Teetotalling is bad for you

That's the conclusion of the research below. The findings are in fact fairly conventional.  Moderate drinkers get fewer strokes and heart attacks than either teetotallers or heavy drinkers.  The good old Golden Mean again.  All the associations were quite weak in absolute terms but are fairly high in the context of what one generally finds in medical research.  It is also interesting that the various subtypes of cardiovascular disease all seem to be alcohol influenced.  So the conclusion embodied in my heading above is reasonably safe.

What's amazing is the spin that "New Scientist" put on the findings.  Their conclusion is:

“This study suggests that sticking within alcohol guidelines may actually lower your risk of some heart conditions,” says Tracy Parker, of charity the British Heart Foundation, who was not involved in the study. “But it’s important to remember that the risks of drinking alcohol far outweigh any possible benefits. These findings are certainly no reason to start drinking alcohol if you don’t already.”

Which is actually the reverse of what the study found.  It's just do-gooder lying.  But when is lying doing good?  Far from "the risks of drinking alcohol outweighing any possible benefits", alcohol actually confers the benefit of helping you to live longer!  There were fewer "unheralded coronary deaths" [fatal heart attacks] among moderate drinkers.   That's a pretty good benefit.  The British Heart Foundation should fire the lying Tracy Parker.  She is a preacher of some Puritanical ideology, not a competent science commentator

Association between clinically recorded alcohol consumption and initial presentation of 12 cardiovascular diseases: population based cohort study using linked health records

Steven Bell et al.


Objectives: To investigate the association between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease at higher resolution by examining the initial lifetime presentation of 12 cardiac, cerebrovascular, abdominal, or peripheral vascular diseases among five categories of consumption.

Design: Population based cohort study of linked electronic health records covering primary care, hospital admissions, and mortality in 1997-2010 (median follow-up six years).

Setting: CALIBER (ClinicAl research using LInked Bespoke studies and Electronic health Records).

Participants: 1 937 360 adults (51% women), aged ≥30 who were free from cardiovascular disease at baseline.

Main outcome measures: 12 common symptomatic manifestations of cardiovascular disease, including chronic stable angina, unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction, unheralded coronary heart disease death, heart failure, sudden coronary death/cardiac arrest, transient ischaemic attack, ischaemic stroke, intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage, peripheral arterial disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Results: 114 859 individuals received an incident cardiovascular diagnosis during follow-up. Non-drinking was associated with an increased risk of unstable angina (hazard ratio 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.21 to 1.45), myocardial infarction (1.32, 1.24 to1.41), unheralded coronary death (1.56, 1.38 to 1.76), heart failure (1.24, 1.11 to 1.38), ischaemic stroke (1.12, 1.01 to 1.24), peripheral arterial disease (1.22, 1.13 to 1.32), and abdominal aortic aneurysm (1.32, 1.17 to 1.49) compared with moderate drinking (consumption within contemporaneous UK weekly/daily guidelines of 21/3 and 14/2 units for men and women, respectively). Heavy drinking (exceeding guidelines) conferred an increased risk of presenting with unheralded coronary death (1.21, 1.08 to 1.35), heart failure (1.22, 1.08 to 1.37), cardiac arrest (1.50, 1.26 to 1.77), transient ischaemic attack (1.11, 1.02 to 1.37), ischaemic stroke (1.33, 1.09 to 1.63), intracerebral haemorrhage (1.37, 1.16 to 1.62), and peripheral arterial disease (1.35; 1.23 to 1.48), but a lower risk of myocardial infarction (0.88, 0.79 to 1.00) or stable angina (0.93, 0.86 to 1.00).

Conclusions: Heterogeneous associations exist between level of alcohol consumption and the initial presentation of cardiovascular diseases. This has implications for counselling patients, public health communication, and clinical research, suggesting a more nuanced approach to the role of alcohol in prevention of cardiovascular disease is necessary.

BMJ 2017;356:j909


Why the high intelligence of Indian Americans?

I reproduce below a well-informed answer to the above question.  I disagree with his conclusion that it is all due to nutrition however.  Other work finds only 5 IQ points attributable to nutrition.  The suggestion of 15 IQ points is therefore startling.  So I think we need to look at other possibilities.  I think that the Indian advantage is probably a compound of several factors.

The treatment of Indians as a single group is of course absurd.  Almost any Indian will regale you with stories about the great gaps between the castes.  And the castes do seem to have a racial and historic origin.  A Brahman and a Dalit are worlds apart in all sorts of ways, including skin color. And it is usually held that the differences arose from the Northern  Brahmins being in fact late "Aryan" invaders on top of an original Dravidian population.  So we would expect Brahmins to have higher IQs.  And Brahmins seem well-represented in Indian immigrants to America.

Everything in the above paragraph is however subject to controversy so how much caste accounts for higher IQs in Indian Americans remains "under study".  Something that would reveal the effect (or not) of caste would be a study of Indian diaspora populations in places such as Fiji, where the Indians there are the descendants of coolies imported to act as agricultural labourers.  If they have high IQs, there is no caste effect.  But I can find no data on such populations.  It is however true that Indians run just about everything in Fiji these days.

The next possibility is related to the one above:  A general selective effect of immigration.  Diaspora populations are not always brighter than the home population but when we are looking at poor countries they probably are.  To get yourself out of a poor country to a rich one surely requires brains.  So regardless of caste, diaspora Indians should be brighter.

The third possibility is one shown up by the Flynn effect:  Education.  Education does have an effect on at least some measures of intelligence.  How that works is speculative but the most plausible explanation is that doing tests and exams in the course of a long education develops test-taking skills (e.g. guessing when uncertain) that generalize to IQ tests. And the Indian education system is woeful so a transition to the less woeful U.S. system should confer an advantage.

A fourth factor that is rarely mentioned in these discussions is regional differences within India.  The Indian South seems to be much brighter, particularly where mathematical ability is concerned. The great concentration of Indian IT knowledge is in Bengaluru (Bangalore), which is in the South.  And it was almost entirely Southern engineers who were behind the quite remarkable Indian Mars shot.

I am not going to say much about why the Southerners are smarter but I note that they hate one-another.  Keralans despise Tamils, for instance.  And that is related to the long history of warfare between them.  And dummies are the least likely to survive wars.  So warfare has dragged up the average IQ of most of the South.

But getting back to Indians in America:  I have seen no figures on it but I gather that a huge proportion of Indians came to America to work in IT.  If that is so, they would mostly have come from the South -- because that is where the IT ability is.  So the Indian immigrants to the USA came from a (Southern) population that was ALREADY pretty high on IQ.  So from that starting point, the various advantages (already mentioned) of life in the USA could easily have added one third of a standard deviation -- which could explain what we see.  It could in fact explain the whole of what we see.

And regardless of where they come from in India, being employed to work in IT is a HUGE selective pressure.  To code easily in languages like C and its derivatives requires an IQ within about the top 2%. If that doesn't bring up the average, nothing would.

So I would summarize that the high IQs of Indians in the USA is the combined effect of nutrition, education, caste, an immigrant effect, an effect of regional origin and an effect of occupation.

Given the extraordinary difference in average IQ between Indians in India and Indians in America (well over one standard deviation) I think a multifactorial explanation has to be strongly indicated.  But all answers at this point are speculative.

One of the great mysteries in IQ research is why Indian Americans are such super achievers despite the fact that India reportedly has an IQ of only 82 according to the book IQ and Wealth of Nations.

And yet Indians in North America are known for their high intelligence and scholastic achievement, and despite being new to America, are already slightly over-represented on Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. In some parts of Canada (particularly the maritime provinces like Newfoundland) if you’re Indian, all the white will people will assume you’re a doctor.

So how can Indians in North America be so smart when India’s average IQ is not great? Many people in the HBD-blogosphere invoke the theory that India is nation of many micro-races (castes) and that largely the smartest castes migrate to America, but the truth is usually much simpler.

Of the 2.8 million Indians in America, probably no more than 25% (700,000) are the ones who initially gained immigration (and the remaining 75% are the spouces, siblings, parents, and children, who came alone for the ride). But these 700,000 who actually gained immigration for themselves and their families are probably roughly the most occupationally successful 700,000 Indians out of a population of nearly 1.3 billion. In other words, they are above the +3.3 standard deviation mark in occupational status, and are on on average +3.5 SD. Since occupational status (mostly a function of education and income) correlates 0.7 with IQ, we should expect their IQ’s to be 3.5(0.7) = 2.45 SD higher than the average Indian (assuming Indians have a mean IQ of 82 and an SD 15, those who initially gain immigration to America should have an IQ of 119).

But because the IQ correlation between a parent and his adult offspring is about 0.45, the children of these high achieving immigrants from India should regress precipitously to the Indian mean:

0.45(119 – 82) + 82 = 99

Thus we should expect second-generation Indians born in America to have IQ’s around the U.S. average which is inconsistent with their incredible achievements. Can their achievements thus be explained by Tiger Moms? According to excellent Jamaican American blogger JayMan, parenting has zero impact.

So how do we explain the high achievements of second generation Indian immigrants? Nutrition. Blogger Steve Sailer was perhaps the first to notice that even un-mixed black Americans who have lived in the United States for centuries are several inches taller and about 13 IQ points smarter than black Africans. This suggests that first world nutrition adds about 13 IQ points (and several inches of height) to people of third world ancestry.



The only way to save coral reefs: A war on global warming (?)

This utter BS first came out in Australian newspapers and I commented on it then.  I found the article below in the Boston Globe, however, so the nonsense has spread.  In the circumstances, I think I should repeat and amplify my earlier comments.  

Cape Grim tells us that CO2 levels have been plateaued on 401ppm since last July (midwinter)  So anything that has happened in the recent summer is NOT due to a rise in CO2.

And NASA/GISS tell us that the December global temperature anomaly is back to .79 -- exactly where it was in 2014 before the recent El Nino event that covered the second half of 2015 and most of 2016.  So there has been no global warming in the recent Southern summer and there was no CO2 rise to cause anything anywhere anyway.

The claim that this summer's bleaching was an effect of global warming is a complete crock for both reasons.  The data could not be clearer on that.  The seas around Northeast Australia may or may not be unusually warm at the moment but if they are it is some local effect of air and ocean currents etc. The warming in NOT a part of global warming

Reducing pollution and curbing overfishing won't prevent the severe bleaching that is killing coral at catastrophic rates, according to a study of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In the end, researchers say, the only way to save the world's coral from heat-induced bleaching is with a war on global warming.

Scientists are quick to note that local protection of reefs can help damaged coral recover from the stress of rising ocean temperatures. But the new research shows that such efforts are ultimately futile when it comes to stopping bleaching in the first place.

"We don't have any tools to climate-proof corals," said Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia and lead author of the study being published on Thursday in the journal Nature. "That's a bit sobering. We can't stop bleaching locally. We actually have to do something about climate change."

Across the world, scores of brilliantly colored coral reefs once teeming with life have in recent years become desolate, white graveyards. Their deaths due to coral bleaching have grown more frequent as ocean temperatures rise, mainly due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The hot water stresses corals, forcing them to expel the colorful algae living inside them, which leaves the corals vulnerable to disease and death. Given enough time, bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if the temperature stays too high for too long, the coral will die.

Preserving coral reefs is crucial, given we depend on them for everything from food to medical research to protection from damaging coastal storms. Scientists and policymakers have thus been scrambling to find ways to prevent bleaching. Last year, for example, Hawaiian officials proposed several measures they hoped would fight bleaching on the state's reefs, such as limiting fishing, establishing new marine protected areas, and controlling polluted runoff from land. The question was whether such efforts could provide the corals any resistance to bleaching, or just help them recover.

The researchers conducted aerial and underwater surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, which has experienced three major bleaching events, the worst of which occurred last year. The scientists found that the severity of bleaching was tightly linked to how warm the water was. In the north, which experienced the hottest temperatures, hundreds of individual reefs suffered severe bleaching in 2016, regardless of whether the water quality was good or bad, or whether fishing had been banned. That means even the most pristine parts of the reef are just as prone to heat stress as those that are less protected.

Prior exposure to bleaching also did not appear to provide any protective benefit to the coral. The scientists found that the reefs that were highly bleached during the first two events, in 1998 and 2002, did not experience less severe bleaching last year.

Ultimately, the study concluded, saving reefs from the ravages of bleaching requires urgent action to reduce global warming.

"I think it's a wake-up call," Hughes said. "We've been hoping that local interventions with water quality and fishing would improve the resistance of the corals to bleaching. We found no evidence that that's actually true, at least during a very severe event."

The study shows that older ways of thinking about reef management, such as reducing river runoff, are now moot points when it comes to preventing bleaching, said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and coral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"It all seems so quaint now, really," said Cobb, who wasn't part of the study. "A future that we thought was decades coming is basically here."

The research also illustrated the gravity of the situation facing the 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef. The team found 91 percent of the reef has been bleached at least once during the three bleaching events. Even more alarming, Hughes said, is that a fourth bleaching event is already underway. Corals need years to recover from bleaching, so back-to-back events increase the possibility that the bleached coral will die.

The study shows that very intense coral bleaching events are no longer isolated and are happening more regularly, said coral reef scientist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria. That assertion has been further bolstered by the Great Barrier Reef's latest bleaching event, which began a few weeks ago and which Baum says has stunned scientists.

"None of us were expecting the water to be heating up again right now," Baum said. "I think it's beyond what any of us could have imagined. It's our worst nightmare."



Papal adviser Schellnhuber: 'Scientists have to take to the streets' to counter climate denial

The worm himself, looking weird as usual.  He's off his rocker.  He makes most Warmists look moderate.  Sadly, Schellnhuber is advisor to Angela Merkel as well.

Comment from Dick Lindzen:  "He makes Holdren sound almost rational.  Schellnhuber is the embodiment of green totalitarianism.  He knows nothing about climate, and he doesn’t care.  His job is to scare".

The interview below is with DW, which in a faroff day was known as "Die Deutsche Welle" (The Voice of Germany), German government media

DW: Where are we at with the world's carbon budget - how much have we spent and how much have we got left?

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: If we want to hold the 1.5 degrees [Celsius; 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit]  line, which is the ambitious goal of the Paris agreement, we have maybe 300 billion tons left - more or less the budget of 10 years - if we do business as usual. If we want to hold the 2 degrees line, which is more realistic, we have another 20 to 30 years to go, but no more actually. So it's a very tight budget.

DW: And in order to meet this tight budget, what do you see as being the major things that need to happen between now and then?

HJS: It's quite mind-boggling - for example, by 2030, we have to phase out the combustion engine. And we have to completely phase out the use of coal for producing power. By 2040 we will probably have to replace concrete and steel for construction by wood, clay and stone.

DW: We now have an international climate agreement signed and ratified. Are we on track to meet our emissions reduction targets?

HJS: Germany actually has the more ambitious goal - here within the European Union - a 40 percent reduction by 2020. It looks fairly bleak actually, with the current policies in place we will not even meet our own target. Something fairly disruptive needs to happen, like closing down some of the operating coal-fired power stations.

The European Union is underambitious - it should have raised its ambition immediately after Paris, but that did not happen  So it's a very sluggish process.

Globally, there is some good news.

China has probably already peaked its emissions now, which is amazing. India has an extremely ambitious solar energy program - [and is] now investing a lot. So, the only black horse in the race is the US.

DW: US President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the Paris accord. How big an impact would this have on the international climate action we've achieved so far?

HJS: That's the one-billion-dollar-question. First of all, it's not clear whether Trump will pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. I don't think he will. Like other laggards and obstructers, in the past - like Saudi-Arabia - I think the US will just stay on-board and try to slow down all the processes.

What effect will it have? 10 years ago this would have been a complete disaster for climate policy. Now with China - the biggest emitter and also the biggest investor in renewables - and with the Asian economies now slowly changing, I think the world could achieve climate protection even without the US.

DW: Scott Pruitt, who now heads the US Environmental Protection Agency, recently denied carbon dioxide was a major contributor to global warming. His comments go against the 97 percent consensus of the world's scientists. Scientists generally tend to stay out of politics, but do you think given the current political climate there, scientists will become more politicized and outspoken?

HJS: I have the big privilege to work in the office where Albert Einstein worked. He's one of the greatest geniuses and physicists of all time. And he was a very political animal actually.

I think if the very system of the scientific method and the scientific research is in doubt, then scientists have to take to the streets in the end and have to demonstrate and say: "Hey we are doing a job for you!"

We scientists love to sit in our ivory towers, untainted by the dirt of the real world and so on, [but] we have to take to the streets, we have to speak up. We have to leave our ivory towers, and we have to communicate to everybody that we want to be part of the solution.



Is housing the homeless a good idea?

The report summarized below says that the monetary benefits outweigh the costs but I strongly suspect some courageous assumptions in their calculations.  Most people however do seem to want to get rough sleepers off the streets and out of the public parks so my suggestion would be the provision of domitories to which they can be taken rather than putting them into full accomodation.

The people concerned generally have mental problems to at least some degree so we would not want them to reproduce.  And providing a full apartment to them might tend to encourage partnering and reproduction -- leading to a new dependent generation for the taxpayers to support.  By all means get them into safer quarters but limit what is provided for free

It's cheaper to provide last resort housing to homeless people than to leave them sleeping rough, a new cost-benefit analysis has found.

The analysis found governments and society benefit more than they spend by providing last resort housing to homeless individuals. This is mainly through reduced healthcare costs, reduced crime, and helping people get back into employment or education.

This comprehensive cost-benefit analysis was commissioned by a team of experts from the University of Melbourne, NGOs, and architecture firms. The analysis was conducted by consulting firm SGS Economics and Planning.

Key points:

The number of people sleeping rough in Melbourne's streets has increased by over 70% in the last two years. Homelessness is now at emergency levels. Key causes are the unaffordability of housing, people escaping domestic violence and a structural lack of social housing.

There has been a reduction in the supply of "last resort housing". Last resort housing refers to legal rooming and boarding houses, and emergency accommodation.

On average, more than 40 requests for last resort housing are turned down across Victoria every day.

Our analysis shows that the government providing one last resort bed will generate a net benefit of $216,000 over 20 years. That averages to a net benefit of $10,800 per year.

The majority of those benefits (75%) flow to society and the remainder to the individual.

For every $1 invested in last resort beds to address the homelessness crisis, $2.70 worth of benefits are generated for the community (over 20 years).

In other words, the benefits of providing last resort housing outweigh the costs. There is much to gain in economic and social terms, both for government and society, by assisting the homeless.

This is because if homeless individuals find stable accommodation they require less healthcare and fewer emergency admissions, and they are less likely to be involved in crime (both as victims and perpetrators). They are more likely to reconnect with employment and education. Homelessness also incurs property blighting and nuisance costs. Importantly, last resort housing can greatly improve the quality of life of individuals.

Our analysis shows that the form of last resort housing which makes the most sense economically is the construction of new, permanent stock - especially medium to large-sized facilities. Converting existing buildings, and subsidising private rentals, are both worth considering as well especially in the short term.

The commissioning team calls on governments to build more new, permanent last resort housing to help the homeless, because the benefits outweigh the costs. Existing last resort housing should be protected and maintained. These are issues for local, state and federal governments.

The commissioning team hopes the research presented in this report will be used to develop stronger business cases for - and ultimately generate substantial investment in - last resort housing.




I have already written at length on that question but some new data have just come in from England that add some extra information.  And it is based on very good sampling so has considerable authority.  I present the findings in two excerpts below. As one might expect, there have been some furious but quite addled Leftist responses to this research.  The author replies here and here

Academics are hugely Left-leaning.  Is it because they have higher IQs?

One explanation that has been put forward to explain the overrepresentation of individuals with left-wing and liberal views in academia is that they tend to have higher intelligence. The theory is that academic advancement requires very high intelligence, and since few individuals with right-wing and conservative views possess very high intelligence, such individuals are comparatively scarce within the academy (Solon 2014; Solon 2015; Charlton 2009; Gross 2013).

Several recent studies from the US, where the academy also has a sizable left-liberal skew, have concluded that intelligence does not contribute much to explaining the tilt (Gross & Fosse 2012; Gross 2013; Fosse et al. 2014). On the other hand, using a slightly different method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than fferent method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than half of the overrepresentation of socially liberal views, but may not account for any of the overrepresentation of economically left-wing views. His finding is consistent with evidence that cognitive ability is positively related to both socially liberal beliefs and at least some measures of economically right-wing beliefs (Carl 2015a).

Unfortunately, there do not appear to have been any surveys of British academics asking about specific policy issues, either economic (e.g., nationalisation of industry) or social (e.g., immigration). Only the distribution of party support among academics is available, which as noted above points to an overrepresentation of both left-wing views and liberal views.

To see whether intelligence contributes to explaining the left-liberal skew of party support among academics, I calculated the distribution of party support for individuals within the top 5% of IQ, using data from the Understanding Society survey. This is shown in Table 3, along with the distribution of party affiliation within the general population and among academics, also calculated from the Understanding Society data.

Note that the distribution within the general population differs from the outcome of the general election; this is probably due to the phrasing of the question posed in Understanding Society, to the sample being slightly unrepresentative, to the timing of the data collection, and to differential turnout by party.

However, what is of primary interest is the comparison between the figures for the general population and those for the top 5% of IQ, which were both calculated from the same data.

Conservative supporters are about as well represented within the top 5% of IQ as they are within the general population, Labour supporters are slightly underrepresented, UKIP supporters are underrepresented, Lib Dem supporters are overrepresented, and Green supporters are overrepresented. Overall, as Figure 2 illustrates, the distribution of left/right orientation within the top 5% of IQ is relatively similar to the distribution within the general population.

While intelligence may account for some of the underrepresentation of UKIP supporters among academics, and some of the overrepresentation of Green supporters (Deary et al. 2008), it cannot account for the substantial underrepresentation of Conservative supporters. To the extent that the Conservatives are a less socially conservative party than UKIP, the figures in Table 3 are consistent with Carl’s (2015b) finding that intelligence may contribute to explaining the underrepresentation of socially conservative views in American academia, but not necessarily the underrepresentation of economically right-wing views.

Somewhat surprising is the relative scarcity of Lib Dem supporters among academics, given their overrepresentation within the top 5% of IQ. This may be attributable to the fact that, as noted above, the Lib Dem party was until recently dominated by its classically liberal wing, which espoused comparatively more right-wing policies, which may not have been appealing to academics. On the other hand, it may simply be due to sampling error.



If it's not a higher IQ that makes you an academic, is it a different personality?

The excerpt below if from the same study as excerpted above but does, I think, require some comment. The concept of "Openness to Experience" first became popular in the '80s.  But while the name was new, the concept was not.  The prior concept  of "sensation seeking" was very similar and was based on a very similar set of questions.  The major difference is that "Openness to Experience" sounds better than "sensation seeking". 

As it happens I did a study of "sensation seeking" that appeared in 1984.  And my findings were similar to those below.  Leftists were sensation seekers.  But the "spin" I put on the findings was quite different.  I portrayed Leftists as emptyheaded seekers of novelty for novelty's sake.  I was able to justify that by pointing to something you would not expect:  That Leftists even sought the novelties provided by the consumer society.  Leftists normally mock the consumer society but they still like the novelties it provides.  So they REALLY like new things.

My data was both psychometrically valid and drawn from a random population sample so the findings were methodolgically very strong, stronger than most work in the field.

So I think I have succeeded in showing that Leftists are "neophiliacs" -- shallow, restless, discontented people who seek change and the new for its own sake. I know of no subsequent research which undermies that conclusion but would be delighted to hear of any that purports to do so

Such people are attracted to academe because academe is basically a novelty factory.  Research is designed to uncover new information and understanding about something and it is one's prowess in finding out new things that gets you published and thus advanced in your career.  Academics are always inventing new (and often stupid) theories about all sorts of things and trying to find or produce new data in support of such theories. It is a  great place for restless speculation about the world to come and the world that could be

Another explanation that has been put forward to explain the overrepresentation of individuals with left-wing and liberal views in academia is that they tend to score higher on the personality trait openness to experience (Duarte et al. 2014).

Openness to experience, or just openness, is one of the five traits postulated by the fivefactor model of personality. People high on openness are more artistic, creative and intellectually curious, and tend to prefer novelty and variety over familiarity and sameness. As a consequence, they may be predisposed toward intellectually stimulating careers, such as academia (McCrae 1996; Woessner & Kelly-Woessner 2009).

At the same time, evidence from a variety of countries indicates that individuals high on openness are more likely to support left-wing and liberal parties (Gerber et al. 2011; Schoen & Schumann 2007; Ackermann et al. 2016). However, to the author’s knowledge, no direct evidence that openness predicts left-liberal views within the right tail of intelligence—i.e., the sub-population from which academics are selected—has been presented in the scholarly literature.

To see whether openness contributes to explaining the left-liberal skew of party support among academics, I calculated the distribution of party support for individuals within the top 5% of IQ and the top 20% of openness, and for those within the top 5% of IQ and the bottom 20% of openness, using data from the Understanding Society survey. This is shown in Table 4, along with the distribution of party support among academics.

Within the top 5% of IQ, Labour supporters, Lib Dem supporters and Green supporters are all better represented within the top 20% of openness than within the bottom 20% of openness; by contrast, Conservative supporters are better represented within the bottom 20% of openness.

Unexpectedly, UKIP supporters are better represented within the top 20% of openness, but this is probably attributable to sampling error.

Overall, as Figure 3 illustrates, the distribution of left/right orientation within the top 5% of IQ and the top 20% of openness is much closer to the distribution among academics than is the distribution within the top 5% of IQ and the bottom 20% of openness.

Of course, the top and bottom quintiles of openness are somewhat arbitrary categories; they were chosen based on a trade-off between extremity of contrast and availability of observations.

To gauge the association between openness and party support more precisely, Table 5 displays estimates from linear probability models of support for major right-wing and left-wing parties within the top 5% of IQ. The estimates in the first and second columns imply that, for each one standard deviation increase in openness, the probability that an individual supports a major right-wing party, rather than any other party, decreases by 8–9 percentage points.

The estimates in the third and fourth columns imply that, for each one standard deviation increase in openness, the probability that an individual supports a major left-wing party, rather than any other party, increases  by 8 percentage points. Statistically controlling for the respondent’s age, gender and race does not appear to affect the estimates.



Yet more reason to be skeptical about the results of scientific research

Just out in JAMA is the latest article by John Ioannidis, the man who first blew the whistle on "non-reproducibility" in scientific research.  Read it here.

It makes doleful reading. New, absolutely scrupulous efforts to repeat the results of previous studies failed 3 out of 5 times. There was actually no trace of the previous findings. See the operational paragraph below:

Note that the research concerned was in the field of cancer studies.  In such a critical area, one would expect the greatest level of care from the word Go. Yet, despite that, subsequent findings completely contradict the initial findings.

Such a result undermines confidence in all scientific research results.  What, then, are we to conclude?  I think Ioannidis draws the only possible conclusion:  That trying to apply apparent lessons from the research to real-life situations is a very shaky enterprise indeed.  Scientific results cannot confidently be translated into public or clinical policy.  Attempts to "apply" the results of research are built on sand and are therefore mostly bound to fail.

If that is true in clinical research, how much more so is it applicable in climate research?  Climate researchers actually hide details of their research, making it impossible to examine its repeatability. On precedent, however, we have to conclude that it is almost 100% rubbish. It is basically not science at all.

Even on the details Warmists do give of their research, what they find is often on the hilarious side.  See here, for instance. How much more risible would the research be if we had full details of it?


A Leftist view of cartoonist Bill Leak.  To the The Leftist "Saturday paper" realism is racism

The Leftist "Saturday paper" is owned by an Israeli draft dodger and edited by a Peace Prize winner so its stories are fairly predictable.  Under the heading "The freedom of a coward", the paper refers to examples of Bill Leak's cartoons that give realistic impressions of life on Aboriginal settlements.  Such cartoons are "racist" said the paper.

To those who have never set foot outside the more affluent suburbs of our capital cities, the portrayals offered by Leak probably do seem grotesque.  For those of us who have had a lot to do with Aborigines, they are simply realistic.  We have seen in real life the sort of thing Leak portrayed.

So there is a issue here:  Is it permissible to say anything negative about minorities?  It's a strange retreat from reality when all minorities must be portrayed as without stain but that seems to be the Leftist position.  If not, why is Leak abused as a racist?

Clearly the Left are not confronting the absurdity of their  assumptions.  But expecting any balance from them about anything is a big ask, of course

And if Bill was a racist is it not a little strange that he was married to a non-Caucasian person with the charming name of "Goong"?  In the Bogardus scale of social distance, marrying a minority peron is the ultimate example of tolerance and lack of prejudice.  The Saturday Paper should be renamed the Saturday Propaganda.  There is no honour, depth or truth in them

Bill Leak was a racist. To pretend otherwise is a nonsense.

His death doesn’t change that. The culture warring obituaries don’t change that. The misguided plea of a former prime minister still squaring up against the national broadcaster doesn’t change that.

It was racism that drew a cartoon of two Aboriginal men drinking – they were always drinking – as they read about John Howard’s Northern Territory intervention. “Rape’s out, bashing’s out,” the speech bubble read. “This could set our culture back by 2000 years!..”

It was racism that drew a cartoon of two Aboriginal men drinking – they were always drinking – as a woman slumped battered behind them. Her exaggerated fat lips were made fatter by violence. Blood ran from her head and nose. A comedy of stars circled above her. The speech bubble: “Sheilas! You give ’em an enriching cultural experience and what thanks do you get??!!..”

They were the same men in both cartoons. For Leak, they were always the same men – grotesqueries of a culture his pictures deemed subhuman.

Bill Leak was not brave. There is nothing brave about the persecution of minorities. There is nothing brave about tracing clich├ęs. Leak became a martyr for free speech but in reality he was a martyr for the right to be wrong. His was the freedom of a coward.

Leak’s late-career targets were rarely the powerful. At some point he gave up on genuine insight. About the same time, he gave up on being funny.

There is history to these cartoons. It is the history of a kind of racism that would not be published in another developed democracy anywhere in the world. Leak’s late cartoons drew on the tropes of colonial propaganda to demean and dehumanise an entire race of people. And that was before you got to the homophobia or the Islamophobia or any of the paranoias that drove his pen.

Bill Leak drew for a country that no longer exists. The majority of the words written since his death have been a kind of specious voodoo – a hope that Leak’s Australia could somehow be reanimated, that racist intimidation would once again dominate, that freedom of speech may be co-opted as a tool to keep down the future and the diversity of people who will make it.

The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, wrote this week that Leak represented “a nation at war over its core values”. He called him “an iconic figure in this struggle … the most important local symbol in the cultural disruption afflicting Western societies.” Leak’s bigotry, in Kelly’s mind, was a corrective to the progressives “dismantling the cultural norms and traditions that have made Western societies such as Australia so successful”.

These are bizarre assertions. They depend on the repression of minorities to maintain an ailing status quo. But this is what Leak spent his time doing.

There is nothing to celebrate in Bill Leak’s death. But there was little to celebrate in the last years of his cartoons, either.



More "corrections"

Warmists never stop "correcting" the raw temperature record.  Such corrections may be justifiable in theory but it is curious that all the corrections tend towards showing more warming.  And, with old diehard warmists like Kevin Trenberth and John Abraham involved, it is no surprise the way the corrections went in the study below.

Whether or not the corrections were done in a biased manner, however, it hardly matters.  The temperature changes they document on this occasion are given in THOUSANDTHS of one degree Celsius.  Everything they record is therefore mind-numbingly minute, trivial and of no importance for anything

Improved estimates of ocean heat content from 1960 to 2015

Lijing Cheng, Kevin E. Trenberth, John Fasullo, Tim Boyer, John Abraham and Jiang Zhu


Earth’s energy imbalance (EEI) drives the ongoing global warming and can best be assessed across the historical record (that is, since 1960) from ocean heat content (OHC) changes. An accurate assessment of OHC is a challenge, mainly because of insufficient and irregular data coverage. We provide updated OHC estimates with the goal of minimizing associated sampling error. We performed a subsample test, in which subsets of data during the data-rich Argo era are colocated with locations of earlier ocean observations, to quantify this error. Our results provide a new OHC estimate with an unbiased mean sampling error and with variability on decadal and multidecadal time scales (signal) that can be reliably distinguished from sampling error (noise) with signal-to-noise ratios higher than 3. The inferred integrated EEI is greater than that reported in previous assessments and is consistent with a reconstruction of the radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere starting in 1985. We found that changes in OHC are relatively small before about 1980; since then, OHC has increased fairly steadily and, since 1990, has increasingly involved deeper layers of the ocean. In addition, OHC changes in six major oceans are reliable on decadal time scales. All ocean basins examined have experienced significant warming since 1998, with the greatest warming in the southern oceans, the tropical/subtropical Pacific Ocean, and the tropical/subtropical Atlantic Ocean. This new look at OHC and EEI changes over time provides greater confidence than previously possible, and the data sets produced are a valuable resource for further study.

Science Advances  10 Mar 2017: Vol. 3, no. 3, e1601545. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601545


Natural factors shown as a big influence on Arctic warming

The Arctic is the only place where there seems to have been some warming in recent times. So Warmists are constantly cheering it. But is the warming there part of anthropogenic global warming?  Hard to see how when the globe overall is not warming.  So what IS causing Arctic warming? The authors below have traced a lot of it to natural factors.  The balance of the warming may be due to subsurface vulcanism.  There are some huge undersea volcanoes in the Arctic, particularly along the Gakkel ridge

Influence of high-latitude atmospheric circulation changes on summertime Arctic sea ice

Qinghua Ding et al.


The Arctic has seen rapid sea-ice decline in the past three decades, whilst warming at about twice the global average rate. Yet the relationship between Arctic warming and sea-ice loss is not well understood. Here, we present evidence that trends in summertime atmospheric circulation may have contributed as much as 60% to the September sea-ice extent decline since 1979. A tendency towards a stronger anticyclonic circulation over Greenland and the Arctic Ocean with a barotropic structure in the troposphere increased the downwelling longwave radiation above the ice by warming and moistening the lower troposphere. Model experiments, with reanalysis data constraining atmospheric circulation, replicate the observed thermodynamic response and indicate that the near-surface changes are dominated by circulation changes rather than feedbacks from the changing sea-ice cover. Internal variability dominates the Arctic summer circulation trend and may be responsible for about 30–50% of the overall decline in September sea ice since 1979.

Nature Climate Change (2017) doi:10.1038/nclimate3241


John 1:1 -- one more foray

I suppose I am a bit obsessed with the meaning of the first verse of the gospel of John.  I have written enough on it (e.g. here and here).  But it bugs me that a simplistic bit of translation has totally distorted the meaning of the passage.

In English Bibles, John 1:1 is normally translated as:  "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God".

But that's nuts.  How can you both BE god and be WITH god?  It's logically self-contradictory.  By saying you are WITH someone you imply that you are NOT that someone.  So what gives?  Was the holy apostle John talking nonsense?  He was not.  What he wrote in the original Greek of the New Testament was quite different from what we read in most English Bibles.

But I can't altogether blame the translators.  Translating it literally does make for ponderous English.  So why not do it the simple way?

To show you what I mean, here is the closest I can get to an exact translation:  "In a beginning was the word and the word was with the god and the word was of god-substance."  You see what I mean.  It sounds a bit weird.  Note "THE god".

As I mentioned recently, it all goes back to the way holy Jews long ago stopped referring to the name of their god -- which was YHWH ("Jehovah" in English).  So they referred to him by generic terms such as "Gods" or "Lord" ("elohim" or "adonay" in Hebrew).

YHWH tells us most emphatically that he is very proud of his name, wants it used reverently and wants it known worldwide that he is supreme.  See the Ten Commandments and Psalm 83:18.  He is so emphatic about it in Psalm 83:18 that even the King James Bible renders the name as "Jehovah" rather than with their usual practice of substituting "the LORD" for YHWH. So it is a huge irony that the worshippers of YHWH do exactly the opposite of what he clearly commands.

And that confusion carried on into New Testament times.  Because the Jewish god had no name, the New Testament writers couldn't identify their god very clearly either.  They referred to him as "the God" ("ho theos") -- which is how Greeks referred to the local god, whoever he may be.  In the ancient world there were lots of gods and it depended on where you were to find out which god you most likely worshipped.  So right from the beginning, John 1:1 was going to have some ambiguity

A non-Jewish speaker of Greek would have taken the text to be very vague indeed, amounting to a claim that a mysterious someone was with the local god of the writer at some beginning and that the mysterious someone was made out of the same stuff as the local god was.  And that is EXACTLY what it means.  We see more in it than that because we know its religious context

Most Christians go in for vagueness there too.  They see it as justification for their theological "Trinity" doctrine -- and that's as vague as it gets -- saying that Jesus and God are the same yet different -- which is also logically self-contradictory.

I note that even the latest Zondervan Study Bible (using the latest version of the NIV) concedes in its notes that the meaning of "with god" is, "The word is distinct from God the father and enjoys a personal relationship with him".   That is pretty right -- but how you get a Holy Trinity out of it is the mysterious part.

I am not going to start mentioning anarthrous predicates and  the fine points of the Greek grammar involved.  I have done that on several previous occasions.  Suffice it to say that my rendering of what the passage actually means now seems to be mainstream among textual scholars. See e.g. here.

And nor is it a modern translation.  Another Bible translation  is the old Geneva Bible, a translation even older than the KJV. It was the translation that the Pilgrim Fathers mainly used.  And in their footnotes they interpret the passage to mean that the Word was of "the selfsame essence or nature" as the creator, which is pretty fair.

Note:  I might in passing recommend the latest Zondervan study Bible.  It is a massive tome with huge amounts of information. It is a worthy successor to the old Companion Bible. They are going for $33.99 at the moment from Christian Book.


An information-light editorial from New England

See below:  They have had the brainwave that Trump climate skepticism  is now the GOP climate position.  They are apparently unaware that conservatives generally have for a long time thought global warming is a crock. It didn't need Trump.

They then proceed to do the impossible: Prove a generalization from a few specific instances.  You can "prove" anything that way.  For a global theory you need global evidence and all they offer in that regard is temperature rises -- now gone -- which were associated  with El Nino. Those rises were associated with FLATLINING CO2 levels so we KNOW that the rises were not a CO2 effect.

But they do make some specific assertions.  They say that completing the Dakota oil pipelie "will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and global warming".  How so?  THey do  not say.  Moving oil and gas by pipeline instead of rail actually reduces CO2 emisions.

But I suppose we should give them credit for at least a nodding acquaintance with science.  They say: "Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from 25 to 84 times worse by one estimate".  It is true that methane does in the laboratory absorb a lot of electromagnetic frequencies but that is a red herring.  Water vapour also absorbs those frequencies and there is a lot more of that in the atmosphere.  So adding methane to the atmosphere adds nothing to what water vapour has already done!

Nice try but no cigar

Republicans are killing the planet. We say that because President Donald Trump was their nominee and they own him – golden locks, who knows what stocks and barrel of childish tweets.

Yesterday brought the news that 52,000 square miles of permafrost – an area about six times as large as New Hampshire – in Canada’s Northwest Territories has melted, choking rivers with sediment and releasing vast volumes of methane.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from 25 to 84 times worse by one estimate.

What did the Trump administration do as the permafrost was melting? It stopped requiring that the oil and gas industry, a powerful emitter of methane on its own, submit comprehensive data on the amount of methane it is releasing.

Last month, some 50 American cities set all-time-high February temperatures. On Feb. 24 it was 72 degrees in Boston; on Feb. 23 it was 65 in Concord, a record for the capital city. In each of the past three years the planet has set a new record average annual temperature.

What did Trump do? Pick career EPA foe and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt to head the environmental agency and climate change denier Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department.

Trump and his allies are gnawing away on the Clean Power Plan designed to curb carbon emissions from power plants, lifting or weakening regulations on coal mining and mountain top removal, and rolling back auto industry emission standards.

Trump’s promise to put the nation’s coal miners back to work, the New York Times says, is as likely to happen as the return of Nantucket’s whaling fleet.

Somalia, Kenya and other East African nations are suffering their worst drought in half a century. Millions are threatened by famine and the death toll is growing. Climate change is believed to be a factor.

Trump proposed cutting foreign aid and the State Department’s budget. He wants to reduce the EPA’s workforce by 20 percent and defund the agency’s climate change and clean energy programs.

Last year, the Alaskan village of Newtok voted to relocate. Rising sea levels, raging storms and melting permafrost had made its existence tenuous. Rising sea levels and more intense storms threaten many of the world’s coastlines and coastal cities, including Portsmouth.

What does the Trump administration do? Speed the permitting of the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil to Midwestern refineries and order the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in the south.

Both measures will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The horrific condition of the nation’s air and water caused a public clamor that led to the creation of the EPA in 1970. Insidiously, the Trump administration wants to silence critics and prevent public outcry by controlling the information the public can see or not collecting it in the first place.

Trump issued a gag order barring EPA employees from releasing any data or studies to the public prior to their review by political appointees. Similar prohibitions were imposed on other agencies.

Gone from the White House website is any mention of climate change. Nationally, banks of researchers, data experts, computer code writers, librarians and other volunteers are working to archive as much of the agencies’ research and scientific data, paid for with public funds, as they can before it’s hidden or destroyed.

Trump’s war on the environment and information itself is under way. Republicans own that, too.



A nod and a wink:  Decoding academic text

Academic text is notoriously difficult to read.  It can even be difficult for fellow academics to make much out of it. That fact lay behind one of the few compliments I have ever received from a fellow academic.  Ken Rigby once said to me: "John, we don't always agree with you but at least we can understand what you are saying".

See what you can make out of the excerpt below from JAMA.  It is from an editorial about the effect of diet on health.

Did you get the idea that the editorial is rubbishing the whole idea that diet has any significant effect on health?  That IS what it is saying in a cautious academic way.  It even nominates the chief reason why the existing studies are inconclusive.  The mention is super-brief but it is there.  Its inclusion is so brief that it is only a nod and a wink to readers in the know.  The mention is:  "particularly socioeconomic factors".  That's pretty vague isn't it?  What does it mean?  Does it set off any alarm bells?

It is in fact put in such a away as to avoid setting of alarm bells. It is designed to avoid highlighting something that is HUGELY politically incorrect:  The fact that the poor tend to experience more illness and tend to die young.  Mentioning that fact out in the open is likely to cause huge eruptions about justice and the like from Leftists -- and the innocent messenger of truth can get shot for telling that truth.  Chris Brand, for instance, got fired from a tenured university teaching job for mentioning that not all pedophiles are equal.

So the fact glided over in this case is that social class is seldom mentioned in medical research, not because it is unimportant but because it is in fact hugely important.  It is not going too far to say that most apparent diet effects are in fact simply social class effects.  The current dietary craze about the evils of sugar, for instance, is based on research which ignores social class.  The poor drink more fizzy, sugary  drinks so any evidence that sugar is bad for you may really be just another demonstration that the poor have more health problems.  The research will be presented as an association between the drink and health while the real thing going on is an association between the drinker and health.

So what we have here is an elite conspiracy to cover up an unpleasant truth.  To hang a conspiracy on the single paragraph I have reproduced would of course be absurd.  What is not absurd is the fact that this is only one pebble on the beach:  The great majority of research papers on diet completely ignore social class.  The writers concerned will usually be well up on the social class tree but mentioning social class is odious to them.

And there is a huge price to pay for that embarrassment.  By ignoring the possibility that what looks like a diet effect is in fact a social class effect, the papers concerned are rendered moot.  They prove nothing and are no evidence for anything.  Vast tracts of the medical literature might as well not have been written.

And perhaps the saddest thing of all is that most medical researchers would be aware of possible class effects in their data.  Social class is one of the most powerful predictors of ill-health that there is.  Any time class IS measured it does reveal itself as an important associate of whatever type of ill-health is being studied.  So for the sake of political correctness, researchers do and report work that is meaningless.  By ignoring social class, they completely waste their time and efforts.  So what we see above is just a nod and a wink where there should be a major scandal.

I suppose we have to be be thankful that the truth is still out there -- as it is above -- for those who know how to read it.

A bit more on the politics of the matter:  The editorial by the JAMA editors excerpted above was in response to an article by Micha et al. which they published in the same issue of the journal.  The article is rubbish.  It is all based on "estimates" that take the existing poorly controlled literature as gospel.  But because what Micha et al. did was completely conventional, the editors apparently felt obliged to publish it.  They should have rejected it but to do so would have put them at odds with the whole racket that is the conventional narrative about diet and health.  So they opted to put their doubts in a cautious editorial only.

REFERENCE: Noel T. Mueller  et al. "Attributing Death to Diet: Precision Counts" JAMA. 2017;317(9):908-909. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0946


California bill gives carte blanche for Leftist-run agencies to take children from their parents

The report below by Tim Bolen may seem alarmist to anyone who has read the bill but its sheer vagueness is the problem with the bill.  It clearly does give the State a responsibility for ensuring all sorts of "rights" for children and we know how Leftist bureaucrats can interpret vague words to suit their own ends.

There have been many expressions of alarm from conservatives about the bill and Snopes had endeavoured to debunk the concerns.  All Snopes could find to say was that there was nothing specific in the bill, which we all knew anyway.

There is a detailed dissection of the bill here.  In summary, there is just way to much leeway in the bill for Leftist social workers to apply it in oppressive ways

Liberal Democrats have moved to the next step in their efforts to control all of humanity, cancelling the US Constitution in a program to create a one-world order – by attempting to take control of California children away from their parents.

The primary effort is called Senate Bill 18, falsely identified as a “Children’s Rights” bill.  It gives the State of California  unlimited, ultimate, authority over children.

The bill is so vague it assigns that same body the power to decide, day-by-day, about children’s Education, Healthcare, and Emotional well-being – an absolutely insane concept.  The Democrats are planning surprise “home inspections.”

The sponsor of the bill, so-called Common Sense Media, raises serious red flags with parents.  As BolenReport Author Karri Lewis questioned in an earlier article “Just WHO IS Sponsoring California State Senator Richard Pan’s Destruction of Parental Rights?”   What she asked was:

“Why on earth would Common Sense Media, a supposedly family friendly company, support the stealing of parental rights by the state of California via Senator Richard Pan?”

In another article Karri points out that Common Sense Media, on one of their web pages promotes, and supports, an organization called “kidzworld.”  The entire excerpt text from Karri’s article on this is printed at the bottom of this page.

Surprise home inspections, by progressive liberal activists, will have the power to take the children, immediately, to a Child Protective Services (CPS) facility should they find what they determine, in the moment, to be contrary to THEIR version of what a child should be exposed to.

As we know, liberal Democrats OFFICIALLY DESPISE family units made up of heterosexual couples and children.

A “Home Inspection” of  NORMAL people’s dwellings conducted by teams similar to those we see in their “demonstrations” would not be productive.

Liberal Democrats also despise the idea of a Judeo/Christian ethic and could be counted on, during a “Home Inspection” to be appalled to find that a man and woman couple slept in the same bed.  A gun in the house would send the inspectors into an eppilectic seizure. Signs of Christianity or Judaism on the walls would cause those inspectors to drool uncontrollably.

If inspectors found, for instance, that little boys’ rooms contained baseball equipment, swords, toy guns, and war game videos instead of dolls, tea sets, make-up, and booklets on sex change operations, the CPS process might well suddenly accelerate.



A men's fashion magazine reports on CPAC

Under the cheery heading: "It's the Golden Age of Climate Denial", "Esquire" has a long article that actually gives a fair bit of information about what climate skeptics are saying.  But they report it in a sneering tone.  They start out sneering about the claim that more CO2 is good for plants.  That claim seems to have really caught the attention of the writer

Later we also read about the claim, however:  "It's true as far as it goes, but it ignores the broader, complicated interactions that vegetation will face under a changing climate," said Jason Smerdon of Columbia's Earth Institute. "It ignores the fact that agriculture in the tropics, for instance, is much more sensitive to increased temperatures than to drought."

That is standard Warmist stuff but it is quite wrong.  Both plant and animal life thrives most in the tropics.  If ever you have lived there you would know. So a warm climate is good for plants, not bad.

Aside from goofishness like that, however, the article does quite a good job of covering skeptical thinking.  It describes such thinking in a disbelieving way but the information is there.  And there is no real refutation of skeptical claims either

On the Friday afternoon of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, inside the hulking Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, a pair of men besuited in various shades of olive and brown discussed how the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (which they granted were up 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution) had led to a phenomenon called "global greening." Plants need CO2 to grow, they told a captivated audience of a couple dozen people, and when there's more of it, they grow faster, larger, and—since they need less water—in drier areas.

CPAC has long been a place for the outlandish and the absurd to make its way from the ideological bayou to the mainstream. This year, multiple seminars made the case that Actually, More CO2 in the Atmosphere Is Good. Because of increased CO2 levels, "the Earth is in a far better place today," Craig Idso of CO2Science and the board of directors of the CO2 Coalition told his interviewer, James Delingpole of Breitbart, in a seminar sponsored by the coalition. Most of those assembled nodded vigorously. Later, they showcased a satellite map demonstrating the increased surface area of plant life in recent years.

Taken by itself, the greening argument is solid enough. In fact, it does not contradict the scientific consensus on climate change, which holds that higher carbon dioxide levels lead to warmer temperatures and, in turn, among other things, to melting sea ice and rising sea levels. Both can be true at once. Except the CO2 Coalition's shtick is effectively a red herring; these guys also don't believe in man-made climate change.

"Temperatures have not risen very much, and most of the temperature rise is probably completely natural, and has nothing to do with increasing CO2," William Happer, the coalition's president, told me over the phone. "Industrialization probably played a small role, but I think it's very hard to tell how much." This directly contradicts the scientific consensus. Happer is a former Princeton physics professor who co-founded the group in 2015. Before that, he chaired the George Marshall Institute—dissolved around the same time of the CO2 Coalition's founding—and developed a reputation as one of the nation's premier climate skeptics. (GMI did not advocate for the benefits of CO2—it simply disputed man-made climate change.) He even testified at a Ted Cruz-speared congressional hearing on climate "dogma" in December 2015.

This is a golden moment for the skeptic movement. Two weeks after CPAC, the Trump administration's new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box to explain his stance on climate change: "I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact," the former Oklahoma attorney general said. "So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." At his last gig, Pruitt initiated, signed onto, or filed briefs in 14 different lawsuits challenging the EPA's climate regulations. He once fielded a letter from one of Oklahoma's largest energy companies criticizing one of those regulations, which he tweaked a few words in, put his own letterhead on, and promptly sent to the EPA. Now he'll be in charge of regulating the environmental impact of the nation's energy companies.

So now that the fringe theorists are in charge, who is left for them to convince? "We're sleeping much better now," said Marc Morano, the executive director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Morano, a former aide to Senator James Inhofe—of snowball infamy—has for decades disputed the scientific consensus on climate change in various capacities. He denies that the Earth is warming, that we could know for sure humans are predominantly causing it, and that we could do anything about it even if we did. (It's important to cover your bases.) "We are grinning ear-to-ear, climate skeptics," Morano said. "We have a rational, scientific approach coming to Washington under the Trump administration."

Morano, who has a B.A. in political science from George Mason University, is more of a traditionalist climate skeptic: Happer's group takes a more proactive approach, but its message is still a distortion of the science.

"It's a misrepresentation of the basic fact that plants both on land and in the ocean need some CO2 to photosynthesize and grow," Robert Tripati, of UCLA's Institute of Environment and Sustainability, told me of "greening" via email. "Of course, these plants already have CO2, and scientists have developed lots of evidence that rapid accumulation of CO2 in both the atmosphere and ocean will generate a large number of negative effects that will be much more severe as a whole. The bad effects will outweigh the good."

"It's true as far as it goes, but it ignores the broader, complicated interactions that vegetation will face under a changing climate," said Jason Smerdon of Columbia's Earth Institute. "It ignores the fact that agriculture in the tropics, for instance, is much more sensitive to increased temperatures than to drought." He added that the insect pests that decimate some plant species also thrive in hotter conditions, when their larvae don't freeze in winter, citing the bark beetle infestation in the western United States. And then, of course, there's the fact that none of this addresses the other consequences of rising temperatures due to CO2, like rising sea levels.

At the CPAC seminar, that threat was dismissed out of hand. "Almost everything you read in the mainstream media, everything you learn in school, is wrong," said Idso, who has a PhD in geography from Arizona State. The mountains of peer-reviewed findings from hundreds of climate scientists from dozens of countries are just the product of "a multi-billion-dollar industry," they said gravely, funded by governments and groups like Greenpeace. At an earlier meeting sponsored by CO2Science—Idso was again in attendance—climate science was described as a "machine" that a "few small non-profits" like these are going up against.

Of course, some of the largest multinational corporations in the history of the world have spent decades disputing the effects of carbon dioxide production to protect vested interests.

ExxonMobil, for instance, first became aware of the threat in 1981, but spent 27 years funding denial of it. That climate science is the real big business, crushing the little guy whose work just happens to help the fossil fuel industry, is the kind of delusion that pervaded the seminars at CPAC, and that infects this movement generally.

In our conversations, both Happer and Morano said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who left his post as CEO of ExxonMobil to take the job, could be the biggest obstacle to their agenda in the White House. (That ExxonMobil has donated over half a million dollars to Morano's organization over the years doesn't seem to complicate things for him. Happer, whose organizations have also received funding from large fossil fuel companies and prominent conservative donor networks like the Bradley Foundation, described a "David and Goliath" scenario where the Sierra Club is Goliath.) Happer also identified ExxonMobil as an enemy of his movement. If you're keeping score at home, the former CEO of the world's fourth largest oil and gas corporation is now, in the estimation of some skeptics, the most prominent advocate for combatting climate change in the executive branch.

Back at the CPAC seminar, it was time to attack more recent findings that climate change leads to the acidification of our oceans. Idso and Delingpole ridiculed those as the left's latest excuse to keep funding climate research (something echoed by Morano, who characterized environmentalism as a series of trumped-up scare campaigns). Meanwhile, the seminar hosts spoke at length about the expanded range of Juniper trees and the use of CO2 in commercial greenhouses, in what amounts to just the newest iteration of a tried-and-true climate denial tactic: distraction and information deluge.

After all, these are already difficult concepts. If you can reroute the conversation, or bury them in enough information, most people will struggle to keep things in focus. The seminar was full of science-like objects, such as Idso's discussion of the "CO2 enrichment studies" his father conducted, that provided a veneer of authority. To bolster his argument that governments fund climate research to aggrandize their own power, he offered a deep observation:

"We are carbon-based life forms," he said knowingly, "If you control carbon, you control life."

"These are really simplistic, kind of awe-shucks arguments that just don't think through—or don't care to think through—all of the implications," says Smerdon, the researcher at Columbia, who says the new CO2-is-good routine may have sprung from new research that attempts to quantify the "CO2 fertilization effect" as part of climate change models. "Scientifically, you could have this discussion, but that isn't what these people are doing. They're grabbing one finding from the literature and presenting this hand-wavey argument that suits their ideological standpoint."

Nonetheless, this is their moment—whether they're in that camp, or whether they believe, as Morano claims, that climate science is manufactured as part of a U.N. conspiracy. From a more practical standpoint, Morano wants the Trump administration to overturn Obama-era executive orders like the Clean Power Plan, defund the United Nations climate panel, and to "Clexit" (or "climate exit") from the Paris Climate Accords. He also suggested, in glowing terms, that fellow traveler Happer may join the Trump administration as a "science czar." After that, Morano wants the president to "unleash" fracking, oil drilling, and coal production, the latter of which he somewhat agreed was no longer even competitive due to the rise of cheap natural gas.

Strange: a climate skeptic who isn't just interested in disputing the science, but who also openly advocates for more expansive use of fossil fuels, including economically inefficient ones. It's almost like these things are connected.

The crowd at CPAC, of course, was more than receptive. When it was time for questions, each audience member called on launched into not a question, or even a comment, but a diatribe. They were bursting to voice their frustration at the "climate alarmists" who were "indoctrinating" children in schools. They welcomed "greening" into their worldview like an old friend, but rarely referenced—much less inquired about—the specifics. This was new, valuable ammo in the fight against the academic scourge.

That's enough on its own, but CPAC is also now the right's premier forum for young people. One of the meetings was around 40 percent college-age or younger, and they were all soaking this up. As a seminar wrapped up, I went up to a young woman making her way out from one of the middle rows to see if all this was leaving a mark.

"I've never heard that argument before," said Sarah Olsen, a high school student from Bethesda, Maryland. "I took environmental sciences with a teacher who was very progressive, so I hadn't really heard a conservative idea about it. My first thought was that it doesn't necessarily disagree with it. It's not denying that it's happening. It's just a different, additional fact. Is CO2 good and bad? More good than bad? I feel like I want more evidence to strongly say one way or another."



Scientists alarmed after Great Barrier Reef is hit by a SECOND year of coral bleaching

Note that both the GBRMPA and AIMS below have NOT attributed the event to global warming.  Only ratbag outfits like Greenpeace and WWF have done that.  And there is a reason for that circumspection. Cape Grim tells us that CO2 levels have been plateaued on 401ppm since last July (midwinter)  So anything that has happened in the recent summer is NOT due to a rise in CO2.  And NASA/GISS tell us that the December global temperature anomaly is back to .79 -- exactly where it was in 2014 before the recent El Nino event that covered the second half of 2015 and most of 2016.  So there has been no global warming in the recent Southern summer and there was no CO2 rise to cause anything anywhere anyway.  The claim that this summer's bleaching was an effect of global warming is a complete crock for both reasons.  The data could not be clearer on that

Scientists in Australia have revealed unprecedented damage to the Great Barrier Reef, warning 'we are entering uncharted territory'.

Surveys have shown the coral reef is entering its second year of year bleaching for the first time.

Bleaching happens when algae that lives in the coral is expelled due to stress caused by extreme changes in temperatures, turning the coral white and putting it at risk of dying.

The first aerial survey of 2017 has found shocking levels of bleaching in the central part of the reef, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said.

Marine Park Authority director of reef recovery Dr David Wachenfeld said: 'Mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef for the second consecutive year.

'How this event unfolds will depend very much on local weather conditions over the next few weeks.'

He said not all bleached coral would die, and last year revealed bleaching and mortality could be highly variable across the vast marine park, a World Heritage Site which covers an area larger than Italy.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 mollusc species, and is the habitat of wildlife such as the dugong – sea cow – and the large green turtle.

Conditions on the reef are part of a global coral bleaching event over the past two years, as a result of unusually warm ocean temperatures due to climate change and a strong El Nino weather phenomenon which pushes temperatures up further.

Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), said the recurrence of widespread coral bleaching in back-to-back summers indicated there was not enough time since 2016's extreme heat event for the corals to fully recover.

'We are seeing a decrease in the stress tolerance of these corals,' he said. 'This is the first time the Great Barrier Reef has not had a few years between bleaching events to recover.

'Many coral species appear to be more susceptible to bleaching after more than 12 months of sustained above-average ocean temperatures. 'We are now entering uncharted territory.'

John Tanzer, from WWF International, said: 'What is unfolding before our very eyes is the starkest evidence that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the ocean.

'Coral reefs are a beloved natural wonder but less appreciated is that they also directly support the jobs, livelihoods and food supplies of many millions of people. What will happen to these people as large areas of coral die?'

He called for a major lift in action to bring down carbon emissions, and scaled efforts to reduce local pressures on reefs so they have the best chance of withstanding climate change.

Brett Monroe Garner, a conservation photographer and marine biologist documenting the bleaching with Greenpeace, said: 'I've been photographing this area of the reef for several years now and what we're seeing is unprecedented.

'Just a few months ago, these corals were full of colour and life. Now, everywhere you look is white. The corals aren't getting the chance to bounce back from last year's bleaching event. If this is the new normal, we're in trouble.'



Donald Trump's FDA plans makes sense

When getting a new drug past the regulators can cost up to a billion dollars, it's no wonder that drug costs are so high. The manufascturers have got a huge investment to recoup.  The probable Trump solution could cut costs drastically:  Have the FDA rule on safety only, with efficacy left up to doctors to decide on, based in part on their own experience.  Manufacturers will alway show what efficacy proof they have and manufacturers of rival drugs will always be quick to point to failures in efficacy trials of rival products.

The galoots below are so entrenched in their negativity that they say the new move will unleash dangerous drugs on to the market.  How so? Nobody is proposing to lower the standards of safety testing.  That should continue as before

Professor Rasko, with two international colleagues from Japan and Canada, has penned a comment article in the journal Nature published on Thursday calling for the US Food and Drug Administration to continue regulation of pharmaceuticals for both efficacy and safety.

In January, Mr Trump told pharmaceutical industry executives: "We're going to be cutting regulations at a level that nobody's seen before."

Professor Rasko, who is head of cell and molecular therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and affiliated with the University of Sydney, said: "The most extreme proponents of deregulation say the market should be the sole arbiter of utility: if a medicine sells well, then it must be safe and effective."

He told Fairfax Media: "If these sorts of changes go through, I can see a world in 10 years where the snake-oil salesman is back. It will all come down to marketing."

Mr Trump is vetting candidates for FDA commissioner. According to The New York Times, one candidate is Jim O'Neill, a former official at the US Health and Human Services Department.

At a conference on ageing in 2014, Mr O'Neill spoke in favour of "progressive approval" for drugs, which would see pharmaceuticals proved safe for use, but not shown to be effective for treatment.

Mr O'Neill said: "We should reform FDA so it is approving drugs after their sponsors have demonstrated safety. Then let people start using them at their own risk."

Professor Rasko has responded to what he regards as a global health threat. The authors say relaxing the FDA's regulatory system will subject patients to drugs that might be toxic.

Professor Terry Campbell, who is is head of the department of medicine at St Vincent's Hospital, said he was "inclined to agree with" the authors of the Nature article but noted "there is still a strong public health lobby in the US".

"Trials will still happen. Big cancer drugs won't be bought if they aren't proven effective."

Professor Campbell, who sat on the PBAC for 16 years to February this year, also said that even if the FDA changed its regulatory stance, "I can see no way that the Europeans would allow marketing without proving efficacy".

Professor Rasko in Nature argued that "unregulated markets are hopeless at sifting out futile drugs". "Witness the multibillion-dollar industries in homeopathy and other pseudo-medicines," the authors say.

Professor Rasko said: "Rigorous clinical studies are still the best way to learn whether a drug works and regulation is essential to ensure that these studies are conducted."



The origin of Genesis chapter 1

I have the greatest respect for Christians and I certainly don't like upsetting Christians but I am after all an atheist so sometimes I feel that I should treat the Bible in a purely scholarly way rather than as a source of religious truth.  It is an immensely important document so deserves all the scholarly examination it can get. And Genesis chapter 1 is one area where scholars find something very different from what Christians believe.  So I recommend at  this point that Christians read no further what I have to say here.

The need for Genesis chapter 1 arose from the fact that the ancient Israelites always used the Babylonian calendar, which divided the week into 7 days.  That calendar was so widespread from about 4,000 years ago that it would have been disruptive to use anything else.

So how did the Babylonian calendar arise?  It arose because the Babylonians were pretty keen astronomers, who closely observed the night sky.  And the big discovery they made was that most of the stars were fixed relative to one-another but five of them were not.  There were five "wandering" stars that kept moving around.  We know them as Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury and Venus.

We know that they are planets but the Babylonians had no inkling of that.  It seemed to them that entities that moved among the stars must be gods and you had better respect them accordingly.  But there were also two other bodies that moved about the sky:  The sun and the moon.

So some very holy Babylonian had the bright idea that each of these seven gods should be regularly worshipped in a seven day cycle, so that you kept all the Gods onside.  This was seen as a brilliant proposal in the ancient world and so we came to have a 7 day week. Each god got a bit of respect every 7 days.  And the sun was obviously the big chief so his day was especially holy.  And it still is.  Most people still go to church on Sunday.

But the Israelites were a rather rebellious and cantankerous people (as their own prophets often said) so they refused to have their main religious observations on Sunday.  They chose Saturday instead -- to differentiate themselves from all the sun-worshippers around them.  The pagans made Sun-day the first day of the week so the Israelites worshipped on the 7th day of the week.  That was also Saturn's day but too bad about that. And Jews still worship on Saturday

The apostle Paul however didn't want to keep his followers separate from the heathens all about them.  He wanted to attract heathens into his version of religious truth.  So having your ceremonies on a different day from everybody else was an embarrassment to recent converts to Christianity.  So Paul told the early Christians that what they did was more important than when they did it so you can have your celebrations on any day you like.  So Christians gratefully went back to Sunday as their holiest day.  It meant that they did not stick out so much from the pagans all around them.  So Christians have gone back to a form of Sun worship.

But the Jews never did.  But that left them with a problem.  They vigorously rejected Sun worship so how come they used the 7 day  pagan calendar that the sun worshippers did?  They had to find some way of explaining their use of the 7 day calendar that did not go back to the Babylonian gods.

And Genesis chapter one was the answer.  There was already a perfectly good creation story in Genesis.  In our Bibles it starts from Genesis 2:4.  And we know it is the original start of the Bible because it uses the divine name YHVH ("Yod He Vau He" in Hebrew) all the time, as does the rest of the Old Testament.  Hebrew originally had no vowels so the original pronunciation of YHVH is a matter of debate but "Yahveh" with the "H" pronounced as in the German "Ach Laut" or the "ch" in the Scottish "loch") is most probable.  Englishmen can't say that, however.  Modern English has lost all its gutturals.  So in English we say "Jehovah".

But tacked on in front of the original brief creation story we now have a much more elaborate creation story that tells us that  the creation unfolded in 7 "days" or time periods.  Voila!  We now have a Jewish explanation for the use of a 7 day calendar!   It was the creator himself who divided the days into a 7 day cycle.  It was now nothing to do with Babylonian sun worship.  Problem solved.  The Babylonian explanation for a 7 days calendar had never been challenged before, though.  Everybody thought it was obvious.  But now there was an exception.  The pesky Jews had another story.

So how do we know that Genesis chapter 1 was written as a late bit of Israelite propaganda? Easy.  Genesis chapter 1 does NOT use the divine name.  One would expect the creation story to be full of the name of the Hebrew god but it is in fact not to be found there.  Instead of YHVH we find "elohim",  which is just the  name for gods generally.  It is however the plural form of "god" so could naively be translated as "gods" (the singular is "Eloah", which is where Arabs get "Allah from).  But it is common to use plurals as respectful forms of a word or name.  The Queen of England, for instance, always refers to herself on formal occasions as "we".  So the chapter 1 authors substituted a respectful form of "god" instead of the divine name.

So why is that significant?  Because avoidance of the divine name is a bit of Jewish pietism that arose some time around the 3rd century B.C.  In order not to use the divine name in vain, Pharisees and their like thought it safest not to use the name at all.  So they didn't.  And that usage was well ingrained by the time of Christ.  So the New Testament does not mention YHVH.  It uses "ho theos" (the god) instead, which is how the ancient Greeks referred to the local god being worshipped.

So chapter 1 clearly was written after use of YHVH became impious.  It is later than the rest of the Bible, which routinely uses YHVH.  And to this day, most Bible translations do not use YHVH where it occurs.  The King James Bible uses "the LORD" (in all caps) where YHVH occurs in the original.

So if they were textual scholars, Christians could well argue that Genesis 1 is not really a part of the Bible.  It is just a bit of Jewish propaganda.  Since the creation story of Genesis 1 is often an embarrassment, that could be useful.

It is probable that the 7 day creation story was not entirely original when it was tacked on to the front of the Bible long after the rest of the Bible had been written.  Tacking something new on like that would have been resisted by the priestly guardians of the text.  That there was careful guardianship  of the text is suggested by the similarity of the text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea scrolls and the more modern Masoretic text (from about 800 AD).

So the 7 day creation story was likely a respected legend or oral tradition long before it was elaborated and written down for what we now know as Genesis chapter 1.

In support of that view is that we find the 7 day creation story stressed in the Exodus 20 version of the ten Commandments.  Exodus is undoubtedly canonical and uses YHVH quite a lot.  But could the mention in Exodus be an interpolation?  Could it too have been added in later?

Alas!  That is all too probable.  The version of the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 does NOT contain mention of a 7 day creation.  It commands a 7th day Sabbath only.  That is also true of the "expanded" version of the Commandments in Exodus 34 (See verse 21).

So there is no doubt that the 7 day creation story was added on long after the rest of the Old Testament was written.