Thursday, September 15, 2016

Deniers against nature at WUWT with Andy May

Sou | 4:41 AM Go to the first of 16 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts has posted a puff piece at WUWT (archived here). In it Andy May says how he wants a world without nature, or at least that's the subtext. What puzzles me is what on earth is it that deniers find so enticing about ridding the world of the abundance of amazing, wondrous flora and fauna? What is it that makes people so irate about having to share the planet with other species?

Andy May likes science fiction. He wrote about how fiction writer Michael Crichton was 'a wonderful writer'. Yes, he could write a compelling yarn, but why Andy prefers Crichton pseudo-science to real science remains a mystery. I guess that the only thing deniers have on their "side" is fiction.

Andy then went on about how "Environmentalists are horrible at predictions".  What about all the wrong predictions about ice ages comething that deniers have come up with?

It gets worse. Andy wrote how "millions haven’t starved due to overpopulation", and linked to an article on Bloomberg. He can't have read the article. It was about Paul Ehrlich's book the Population Bomb. The Bloomberg author, Justin Fox, wrote how he read the book in a couple of hours (it's not a long book), and said in part:
...I have to say it surprised me.

First of all, half of Ehrlich’s prediction came true. He forecast in the book that global population, about 3.5 billion at the time, would double by 2005. He was only six years off on that -- world population hit 7 billion in 2011 -- which I figure counts as getting it right.

What Ehrlich famously got wrong was the planet’s carrying capacity. Sure, global population doubled. But thanks to the Green Revolution, per-acre grain yields went up much faster than that. The inflection point in global agricultural productivity, in fact, came just as Ehrlich was finishing his book.

Here’s the interesting thing, though -- Ehrlich was well aware that this was a possibility. New rice, wheat and corn varieties, he wrote in 1968, “have the potential for at least doubling yields under proper growing conditions.” They were, he concluded, the world’s best shot at averting mass famine. But while he was “hopeful” about the prospects for an “agricultural revolution,” there were all kinds of things that could go wrong, so he didn’t think anybody should bank on it.

That's right. Justin Fox pointed out that not only were half of his predictions correct, but Paul Erlich anticipated that advances may stop some of what he feared from happening.  Thing is, without the warnings one has to ask whether there would have been sufficient attention to improving yields. Quite possibly not.

There's a lot more, but I'll just mention one thing. Many climate science deniers are staunchly against protection of natural resources and anything nature. Many also favour the use of harmful chemicals. Andy is no exception. He hasn't quite gone to the extent of drinking DDT but he does love it a lot more than he likes raptors. He is not the least bit skeptical of Michael Crichton's false claim that DDT doesn't harm them. He embraces that notion. He should take a leaf out of the book of Dr. Ana María Rodríguez, who describes how she investigated claims such as this. Her work is provided as a homework exercise. She described three steps when you find a claim:
  1. Go to the original source
  2. Find out where it was published
  3. Talk to the experts.
You can read the details and the outcome for yourself.

As I said at the start, climate science deniers at times seem to not only want to "bring on" the end of civilisation as we know it, they want to kill off all the plants, birds and animals as well.

From the WUWT comments

I'll just post this one comment, because I think it has a lot of truth to it, if only BernardP would realise why as he says "Skeptics are ignored or ridiculed, left to talk amongst themselves in their little sandbox.":
September 14, 2016 at 5:54 am
In fact, more than luck is needed. The Warmists are holding all the levers of power. The mainstream media keeps playing the AGW scare. New measures to fight Climate Change are continually being enacted. Skeptics are ignored or ridiculed, left to talk amongst themselves in their little sandbox.

When trying to discuss a skeptical point of view of climate change with friends and relatives, I am almost always dismissed : “It’s so obvious that man-made-climate-change is happening… I saw it on the news, I read it in the paper, I saw it on in internet…”

People don’t want to make the effort of looking for, and evaluating, contrarian point of views. They want the truth fed to them… like a religion.

More fundamentally, similarly to religion, too many people ***want*** to believe in man-made-climate-change. Believing gives them a convenient frame of reference to judge good and bad.

Perhaps if Bernard P would do what  Dr. Ana María Rodríguez did, he wouldn't find himself "almost always dismissed".

References and further reading

Why 'The Population Bomb' Bombed - article by Justin Fox on Bloomberg, about The Population Bomb by Paul Erlich

USGS Data Exploration Unit: Lesson 1 Homework – Identifying Bias: DDT and Bald Eagles - a homework exercise on how to research claims about science

Top photo credit: AWWE83


  1. Let's not be too harsh on science fiction. As a fantasy and science fiction writer myself, I love the stuff.

    In addition to the functions of all literature (escape from the daily grind, avenues to expand one's outlook, ways for the language to row, and so on), it also can provide important social commentary and cautionary tales and moral fables of the importance of Aesop's tales.

    SF is also is a source of ideas for innovators: look at all the tech on Star Trek (communicators/cell phones is but the the most obvious example) that have become commonplace.

    Having said that, confusing any novel for reality is a serious mistake. Even historical novels and biographies are, at best, approximations of reality.

    SF has explored worlds without ecologies, planets that have been converted to world-sized cities. These aren't meant to be taken as recommendations, and few are depicted as utopias. Most are written with no concern for, or understanding of, what it would take to maintain a functional environment. Even a breathable atmosphere requires a panoply of living things--or incredible (read: literally unbelievable) technology.

    Anyone advocating a contempt for nature is advocating species suicide.

    1. DC, I'm a big fan of science fiction. I started with the staples - Isaac Asimov etc. Then I discovered Ursula Le Guin, who at the time was starting to make a name for herself - and many more terrific writers.

      I think the point is that deniers don't have the ability to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to climate change. And their mental models / world views push them toward fiction despite the obvious facts.

    2. Sou, I kinda figured you were an SF fan :)

      My comments were more to help draw the contrast between valuing the genre and mistaking reality for one's own fantasies. Both are important, but they're not same. It's possible (indeed, I think it is vital) to value both.

      Inability to recognize the difference, however, is one of the roots of denialism.

  2. There are too many corpses floating in the Mediterranean for denial of a population crisis to be forgivable.

  3. Thank you for the link to Dr Ana Rodriguez : I had no idea there are now 6000 breeding pairs of Bald Eagle. A cheering ray of good news in the general gloom.

    1. Here out east, they've become a thing that you see once in a while when you're out hiking, rather than a mythical beast.

    2. They are fairly common in parts of Eastern Ontario. One does not really pay them lot of attention unless they are actually taking a fish.

      Quite a change from 30 years ago.

  4. An encouraging sign in the comments at WUWT is that many of the short-sighted moral imbeciles posting there lament that people aren't listening to them and that the environmental movement is too powerful to stop.

    Better late than never.

  5. Something that few seem to be aware of, the carrying capacity of the planet - Thermodynamic Considerations in
    Determining World Carrying Capacity

    Depending on what standard of living you're willing to accept, the carrying capacity was estimated at 770 million to 3.8 billion (the low number represents world population living like a U.S. citizen, the high number represents near zero energy consumption at all). We are very obviously in severe overshoot.

    This paper does include other critical factors like habitat, food production and so forth. There are many other papers and studies that portray dire numbers for global population. Only by massively over-exploiting the world's remaining resources have we "acheived" the horrible conditions we have today, but it cannot possibly last much longer. There are already several critical reports depicting global starvation looms just ahead. The coming die-off will be quite severe and ugly.

    Don't expect complete morons to ever accept science or facts as a guide for their bias and opinions which are based upon multiple false assumptions and conjecture. Their hatred of science and knowledge is legendary. Quite simply, they prefer stupid and superstition to guide their opinions. This is why I oft use the term stupidstitions. They're simply not interested in anything that would persuade them to use intelligence.

    Nature and the natural world is something to be eliminated in their minds, with humans taking preeminence over everything else. This disconnect from reality and what really supports the web of life that we require for our very existence and survival is astounding. It is based in a lack of knowledge, education and indifference with heavy doses of religious stupidstitions liberally applied (daily it seems).

    We would have done well to outlaw this sort of idiocy long ago and to punish institutionalized ignorance as a crime against humanity. Start with the churches.

    Don't hold out any hope for the species to finally eradicate itself from ignorance because it won't. The situation is already beyond critical now and we will all experience the impacts of our stupendous crash soon.

    1. The article you cite is hilarious. Word salad with occasional lucid moments. Why do you expect it to come to any reasonable conclusion?

  6. I forgot to mention that another author of online screeds that supports DDT is Devvy Kidd, who Michael Crichton may follow (unknown). She too claims that DDT is "harmless". I shared the reports, studies and analysis with her years ago and she flatly denied them all while having no credible response to the published data.

    Despite having a near-global ban, DDT is a truly horrible carcinogenic that should have never been used. And despite widely published information related to it's harmful effects, there are still ignorant people who will deny the facts. Crichton as a fiction writer, apparently prefers his fiction.

    Ignorance isn't bliss. In many cases, it's quite deadly - especially with their ignorance becomes widespread.

    1. Crichton died 8 years ago, so likely isn't following many blogs.

    2. Why would you even want to communicate with Devvy Kidd? She's also a birther and truther. Heck, she's an anti-vaxxer and climate pseudoskeptic, too. Crank magnetism's prime example.

    3. I communicated with Kidd years ago (10 or so). Since then I've come across additional articles where she continues to support DDT in her rants against the EPA. She's been publishing a long time.

      We have to communicate with the idiots, at least from time to time. It's certainly better then letting them take over the conversation.

  7. So a couple of years ago - when PM Abbott pushed for destruction of the Barrier Reef - I termed this phenomenon the Ideology of Plunder. It is actually an ideology and it is actually, explicitly, about destroying nature. Another example is Koch trying to buy up US nature reserves in order to destroy them.

  8. Go to the original source
    One of the things I have learned from reading secondary sources on historical cooking is that you should never trust a secondary source that does not include the primary, since you have no way of knowing what liberties the author may have taken in his “interpretation” of the recipe. David Friedman http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf


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