May 28, 2013

Future Leaders

Green Army: Communications


Challenges to Australian Agriculture


Lauren Rickards and Karlie Tucker

{Australia’s river systems [already] have the lowest and most variable streamflow of any continent.}

For dryland farms (those reliant only on local rainfall) [rainfall] events will … become more intense but less frequent …
[Precipitation] will be less reliable, and the rain that does fall will be less useful for plant growth.

For irrigated farms [any] reduction in rainfall leads to a proportionately greater reduction in streamflow (water flowing into storages).
[In] the Murray-Darling Basin … a 10% drop in rainfall leads to a 35% drop in streamflow. …
[The] Murray-Darling Basin … produces 40% of Australia’s agricultural produce …
[Agricultural output] is projected to fall by 12% by 2030 and by up to 92% by 2100, if adequate mitigation measures are not undertaken. …


If Not Now, When?


Peter Christoff

Since 1990, Australia’s domestic and industrial greenhouse emissions have increased, on balance, by some 4.2%.
Its underlying emissions have increased by 28.8%.
Most of this change is associated with the unchecked development of coal-fired and gas-fired power stations to produce electricity (+47% in emissions since 1990) and increased transport use (+27%).
It is only because emissions from land clearing have been halved … that Australia has managed to offset this underlying increase and approach its Kyoto Protocol-determined target of 108% above 1990 levels.

As a result, Australia has the world’s highest level of emissions per person …

(Climate Change: On For Young and Old, 2009)

May 24, 2013

Severe Climate Change

CSIS-CNAS: Security Implications of Climate Change


Scenario Overview

Time Span: 30 Years
Warming: 2.6°C
Sea Level Rise: 0.52 meters
“[Tipping] point” events such as the abrupt release of massive quantities of methane from melting tundra or of carbon dioxide as the sea warms up [contribute to abrupt and accelerating changes and impacts:]

  • Dynamical changes in polar ice sheets accelerate rapidly [leading to] high confidence that the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets have … destabilized and that 4 to 6 meters of sea level rise are now inevitable over the next few centuries …

  • Water availability [falls drastically] at lower latitudes (dry tropics and subtropics), affecting 1 to 2 billion people worldwide.
    The North Atlantic overturning circulation slows significantly, with consequences for marine ecosystem productivity and fisheries.

  • Crop yields decline significantly in the fertile river deltas because of sea level rise and damage from increased storm surges.
    Agriculture becomes essentially nonviable in the dry subtropics [because of dwindling water supplies,] soil salinization [and enhanced] evaporation of water from irrigated fields.
    [Desertification takes] previously marginally productive crop lands out of production.

(p 72, italics added)

  • Global fisheries are affected by
    • widespread coral bleaching,
    • ocean acidification,
    • substantial loss of coastal nursery wetlands, and
    • warming and drying of tributaries that serve as breeding grounds for anadromous fish.

  • The Arctic Ocean is now navigable for much of the year because of decreased Arctic sea ice and the Arctic marine ecosystem is dramatically altered.
    Developing nations at lower latitudes are impacted most severely because of climate sensitivity and high vulnerability.
    Industrialized nations … experience net harm from warming and [are forced spend an increasing proportion] of GDP adapting to climate change at home.

[This scenario depicts] possible societal consequences of severe climate change over the course of thirty years.
These consequences are not to be taken as predictions [but are] intended to encourage reflection about the [plausible] consequences of continued inaction.
(p 73)


Systemic Events


[Massive] nonlinear events in the global environment [could] give rise to massive nonlinear societal events. …

  • We could see class warfare as the wealthiest members of every society pull away from the rest of the population, undermining the morale and viability of democratic governance, worldwide. …

  • [Global] fish stocks [may] crash. …

(p 76)

  • [The] risk of pandemic explosions of disease [will] increase.

  • As drinkable water becomes scarcer it will become an increasingly commercialized resource.
    Governments, lacking the necessary resources, will privatize supply.
    [In poor societies such measures have provoked] violent protest and political upheaval [in the past.]

  • Human fertility may collapse in economically advanced regions, as the consequence of increasingly difficult living conditions and of general loss of hope for the longer term.

  • [Rapid] economic decline may [occur due] to the collapse of [globalized] financial and production systems that depend on integrated worldwide systems.

  • [Transnational corporations may eclipse] governments as the rich look to private services. …

  • Alliance systems and multilateral institutions may [break down] — among them the UN, as the Security Council fractures beyond compromise or repair.

(p 77)

May 23, 2013

Civilization

Live Long and Prosper



Reality
Is what kills you
If you ignore it for long enough






97 out of 100 active climate researchers are CONVINCED that human induced climate change is underway.

John Kennedy (1917 – 1963):
[In] the final analysis, our most basic common link is that …
  • we all inhabit this small planet …
  • we all breathe the same air …
  • we all cherish our children's future, and
  • we are all mortal.
(Commencement Address, American University, 1963)

Mark Pesce (1962) [Futurist]:
One of my friends taught me long ago that: reality is that which kills you when you ignore it long enough.
(Dangers of digital tribalism, Sunday Extra, ABC Radio National, 17 May 2015)

Alistair Cooke (1908 – 2004):
[As for the] pollution of the atmosphere, the cities, and the rivers — the destruction of Nature.
I find it impossible to believe that a nation that [has produced so many] ingenious human beings … is going to sit back and let the worst happen …
(David Heycock, The More Abundant Life, America, Episode 13, 1972)

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964):
The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment.
Man, too, is part of this balance.
Sometimes the balance is in his favor; sometimes — and all too often through his own activities — it is shifted to his disadvantage.
(Chapter 15, Silent Spring, 1962)

Kim Robinson (1952):
[In the late 21st century] capitalism writhed in its internal decision concerning whether to destroy Earth’s biosphere or change its rules.
Many argued for the destruction of the biosphere, as being the lesser of two evils
(2312, Orbit, 2012, p 124)

Philip Dick (1928 – 1982):
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
(How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later, 1978)

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936):
Cities and Thrones and Powers
    Stand in Time's eye,
Almost as long as flowers
    Which daily die:
But, as new buds put forth
    To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth
    The Cities rise again.
(Cities and Thrones and Powers, Puck of Pook's Hill, 1906)

James Cameron:
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.
(Terminator, 1984)

Lesley Hughes [Distinguished Professor, Climate Change Ecology Group, Macquarie University]:
We've had about a degree of warming so far.
If we get to one and a half degrees that's the warmest planet than at any time since humans have evolved.
(The Silent Extinction, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 18 February 2015)

James Hansen:
Human-made climate change is … the greatest threat civilization faces.
(Storms Of My Grandchildren, Bloomsbury, 2009, p 70)

Tim Flannery:
If humans pursue a business-as-usual course for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilisation due to climate change becomes inevitable.
(The Weather Makers, Text, 2005, p 209)

Al Gore:
[What] is at stake is the set of environmental conditions and the health of the natural systems on which our civilization depends.
(The Future, 2014)

Ross Garnaut [Professor of Economics, Australian National University]:
With human society, if you give it a big enough shock, things fall apart. …
We've got plenty examples of history.
Germany, at the time arguably … in the 20's and 30's … the best educated community … in some sense one of the highest points of civilisation … had the shock of … very high unemployment for a period and the normal moral foundations of society fell apart …
That's the sense which I see civilisation threatened by [an] increase in temperature of four degrees.
We would be giving human society such a big shock, displacing so many people, shaking the foundations of organized society to an extent that it's unlikely that normal patterns of political and social organization would survive.
And so then you do get disintegration of civilisation as we know it.
(Cutting Carbon: Australian Answers to a World Problem, Big Ideas, ABC Television, 12 June 2014)

William Nordhaus:
Once we open the door to consider catastrophic changes, a whole new debate is engaged.
If we do not know how human activities will affect the thin layer of life-supporting activities that gave birth to and nurture human civilisation and if we cannot reliably judge how potential geophysical changes will affect civilisation and the world around us … should we not be ultra-conservative and tilt towards preserving the natural world at the expense of economic growth and development?
Do we dare put human betterment before the preservation of natural systems and trust that human ingenuity will bail us out should Nature deal us a nasty hand?
(Climate Change, 1996)

Alfred Wallace (1823 – 1913):
[The atmosphere is] a most complex structure, a wonderful piece of machinery, [which,] in
  • its various component gases,
  • its actions and reactions upon the water and the land,
  • its production of electrical discharges, and
  • its furnishing the elements from which the whole fabric of life is composed and perpetually renewed,
may be truly considered to be the very source and foundation of life itself.
(Man's Place in the Universe, 5th Ed, 1905, pp 258-9)

Dan Kahan:
[There] is no logical connection between what you propose to do to solve a problem and whether there … is a problem in the first place.
Either the earth is heating up, it's being caused by humans, and it's going to have a bad effect — or not.
[Whether] those are true propositions or not does not depend [on how] you're proposing to deal with that problem …
(Water Institute Lecture, 2009)

Nate Silver:
Human beings have an extraordinary capacity to ignore risks that threaten their livelihood, as though this will make them go away.
(The Signal and the Noise, 2012, p 25)

Myron Ebell:
[If it turns out we're wrong about anthropogenic climate change, then] I'll have to say I’m sorry and I wish we could speed up our efforts to reverse the policies that we have supported here at [the Competitive Enterprise Institute.]
(Climate of Doubt, PBS Frontline, 23 October 2012)

Richard Lindzen:
[The] likelihood over the next century of greenhouse warming reaching magnitudes comparable to natural variability seems small.
(MIT Tech Talk, 27 September, 1989)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859):
A false notion which is clear and precise will always meet with a greater number of adherents in the world than a true principle which is obscure or involved.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam 2011, p 189)

A Potentially Hazardous Experiment


Thomas Graedel: Professor of Industrial Ecology, Yale University
Paul Crutzen: Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1989)


Humanity's unremitting growth and development [are not only] changing the chemistry of the atmosphere but are driving the earth rapidly toward a climatic warming of unprecedented magnitude.
This climatic change … constitutes a potentially hazardous experiment in which everyone on the earth is [being forced to take] part. …

[Evidence] indicates that a major decrease in the rate of fossil-fuel combustion would slow greenhouse warming, reduce smog, improve visibility and minimize acid deposition. …
[The] solution to the earth's environmental problems lies in a truly global effort, involving unprecedented collaboration by scientists, citizens and world leaders.

The most technologically developed nations have to reduce their disproportionate use of the earth's resources.
[And] the developing countries must be helped to adopt environmentally sound technologies and planning strategies as they elevate the standard of living for their populations …

With proper attention devoted to maintaining the atmosphere's stability, perhaps the chemical changes that are now occurring can be kept within limits that will sustain the physical processes and the ecological balance of the planet.

(The Changing Atmosphere, Scientific American, September, 1989)

May 14, 2013

Observations and Impacts

World Bank: Four Degree World


Extreme Events in the Period 2000–2012
(Adapted from Table 1, p 18)
[Unusual] weather events for which there is now substantial scientific evidence linking them to global warming with medium to high levels of confidence. (p 16)
Region (Year)Record-breaking EventImpact, costs
England and Wales (2000)Wettest autumn since records began in 1766
Several short-term rainfall records
~ £1.3 billion
Europe (2003)Hottest summer in at least 500 yearsDeath toll exceeding 70,000
England and Wales (2007)Wettest May to July 1766Major flooding
~£3 billion damage
Southern Europe (2007)Hottest summer in Greece since 1891Devastating wildfires
Eastern Mediterranean, Middle-East (2008)Driest winter since 1902Substantial damage to cereal production
Victoria, Australia (2009)Heat wave
Many station temperature records (32–154 years of data)
Worst bushfires on record
173 deaths
3,500 houses destroyed
Western Russia (2010)Hottest summer since 1500500 wildfires around Moscow
Crop failure of ~25%
Death toll ~55,000
~US$15B in economic losses
Western Europe (2011)Hottest and driest spring in France since 1880French grain harvest down by 12%
Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana (2011)Record-breaking summer heat and drought since 1880Wildfires burning 3 million acres
(Preliminary impact of $6 to $8 billion)
Continental US (2012)Warmest July since 1895
Severe drought conditions
Abrupt increase in global food prices due to crop losses


Heat Waves and Extreme Temperatures


These events were … typically more than 3 standard deviations (sigma) warmer than the local mean temperature …
[Such] 3-sigma events would be expected to occur [by chance] only once in several hundreds of years.

The five hottest summers in Europe since 1500 all occurred after 2002, with 2003 and 2010 being exceptional outliers.
[During] the 2003 heat wave … daily excess mortality [reached] up to 2,200 in France. …
(p 13)

On August 28, [2012,] about 63% of the contiguous United States was affected by drought conditions … and the January to August period was the warmest ever recorded.
[Wildfires set] a new record for total burned area — exceeding 7.72 million acres.

In the 1960s, summertime extremes of more than three standard deviations warmer than the mean of the climate were practically absent, affecting less than 1% of the Earth’s surface. …
Now such extremely hot outliers typically cover about 10% of the land area.
(p 14)


Arctic Sea Ice Melt


Stefan Rahmstorf



Figure 3-5
Arctic Sea Ice Cover in September (the Summer Minimum Extent) in 1979 [the first year of satellite observation] and in 2005.
(NASA, May, 2007)
(Anthropogenic Climate Change: Revisiting the Facts, In E Zedillo, Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto, Brookings Institution Press, pp 34–53, 2008)


World Meteorological Organization

Arctic sea ice extent reached its record lowest [annual minimum in the last 1,500 years on] 16 September [2012.]
This value broke the previous record low set on 18 September 2007 by 18 per cent [and] was 49 per cent … below the 1979–2000 average minimum.
The difference between the maximum Arctic sea-ice extent on 20 March and the lowest minimum extent on 16 September was 11.83 million km^2 — the largest seasonal sea-ice extent loss in the 34-year satellite record.

(WMO Annual Climate Statement Confirms 2012 as Among Top Ten Warmest Years, Press Release No 972, 2 May, 2013)

Would you like to know more?

May 11, 2013

George H W Bush

PBS American Experience

George H W Bush:
Where is it written that we must act as if we do not care?
As if we are not moved.
Well I am moved.
I want a kinder, gentler nation. …
(Republican National Convention, New Orleans, 1988)

Margaret MacMillan (1943):
In 1991, the American televangelist Pat Robertson warned that Bush Sr’s victory over Iraq was not what it appeared.
It was paving the way not for peace but for the triumph of evil.
It was all so clear to Robertson.
Ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a secret conspiracy had been pushing the world toward socialism and the triumph of the Antichrist.
The European Union was clearly part of the plot and so was the United Nations.
The Gulf War and the missiles that Saddam Hussein had fired on Israel were yet more steps toward the final reckoning.
(The Uses and Abuses of History, Profile, 2009, pp 64-65)

On The Distinction Between True And False Visions


[Ronald Reagan (1911–2004),] who spent World War II in Hollywood, vividly described his own role in liberating Nazi concentration camp victims. …
On many occasions in his Presidential campaigns, [Reagan recounted his] epic story of World War II courage and sacrifice, an inspiration [to] all of us.
Only it never happened …
[It] was the plot of the movie A Wing and a Prayer
{Living in the film world, he apparently confused a movie he had [experienced] with a reality he had not.}

Many other instances of this sort can be found in Reagan's public statements.
It is not hard to imagine serious public dangers emerging out of instances in which political, military, scientific or religious leaders are unable to distinguish fact from … fiction.

(Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, 1997, p 132)


Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited


In many ways George Bush was what Ronald Reagan pretended to be.
As an actor, Ronald Reagan played the war hero.
George Bush was a war hero — a decorated naval aviator.
Ronald Reagan played the athlete.
George Bush was the captain of his Yale baseball team and played twice in the college championship game.
He was also a first rate tennis player.
Both preached family values, but only Bush could point to a happy family.










After four decades of public life, George Bush feels his most important accomplishment in life is that his children still come home. …
When Ronald Reagan learned he had Alzheimer's disease, he wrote a letter for history.
He addressed it to the American people.
[Nine] years after his defeat, George Bush [also] wrote a letter.
He addressed it to his children. …
George H W Bush:
I had a little plaque made.
It says CAVU [—] the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific — "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited."
I will not pass by it without realizing how lucky I am …
[For] the plaque describes my own life — as it has been over the years, as it is right now.
After leaving office, Bush saw his son George W get elected Governor of Texas, and his son Jeb Governor of Florida. …
[And when] George W was elected president in 2000, it was the first time a father and son had occupied the White House since John and John Quincy Adams almost 200 years earlier.



May 10, 2013

Forms of Government

Bertrand Russell: Power

Except when he feels enthusiasm for a leader, the voter in a large democracy has so little sense of power that he often does not think it worth while to use his vote.
If he is not a keen propagandist for one of the parties, the vastness of the forces that decide who shall govern makes his own part in them appear completely negligible.
[All] that he can do … is to vote for one or other of two men, whose programmes may not interest him, and may differ very little, and who, he knows, may with impunity abandon their programmes as soon as they are elected.

If, on the other hand, there is a leader whom he enthusiastically admires, the psychology involved is that which we considered in connection with monarchy: it is that of the tie between a king and the tribe or sect of his active supporters.
Every skilful political agitator or organiser devotes himself to stimulating devotion to an individual.
If the individual is a great leader, the result is one-man government …
[If] he is not, the caucus which has secured his election becomes the real power.

(Power, 1938, p 133)

May 5, 2013

Carl Sagan

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Francis Bacon (1561–1626):
[The true method of science] first lights the candle, and then by means of the candle shows the way; commencing as it does with experience duly ordered and digested, not bungling or erratic, and from it deducing axioms, and from established axioms again new experiments. …
Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much.
It is by instruments and helps that the work is done.
(Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620)

Douglas Adams (1952–2001):
Space … is big.
Really big.
(The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 8, 1979)

Georges LemaĆ®tre (1894 – 1966):
Standing on a cooled cinder, we see that slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished brilliance of the origin of the worlds.

Christiaan Huygens (1629 – 1695):
How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them.
A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.
(New Conjectures Concerning the Planetary Worlds, Their Inhabitants and Productions, c1690)

Herbert Wells (1866 – 1946):
A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars.
(The Discovery of the Future, Nature, 65:326, 1902)

George Orwell (1903 – 1950):
Men of science can study the life-process of a flower, or they can split it up into its component elements, but any scientist will tell you that a flower does not become less wonderful, it becomes more wonderful, if you know all about it.
(Listener, 12 June 1941)

Jules Verne (1828 – 1905):
Science … has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.
(Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864)

Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592):
In Antiquity Anaxagoras was believed to have excelled all others in treating matters celestial and divine; but … the brain of Anaxagoras finally became disturbed: that often happens to those who immoderately pore over matters which do not appertain to them. …
[The] best judgement you can make about the heavens is not to make any at all.
(pp 600-1)

What vain human dreams, to make the Moon into some celestial Earth, dreaming up, like Anaxagoras, mountains and valleys for it, planting human dwellings and habitations on it and, like Plato and Plutarch, settling colonies there for our convenience: and then to make our own Earth into a brightly shining star …
(p 505)

There is some element of multiplicity within every species; it seems unlikely, therefore, that God made only this one universe and no [others] like it …
Now, if there are several worlds … how do we know whether the principles and laws which apply to this world apply equally to the others?
Other worlds may present different features and be differently governed.
(An apology for Raymond Sebond, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991, p 587)

Carl Sagan:
[For] every dollar spent on the [planetary exploration,] seven dollars are returned to the national economy.
(Cosmos, p 343)

Edward Gibbon (1737 – 1794):
[The] practice of superstition is so congenial to the multitude that, if they are forcibly awakened, they still regret the loss of their pleasing vision.
Their love of the marvellous and supernatural, their curiosity with regard to future events, and their strong propensity to extend their hopes and fears beyond the limits of the visible world, were the principal causes which favoured the establishment of Polytheism.
So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition …
(The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-89)

Moses Maimonides (1135 – 1204):
It is forbidden to engage in astrology, to utilize charms, to whisper incantations …
All of these practices are nothing more than lies and deceptions used by ancient pagan peoples to deceive the masses and lead them astray …
Wise and intelligent people know better.
(Avodah Zara, Mishneh Torah, Chapter 11)

Carl Sagan:
Many of those alleging satanic abuse describe grotesque orgiastic rituals in which infants are murdered and eaten.
Such claims have been made about reviled groups by their detractors throughout European history, including
  • the Cataline conspirators in Rome,
  • the Passover 'blood libel' against the Jews, and
  • the Knights Templar as they were being dismantled in fourteenth-century France.
Ironically, reports of cannibalistic infanticide and incestuous orgies were among the particulars used by Roman authorities to persecute the early Christians.
(Demon-Haunted World, 1997, p 151)

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546):
[The Jews should be dealt with in the same fashion as a surgeon treats a gangrenous limb:]
Cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. …
Burn down their synagogues …
[Deal] harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying 3000 lest the whole people perish …
If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them.
(On the Jews and Their Lies, 1542)

Exodus:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
(22:18)

Heinrich Kramer (1430 – 1505):
What else is woman but
  • a foe to friendship,
  • an unescapable punishment,
  • a necessary evil,
  • a natural temptation,
  • a desirable calamity,
  • a domestic danger,
  • a delectable detriment,
  • an evil of nature painted with fair colors?
(Malleus Maleficarum, 1486)

Necessary Evil


The demonic seducers
  • of women were labelled incubi;
  • of men, succubi.
There are cases in which nuns reported, in some befuddlement, a striking resemblance between the incubus and the priest-confessor, or the bishop …

The theologian Meric Casaubon argued — in his 1668 book Of Credulity and Incredulity [—] that witches must exist because … everyone believes in them.
(p 111)
Pope Innocent VIII:
It has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their sorceries, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they suffocate, extinguish, and cause to perish the births of women [along with all manner of] abominations and enormities. …
[Consequently,] Our dear sons Henry Kramer and James Sprenger [have] by Letters Apostolic [been] delegated as Inquisitors of these heretical [depravities.]
(1484)
With this Bull, Innocent initiated the systematic … torture and execution of countless [women and girls] all over Europe. …
(p 112)

With exhaustive citations of scripture and of ancient and modern scholars [Kramer and Sprenger] produced the Malleus Maleficarum
What the [Hammer of Witches essentially] comes down to … is that if you're accused of witchcraft, you're a witch.
Torture is an unfailing means to demonstrate the validity of the accusation {[— provided] the instruments of torture [are first] blessed by the priests.}
There are no rights of the defendant.
There is no opportunity to confront the accusers. …

[At the Pope's instigation,] Inquisitors began springing up all over Europe.
It quickly [degenerated into] an expense account scam.
All costs of investigation, trial and execution were borne by the accused or her relatives [including:]
  • per diem for the private detectives hired to spy on her,
  • wine for her guards,
  • banquets for her judges,
  • the travel expenses of a messenger sent to fetch a more experienced torturer from another city …
  • the faggots, tar and hangman's rope [and]
  • [bonuses for] the members of the tribunal for each witch burned.
[Following a successful prosecution, the balance of the witch's estate was then] divided between Church and State.
As this legally and morally sanctioned mass murder and theft became institutionalized [attention shifted] from poor hags and crones to [more lucrative targets among] the middle class and well-to-do of both sexes.
(p 113)

[It] was widely accepted] that tens of thousands of witches had gathered for a Sabbath in public squares in France [and] that 12,000 of them darkened the skies as they flew to Newfoundland. …

Legions of women were burned to death [based on a] well-intentioned sentence [from] canon law:
Council of Tours:
The Church abhors bloodshed.
(1163)
Innocent himself died in 1492, following unsuccessful attempts to keep him alive by transfusion (which resulted in the deaths of three boys) and by suckling at the breast of a nursing mother.
He was mourned by his mistress and their children. …

In Britain witch-finders [so called 'prickers', received] a handsome bounty for each girl or woman they turned over for execution. …
Typically they looked for 'devil's marks' — scars or birthmarks or nevi — that when pricked with a pin neither hurt nor bled.
A simple sleight of hand often gave the appearance that the pin penetrated deep into the witch's flesh.
When no visible marks were apparent, 'invisible marks' sufficed.
Upon the gallows, one mid-seventeenth-century pricker
… confessed [that] he had been the death of above 220 women in England and Scotland [—] for the gain of twenty shillings apiece. …
(p 114, emphasis added)
Not a single saint criticized the practice of torturing and burning 'witches' and heretics.
(p 139)

At great personal risk, [Jesuit Friedrich] von Spee protested the witch mania.
So did a few others, mainly Catholic and Protestant clergy who had witnessed these crimes at first hand — including
  • Gianfrancesco Ponzinibio in Italy, Cornelius Loos in Germany and Reginald Scot in Britain in the sixteenth century; as well as
  • Johann Mayfurth ('Listen, you money-hungry judges and bloodthirsty prosecutors, the apparitions of the Devil are all lies') in Germany and Alonzo Salazar de Frias in Spain in the seventeenth century.
Along with von Spee and the Quakers generally, they are heroes of our species.
Why are they not better known?
(p 387)

The last execution for witchcraft in
  • Holland … was in 1610; …
  • England, 1684;
  • America, 1692;
  • France, 1745;
  • Germany, 1775; and
  • Poland, 1793.
In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitorial torture was not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816.
The last bastion of support for the reality of witchcraft … has been the Christian churches. …

Why was it resolutely supported by conservatives, monarchists and religious fundamentalists?
Why opposed by liberals, Quakers and followers of the Enlightenment?
(p 388)

(The Demon-Haunted World, 1997)


Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)


My local witches go in risk of their lives, depending on the testimony of each new authority who comes and gives substance to their delusions.
The Word of God offers us absolutely certain and irrefragable examples of such phenomena, but to adapt and apply them to things happening in our own times because we cannot understand what caused them or how they were done needs a greater intelligence than we possess.
(p 1166)

To kill people, there must be sharp and brilliant clarity; this life of ours is too real, too fundamental, to be used to guarantee these supernatural and imagined events.
[Indeed,] we should not always [even] be content with the confessions of such folk, for they have been known to accuse themselves of killing people who have later been found alive and well.
(p 1167)

We, who are never-endingly confused by our own internal delusions, should not go looking for unknown external ones.
It seems to me that it is excusable to disbelieve any wonder, at least in so far as we can weaken its 'proof' by diverting it along some non-miraculous way.
I am of Saint Augustine's opinion, that in matters difficult to verify and perilous to believe, it is better to incline towards doubt than certainty.
(p 1168)

After all, it is to put a very high value on your surmises to roast a man alive for them.
(p 1169)

[Our] reasons often run ahead of the facts and enjoy such an infinitely wide jurisdiction that they are used to make judgements about the very void and nonentity.
Apart from the pliancy of our inventive powers when forging reasons for all sorts of idle fancies, our imagination finds it just as easy to receive the stamp of false impressions derived from frivolous appearances …
(p 1171)

(On the lame, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991)


Thomas Henry Huxley (1825 – 1895)


Trust a witness in all matters in which neither
  • his self-interest,
  • his passions,
  • his prejudices, nor
  • the love of the marvellous
is strongly concerned.
When they are involved, require corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of probability by the thing testified.
(p 77)

The foundation of morality is to … give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about things beyond the possibilities of knowledge.
(p 194)

(Demon Haunted World, 1987)


Who Speaks For Earth?


All the bombs dropped on all the cities in World War II amounted to some two million tons, two megatons, of TNT …
By the late twentieth century, two megatons was the energy released in the explosion of a single … thermonuclear bomb …
By the ninth decade of the twentieth century the strategic missile and bomber forces of the Soviet Union and the United States were aiming warheads at over 15,000 designated targets.
(p 320)

[On] March 1, 1954, a thermonuclear weapons test at Bikini in the Marshall Islands detonated at higher yield than expected.
[The inhabitants of the tiny atoll of Rongalap, 150 kilometers away, received an average radiation dose of] about 175 rads, a little less than half the dose needed to kill an average person.
[Radioactive strontium] concentrated in their bones, and [radioactive iodine] in their thyroids.
Two-thirds of the children and one-third of the adults later developed thyroid abnormalities, growth retardation or malignant tumors.
In compensation, the Marshall Islanders received expert medical care.
(pp 321-322)

In the United States … corporate profits in military weapons procurement are 30 to 50 percent higher than in an equally technological but competitive civilian market.
Cost overruns in military weapons systems are permitted on a scale that would be considered unacceptable in the civilian sphere. …
According to some estimates, almost half the scientists and high technologists on Earth are employed full-or part-time on military matters. …
Those engaged in the development and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction are given salaries, perquisites of power and [secrecy permitting, public honors. …]
Military secrecy makes the military the most difficult sector of any society for the citizens to monitor.
(p 328)

The United States is one of the few governments that actually supports an agency devoted to reversing the arms race.
But the comparative budgets of the Department of Defense (153 billion dollars per year in 1980) and of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (0.018 billion dollars per year) remind us of the relative importance we have assigned to the two activities.
(p 330)

Only once before in our history was there the promise of a brilliant scientific civilization. …
(p 333)

{Alexandria was the greatest city the Western world had ever seen.}
From the time of its creation in the third century B C until its destruction seven centuries later, it was the brain and heart of the ancient world.

Alexandria was the publishing capital of the planet. …
Books were expensive; every one of them was copied by hand.
The Library was the repository of the most accurate copies in the [Ancient] world. …
The Old Testament comes down to us mainly from the Greek translations made in the Alexandrian Library. …

Rarely has a state so avidly supported the pursuit of knowledge.
[And not only did the Ptolemys devote] much of their enormous wealth to the acquisition of every Greek book, as well as works from Africa, Persia, India, Israel and other parts of the world [they also] financed scientific research [and encouraged the generation of] new knowledge.
Eratosthenes accurately calculated the size of the Earth, mapped it, and argued that India could be reached by sailing westward from Spain.
Hipparchus anticipated that stars come into being, slowly move during the course of centuries, and eventually perish; it was he who first catalogued the positions and magnitudes of the stars to detect such changes.
Euclid produced a textbook on geometry [—] a work that was to help awaken the scientific interest of Kepler, Newton and Einstein.
Galen wrote basic works on healing and anatomy …
(p 334)

The last scientist who worked in the Library was a mathematician, astronomer, physicist and the head of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy …
Her name was Hypatia [and she] was born in Alexandria in 370. …

The Alexandria of Hypatia’s time — by then long under Roman rule — was a city under grave strain. …
The growing Christian Church was consolidating its power and attempting to eradicate pagan influence and culture.
Cyril, the Archbishop of Alexandria, despised her because of her close friendship with the Roman governor, and because she was a symbol of learning and science, which were largely identified by the early Church with paganism.
(p 335)

[In spite of] great personal danger, she continued to teach and publish, until, in the year 415, on her way to work she was set upon by a fanatical mob of Cyril’s parishioners.
They dragged her from her chariot, tore off her clothes, and … flayed her flesh from her bones [with abalone shells.]
Her remains were burned, her works obliterated, [and] her name forgotten.
Cyril was made a saint. …
[The last remnants of the Library] were destroyed soon [afterwards.]

It was as if [an] entire civilization had [lobotomized itself — erasing] most of its memories, discoveries, ideas and passions [forever.]
[Of] the 123 plays of Sophocles … only seven survived. …
Of the physical contents of that glorious Library not a single scroll remains.
(p 336)

Science and learning in general were the preserve of a privileged few.
[Most people] had not the vaguest notion of the great discoveries taking place within the Library.
New findings were not explained or popularized. …
Discoveries in mechanics and steam technology were applied mainly to the perfection of weapons, the encouragement of superstition, the amusement of kings. …
Science never captured the imagination of the multitude.
There was no counterbalance to stagnation, to pessimism, to the most abject surrenders to mysticism.
When, at long last, the mob came to burn the Library down, there was nobody to stop them.
(p 335)

(Cosmos, Macdonald Futura, 1980)

May 3, 2013

Climate Science 1

Naomi Oreskes: Merchants of Doubt

[As] one leading scientist said about [Bill Nierenberg's 1983 National Academy of Science report, Changing Climate: Report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee],
Edward Frieman:
We knew it was garbage, so we just ignored it. …
(16 March 2007)
Unfortunately, garbage doesn't just go away.
Someone has to deal with it, and that someone is all of us:
  • journalists who report scientific findings,
  • specialist professional bodies who represent the scientific fields, and
  • all of us as citizens. …

Global warming is a big problem, and to solve it we have to stop listening to disinformation. …
We all need a better understanding of
  • what science really is,
  • how to recognize real science when we see it, and
  • how to separate it from the garbage.

(Merchants of Doubt, 2010, p 265)