I have seen so much of this lately:
And in so many cases when we challenge this cherry-picking and confirmation bias we get this:
Over recent months I have been following, and learning more about, the issues of fluoridation and the Ukrainian civil war. One is a scientific issue (at least in most of the debate), the other political. Yet in the social media discussions both issues are dominated by motivated reasoning, cherry-picking, confirmation bias and outright prejudice. The same thing is going on in both issues and in many cases show denial, the favouring of belief over facts and evidence.
Donald Prothero points out that this is just human nature. We are not “rational machines,” and, if we are honest, we should all be able to recognises these faults in our own approaches, no matter how sceptical and scientific we think we are.
Prothero presented an interesting talk at the recent Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas, he deals mainly with creationism, climate change denial and anti-vaccination beliefs but the lessons have much wider applicability.
He has some great cartoons in his lecture. But I also liked how he drew lessons from his analysis about how supporters of science and scepticism should deal with discussions when science denial occurs. Simple antagonistic argument and debunking is usually not effective. We need to recognise the beliefs and values underlying the denial and respond to those.
The lecture is based on part of Prothero’s recent book Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future.
Ken Ring runs a business predicting the weather. Apparently in that sort of business, and with the clients he has, conflict with evidence-based science and scientists is good for business. So, it isn’t not surprising to find him trolling the internet debating issues from weather and climate change to earthquakes.
But his contribution to a recent debate on the NZ Skeptics Facebook page is a shocker. Here is his simple experiment proving that carbon dioxide does not influence climate and anthropogenic climate change is a fraud:
And just to dig the hole even deeper he adds:
This guy is spouting a bunch of simple-minded anti-scientific rubbish. Not surprising in itself – he is actually opening a climate change denial conference in th US – one of the semi-annual get-togethers of climate change denialists organised by the Heartland Institute.
No – the surprise is that this guy, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is a member of the House Science Committee, which oversees US federal policy on science and innovation. The House Science Committee!
Bloody hell! How does that happen. Here is someone whose standard of scientific understanding is no higher than some of the anti-science blog commenters we get here – and they are on the US House Science Committee.
Iconic photos are often associated with historic event, especially conflicts. The picture of the man stopping a Tank in Beijing during suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 is an obvious one.
For me the photo above will always be connected with Ukraine and the current conflict there. As one blogger put it, Inna Kukuruza’s “eyes spoke to the whole world.”
She was a civilian victim of the recent jet attack on the centre of Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine (see Lugansk war crime). Over the past few days I have watched (or tried to watch) videos of the attack and it’s aftermath. This has been extremely difficult because they are just so graphic. I decided not to include any videos here – although if you have a strong stomach the blog post Inna Kukuruza shall not be forgotten has a brief extract.
This is the way to handle these debates – love to see it with creationism, vaccinations and fluoridation as well.
Thanks to Paryngula.
It is well established that the first victim in war is truth. Mind you the dispatch of truth usually comes well before the shooting starts.
I have a personal interest in Ukraine and the dispatch of truth occurred for me straight after the February 21st agreement signed by the then President, the opposition leaders and representatives of the European Union. The very next day there was a coup, the opposition leaders came to power and they (together with the EU politicians) immediately abandoned the agreement – before the ink was dry!
A real pity, as they had signed up to consitutional reform involving the whole country before elections later this year. Seems to me consitutional reform is exactly what the country is crying out for. Instead we have had Orwellian doublespeak and cynical geopolitical maneuvering by the major powers, as well as the Ukrainian politicians while the people have been ignored.
Well, not quite ignored because now the acting president has taken to calling protesters “terrorists.” (This is a guy who was put into power by a coup precipitated by violent protesters in Kiev). You can understand the reaction of people to this – if not have a look at this video. Here local people protesting at the Karamtorsk airstrip in eastern Ukraine captured by military units from Kiev argue with Uranian Gen. Vasily Krutov who was attempting to defend the “anti-terrorist” action.
They ask – “Who is the terrorist here?”
Yes, it sounds mad for a president, even just an acting president, to describe his people as terrorists. But there is a cynical logic here. Appa=rently by law the Ukrainian military cannot be used against protestors unless a state of emergency is declared – or protester are redefined as terrorists, I guess.
Mind you – it’s not only the politicians who have dispatched with truth. Seems to me that many of the journalists on the ground are also distorting the situation. Compare these Twitter reports from Ilya Azsar at the airfield with the evidence of the video! This from the Pro-Kiev The Interpreter.
I can understand the anger of people in eastern Ukraine being described this way. However, I myself also feel violated by the misrepresentations that seems to count for news in the midst of such conflicts. I feel I am being denied my right to information and treated like an idiot.
See also: Tensions Boil Over on Camera in Ukraine’s East and West for more on the above incident and also the mob attack on Oleg Tsarov - one of the candidates in the planned presidential elections – who spoke up for the east Ukrainians.
Here is a New Zealand Kickstarter project well worth supporting – a film which sets out to answer the questions:
The tax-free and rates-free charitable status of religions in this day and age is an anomaly which will eventually need resolving. As the proposal says:
“Despite this huge rise in the number of non-believers and increased focus on the importance of separation of church and state, most ‘secular’ governments continue to subsidise religious organisations; providing them with broad tax immunity (including any companies or corporations that they own), local rates exemptions and other entitlements. While the public expectation is that all religions are behaving as charities in the traditional sense (working to relieve poverty and advance the public good, etc.), the reality is that some churches are behaving more like corporations; stockpiling cash and buying external investments (putting aside for the moment the mansions, sports cars and diamond rings sported by bishops and ministers). The result of this tax break for the religious is that there is less money for education, healthcare, conservation and other core state functions that would benefit a nation as a whole.”
The problem is highlighted in this report - Religious financial privileges in New Zealand.
Photo credit: SENTINEL-1 LIFTS OFF
This morning I watched the launch of the Sentinel 1A satellite. The launch was perfect and the coverage on Spaceflight Now excellent with plenty of explanation along the way.
The satellite was launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch pad Kourou near the town of Sinnamary, French Guiana, on South America’s northern Atlantic coastline. Sentinel 1A was built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. The satellite is now being managed from a mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Viewing this event I couldn’t help noticing the programme is a result of cooperation between several countries. First of all, countries in the European Commission and ESA, but also Russia which provided the launcher and whose companies were involved in the launch. That cooperation is obvious from the fact that English, French, German, Italian and Russian languages were being used.
I think there are two important points about this cooperation in our modern world:
So, alongside this good news of the Sentinel 1A success I am concerned about the bad news that NASA is to take part in the politically initiated sanctions against Russia. Yesterday, NASA released this statement:
Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.
Any long-term operation of these sanctions, despite the exclusion of the International Space Station work, will inevitable have a negative effect on international scientific cooperation. And will inevitably retard humanity’s work on alleviating our environmental, economic and security problems.
Frankly I think these sanction are cynical measures resulting from inevitable geopolitical frictions and should only have a relatively short lifetime.
Let us hope so.
Sentinel 1A is the first of 17 satellites to be launched over the next decade in the Copernicus programme – described as “the largest Earth-observation program in history.”
“When all of the Sentinel satellites have been launched, they will form a network tasked with gathering an unprecedented amount of data regarding the planet. . . Using a wide variety of instrumentation, the Copernicus program will be able to provide scientists, government agencies and other parties with the necessary data to precisely determine the exact current state of the planet. Moreover, the data will also be useful in creating simulations and predictions of future climate and weather trends.”
Have a look at this infographic for a summary of the Copernicus programme and the satellites involved.
Click on image to enlarge
An overview of the Copernicus programme describes it this way:
“Copernicus provides a unified system through which vast amounts of data, acquired from space and from a multitude of in situ sensors, are fed into a range of thematic information services designed to benefit the environment, the way we live, humanitarian needs and support effective policy-making for a more sustainable future.
These services fall into six main categories: land management, the marine environment, atmosphere, emergency response, security and climate change.
In essence, Copernicus will help shape the future of our planet for the benefit of all. ESA is contributing by providing a proven framework for the development of operational systems on behalf of the user community, paving the way for investment in future generation systems. ESA is exploiting its 30 years of expertise in space programme development and management to contribute to the success of Copernicus.”
I find it heartening scientific cooperation continues (so far) despite all the political posturing going on down here over the Ukraine political crisis.
Here we see the arrival of Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson at the International Space Station (ISS). This brings the ISS to its full capacity of six people. The arriving astronauts were welcomed by three astronauts on board the ISS, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.