Friday, 23 November 2007

Global warming for the politically uncorrect.

The discussion about global warming has become more and more heated with this year's Nobel Prize going to IPCC (for scientific achievements) and to Al Gore (for marketing). But even decided supporters of `action now' are getting pissed with the overwhelming propaganda, depicting England as a small scattered archipelago after a 60 METER (instead of centimeters) increases in sea level in our lifetimes and other comparable idiocies.

Yes, I know that the IPCC reports are difficult to read in their entirety. But they are at least worth leafing through. Estimates, analyses and predictions are much more sober. Go to the source, whenever you can. Journalists and commentators (including myself) are not reliable sources.

But there is one thing that I found missing in the IPCC report. The clear indication of the cause of the human induced component to the global warming. Yes, I do believe that there is such a component. I also believe that there are huge natural forces components. And in the past these have been much stronger than what we predict for the next 100 years. During the recent glaciation (only 25-20 thousand years ago) the sea level was 80 meters lower!

What I found missing is a very simple comparison, between the factors considered to measure the global warming (such as the concentration of CO2) and ... human population. The correlation is clearly visible.

(greenhouse gases, 18 000BC to present day, from IPCC WEB site)

(human population, 10 000 BC to present day, WIKIPEDIA)

But what is my point? That out of political correctness the IPCC report does not make a simple statement (at least I did not find it): human induced global warming factors are directly resulting from the explosive growth of human population. Not something that we do wrong, in trying to live thin the best conditions that we can, driving cars and using electricity, and eating and heating our houses. Simply by being too numerous. The difference between the per capita emission of CO2 in US and in India is a factor of 10. This is huge, I admit. But the growth of the population in the last 10 000 years was by a factor of 1000 - three orders of magnitude. Moreover, the overpopulation resulted in humans filling every continent, every niche, every environment, and turning them to our own purposes. I am deeply worried that by omitting this simple correlation, by concentrating on cars, and devices left on standby as ways to reduce our `carbon footprint' we are only fooling ourselves. It would but allow the population to grow more. There are simply too many humans.

I am reminded of the little speech of Agent Smith in the Matrix (should he get a Nobel Prize too?):
I'd like to share a revelation I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to another area, and you multiply, and you multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Update of the Country of Blindfolded

I have posted a new version of the book for download. All comments more than welcome. it is closer to the finish line, but still a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Political uncorrectness revisited

In a recent New Scientist issue, Robert I Sternberg, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology at Tufts University defends the attacks on James Watson. The opening statement of his comment is
RECEIVING the Nobel prize does not necessarily stop great scientists making foolish statements. William Shockley won a Nobel for his work on transistors, but nevertheless managed to spend the latter years of his career making racist comments and even writing about the mental inferiority of black Africans.
Last week, James Watson, co-recipient of a Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, made blatantly racist comments regarding the supposed mental inferiority of black Africans. The response has been swift. His comments were widely condemned and he was suspended from his post at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Unlike Shockley, Watson later apologised for his remarks.
But what of the research in this area? Does the condemnation of Watson's words stem from solid science or from political correctness?

The goal of the comment is, I guess, not just another attack on Watson. It is to show that
The problems with our understanding of intelligence and race show that the criticism being levelled at Watson is based on science rather than political correctness.

The two arguments used are our problems with race as a socially constructed concept, not a biological one. It derives from people's desire to classify. The second argument is our poor understanding of intelligence. Thus talking about racial differences in intelligence is doubly suspect, and thus unscientific.

But let me compare this with the statement of Watson and then apply a bit of logic (still, I guess, a part of science). The offensive statement of Watson, as far as i was able to track it, was:
I am inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.

Now, even professor Sternberg admits in his comment that there are differences in measured values of mental capabilities between various `groups'
The tests as they stand show some differences between various groups of children. The size of the differences and what groups do best in the tests depend on what is tested. For example, with various collaborators I have found that analytical tests of the kind traditionally used to measure so-called general abilities tend to favour Americans of European and Asian origin, while tests of creative and practical thinking show quite different patterns. On a test of oral storytelling, for example, Native Americans outperform other groups.

So there are differences. Whether the concept of race is well defined or poorly is beside the point - there is quite a lot to discuss on the subject. But to be able to absorb science based solutions to the problems of great social importance requires exactly such analytical capabilities, which even Sternberg admits might be real.

But let's assume, contrary to the cited findings, that there are no genetic differences in analytical intelligence between `groups of different origin'. That it is all due to upbringing and education. Certainly this component of the differences would be of great importance when we compare the US and African societies. But does it change the message of Watson even by an iota? Shouldn't we reconsider our social policies? After all, we do adjust the way we present things to different people on a daily basis, the best universally accepted example being the gradual way science is introduced in schools. And there are no cries of horror that we treat seven year olds as having different analytical capabilities than university students. No accusations of `childism'.

So, even if all the difference is intelligence shown by inhabitants of Africa are due to environment, is it not even a stronger reason to adjust our social policies? In most places all the schooling their kids receive is practical thinking and oral storytelling: tribal tradition (including the inter tribal violence) and handling a Kalashnikov. This certainly does not help in understanding, for example, the complex issues of environment protection and economic growth in harmony with Nature. Yet, even in the countries where situation is better and real schools are accessible, there are voices to get rid of the Eurocolonialist science. For example for replacing mathematics with `ethnomathematics'. And as far as I have been able to track it down, this new science still has to produce any significant result apart from the fancy name. As a result of such mistreatment `the poor would get poorer'. Ant this is hardly the result we all desire.

In this context, the call of Watson to adjust our policies to reality of a different situation, whatever the reason of the difference, is hardly racist. I argue that the attacks out of political correctness, not science. That the race and intelligence are complex and multivalued notions does not inhibit any knowledge about them. And logical reasoning is still a part of science. So lets stop acting out of the gut feelings and perhaps consider the issue logically.

Bell Theorem disprooved?

Writing the Country of Blindfolded is a task that is an never ending story, it seems.

Some time ago, I have found a clearly pseudoscientific work of Ilia Barukčić. The first link to it (through a search at google) was in a short note on a mail archive of the mailing list for the cygwin project. Far, far away from quantum mechanics. But the link has led me to a WEB page of supposedly peer reviewed Causation: International Journal Of Science. The front page boasts exploding graphics with a title Bell's theorem ... refuted! in one inch letters. Inside one finds two papers (claimed to be peer reviewed) by Ilija Barukčić: Bell's theorem. A fallacy of the excluded middle} and Helicobacter pylori: the cause of human gastric cancer. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Editorial Board consists of - you probably guessed - Ilija Barukčić!

With a great surprise I have opened the new issue (Nov 3rd) of New Scientist. In only slightly smaller letters the cover declared `NOT SO SPOOKY. Was Einstein right about quantum theory?'

And the article pointed to a disproof of Bell Theorem by Joy Christian. The disproof is, according to the New Scientist, based on the use, for the observed values, not `normal numbers' but Clifford algebra. Well, I have not yet read the original papers (which might be found here and here and here).
When I do, I'll try to grok some sense out of the whole matter.

Polish `Sokal hoax'

A short while ago, a Polish psychologist, Tomasz Witkowski, has replayed the Sokal hoax .

he has managed to publish, in a psychology journal Charaktery, an article on morphic resonance. Most of the `facts' in the article were completely false. Not only did the journal Editors check the data, but they actively `helped' to write the article, by proposing to add to it pirated excerpts from and old review of Rupert Sheldrake. This goes beyond the stupidity of Lingua France editors, who could not tell science from pseudoscience, here a journal boasting more than twelve professors and PhDs in its board, actively worked to make the hoax `better'.

Unfortunately, the WEB page devoted to the issue in in Polish, but maybe there are some readers whou do want to have a look.