Month: July 2012

Oh, the horror! Climate denial meets conspiracy theory

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Last November I wrote a piece on the successful passage of the carbon price legislation through the senate here in Australia. That particular piece of legislation has caused howls of protest amongst the deluded, the dishonest and the easily-led. The sky was going to fall in.

Well, true to all predictions of those with any common sense, the carbon price has come in, and guess what? Barely a ripple. Apart from a few unscrupulous traders trying to jack their prices up and blame the carbon tax, it’s been all quiet (well done ACCC on naming and shaming those businesses). Alas, the nay-sayers continue to bleat – reminiscent of the two old hecklers in the Muppet Show.

In that article, I also referred to one Richard Muller, a sceptical climate scientist, who had changed his mind and now believed in man-made climate change, since confirming a 1.5C rise in average global temperatures since the 50′s.

Well, Muller has continued his work, and has done a bigger, better study which has not only confirmed his earlier findings, but he has now concluded that the predicted temperature rises will be more than those predicted by the IPCC report. Key quotes from this article are:

Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Professor Muller wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged 14.4 million land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous datasets created by NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Britain’s Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit had gone back only to the mid-1800s and used five times fewer weather station records.

Needless to say, confirmed denialists continue to nit-pick and try to find flaws in the work. But they’re just body-surfing in tidal wave of science. They will grasp any flimsy argument to bolster their ideology – their certainty that they’re right. What they don’t seem to realise is that it is not a battle of ideologies. It is not a philosophical discussion. The findings from the science are not an ideological outcome – they are simply a reflection of reality, to the extent that we can describe it.

This trenchant refusal to budge is emphasised in this article which quotes some sceptic as saying:

“I’m not convinced that he [Muller] was ever a sceptic although, of people I respect, there is a couple who do have a decent opinion of him”

While giving Muller some grudging support, it seems they want to disown him now. Funny about that. It’s a lot like the christian community wanting to disown Anders Breivik – “he was never a real christian”. How convenient.

However, what’s new in this second article is reference to the ‘Galileo Movement‘. This tawdry little group is basically a right-wing ‘axe-the-tax’ mob, featuring all the usual suspects, most of whom I’ve had a crack at on this blog over the journey – for example, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Monckton (I refuse to call him a Lord), Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, Jennifer Marohasy so on and so forth. And I must say I object to them appropriating the name Galileo for their slimy purposes. Yes, yes, I know he was persecuted for his views. But there are 2 key differences between the big G and this little kindergarten playgroup. Firstly, Galileo was doing SCIENCE and was sticking up for the facts (“and yet, it moves”). Secondly, these fools are not persecuted in any sense. Ridiculed, yes, persecuted, no. It is they who accuse scientists of being dishonest. In fact, if we are drawing parallels, this movement is much closer to the Catholic Church of the time – driven by ideology, and unwilling to be persuaded that their beliefs may be false – choosing to remain ignorant of the fact that the earth does move around the sun. The irony in that choice of name is therefore obvious.

Just going to the main page of this site is instructive – front and centre is ‘Beat the Deceit’. Yes, they’re still bleating about the manner in which the carbon price was introduced. They go on to deploy every trick in the book to denigrate the science and pump up their ideology. These are the truly deluded; blinded by their ideology in a big way.

However the biggest surprise (or maybe not) was at the end of that article which quoted a Malcolm Roberts, the manager of the movement as saying:

” .. climate change science had been captured by “some of the major banking families in the world” who form a “tight-knit cabal”.

Mr Roberts said he understood that the group’s views might sound strange, but claimed they were increasingly popular. “It does sound outlandish,” he said. “I, like you, was reluctant to believe it [but] there are significant things going on in Australia that people are waking up to”.

So what do we have here? Oh boy! It’s the New World Order conspiracy! Is that what these people are waiting for?

Although I’ve not written too much about it, I’m aware of this sub-genus of nutters who believe that a new world order is coming, as a group of powerful bankers (led by the Rothschild family) and the ‘Illuminati‘ take over the world, for some purpose. It seems the Galileo Movement is a member of this species, at least according to its manager.

Apart from the obvious nuttiness in maintaining this position, the hypocrisy is breathtaking. Here is a bunch of right-wing mouthpieces, who will yell from the roof tops about making government smaller, and allowing big business to do its thing, and yet, if a big banking enterprise is trying to get bigger (for the good of employment and prosperity of the little guy of course), they suddenly accuse it of all sorts of nefarious purposes. I say, all power to the Illuminati if it supports continued economic growth, right?

But seriously, how typical is this whole scene? To use a mathematical expression:

RW = f (immovable ideology, religion, denialism, economic rationalism, conspiracy, …).

What this means is that right-wing is usually a function of immovable ideology, religion, denialism and so forth.

We see it time and again, and I suspect it is just human nature. Perhaps we should round them all up and put them in prison camps. That way, they would have a real conspiracy and tangible persecution to talk about, rather than a manufactured enemy.


Mars, he we come – again.

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In a couple of weeks we’lll see yet another step in mankind’s quest to conquer space – a rover mission to Mars, called Curiosity. I’ve followed these Mars missions with interest since having a go at designing a Mars rover back in university. Actually, when I say ‘design’, it was more a list of engineering problems which would need to be solved to make the thing work at all. Chief amongst these problems is the computing power to keep the craft safe as it rolls around, given that the 8 minute round trip for radio signals to Mars would be too long to allow remote control from Earth. Now, some 3 decades since university, we have all the computing power we need.

Whilst we’ve had several rovers already, this one is different in two key ways. Firstly, it’s much bigger than previous rovers, about the size and weight of a family car. This means it will be able to do all sorts of great science that previous rovers couldn’t. This also means however that landing the thing is problematic. Previous rovers have used different techniques such as parachutes and bouncing down in a clutch of balloons.

That’s where the second difference comes in. This craft has a much more elaborate landing sequence which is not only designed to lower this large mass to the ground safely, but also provides much greater accuracy in landing spots.

This video nicely shows the sequence involved in the landing – if it works, it’s a triumph of a number of fields of engineering – computing, aeronautics, propulsion and so on. The whole landing sequence will take about 7 minutes, and NASA’s project people have dubbed this period ‘7 minutes of terror’, as they wait to see if it all worked.


Thought for the week

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When asked for picture ID at the airport, never offer up a police sketch.

– George Hrab

More juvenile nonsense from the anti-vaccination crowd

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Just to underline how irrational and desperate the anti-vaccination lobby is, here’s a simple graph presented by one of their star speakers (Dr. Julian Whitaker) at a recent debate, as reported in great detail by Orac. The debate was part of ‘FreedomFest‘, which presumably means ‘freedom from reality’, judging by the topics under discussion.

This graph was presented in an attempt to show how the rate of autism was increasing as a result of the intrusion of big pharma in pushing vaccinations onto our children.

Take a look at it. If you’ve done high-school maths (early high school at that), you’ll see how absurd it is, especially as it was presented by someone with a Dr. in their name.

For a start, take a look at the data at 2012. There is nothing in the data for preceding years which would suggest the succeeding years growing at the exponential rate shown. This is sheer fabrication.

The graph also tells us that by around 2030-40, ALL children born will be autistic.

In fact, but the time 100% of girls are being born autistic, about 110% of boys will be born autistic. That’s some achievement, even for big pharma!

The general population curve just doesn’t make sense. Presumable, it’s just the sum of male and female births, but the curve doesn’t seem to work that way. Maybe he’s included some other lifeforms in the general population, but it’s hard to say.

Anyway, simple story, but just another example of the tactics employed by this crowd. Like so many denialists, it’s the FUD tactic – sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt, instead of presenting real facts.


What do you do after a Last Supper?

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I bet they always let him win, too…

The low-down on the New World Order

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Now that I have a man on the inside, it’s only fair that I share the information I have on the impending New World Order.

But please keep this information to the immediate rationalbrain family, lest we cause panic in the wider community.

Here it is from the gift-horse’s mouth (but beware not to look within):

A major false flag terrorist incident or fake/real alien invasion will occur in the UK during/very soon after the Olympic games in August. The financial collapse has already begun, the next stage is in October in the US. When the Euro collapses you have about 3 weeks until the dollar goes.

“We” are a huge threat, as is shown by the numerous murders of high profile whistleblowers. But the elite have controlled sheeples minds through education and the media to react with scorn and ridicule at this information ensuring the masses maintain their ignorance, however more and more people are recognising the truth, and the true enemy, thanks to the free media, but new measures are coming in to attempt the censorship of the internet, to stamp out true opposition to the banking takeover.

They have re-education FEMA camps prepared in the US, to train the public on a future without a constitution or bill of rights, as outlined in this leaked army document from a few weeks ago ago

If it was a dream there would not be a history going back over a century of high profile individuals warning/boasting about the new world order. But as I say you have been trained to mock this info or just to say “it doesn’t exist”, by mainstream media propaganda.

I’m not really sure how to prepare, so I’ve put that question to ‘my man’. I’ll update you as soon as I have any practical advice.

In the meantime, enjoy the Olympics – it seems it will be the last.

Actually, if the NWO doesn’t sound the death-knell for the Olympics, then the introduction of synchronised trampolining will certainly do so.

Autism and the conspiracy of the New World Order

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A little while back I wrote a piece on the treatment of autism with ABA – a piece I was sure would provoke an outburst of criticism from the anti-vaccination crowd, and hence not done lightly.

And indeed, it has had plenty of comments, but certainly not from the quarters I expected.

In the case of one correspondent ‘Phil’, what started out some vaccination-denial and Wakefield-o-philia, has taken a really strange twist. From vaccination-denial, it’s a short hop to the mega-influence of ‘Big Pharma’, and then somehow we segue into the conspiracy for the establishment of a ‘new world order’. Wow, didn’t see that coming.

What follows is a wordy exchange between us (read all the comments under the link above), in which he tries desperately to convince me that the UN, major world leaders and millions of others are positioning themselves to subjugate the rest of us. You may have heard of the ‘illuminati‘ – well, they’re behind it apparently.

His comments are choc-full of those good logical fallacies, along with the usual charges that I’m narrow-minded, have my head in the sand, stuck in a pigeon-hole, arrogant, and so forth, but all I’ve done is demand the evidence before I would subscribe to his belief. And what does he provide as evidence? Lengthy rants, wikipedia definitions, and youtube videos, none of which constitute evidence.

And as I put it to him, if this organisation is so all-pervasive and powerful, how is it that you know and are alive to tell others?

His most recent missive has turned somewhat nasty – here is the final paragraph:

You have been trained to be arrogant and defend the status quo. You are ignorant of the fact that you are in receipt of less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum, yet you claim to describe reality from this perspective and as a sceptic are committed to denying the existence of anything outside this limited perspective. This is why you are in box, your box has been made for you by your education and media, but you don’t know that you are a slave. I know this because I used to be in it as well. You must consider all reality, all perspective, and not allow others to describe your world view. The film the Matrix is nearly real. I discovered that the world was controlled by evil people, you must recognise this for yourself, through research while you have access to the net (they are clamping down on it right now) if you don’t, you are screwed and you will fall for their propaganda, and will gladly be injected with their next hyped vaccine program, which is equivalent to Stalin’s people walking peacefully in line to be shot in the head. You have a few months left.

So it sounds like we might not make Christmas this year.

On the other hand, I’m betting it will come and go like most others, and he’ll find a way to rationalise why it hasn’t happened yet. They always do.

In any case, I was reminded of an excellent episode of the Skeptoid podcast by Brian Dunning, a series which examines a whole host of beliefs in the popular culture. In this episode he has researched the area of conspiracy theories, and describes them as:

“…a competition between two forces in our head. One is the native, instinctive impulse to see everything as a threat, and the other is our rational, conscious thought that takes that input and judges it.”

I guess Phil and I represent each of those two forces.

Brian goes on to describe some classic examples around us, such as:

David Icke is a British conspiracy theorist best known for his claim that most world leaders are actually reptilian aliens wearing electronic disguises. When you pause a video, he points to the compression artifacting and asserts that it’s a glitch in the electronic disguise. However, he’s out in the world, he tours, he writes books, he has a family and is a member of his community. He’s not locked in an asylum as we might expect from hearing his theory. The reason is that he’s probably not mentally ill at all. His brain is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. He sees a group of powerful men, and the instinctive part of his brain suggests a sinister purpose. Imagine yourself seeing the ministers of the G8, or some similar collection. A thought passes through all of our minds, something like this: “I bet they all know something I don’t know. I’d love to hear what they were talking about. They’re up to something.” That’s the same thing David Icke thinks. It’s exactly what our brains evolved to do. Our brains all want to go there.

And then the intellect receives this warning, and analyzes it, based on its knowledge. We all have different knowledge built from different experiences. One who has had negative experiences with authority is likely to gauge this situation differently than one who has not. David Icke probably has some past experience that makes his intellect properly — if incorrectly — assign more credence to the threat than is necessary; overtly so, in his particular case. Most of the rest of us have rarely seen a news story where a secret collusion among world leaders was discovered, so our intellectual understanding of the world has good reason to reject this particular instinctive threat as being improbable. Thus we conclude that it’s probably just a group of businesspeople doing what they have to do. We all fall somewhere along that spectrum, and all perspectives are the result of our brains properly doing their job.

Obviously, the intensity of the conspiracy feeling varies in a continuous spectrum, and there comes a point where it is destructive to the afflicted and those around them. As Brian puts it:

A person who thinks Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake is not ill, but a person who obsesses over it to the point of driving away their friends and family could well be …. Such people could benefit from treatment, usually a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy. However, as we’ve discussed before on Skeptoid, getting them to agree to treatment at all is often the primary barrier. They believe their delusion is real. They will present their evidence to prove it until the cows come home. It’s often impossible to get them to consider the possibility that the reality of what they perceive might be due, in any degree, to psychopathology.

But moving back towards the centre of the spectrum again, Brian does point out that ‘ordinary’ conspiracy theorists are typically ‘intelligent, sane, and generally rational’, and do not appear too different in other respects.

I accept that we all have some innate need to see conspiracies – it seems to be another evolutionary trait in humans. And I’m certainly not immune. The umpires are always out to ensure that my football team loses. God likes to make sure it’s raining whenever I plan a barbeque.

But when I stop to think about it, I conclude that it’s probably irrational. I don’t believe in god, and even if he/she existed, why would he/she bother? While the umpires could technically disadvantage my team intentionally, I realise it’s a far-fetched explanation for what really is poor team performance.

On the other hand, unless he’s pulling my leg, Phil has no such reservations about his particular conspiracy theory.

Yikes, between the illuminati, the Mayan calendar, and End of Days prophecies, what a miserable life some people like to lead.