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Science, values and ethics

There is an unfortunate common perception that scientists are cold, hard people. That they are only interested in objective facts and are emotionless. And especially that science as a process is not creative and does not encourage the development of an ethical outlook. Consequently there is an attitude that while we can learn about the nature of reality from science and scientists we can learn nothing about ethics or the appreciation of reality.

Some people even claim that for this we must turn to religion. Although they never seem to be able to explain how on earth religious leaders can offer any better knowledge of ethics than scientists, boot makers, mechanics. or cooks.

I think most scientists would object to this common perception. So I was pleased to see this recent article from Agnosticism / AtheismValues of Godless Science: Modern Science Does Not Need Religion or Gods for Values. It’s worth a read so I reproduce it below:

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Avoiding tax – supernaturally

Jokes about money, tax, death and religion are common. For example – we often say “you can’t take it with you!” Well some of my workmates used to say – perhaps there is a way. After all our colleague, who is a very smart cookie and also a devout evangelical Christian, started intensively studying financial theory in his retirement.   We used to joke that perhaps he know something we didn’t.

And they say there are only two certain things in life – death and taxes. But Max Wallace, author of the book The Purple Economy asserts: “The religious tail is wagging the dog of the body politic. The religious believe they can avoid death. They know they can avoid tax!”

This is certainly true in New Zealand – and it’s all tied up with the definition of “charity” for purposes of tax exemption. Here’s how the NZ Charities Commission defines it:

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Climate scientist sues newspaper for false reporting

Here is a press release I picked up last night:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – April 21, 2010) – University of Victoria Professor Andrew Weaver, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis, launched a lawsuit today in BC Supreme Court against three writers at The National Post (and the newspaper as a whole), over a series of unjustified libels based on grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet.

In a statement released at the same time the suit was filed, Dr. Weaver said, I asked The National Post to do the right thing – to retract a number of recent articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held. To my absolute astonishment, the newspaper refused.”

Dr. Weaver’s statement of claim not only asks for a Court injunction requiring The National Post to remove all of the false allegations from its Internet websites, but also seeks an unprecedented Court order requiring the newspaper to assist Dr. Weaver in removing the defamatory National Post articles from the many other Internet sites where they have been re-posted.

“If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the Internet forever. They’ll poison the factual record, misleading people who are looking for reliable scientific information about global warming,” said Weaver.

The suit names Financial Post Editor Terence Corcoran, columnist Peter Foster, reporter Kevin Libin and National Post publisher Gordon Fisher, as well as several still-unidentified editors and copy editors. It seeks general, aggravated damages, special and exemplary damages and legal costs in relation to articles by Foster on December 9, 2009 (“Weaver’s Web”), Corcoran on December 10, 2009 (“Weaver’s Web II”) and January 27, 2010 (“Climate Agency going up in flames”), and Libin on February 2, 2010 (“So much for pure science”).

The Statement of Claim was filed April 20, 2010 at the BC Supreme Court Registry at the Vancouver Courthouse: Weaver v Corcoran and others, SCBC No.102698, Vancouver Registry.

via Climate Scientist Sues National Post for Libel.

The 48 page statment of claim is available to download (Weaver vs Corcoran.pdf).

Do I detect a trend? Could Ian Wishart and Richard Treadgold be legally forced to track down and remove defamatory reports internationally arising our of Treadgold’s discredited “paper” Are we getting warm yet? (see New Zealand’s denier-gate)?

See also:
News from the front: scientists directly challenge claims of fraud through defamation/libel laws
Climate change deniers wallets threatened

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Climategate, Lord Monckton and Monty Python

Christopher Monckton is held in awe by some of the more naive climate change deniers. For a more objective assessment of his abilities and reliability have a look at these videos.

Debunking Lord Monckton Part 1.

Debunking Lord Monckton Part 2

See also: Monckton requires religious certification for scientists?

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Climategate summed up

They say a picture can tell a story. I think this one is pretty good. Its by Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle From the Cartoonist Group.

Thanks to Mind of Dan, Climategate: the scandal that wasn’t, Part 2

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Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated

The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee has released its report into “climategate” – some of the issues surrounding the release of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit.

It effectively exonerates Phil Jones from  charges of withholding data and questionable scientific ethics.

The text of the press release is below and the committee’s report [PDF] provides detailed responses on each of the issues raised in its investigation.


CLIMATE SCIENCE MUST BECOME MORE TRANSPARENT SAY MPs

The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The Committee calls for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided.”

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

via UK Parliament – S&T PN32/100331.

Download the full report: “The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.”

YouTube – ‘Climategate’ row scientist cleared of wrongdoing.

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See also:
The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial
Climategate inquiry: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for

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Are religious scientists worried about their brethren?

There were two public statements on science recently which seem to have disappeared into a vacuum. They were the ‘Public Statement Concerning Science and Christian Faith’ by New Zealand Religious Scientists and ‘A message to the Christian communities of New Zealand from scientists in their midst.’

I am not interested in the first statement. It’s basically a sour-grapes response to the recent visit of Richard Dawkins to New Zealand. I would think that those disagreeing with Dawkins’ religious views would attempt to ignore him. After all, he was on a promotion tour for his book The Greatest show on Earthwhich is not about religion. Bringing up the religion question only provides him a platform to pontificate on the subject. Mind you, these sorts of criticisms do help build the public interest in Dawkins’ lectures, which are always crowded. This, and the inevitable book sales, must be a good thing for the public understanding of science. So, in a sense, I am all for such irrelevant statements.

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Periodic Table of of science blogs

David Bradley of Sciencebase has put together an interesting Periodic Table of science bloggers. It was complied on a “first come, first served” basis and is, of course, restricted in numbers (currently 103). But a useful resource for anyone interested in browsing through science blogs they may not be familiar with.

There’s even a couple of Kiwi science blogs in the Table! See if you can find them.

Reminds me a bit of the periodic table for wines (see I want one of these!)!


Thanks to Periodic Table of David Bradley Sciencebase.

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Creationism, climate change and scientific denialism

Strange how one keeps coming across familiar people. Last week I was shocked to read Andrew Bolt’s article on the Global Atheist Convention (see Speakers true love of hatred). He wasn’t there and those of us that were recognised his article as full of distortions, misinformation and lies. Then I realised he is one of Australia’s most active climate change deniers (no, in his case not a sceptic – a denier). And now I find him quoted by the creationist/intelligent design (ID) Discovery Institute in a nasty little article attacking science (see Climategate: a Word of Advice to the Scientists).

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Great photo of the Solar Corona

This photograph of the sun’s corona is a real beauty. it was captured by Miloslav Druckmüller and colleagues from Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic, during an eclipse on July 22, 2009. They were located on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

For further image details, equipment used and a spectacular high-resolution photograph, visit Miloslav Druckmüller’s eclipse webpage.


Thanks to Discovery News (see The Intricate Beauty of the Solar Corona). Have a look at their description, which includes:

Although the sun’s atmosphere is many times hotter than the sun itself, it is also many times thinner. As a result, it produces very little light and it can only be observed if the glare of the sun is blocked out. In this fantastically detailed photograph, the moon has covered the disk of the sun from sight, allowing the solar corona to glow.

You may also be interested in this application for iPhones and iPod Touch3DSun. This has been developed in cooperation with NASA scientists. Tony Phillips gives this description:

“3D Sun” lets you carry a virtual window onto today’s sun, right in your pocket. Open this app anytime to see what’s happening today on the sun’s ever-changing surface. See when major solar flares erupt on the sun’s surface. Track sunspots that reveal the churning activity inside the sun’s fiery inferno.

News alerts ­ provided by a Ph.D. trained astrophysicist ­ inform you of important solar events. Optional push notifications will alert you of the most important events even when “3D Sun” is not running.

Great for aurora watchers who want to be notified of when they should look up!”

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