Global Warming, Asinine Science Roundup

Still in Taipei and a bit swamped. Here are some links that will be of interest; mostly provided by Willie Soon, Marc Morano, and readers just like you!

  • Trenberth’s Null Hypothesis. Trenberth claims the “burden of proof should lie with research which seeks to disprove the human role.” He says, “Humans are changing our climate. There is no doubt whatsoever.” Given simple and obvious premises, this is true. I repeat: Trenberth’s claim is true and obviously true.

    But given that it does not then follow that the sky will fall. The burden of proof still necessarily lies with Trenberth to show how much warming, and what will happen as a consequence. To insist otherwise is to make a colossal logical blunder.

    It is perhaps not Trenberth’s fault that he stepped in it. Most people misunderstand the term “null hypothesis.” I have no love for it and wish it would join the ranks of phlogiston and Randian objectivism of failed concepts.

    Thanks to Larry Fields for the link.

  • Chris Mooney, the impressionable and excitable young author has written a new book (with a title nearly identical with his old one): The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science (or Many Other Inconvenient Truths).

    Presumably this book will explore why, via brain defects, people believe vaccinations cause autism, “frankenfoods” cause lunacy, how science is just one system of knowing, etc., etc. But since these are beliefs almost always found on the left, it’s doubtful.

    Instead, the foolish Mooney embraces New Eugenics, i.e. neuroscience, which seeks to prove why the brains of conservatives pale in comparison to liberals like Mooney. There is no ranker pseudoscience in operation today than “brain scans” and statistics which “prove” that those who voted for George Bush are fundamentally different, neurologically speaking, than those who gushed over the Big O.

    We’ve looked at a number of these (peer reviewed!) papers on which Mooney presumably relies. Without exception, every one of them stank. Not just smelled, but were putrescent. They are so bad that they call out for a scientific explanation of how so many credentialed scientists could have misled themselves so badly.

    The most asinine of these was the work which claimed that mere exposure to the American flag, of size 72 x 45 pixels, turned people into Republicans. One imagines Mooney reading this work and breaking into a delicious sweat.

    The second worst paper in this line was the one provided by Harvard (leftist?) scientists which claimed that merely glancing at a flag on the Fourth of July was enough to turn one into a—can you guess?—raving Republican.

    Wait a second: I have it. The new non-null hypothesis is that exposure to papers which claim that exposure to the American flag turns innocents into Republicans turns the weak into raving, slavering Progressives. Poor things! Small p-values to come in due course.

    When there’s more time, I’ll investigate this in more depth. Meanwhile, a homework assignment. Send me as many links/papers as you can on this topic of brain differences and politics. We’ll have some fun. If somebody has a spare copy of Mooney’s book, I’d like to borrow it.

  • The Nation was displeased with Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change. I didn’t go, so I’ll rely on you all to correct any misperceptions.

    The writer was sufficiently impressed by audience behavior while a scientist talked, “several members of the mostly elderly audience seem to doze off while the temperature graphs are projected.” The writer has evidently never attended a conference before. Sleep is a primary activity at most talks. The talks that people attend, that is. This as far as I got in the article, because I felt the same effects reading this as did the audience members watching the Powerpoints.

  • Willie sent me a couple of papers which purport to show that traffic jams cause autism. Or something. I’m thinking of sending these on to Chris Mooney to see if he can find a way to blame Republicans for the traffic jams.


  1. Luis Dias

    So it’s official, Chris Mooney is the left’s Gleen Beck?

    (btw, I didn’t remember Beck’s name, so I googled “right wing show host lunatic” and his name was the very first words google found out! Man, google sometimes scares me :D)

  2. Luis Dias

    oops its Glenn Beck. Shirley.

  3. Rich

    “Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults”: Biology is destiny presumably.

    “Us versus them: Political attitudes and party affiliation influence neural response to faces of presidential candidates.”: This one seems especially stupid. No, I haven’t read it, ain’t I wicked, but the proposition that people who feel strongly about political issues feel differently about prominent people who agree or disagree with them hardly seems to me to need demonstration.

  4. Briggs – “If somebody has a spare copy of Mooney’s book, I’d like to borrow it.”

    Mooney – “… the book because it isn’t out yet, and won’t be for 6 months. In fact, it is still being edited.”

  5. Ray

    The AGW believers claim they can fortell the future and control the climate. They make these extraordinary claims without presenting any proof. I would like some examples of futures they have foretold and climates they have controlled.

  6. GregO

    Can’t say why this reporting on Left/Right Wing Brain Studies shows up in the “Obituaries” section of the LA Times…,0,2687256.story

    Unfortunately, I am finding it difficult to track down the actual paper this story is based on. That does not seem to have stopped plenty of blogs and news outlets citing it. There is another one title alluding to Republicans having a “Reptilian Braing” and I think it is this paper:

    KANAI, R., Feilden, T., Firth, C., Rees, G. (2011). Political orientations are correlated with brain structure in young adults. Current Biology 21(8), 677-680 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.017.

  7. Briggs


    I recall hearing Beck’s radio show. He had commercials from some company that sold end-of-the-world seeds or something. Survivalist gear. Run-for-the-hills stuff.


    Aha! I did see Moony’s comments to those who questioned the book (at that link). Did you notice he didn’t answer those from the self-identified Republican?

    And did you notice that his central tenet is that Leftists are superior to Republicans because they’re more doubtful, i.e. less dogmatic? I wonder if he’s certain of that.

    Good grief!

    Les, Rich, Greg0

    Good stuff, thanks.

  8. genemachine

    While I am sure that there are many interesting correlations between support for a particular policy or party and biological differences, there does seem to be a fairly regular anti-republican bias. I would like to thank Mooney for collecting these studies in one place and making this bias especially obvious from the title of his book. It would be foolish to say that nothing good can come from neuroscience and related fields but it does seem reasonable to regard similar findings with suspicion.

    The funny thing is that, as Briggs’ conflation of neuroscience and eugenics shows, members of both the left and the right can be nervous about research on human variation.

  9. genemachine

    Given the kind of risky surgery that Gazzaniga’s used, I’m glad that his contribution is still well regarded. After slicing up patients’ brains I could easily see the temptation to put a shine on the results.

  10. Briggs


    You’re on to something there!

  11. andy

    Of course the fact that connecting support for political actions and intelligence is itself quite stupid seems to have been missed by Mr Mooney who has a degree in ‘communications’ or some such other drivel non-degree subject.

    I wonder if that latter fact should be connected to IQ?

  12. Mary Brown

    I actually suspect that you may be predetermined to be a dem or repub. I’m “independent” and I’m amazed at how hard it is for 80% of the people to see any issue in any other way than their party sees it.

    I still believe in free will, though, and I try to exercise mine.

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