Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

flat-earth theory confirmed by 25 per cent americans and 33 per cent europeans...


sun usa

Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth?

When asked that question, 1 in 4 Americans surveyed answered incorrectly. Yes, 1 in 4. In other words, a quarter of Americans do not understand one of the most fundamental principles of basic science. So that’s where we are as a society right now.

The survey, conducted by the National Science Foundation, included more than 2,200 participants in the U.S., AFP reports. It featured a nine-question quiz about physical and biological science and the average score was a 6.5.

And the fact that only 74 percent of participants knew that the Earth revolved around the sun is perhaps less alarming than the fact that only 48 percent knew that humans evolved from earlier species of animals.

Here’s the thing, though: Americans actually fared better than Europeans who took similar quizzes — at least when it came to the sun and Earth question. Only 66 percent of European Union residents answered that one correctly.

We won’t know the full results of the survey—or its methodology—until the National Science Foundation delivers its report to President Obama and U.S. lawmakers. But on this evidence we may end up getting a new national holiday out of this: Spread the Word That the Earth Revolves Around the Sun Day

Read more: 1 in 4 Americans Think Sun Revolves Around Earth: Study |


climate change is a not happening:the flat-earth theorists...


Bill Nye “The Science Guy” told Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to stop questioning the facts behind climate change Sunday morning, as the congresswoman said the “engineer and actor” didn’t know enough about climate science to claim authority.

The two sparred over the the most appropriate response to extreme weather events and global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, and disagreed on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

Rep. Blackburn maintained that there is not consensus in the scientific community about global warming, pointing to two vocal dissenters, Richard Lindzen of MIT and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who claim that humans are not causing climate change.

“Neither (Bill Nye) nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists,” said Rep. Blackburn. “There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Experts say that there is still some uncertainty in absolutely linking isolated extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or bad droughts to global warming, but the vast majority of scientists ascribe climate change and the increase in extreme weather to human activity.




Meanwhile the zealoted idiots are winning : "one religion is enough" claimed an ignorant arrogant idiotic lunatic loony John W Howard with the gravitas of a weasel...

Read on below:


We are facing another massive assault on our temporal imaginations. The debate about global warming – its causes, its trajectory and its likely impact – asks us to think in centuries at least, and to project this thinking into the future, long after the deaths of those alive today. We are all used to shifting between overlapping temporal scales: the daily round, the weekly routine, the rhythms of the year and seasons, the phases of the life cycle, and lived historical memory. But lay these across longer-term claims about the way the world’s climate might be changing and it is as if our minds shut down. It is just too hard for most of us to think about. And it seems almost impossible for our political processes to deal with.

We know that politicians are always trapped between the long-term need for substantial policy reforms and the short-term pressures of winning elections, which, combined with vested economic interests, generally means that maintaining the status quo becomes the default option. In this case, the status quo is our carbon-based economy. To dismantle it would impose serious short-term risks and costs, as against the even more serious long-term risks and costs of not doing so. And for politicians, the short-term risks always loom larger than the long-term ones, as they do for most of us in our daily lives.

Even so, I am still puzzled about the motivation and the world view of those who refuse to take seriously the risks of a warming planet. Yes, we can agree that the science is not definitive – and may never be; yes, we can agree that the forces governing the world’s climate are complex and exact outcomes are hard to predict – in some places it might actually get colder. But can’t we also agree that if even some of the predictions prove correct then these will have consequences that it would be wise to avoid if possible? I can only conclude that many of the people who actively oppose attempts to mitigate the risk of global warming don’t really believe it is a risk. Some, of course, don’t care: those who are rich from the ownership and exploitation of coal deposits, for example, who want to dig them up and sell them as soon as possible, before the rest of the world stops buying coal. There is no arguing with them. The ones I am interested in are people like Tony Abbott and John Howard, who do care about the future of the world and whose actions could make a difference. If they really believed in the risks of human-induced global warming, they would act differently.

Kevin Rudd said that climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation. True, there are grave moral issues raised by the fairness of the measures used to respond to the risks of global warming. There is also an intergenerational moral challenge, but this runs up against the limits of our temporal imaginations to about three generations ahead of us. What will the world look like for our great-great-grandchildren? It is impossible to imagine.

But to face the risk of human-induced global warming is not primarily a moral challenge. Rather it is a cognitive and emotional challenge. We can’t live in constant anxiety about cataclysmic risk, yet we need to be able to formulate policies that respond to these risks; we live day to day and year to year, but the risks exist on a much longer time scale. Denial is perhaps human beings’ most common response to anxiety: “it can’t happen to me”. And, of course, it probably won’t happen to many of us who are alive today.


In November last year, John Howard spoke to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based organisation of old men dedicated to climate change scepticism. To quote from its website, “while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, [the foundation] is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated”. From the online materials, it is clear that the foundation sees the short-term economic risks posed by policies that mitigate carbon-dioxide emissions as far greater than the long-term environmental risks of not doing so. These short-term risks they already know how to calculate and think about. The preoccupation with the data of the past 15 years, which they claim demonstrates that world temperatures have not risen, shows the limits of their temporal horizons.

Howard’s lecture gave us insight into the cognitive strategies of those, including Tony Abbott, who are attempting to hold back substantial policy responses to the risk of global warming. Howard called his lecture ‘One Religion is Enough’, largely, he explained, “in reaction to the sanctimonious tone employed by so many of these who advocate quite substantial, and costly, responses to what they see as irrefutable evidence that the world’s climate faces catastrophe, against people who do not share their view. To them the cause has become a substitute religion.” He then went on to complain about the increasingly offensive language used in such rebuttals, to proclaim his preference for agnosticism on the issue, to present people concerned about global warming as being against economic development, and to describe with quiet satisfaction the politics behind Abbott’s defeat of the former Labor government’s emissions trading scheme.

Read more:




science should fight on...

Should scientists debate creationists about evolution? Yes, science must step up to the plate and defend itself from all attacks, argues Paul Willis.

Happy Birthday Chuck! Today, if he were unfeasibly still alive, Charles Darwin would be 205 years old. This has caused some to declare 12 February as Darwin Day; a celebration of his life and his enormous contribution to science.

Darwin has left an astounding legacy. Origin of Species and most of his other works are remarkable for what they got right, especially since there has been almost two centuries of revision and detailed analysis.

His central proposition, the mechanism of evolution we now know as natural selection, has been tested innumerable times — tests that always bear out its veracity. The depths of his insights are in a league that few other people have ever achieved, a pantheon of science gods that includes Newton and Einstein. It is a body of work that really does require an annual celebration.

Disappointingly, it's also a body of work that requires continuous defence. The main challenge to evolution as a central tenet of modern biology comes not from inside science, but from the realms of religion. To this day there are powerful fundamentalist religious groups, particularly among Christians but also among some Muslims, Jews, even Hindus, for whom the concept of biological and cosmological evolution is an affront to their beliefs.

Science must step up to the plate and defend itself from all attacks and that defence needs to be the most vigorous where the attack is the most acute.

Last week there was a major internet phenomenon: a debate between the leading Creationist Ken Ham and, defending science, Bill Nye the Science Guy (you can watch it here).

I followed the whole thing live, playing it in the background of my computer while I got on with other work. At times there were over 550,000 viewers and I didn't see the count drop below half a million for the two hours of debate and questions.

Pause to reflect there: 550K is a respectable audience for a live, online event but this would be considered a dismal rating for a program on Australian free-to-air TV. During my time on Catalyst I don't recall the audience across the five capital cities (the ratings are based on viewers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) ever dropped below 600K, more typically hovering around 800-850K. This would usually put us in fourth slot behind programs on the commercial networks with audiences in excess of a million viewers each. So a 550K global audience on YouTube does not compare to regular audiences of free-to-air television. The total live audience across all platforms has been estimated at 3 million.

To debate or not to debate

There was still some considerable interest in this debate and that interest started long before the first words were spoken. In the lead up to the debate several people implored Bill Nye not to go through with it. The likes of Richard Dawkins and other high-profile evolutionary biologists have a blanket policy of not debating creationists. It's widely thought that debating them gives them too much credibility, that nothing can be achieved by such debates and, hopefully, starved of oxygen, they will curl up and go away. This position has been restated by no less than the National Centre for Science Education after the debate was completed.

I find that position naïve. In the eyes of the public, creationists can garner credibility without debating evolutionary biologists. The fact that more than half of the population of the USA thinks that creationism is correct, and even scientifically accurate, bears testament to this proposition. And, rather than starving them of oxygen, the lack of a fight is generally seen as the science not being defendable.

I think that evolutionary biologists have an obligation to debate creationists. Not because we are going to convert them from their misguided ways: they have their whole worldview resting on their faith in an inerrant Bible and there are very few of them that are willing to challenge this inside themselves. But, if they go unchallenged, they win in the court of public opinion. Although we can never win, if we don't fight, we also lose.

This realisation has led me to publicly debate and challenge creationists for most of my adult life. One of thesedebates was filmed and, for my efforts, I was awarded the Australian Skeptic's prize of Skeptic of the Year 2002 (an achievement that I am immensely proud of).

So how did the Ham/Nye debate play out? Most people thought that Nye won hands down. Even a poll on a Christian website had Nye over Ham by 92 per cent. Reviews of the debate were more mixed with most giving the gong to Nye while there were still others who thought he had lost.

Personally, I thought it was Nye by a light year ahead of Ham whose only evidence was that 'I have this book'. Nye trotted out example after example, mostly explained very lucidly, from many different branches of science.

Evidence wins

It wasn't the examples themselves that won the debate for Nye, it was the repeated demonstration of this is how science works. You gather the evidence and work out what happened. Perhaps his most powerful statement, said several times during the question time, was 'I don't know'. There are limits to Nye's knowledge and he's not shy to concede them.

Meanwhile, when asked what piece of evidence could be produced that would make Ham change his mind, he faltered; partially recovering with the proclamation that, because he could not conceive that the Bible could be wrong, no evidence could possibly be produced that could show it to be so. When Nye was asked the same question he proposed several pieces of evidence that, if produced, would knock evolution and science on the head.

It wasn't really a debate. The two did not really engage each other's points and take them apart. Many statements were simply left unchallenged, covered over by yet another assertion that would in turn go unchallenged. But, in his reasonable and calm way, Nye did show that science had the evidence and that science is a dynamic body of knowledge that is incomplete, but still able to make predictive and novel insights into the world in which we live. Ham only managed to show that he had tremendous faith in the Bible but that alone is not a sufficient challenge to our understandings and knowledge that are the legacy of science.

In one of Ricky Gervais's movies he plays a dentist and gives a parting line to a patient: "Only floss the ones you want to keep". It's the same with science. When it comes under attack we should be prepared to defend that which we want to keep. For me, that's all of it!