JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Skeptics Handbook II

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Low Fat consensus was wrong: High carb diets increase death rates

How many people have died prematurely because they swapped their fats for carbohydrates?

More fat meant less death (left). More carbs (right) meant the opposite (at least above 60%). (Click to see the full table of Figure 1 results).

New research published in the Lancet shows that low fat diets could increase your risk of death.

Specifically, those who are in the top fifth of carbohydrate-eaters are also about 28% more likely to die than the fifth eating the lowest amount. This is a correlation (only), but the PURE* study was tracking the thing that matters most — all-cause mortality –  and they followed the diets of 135,000 people in 18 countries for 5 – 9 years.  Loosely, if people avoided high carbohydrate diets, they were less likely to die.

The graph flattens off below “60% carbs” (that’s a percentage of total calories). However, the mortality numbers keep improving for the highest fat intakes which rather skewers 40 years of headlines. I’m guessing that some people who kept carbs below 60% ate more protein instead, which, judging by the “fat” graph, wasn’t as useful.

The McMaster University team announced this quiet bomb, slightly obscured, in a press release [...]

Modern Astrology in NY Times: Justin Gillis says Eclipses show all Scientists are always right about everything

Verily. Eclipses do weird things to people.

Justin Gillis, writer for The New York Times used the recent eclipse to sell something I’d call Sciencemagic. Essentially, if some Scientists™ can calculate orbital mechanics to a fine art, it follows, ipso nonfacto, that all people who use the same job title are also always right.

“Should You Trust Climate Science? Maybe the Eclipse Is a Clue”

Thanks to the work of scientists, people will know exactly what time to expect the eclipse. In less entertaining but more important ways, we respond to scientific predictions all the time, even though we have no independent capacity to verify the calculations. We tend to trust scientists.

If Scientists™ say that solar panels will stop malaria, then buy some! Save lives in Ghana. (What are you waiting for?)

The implications stretch far. Clearly, we can chuck out the whole research thing (labs, who needs em?) Why test predictions, if Scientists™ are 100% accurate? We’ve been wasting money. We don’t need more large hadron colliders, we just need to survey more particle physicists.

This idea that job titles have a kind of truth-telling power is not much different to astrology where truth [...]

Only half of meteorologists think human emissions are major cause of climate change

In 2016 67%  of meteorologists said that humans have caused most or all climate change and The Guardian headlined that there was a Growing Consensus among Meteorologists. In 2017 that fell to only 49%. The Guardian said nothing.

….

In 2016 29% of  meteorologists thought climate change was largely or entirely man-made, but that fell to only 15% this year.

Figure how this result fits with the idea of the overwhelming evidence and 97% consensus. Which group on the planet after climate scientists should be the second profession to “get it” — how about  meteorologists?

So either:

1. meteorologists are really stupid, or

2. meteorologists know how hard it is to predict the climate.

[...]

Got a theory that breaks a consensus? Expect aggressive silence. Snickering. Wait decades

Université de Montréal.

For a long time it was thought the first people arrived in the Americas around 13,000 years ago. Jacques Cinq-Marc  found a set of caves in the Yukon called the Bluefish Caves laden with bones marked with cuts from human butchering. They were radiocarbon dated as 24,000 years old. Cinq-Marcs published a series of papers between 1979-2001.

This is a topic that doesn’t have a $1.5 Trillion dollar industry riding on it. No political careers are made or broken if humans arrived in the Americas millenia earlier. Yet still, the smug scoffing of the consensus slowed progress in science for decades.

What Happens When an Archaeologist Challenges Mainstream Scientific Thinking?

Heather Pringer, Smithsonian.com

Cinq-Mars… work at Bluefish Caves suggested that Asian hunters roamed northern Yukon at least 11,000 years before the arrival of the Clovis people. And other research projects lent some support to the idea. At a small scattering of sites, from Meadowcroft in Pennsylvania to Monte Verde in Chile, archaeologists had unearthed hearths, stone tools and butchered animal remains that pointed to an earlier migration to the Americas. But rather than launching a major new search for more early [...]

US Presidential candidates ranked for independent thinking and gullibility on climate science

How many Presidential candidates are susceptible to groupthink, scare campaigns and low-base science agitprop? Thanks to Seth Borenstein, Michael Mann & Andrew Dessler we can rank them according to their ability to resist profoundly unscientific propaganda like “there is a consensus”.

Ted Cruz is clearly the best at holding his own in the independent thinker stakes.  Ben Carson and Donald Trump do well. But poor Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of junk graphs, hyperbolic claims, and inane bumper-sticker cliches.

Those who fall for the consensus argument are in no position to run a nation.  Firstly it’s profoundly unscientific — we don’t vote for the laws of science; scientific theories are either true or not true regardless of opinions. Secondly, it only takes ten minutes of independent searching to find that there is no consensus among scientists as a broad group, anyway. There is a consensus among various definitions of certified climate scientists, but not among meteorologists , geoscientists and engineers or other hard science areas.

As I’ve said before, skeptics outrank and outnumber believers, they make planes fly, find mineral deposits, and walked on the moon. Believers produce climate models that don’t work. If [...]

What consensus? Less than half of climate scientists agree with the IPCC “95%” certainty

I used to think there was a consensus among government-funded certified climate scientists, but a better study by Verheggen Strengers, Verheegen, and Vringer shows even that is not true.[1] The “97% consensus” is now 43%.

Finally there is a decent survey on the topic, and it shows that less than half of what we would call “climate scientists” who research the topic and for the most part, publish in the peer reviewed literature, would agree with the IPCC’s main conclusions. Only 43% of climate scientists agree with the IPCC “95%” certainty.

More than 1800 international scientists studying various aspects of climate change (including climate physics, climate impacts, and mitigation) responded to the questionnaire. Some 6550 people were invited to participate in this survey, which took place in March and April 2012. Respondents were picked because they had authored articles with the key words ‘global warming’ and/or ‘global climate change’, covering the 1991–2011 period, via the Web of Science, or were included the climate scientist database assembled by Jim Prall, or just by a survey of peer reviewed climate science articles. Prall’s database includes some 200 names that have criticized mainstream science and about half had only published in [...]

The 99.99% pure climate consensus – how to ignore thousands of skeptical scientists

Joy. It’s another profoundly unscientific “consensus” study. At least one person thought that the  97% PR figure was not enough, and that magic 99.9% would sway the crowds. As if there was even one fence-sitter sitting, waiting, saying, “97% was too low…”

For the herding type of human, “consensus” is magnetically convincing. Not so for the independent minds who have seen prediction after prediction fail. If a 97% consensus on a highly complex, immature science is difficult to believe, a 99.99% one is comic. More of the same unconvincing stuff will do nothing except set off the BS meter.  This new study will sway no one. The supernatural purity of it will work against “The Cause”.

A consensus is the one and only argument of the unskeptical, and they are doing it to death.

One fan, James Powell, was so enthused he spent nine months reading titles and abstracts of 24,000 papers, and found only four scientists (4!) who didn’t agree with the consensus. Some 69,402 other scientists apparently endorse “the consensus” (whatever it is) because they used the terms “climate change”, or “global warming” and they didn’t also make a clear statement that it was false, or [...]

Climate scientists: More scared of an inquiry into the science than they are of climate change

What’s more terrifying to a climate scientist than “2 degrees” of warming? Answer: Half a degree of hard questions.

Australian climate scientists don’t complain at all when the UN says it wants to redirect $89 Trillion in a quest to change the climate. But they are suddenly all concerned that the Australian Government might waste 0.0001% investigating the science. A disaster!  Since when were climate scientists concerned about wasting public money? Since never.

A group of thirteen scientists, who’ve personally achieved little in the way of scientific advances, have written to Dennis Jensen and Chris Back offering to brief them on the “latest science”, afraid the skeptics might launch an inquiry into the science.  The ABC calls them “prominent”: Climate change: Scientists warn sceptic MPs Dennis Jensen, Chris Back against inquiry into evidence of human influence.

Isn’t the scientific evidence the most important thing?

Surveys show half of the Australian public are skeptical — unconvinced by their claims that coal will cause a climate crisis or that solar panels can stop the storms. Right now, if the climate is headed for a disaster, nothing is more important than convincing the public. Instead, the climate scientists keep repeating that the debate [...]

Cholesterol — how the web and books are years ahead of “Consensus”

Consensus — slowing real science for decades

There is a surprising amount of interest in the cholesterol story of Matt Ridley’s in The Times and The Australian last week. Surprising to me anyway, because 15 years ago the other benevolent side of cholesterol was pretty clear online.  Fifteen years is not a long time in human civilization, but it’s a long time in a human life. And in the case of the war on cholesterol, it’s been running for 40 years. How many people died sooner than they would have, because they followed expert advice?

Finally the official consensus on cholesterol is admitting defeat:

“Any day now, the US government will officially accept the advice to drop cholesterol from its list of “nutrients of concern” altogether. It wants also to “de-emphasise” saturated fat, given “the lack of evidence connecting it with cardiovascular disease”. “

In the late 1990′s it was widely known online (among health zealots) that our livers are mostly in charge of our cholesterol levels, not what’s on our dinner plates. Something like 80% of the cholesterol in our blood came from our own livers, not the food we eat.  Way back then, it was also known [...]

Some Guardian myths about climate change

Ooh. Here’s a bit of a backdown. Skeptics must be getting to The Guardian. Smile.

Mocking skeptics and calling them deniers has somehow failed to win them over, so the Guardian is trying a slightly new tack. This time they pretend to be balanced, and post up a list of “Myths to explode” from both sides of the debate. But don’t bring the ear-muffs, or the ambulances — these bombs are pussy-foot puff balls. The air-drops on alarmist camps are so convoluted they manage to support The Big Fear Campaign even as they try (gently-bentley!) to reign in a few excesses of the believers — don’t mention human extinction, and do remember the world has been hotter before, right? On skeptical “myths”, nothing has changed but at least they’ve stopped the namecalling (Bravo!). But it’s hard for author  Hannah Devlin — she even serves up a new myth to try to squash an old one. The rate of global warming is apparently “unprecedented”, as in one-degree-in-a-century has never ever happened before, not once. How likely is that we could know the rate of global temperature swings to a tenth of a degree back in the days of dinosaurs and at continuous [...]