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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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 [...]

High risk for a heart attack? Might be better if your cardiologist is away at a conference

Researchers at Harvard wondered if high risk heart patients were more likely to die if they turned up at the hospital during national cardiology meetings when most of the experts are not around. Instead, it turns out that mortality rates during the conferences fell from 70% to 60%. Oops.

Who do you want to see if you’re sick? In this situation, possibly not your specialist.

High-risk patients with certain acute heart conditions are more likely to survive than other similar patients if they are admitted to the hospital during national cardiology meetings, when many cardiologists are away from their regular practices.

Sixty percent of patients with cardiac arrest who were admitted to a teaching hospital during the days when cardiologists were at scientific meetings died within 30 days, compared to 70 percent of patients who were admitted on non-meeting days.

“That’s a tremendous reduction in mortality, better than most of the medical interventions that exist to treat these conditions,” said study senior author Anupam Jena, assistant professor of health care policy at HMS, internist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. There is substantial ambiguity in how medical care [...]

Hulme tries to throw all scientists under a bus. It’s just “the debate is over”. Cook, consensus take collateral hit.

It’s another tiny marker on the road to reality. Mike Hulme has admitted that Cooks 97% study is “infamous” and “irrelevant”. He’s trying to wash himself of both the “Consensus” argument and Cook’s work which he can see are becoming a liability. But make no mistake Hulme is more alarmist than ever. He’s just trying to rebrand the gravy train.

In Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change he’s not trying to argue from scientific authority. But–watch the pea–it is just a different form of authority — his. He’s trying to chuck both sides of the science debate under the bus-of-oblivion and pretend that science is completely irrelevant. With his mere statement that the science is settled (according to him), he’s hoping to get the policies discussed and stop people raising awkward points about the science.

What’s amazing is that anyone falls for this nonsense at all. It’s a naked attempt to divert the national conversation with statements that are self evidently inane. He wants us to discuss how much money to spend to change the weather, but not discuss how much the weather is going to change. What, no discussion of value for money–how much for [...]

Prince Charles says headless chickens should have more blind trust in science


Switch off your brain, Prince Charles has said you are a headless chicken if you do not accept what political committees tell you to think.

PRINCE Charles has called people who deny human-made climate change a “headless chicken brigade” who are ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence.

Thus Chicken Little yells “headless chickens”, and climate sensitivity must be 3.3C. Right?

The heir to the throne, a dedicated environmentalist, accused “powerful groups of deniers” of mounting “a barrage of sheer intimidation” against opponents.

So one of the richest men in the world, future ruler of nations, feels bullied by unfunded volunteers? Such bravery from our next Head of State. (I’m not Monarchist or Republican, but if Charles keeps talking, that could change.)

This is the same old argument: authorities want us to believe authority, while stupid punters ask for data instead.

Using all the inductive reasoning he could muster, Charles admits he cannot figure out why everyone does not accept the pronouncements of people who hide declines, data, emails and methods:

Charles said it was “baffling … that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about [...]

Cook’s fallacy “97% consensus” study is a marketing ploy some journalists will fall for

What does a study of 20 years of abstracts tell us about the global climate? Nothing. But it says quite a lot about the way government funding influences the scientific process.

John Cook, a blogger who runs the site with the ambush title “SkepticalScience” (which unskeptically defends the mainstream position), has tried to revive the put-down and smear strategy against the thousands of scientists who disagree. The new paper confounds climate research with financial forces, is based on the wrong assumptions, uses fallacious reasoning, wasn’t independent, and confuses a consensus of climate scientists for a scientific consensus, not that a consensus proves anything anyway, if it existed.

Given the monopolistic funding of climate science in the last 20 years, the results he finds are entirely predictable.

The twelve clues that good science journalists ought to notice:

1. Thousands of papers support man-made climate change, but not one found the evidence that matters

Cook may have found 3,896 papers endorsing the theory that man-made emissions control the climate, but he cannot name one paper with observations that shows that the assumptions of the IPCC climate models about water vapor and cloud feedbacks are correct. These assumptions produce half to two-thirds of [...]

John Cook of (un) SkepticalScience, admits “climate change denier” is inaccurate. Will he stop name-calling?

I don’t think John Cook realizes how his latest article affects virtually everything else he’s written.

(Repeated on the SMH too.)

How accurate is a book when even the title describes a group of people who don’t exist? Will Cook stop abusing English?

So he finally admits the banal, that there is no rational explanation for calling skeptical scientists “climate deniers” or “climate change deniers”. Bravo. (No one denies that climate changes, or thinks the Earth has no climate.). But this is terminology he uses everywhere, and it describes a group of people that don’t exist. Has he only just noticed?

We think through our language, and when we use sloppy, inaccurate words, we get sloppy inaccurate results. Abusing our language is what people do when they don’t have a rational argument.

Misleading language is de rigueur for Cook. Even the name of his “SkepticalScience” website is the anti-thesis of accurate English. He’s not skeptical of “official science” in the slightest, and with a gaping hole in his logic (see below), not too scientific either.

Look out for the “fake” tag, too. Since when did a representative of a university call another university academic a fake? Since Cook did. [...]