Thursday, February 21, 2008

There's clever and then there's clever

Wife and I stood outside our place last night watching the lunar eclipse pass through totality. Spent a few critical minutes going 'wow' and suchlike as the smoky red disc darkened. I've only ever seen two full lunar eclipses before, and all of them have been different. The first I ever saw was almost totally obscured with only a faint red disc. Same for the second. This time the disc looked like it was heavily obscured by a red smog. Even through my fairly low powered 7 x 35mm binoculars there was little observable difference, although of course the moons disc appeared larger, and strangely more three dimensional.

Minor aggravation with a 20 year old piece of NHS dentistry which chose last night to fail, but it isn't painful. Unfortunately I may have to lose a tooth. A Dentists bill for CDN$2000 on a possible root canal and new crown is a bit too steep for me at present. As matters stand I'll still have to spend CDN$200 on an extraction and maybe a couple of fillings. Shame, and I didn't think there was a problem. Just goes to show how wong you can be.

Picked up on a news story from earlier this month that a chap called David Suzuki had made a rather ill advised public statement which gave right wing bloggers a field day. He indicated that political leaders who denied that there was a real problem with Anthropogenic Global Warming should be arrested and jailed.

I have no doubt that Mr Suzuki is a reknowned and brilliant man in his field, which happens to be genetics, yet I feel that he might be being stupid in a way that only very clever people can be. Jailing politicians for 'ignoring the science' is one of those exhortations which rather devalue any arguments he might put forward. Jailing people, even politicians, for their point of view has been tried by a number of regimes for centuries. The problem is that their ideas always leak out. You can't jail ideas. The only real way to deal with false ideologies if to hold them, kicking and squealing, up for careful examination. For mockery even. Ideas can be suppressed, but never judicially eliminated without genocide, and even then without too much success.

Mr Suzuki's problem here is twofold; firstly a lot of the AGW arguments are being disputed in open forums at quite a high level. Gores assertion that higher atmospheric CO2 causes a warming effect when observations indicate that higher levels of CO2 are actually a result of an increase in global temperature. In England, even a high court judge pointed out nine areas of inconsistency in Gore's film, 'an inconvenient truth' which was being pedalled as factual in UK educational establishments. Secondly, he appears so convinced that his arguments are infallible that he is contravening one of the fundamental scientific errors; that of logically and consistently applied doubt.

What with the snow all over the place including Greece, perhaps the AGW crowd might concede that while the climate changes, there isn't a lot we as a species can do about it.

On the other hand, there is stuff we can do about pollution, which is a problem. There is stuff we can do about overfishing, which is also a problem. We can improve international shipping standards so that old and dangerous ships are not run until they sink, leaving oil slicks which do poison wildlife and harm the ecosystems. We could rigidly enforce 'No commercial fishing' zones to let fish stocks recover. We could reduce our use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and so help to prevent algal blooms, which have a number of deleterious effects. There are things we can do to make this world a better and cleaner place, and although Jailing politicians sounds like a good idea, we should be doing it for the right reasons, like when they get caught with their greasy little hands in the public purse.