rebuttals.

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James Eskridge, empiricist

Anyway, Gore told the guy that he wouldn’t try to give him any comfort by citing scientists – there was no point – and that he was sorry for what was happening to him and his family. And he went on to tell this story:

It reminds me a little bit of a story from Tennessee about a guy that was trapped in a flood and it — he was sitting on the front porch and they came by in an SUV to rescue him and he said, no, the lord will provide.

And the water kept on rising. And he went up to the second floor and they came by the window in a boat and said come on, we’re here to rescue you.

He said, nope, the lord will provide.

And then he went on up to the rooftop as the water kept rising and they came over in a helicopter and dropped a rope ladder. He said, nope, the lord will provide.

Well, he died in the water and went to heaven and he said, God, I thought you were going to provide.

And he said, what do you mean, I sent you an SUV, a boat and a helicopter.

In the end, though, no one can convince anyone of anything anymore because no one is listening to anything but the sources that confirm their own beliefs and biases. Those who won’t allow science to provide them answers can get them from God in the end.

And, as the story implies, only at that point will they understand that God and science are one and the same.

Trump attacks knowledge

The Environmental Protection Agency, under its new head, climate change denier Scott Pruitt, has explained that it  wants “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”

To make this happen, they have dismissed five academic scientists from a major scientific review board and will replace them with representatives from the industries whose pollution the E.P.A. is supposed to regulate.

epa

Pruitt, Trump, and Coal Miners – life is good

According to the Failing New York Times,

President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change.

Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, “This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda.”

Just a quick reminder to you all: we’re only about 6% through the first four years of this nightmare clown-show.

In other news, former president Barack Obama accepted a “Profiles in Courage” award at the J.F.K. Library in Boston on Sunday.

profiles

He has chosen to refuse the many requests he’s had to directly confront Trump on his agenda of reversing every initiative of the Obama administration, most importantly the recent idiotic “Repeal and Replace” effort now underway to deny tens of millions of Americans access to healthcare, so that the very rich can be just a little richer.

He explained that “To weigh in would be a violation of his duty as a past president to let his successor operate without hindrance from him.” If only his successor would grant him the same consideration!

In accepting the Profiles in Courage Award, which has also been given to George H.W. Bush, John McCain, and Gerald Ford, among others, Obama did say,

“It takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential, but it takes great courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm.”

Courage and knowledge vs. cowardice and ignorance? Dignity and composure vs. dishonor and vulgarity? Competence vs. ineptitude?

The American people have made their choices.

Science, shmience

Why would you “believe” in facts when fantasies are so much easier and so much more fun? Especially if those fantasies play into your made-up narrative of grievance and victimhood?  Well, if you’re part of the Somali immigrant community in Minneapolis, you wouldn’t.

Yesterday’s Rapidly Failing New York Times had a piece about the largest measles outbreak in 30 years now under way in Minneapolis. The Somali community there, which, before 2008, had a higher vaccination rate that the general population, is now grappling with a completely preventable disease that had been eradicated in the U.S. by 2000.

measles

Day 4 Measles rash

There have been 44 confirmed cases so far, and at least 7000 people have been exposed to the virus, which has an incubation period of 21 days. It’s a highly contagious disease, spread through the air, that has very serious complications in 30% of cases, including blindness, brain inflammation, and pneumonia. It causes the most vaccine-preventable deaths of any disease.

According to the article, the Somali community in Minneapolis was “targeted” by anti-vax activists, including Andrew Wakefield, who met one-on-one with members of the community starting in 2008, and who provided them with bogus statistics about how the autism rate in their community was higher than elsewhere.

Wakefield is the guy whose bogus “research” created the whole “vaccination=autism” myth in the first place, and who is now banned from practicing medicine in his native Britain. He says he doesn’t feel responsible at all for what’s happening now.

wakefield

Wakefield, dangerous, self-promoting fraud

Wakefield’s research has been found to be an “elaborate fraud” , but in the internet age, that doesn’t really matter now. The lie was repeated often enough by others, including lots of “celebrities”, who now have a big stake in keeping it going and who have made the anti-vax movement a part of our political landscape.

And it’s not just the usual suspects on the right. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president and someone who you would think would know better, supports the anti-vaxxers.

Our President is an anti-vaxxer, and, let us not forget, he appoints the Surgeon General who advises us all on health matters. Here’s a piece that speculates that, under Trump, the anti-vaxxers might “win”.

So you might be thinking that since you’ve had the MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine, you’ll be OK even if all the idiots around you get measles. Not so fast.

First of all, the vaccine is very effective, but not 100% effective. Of the 44 now infected in Minneapolis, 42 were not vaccinated, but the remaining two were. In 2014, there was a measles outbreak in Disneyland where 51 people were infected, including six who had been vaccinated.

But more importantly, you’re not going to like your life if you’re the only healthy person in a sick population.  And you shouldn’t.

So what’s the solution here? Dunno.

There are a lot of unintended consequences to be dealt with in the age of universal connectivity and instantaneous communication. The devaluing of “truth” is one we’ve seen already, and the demotion of science to “belief” is another. The return of measles, polio, and, for all I know, the Black Death, may be in the mix as well.

Earth Day, 2017

Of all the seismic changes in our culture that were either wrought by or illuminated by Trump’s ascendancy, the most disheartening to me is the demotion of science and the scientific method to the status of “belief system”.

It never occurred to me until recently that not only was there no universal agreement on the ability of science to clarify details of how the natural world worked, for example, or to settle what used to be called “old wives tales” once and for all, but that those who trusted science to perform these functions might actually be in the minority among their neighbors.

It was always simple to me. If someone asserted that their grandmother taught them that you could bring cold water to a boil faster than hot water, and that their grandmother was a very wise person, rarely wrong in anything she said, and a fabulous cook as well, there was no reason to “believe” it or “disbelieve” it. It wasn’t something that you had to take on faith, as it could be easily settled by science. In your own kitchen. In ten minutes. And without casting aspersions on the grandmother or her abilities as a cook.

It was either true or it wasn’t. Demonstrate it and learn the truth – the actual truth.

There’s a really cool and yet extremely depressing site called Yale Climate Opinion Maps that will provide a nice way for you to spend a few minutes on Earth Day. It allows you to display where people live who believe that climate change is a real thing, or think it’s caused by humans, or whether they think it will affect them directly, and so on. You can display the information by state, county, congressional district (the doorway to madness!), etc. You can mouse-over the results for more detail in each case. Fun.

Here’s a sample, showing where people live, by county, who think global warming is happening (sorry, you have to go to the site itself for the cool mouse-over info and more).

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Here’s one showing, by congressional district, the percentage of adults who think CO2 emissions should be regulated.

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And here’s one, by state, showing where people trust scientists on this subject.

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Another reason to be happy to live in Massachusetts, except that the climate is actually horrible here.

It would be really great if you could somehow convince the people who don’t “believe in” climate change that when virtually every real scientist in the world tells you climate change is real and human-influenced, then that’s all you need to know about it. You don’t need to inject your grandmother’s ideas about it into the mix (unless she’s a climate scientist, that is, in which case we already know what she thinks).

They can also tell you whether cold water boils faster than hot if you’re curious (spoiler alert: cold water takes longer to boil than hot, of course).

Anyway, from all of us here at GOML, we wish you and yours a Happy Earth Day, and we hope there are many, many more. Or, to be more realistic, at least a few more.

Giordano Bruno

The Campo de’ Fiori is a lovely little square in the oldest part of Rome. A lively market for fruits, vegetables, flowers and more still flourishes there every day, just a couple of steps from the spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. At night it’s filled with diners, strollers, and tourists soaking in the beauty and atmosphere, and exploring the boutiques and restaurants on the adjacent side streets.

Click anywhere on the picture below to see a live cam of what’s going on there right now.

campo-de-fiori

A couple of days ago, there was a small crowd gathered on this spot and a few speeches were given to remember what happened there on February 17, 1600. On that day, Giordano Bruno was led to the square on a mule, stripped naked, had his tongue bound, and was burned alive.

That’s a statue of Bruno, erected in 1889, in the center of the picture.

bruno

What crime had he committed? Heresy, of course. The Roman Inquisition found him to be a Pantheist. The Inquisition accused him of denying some basic Catholic tenets like the divinity of Jesus, the idea of eternal damnation, the virginity of Mary, and so on.

Bruno was a philosopher, mathematician and poet. He theorized about the cosmos, coming up with the ideas that the universe might be infinite and have no “center”, and that the stars were other suns perhaps with their own planets like ours, some possibly even supporting life. He figured all this out decades before Galileo, and, over the centuries, he has come to be regarded as a martyr for science.

Here is a nice little aggregation of reviews of the 2008 book, “Giordano Bruno – Philosopher, Heretic” by Ingrid D. Rowland, that provides some more insight about him.

Let There Be Light

There are three main reasons that the Scopes Trial didn’t really settle the issue of whether the Theory of Evolution should be taught in schools, and why we’re still arguing about “Creationism” almost a century later.

The first is that (really stupid) people thought Darwin was saying something like “your grandmother was a monkey”, and they knew that to be a priori false.

The second is that very religious people thought that it contradicted the Bible, which taught that God created Adam and Eve, etc., and that therefore Darwin’s theory was untrue and also heresy.

The third is that various politicians saw that what mattered in all this was not the science, but rather the votes of the really stupid people, so there was no real margin in going against the grain on this.

Isn’t that always the way.

In reality, Darwin doesn’t contradict the Bible at all, if you just think a little bit about the word “day”.  If I said, “Back in my day,  music was really music”, most people would understand that “my day” meant “my youth” or “my era” or “my time”, and not some particular 24-hour period.

From Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

OK, we have light and darkness on the first day. But it isn’t until the fourth day that we have the sun and the moon. Just a few verses later, Genesis says:

16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

So the question is, how long was the first “day” if the sun didn’t exist? Well it wasn’t 24 hours long, that much is clear. It was an “era” long, and it doesn’t matter whether that’s a million years or something else. It’s all a blink of an eye to God. Or maybe He hadn’t invented “time” yet.

My point is that you can stick to a literal translation of the Bible and still understand that evolution was merely the tool that God used to create things in the first “days”, and Darwin was not a heretic. If you’re not really stupid, that is.

I’m thinking about this today because on this day, February 13, in 1633, Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome to face charges of heresy. His mathematical and astronomical observations had led him to support the Copernican idea that the earth revolved around the sun, and the Roman Inquisition was pissed about it. It was heresy and that made Galileo an enemy of the state.

Trial of Galileo Galilei before the Inquisition, 1633.

Trial of Galileo

It was heresy because it contradicted various biblical passages which “proved” the earth was the center of the universe. For example,  1 Chronicles 16:30 says:

30     tremble before him, all the earth.
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.

Of course, the translated word “moved” here could be taken in other ways.  You could have taken it in the sense of “changed”, and this would have avoided a lot of trouble, and (intelligent) people may have seen there was no conflict here between scripture and science.

Galileo pleaded guilty to the charge in exchange for a reduced sentence and lived out the remainder of his life under house arrest. In 1992, only 359 years later, the Vatican acknowledged its mistake. So much for infallibility.

One thing to understand here is that, as with creationism, the politicians had something at stake here beyond what was true. And by “politicians”, I mean Popes and Cardinals. The Catholic church was the “state” and the wealthy and influential had the highest offices in the church.

It was vitally important to them that their “constituents” believed that they were the agents of God, or else their authority and influence would be undermined. Science and truth were secondary.

Isn’t that always the way.

A couple of other things to think about as long as we’re thinking about whether science can help explain things or solve problems, and whether politicians will be speeding up the process or slowing it down:

The Larsen C Ice Shelf is cracking in Antarctica. Ice shelf A and B already cracked in the last few years.

ice

New Zealand has just experienced its largest whale stranding in decades.

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch now covers 8.1% of the Pacific Ocean. There will be more plastic than fish  in the ocean by 2050.

pacific-garbage