But Is It True? – The Research of Aaron Wildavsky Twenty Years Later

Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

In his fascinating 1950 book “Unpopular Essays,” mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that

“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, is false.”

He explained how the nature of people made such inflictions possible.

The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. So long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans. To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues.

Over the last fifty years the evil inflicted involved exploitation of a new and necessary idea – environmentalism and its subset global warming.

The “cock-sure prophets” are environmentalists and global warming advocates who push the claim that only they know and care about the environment. They are secular proselytizers of the new paradigm of environmentalism, which they turned into the religion of environmentalism. After 20 years the doom and gloom predictions they made and scares they inflicted proved incorrect, while those who said they were wrong are proving correct.

A paradigm shift is a significant change in approach or assumptions of a society that takes everything in a different direction; it happened with the shift to environmentalism. Most people are slow to accept a new paradigm because they fear change. They know that when a change occurs some get hurt and some benefit and fear they will get hurt. However, there is always a small group who grab the paradigm shift and exploit it for their agenda either financial or political or both. They become the “cock-sure prophets”.

We are all environmentalists, but a few grabbed the title and claimed only they cared about the environment and preached to us from that moral high ground. Global warming became the major vehicle for their political attack on developed societies because it transcended national boundaries and demanded a one-world government response. They created and spread a multitude of scare stories about different aspects of the environment to perpetuate the lie. H. L. Mencken succinctly explained the objective in two quotes,

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.


The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve. This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel to foreign parts.

The stories are a mix of macro and micro issues all built around the claim that they are the direct or indirect result of human existence, exacerbated by industrial progress. The list of macros included desertification, deforestation, extinction of species, habitation loss, rising sea levels, destruction of the ozone layer, hazardous waste sites, asbestos contamination, acid rain, and ocean acidification among others. The list of micro issues is longer and includes, sheep going blind in Chile, frogs born deformed, lower human sperm counts, coral reefs destroyed, a multitude of animal populations in decline, and on and on ad nausea.

I know from serving on many commissions of inquiry that only limited investigation reveals very different truths. This experience includes chairing panels to resolve supposed environmental challenges including threats to air, soil, water, and forests. I chaired the Hazardous Waste Committee of the City of Winnipeg and provided evidence for trials involving weather, climate, and environmental issues. The difference between the media reports, public understanding and the facts was vast and frightening, but despite this, the stories drive public policy. Few politicians dare to challenge and so they create unnecessary, inappropriate and often damaging policy. Like modern crusaders they don the cloak of green, not to deal with the facts but to deflect charges that they don’t care.

The media report these stories because sensationalism sells and they accept without question the claims of the extent of our impact on the environment. In the US, the media fail to fulfill the role defined by the Founding Fathers at the Continental Congress in 1776.

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.

They did not identify the role of academics, likely because they assumed they would pursue the truth. In fact, academics manifest the problems that develop when you are on welfare. As Henry Canby said,

Arrogance, pedantry, and dogmatism are the occupational diseases of those who spend their lives directing the intellects of the young.

A few academics question the prevailing wisdom by design or accident and immediately experience attacks, which includes expulsion to isolate. Judith Curry is now well aware of what happens.

Aaron Wildavsky was a political scientist, specializing in public policy, government budgeting, and risk management. Wildavsky confronted what Michael Crichton identified as the biggest challenge facing mankind. In a 2003 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco he said,

I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

Wildavsky set out to determine the truth about environmental threats by using the proper scientific method of posing a question and testing it with experiments. The question he posed was, “But is it true?” that later became the title of his posthumously published (1995) book. The experiment involved graduate students with no science degrees asking the question and seeking the origin and validity of the various environmental stories.

A 1995 article summarized some of the findings;

“The ban on DDT, one of the first great triumphs of modern environmentalism (and a tribute to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), did “more harm than good.”

Despite the hysterical fears of parents, asbestos in schools poses no detectable danger to children.

There is no evidence that acid rain poses significant danger to the environment except in a few isolated places (such as some high-altitude forests).

Most hazardous waste sites (including such notorious ones as Love Canal in upstate New York and Times Beach in Missouri) posed no significant danger to residents. The government’s extraordinarily costly Superfund program for cleaning up such sites is, on the whole, a waste of money.

There is no credible evidence to support fears of global warming.

“there is no clear evidence of global ozone depletion,” that there is good reason to believe that what depletion there may have been has nothing to do with CFCs and that there are “strong indications that the harm from [ozone] depletion will vary from little to none.”


Today, 20+ years later, the validity of these findings is confirmed. They are all victims of what Wildavsky identified as the basic flaw of absolutism in environmentalism. He asked,

“What norm states that health is the only value or even the dominant value?” “Whatever happened to other values? How much is a marginal gain in health worth compared with losses in other values such as freedom, justice, and excellence?”


In an entry for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, Wildavsky anticipated the ascendancy of government bureaucracies as politicians didn’t ask questions and covered themselves with the cloak of green.

Since the late 1950s, the regulation of risks to health and safety has taken on ever-greater importance in public policy debates—and actions. In its efforts to protect citizens against hard-to-detect hazards such as industrial chemicals and against obvious hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, Congress has created or increased the authority of the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and other administrative agencies.

Appearing before the Canadian parliamentary hearing on ozone I abandoned my prepared presentation. I realized quickly while listening to evidence and questioning of others that the politicians didn’t understand the scientific method. They didn’t realize that a scientific hypothesis is scientific speculation and assumed it was fact. I provided a scientific speculation based on evidence.

· Earth’s rotational speed is reducing.

· The magnetic field has weakened for 1000 years.

· If it continues at the current rate, the field will disappear in approximately 120 years.

· Some evidence indicates mass extinctions associated with previous collapses.

· Protection from some harmful solar radiation is gone.

· Some claim DNA is particularly vulnerable to exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

I asked what my government planned to do to prevent this threat? I told them I could produce dozens of such speculative threats. Their challenge was to know which ones were valid and to establish priorities because they could not deal with them all. Wildavsky provides an excellent synopsis of risk and priorities in the Encyclopedia of Economics article titled “Risk and Safety.”

Global warming was another untested scientific hypothesis, just like all the others. They never asked the fundamental scientific method question, but is it true? Instead, they attacked those who tried to ask. Global warming was bigger than all the other false threats as evidenced by the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. It was wrapped in the wider environmental envelope by powerful people who assumed the speculation was fact. The best place to see the worst confusion and display of gross misunderstanding created by accepting speculation as fact is the Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si” from Pope Francis. It is a paper that should fail as a first-year university course or High school research paper. It lacks evidence, fails to explain mechanisms, lacks objectivity, and fails to consider development and progress as part of natural human evolution. Sadly, it received a high grade from “cock-sure prophets, the media, academics, and teachers who represent and perpetuate societies demand for certainty.

180 thoughts on “But Is It True? – The Research of Aaron Wildavsky Twenty Years Later

  1. The magnetic field has weakened for 1000 years.
    · If it continues at the current rate, the field will disappear in approximately 120 years.

    You are off by an order of magnitude…

      • Leif your comments are disconnected from the observations. It appears you have no knowledge of the piles and piles of observational paradoxes and anomalies concerning cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field which correlate with cyclic abrupt climate change in the paleo climate record.

        Scientists do not cover their ears and say nah nah nah I can’t hear you when presented with paradoxes and anomalies. The correct theory/explanation makes all of the paradoxes and anomalies go away. The fact that there are piles and piles of anomalies and paradoxes supports the assertion that there very fundamental errors in multiple scientific theories.

        There must be physical reason for cyclic abrupt climate change and there is must be a physical reason for cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field intensity and the current abrupt change to the geomagnetic field. There must be a physical reason why the past cyclic abrupt climate changes correlate to abrupt geomagnetic field changes.

        Everything that has happen and will happen occurred for a physical reason.

        As noted starting in the 1990s the geomagnetic field north pole drift velocity increased by a factor of 5. Due to the abrupt change sudden change to the geomagnetic field and due to the fact that the earth’s geomagnetic field has decreased by 60% over a large region in the Southern Atlantic the Europeans launched a trio of specialized satellites (called SWARM) to measure the total geomagnetic field and small geomagnetic field changes. The SWARM data found the geomagnetic field intensity is now dropping at 5%/decade, ten times faster that it has been dropping for the last century 5%/century and 10 times faster than believed possible if the geomagnetic field cause is due to internal movement of the liquid core.

        There are two paradoxes: 1) There is no mechanism to cause cyclic abrupt changes in the earth’s core starting sometime in the 1990’s (what changed 1990s and in the past and how did what changed then possibly cause an immense change in flow in the liquid earth core), 2) As noted in the Wikipedia summary the liquid core acts like a low pass filter so it is physically possible for changes in the liquid core to abruptly change the geomagnetic field.

        Why is the geomagnetic field intensity suddenly starting in the 1990s dropping at 5%/decade where previously it was dropping at 5%/century. Why has does the geomagnetic field intensity every 30,000 to 100,000 years in recent geological time drop in intensity by a factor of 5 to 10? Why do abrupt geomagnetic field changes correlate with cyclic abrupt climate change in the paleo record?


        Earth’s magnetic field, which protects the planet from huge blasts of deadly solar radiation, has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner. Floberghagen hopes that more data from Swarm will shed light on why the field is weakening faster now.

        As noted in the paper link below, geomagnetic field research has confirmed for some unexplained reason the geomagnetic field intensity drops by a factor of 5 to 10 every 30,000 years and 100,000 years (correlating with the abrupt climate change events on the earth including the initiation and termination of the interglacial periods.)
        The point is something is physically causing cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field that is orders of magnitude faster than possible if the earth’s magnitude field is due to liquid core motion.

        What Caused Recent Acceleration of the North Magnetic Pole Drift?
        The north magnetic pole (NMP) is the point at the Earth’s surface where the geomagnetic field is directed vertically downward. It drifts in time as a result of core convection, which sustains the Earth’s main magnetic field through the geodynamo process.

        During the 1990s the NMP drift speed suddenly increased from 15 kilometers per year at the start of the decade to 55 kilometers per year by the decade’s end. This acceleration was all the more surprising given that the NMP drift speed had remained less than 15 kilometers per year over the previous 150 years of observation.
        Why did NMP drift accelerate in the 1990s? Answering this question may require revising a long-held assumption about processes in the core at the origin of fluctuations in the intensity and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field on decadal to secular time scales, and hints at the existence of a hidden plume rising within the core under the Arctic.

        Why should scientists and society pay attention to the acceleration of NMP drift? The answer lies in what this acceleration may reveal about the Earth’s core, a region that can be studied only through indirect means. Studies show that the large change in secular variation observed in the north ….


        Most estimates for the duration of a polarity transition are between 1,000 and 10,000 years.[9]
        However, studies of 15 million year old lava flows on Steens Mountain, Oregon, indicate that the Earth’s magnetic field is capable of shifting at a rate of up to 6 degrees per day.[19] This was initially met with skepticism from paleomagnetists.

        Even if changes occur that quickly in the core, the mantle, which is a semiconductor, is thought to act as a low-pass filter, removing variations with periods less than a few months. A variety of possible rock magnetic mechanisms were proposed that would lead to a false signal.[20] However, paleomagnetic studies of other sections from the same region (the Oregon Plateau flood basalts) give consistent results.[21][22] It appears that the reversed-to-normal polarity transition that marks the end of Chron C5Cr (16.7 million years ago) contains a series of reversals and excursions.[23]

        In addition, geologists Scott Bogue of Occidental College and Jonathan Glen of the US Geological Survey, sampling lava flows in Battle Mountain, Nevada, found evidence for a brief, several year long interval during a reversal when the field direction changed by over 50°. The reversal was dated to approximately 15 million years ago.[24]


        Extremely rapid directional change during Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal
        …Two relative palaeointensity (RPI) minima are present in the M-B transition. During the terminus of the upper RPI minimum, a directional change of about 180 ° occurred at an extremely fast rate, estimated to be less than 2 ° per year, with no intermediate virtual geomagnetic poles (VGPs) documented during the transit from the southern to northern hemisphere. Thus, the entry into the Brunhes Normal Chron as represented by the palaeomagnetic directions and VGPs developed in a time interval comparable to the duration of an average human life, which is an order of magnitude more rapid than suggested by current models. quoted text


        Is the geodynamo process intrinsically unstable?

        Recent palaeomagnetic studies suggest that excursions of the geomagnetic field, during which the intensity drops suddenly by a factor of 5 to 10 and the local direction changes dramatically, are more common than previously expected. The `normal’ state of the geomagnetic field, dominated by an axial dipole, seems to be interrupted every 30 to 100 kyr; it may not therefore be as stable as we thought.

      • Leif your comments are disconnected from the observations. It appears you have no knowledge of the piles and piles of observational paradoxes and anomalies concerning cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field which correlate with cyclic abrupt climate change in the paleo climate record.
        Without referring too much to authority, I do happen to be an expert in these matters, but it seems you claim to be the greater expert.

    • But Leif, Earth’s rotational speed IS slowing. We must DO SOMETHING. IMMEDIATELTY. Only leftist, Statist, all powerful Governments can save us from catastrophe.
      Indeed, the UN should hire you and your family (like Shukla) to design and implement the speed-up.

      • “Earth’s rotational speed IS slowing”

        But it sure seems like the days are getting shorter as time goes by.
        John, do you know that rate of change of the slowdown?
        Seems to me the Oiff has a lot of that mo-mo…so how in the world can it slow go, yo?

      • The moon is receding around 2 inches a year from the earth, and will eventually become a geosynchronous satellite, locked to face only one side of the earth. Yikes! What will happen to the tides?

      • NOAA programmer – you want to rethink that one. Geosynchronous orbit = 35,786 kilometers. Current lunar orbit = 385,000 kilometers (average).

    • You are off by an order of magnitude…

      You are actually making Dr. Ball’s point for him. The point is that we can produce plethoras of hobgoblins with which to scare the public. Most of the time it takes only a bit of fact checking to squelch them, but as Dr. Ball points out, that is often resisted.

      We are building up an impressive record of scientific orthodoxies that have been proven wrong and sometimes even fraudlent. Most of the perpetrators are still alive or recently deceased. Most of these cases have occurred in my lifetime. ie. They aren’t ancient history.

      • Well, yes. Asking a recent science graduate about anything they have “studied” is the equivalent of asking a member of the Ideological Purity Committee of the People’s Republic of Korea to find out whether Marxism is the ultimate economic form.

        Might as well not bother…

  2. Thank you Sir, your essay is one of, if not the best, concise description of what is and has been happening on this planet for centuries if not longer. I don’t know what drives humans this way but it is something that is intriguing. Why? There have been all kinds of speculation about this, from color differences ( of course) to “alien races” marooned on earth and fighting a “Galactic War’. Throw in religion and the mix gets even more complicated. But who ever comes up with a true (scientifically proven of course) explanation would be heralded as a god.

  3. The media and government are not great at responding to actual risks. Nuclear energy has been demonised, when the actual risks are not that great. Asbestos is demonised. Clearly it is a risk, but often simply leaving it alone will be the lowest risk response, rather than removing it.

    The best response is to try to get media and government to respond appropriately to the best scientific evidence available.

    You cannot effectively challenge a failure of government by inappropriately challenging the science.

    • You’re talking about your church. Your church leaders confessed and were caught faking their claims. There’s no real CO2 heating it was a grants scam by some government administrators who had their bluff called when their own presidential candidate thought it might be a way to get people to go ahead and install his policies anyway,
      in spite of the election.

      He told your church the world would end if they didn’t break the law and rules and install his policies in spite of the election.

      March 26, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      The media and government are not great at responding to actual risks.
      You cannot effectively challenge a failure of government by inappropriately challenging the science.

  4. What is difficult to understand is the oxymoronic notion that dread things are going to happen that we cannot control so we need to do something to control those things. AGW seems to be one of those things requiring control that the greens deny any practical means to control even if it exists. Nuclear power is the obvious solution to much of the purported CO2 “pollution”, but it is ritually unclean. So their “solution” would kill off some large percentage of the current population to reach “balance with nature”. Why anyone finds that attractive if a question for abnormal psychology (a field little better than philosophy or witch doctors).

    • One would think the mountain of evidence that has been found in support of the notion that low level radiation actually protects us from cellular damage and cancer by activating normally dormant repair mechanisms within our cells and organelles.
      ( BTW, and/or in case you do not believe it…this effect, called hormesis, is not confined to radiation, but appears to be the case for a wide variety of insults and injuries to our bodies, both microscopic and macroscopic ones. Abraded skin develops callouses that resist abrasive damage, Bones that are put under repeated stress or are actually broken heal stronger than they had been, preventing repeated injury from the same impact. Lifting heavy weights damages our muscles, but they quickly heal stronger and more powerful than they had been. And on and on. We are well adapted to live on a ball of rock that is bathed in radiation from within and without. And, preemptively…I know that exposure to large amounts causes acute radiation sickness and even death…but the same goes for nearly everything you can name, from water and salt to aspirin and chlorine. The same things that will surely kill us in large amounts, can protect us in small amounts.)
      Funny how with all the things that are supposedly killing us in the modern world, people everywhere are living longer and healthier lives than before, and the trend upwards continues to advance, even as these assaults on our health pile up in ever greater number.
      There is really no good reason I can think of not to get to work on building the next generation of nuclear power plants.

      • Doh!
        mods: Seems I left out part of that first sentence…should be “…within our cells and organelles would have been big news and made widely known, since if we face little danger from small amounts of radiation, we have even less to worry about regarding nuclear power than the astounding safety record of nuclear would suggest.

  5. “Follow him who searches the truth. Beware of him who has found it.”
    The aphorism has been ascribed to several persons. André Gide and Václav Havel among others.

  6. Prof. Lindzen of MIT kindly reviewed the lengthly culminating climate chapter in The Arts of Truth before it was published. I had asked him to look for any major climate science misstatements or errors. Although not asked to, he read the rest of the book manuscript also, and made many helpful comments over the couse of several hours plus lunch. The long Svalbard footnote in the Continental Drift example in the Recognition chapter is the result of one. He made a comment that in some ways the book was reminiscent of Waldavsky’s But Is It True? only covering a much wider range of policy issues than just environment. At the time I was unaware of Waldavsky. Turns out Lindzen meant it as an oblique compliment rather than critique. Class room size, standardized testing, cholesterol and eggs, Chevy Volt MPGe, ‘Pink Slime’, and many other illustrating examples are strong analogs of various aspects of CAGW. Which is why global warming became the culminating summary ‘wrap’ chapter.
    Because The Arts of Truth title itself is another illustration of the books actual themes (as the intro explains using Harvard Yard’s famous ‘statue of three lies’). Its about the many cloaked arts of untruth that increasingly prevail in a media influenced, internet connected, echo chamber world.

  7. In his not-so-fascinating 1929 book “Marriage and Morals,” mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell advocated the mass sterilization of the “mentally defective.” An opinion also adopted by G B Shaw, Margaret Sanger, Tommy Douglas, Maurice Strong (of UN & Club of Rome fame) and was implemented by a short Austrian in 1933 when he took over Germany.

    In 1942, Eugenics laws were struck down in the US Supreme court. So much for Bertrand Russel.

    • Dr. Ball
      As someone who lived on the both sides of old iron curtain, I have seen very little difference in methods of application, it is only that the adversity that is about to fall upon us is different.
      On the second impeding ‘catastrophe’ you mentioned, I am happy to report a good news, around year 2000 the Earth’s magnetic field’s dipole intensity has stopped falling and has even recorded a slight increase.

      note that magnetic right hand scale is inverted, and feel free to ignore the global temperature’s correlation

      • I feel that a geomagnetic field reversal is badly overdue. A long period without a reversal ushers in a dinosaur era (call it a pure speculation.)

      • Magnetic reversal might be a different thing from ‘the field will be disappearing’. The geographic movement of the field’s ‘true poles’ is on the way for some time. South pole (use to be called North pole, confused ?) , is heading towards Tasmania, while the North’s strongest region is now in the central Siberia. This means that strongest field is in the eastern hemisphere of the globe, while the west is loosing out. I suppose in another few thousand years the two poles may clank together somewhere in the middle of the North Pacific, but I doubt it.

      • Vuk, a gentleman,

        I gathered that, as did everyone I suspect. We have all done that.


    • Thank you Paul for pointing out that Russel was a misanthrope. His was hard core Malthusian well before the good Dr. Ehrlich published the population bomb and one would have to think that he may have been disdainful of the good doctor’s intellect he would have admired his pluck.

      • Lord Russell was brought up by his grandma’ in what once was hunting lodge of Henry VIII, located in large parkland in the middle of Richmond park, one of the most beautiful corners of south England. No surprise he was disconnected from reality of life. The place is now open to public with coffee bar and a restaurant. I often go there (about 10 min drive), ornamental gardens are congenial for calm contemplation of the ‘climate change conundrum’ , well worth visiting, but don’t go there on weekends in the summer months.

    • @Paul Westhaver “So much for Bertrand Russel[l]”

      Okay, the gist of your comment is then “The US Supreme Court must be right because it decided againt eugenics, and Russell must be wrong [in other respects, even] because he advocated eugenics.”

      But what if the Supreme Court is just as far off-key in this matter as the IPCC is in matters of climate change? Your ridiculous appeal to authority (and to a dubious, rather obviously corrupt one at that) reveals that you have just as little arguments against Eugenics as any other honest man. There are none!

      • see below… the authority of the 1942 decision followed a reversal of 1935 Buck vs Bell, after years of suffering of 1000s of people in the USA and a subsequent public outrage and widespread condemnation. eg ..GB Shaw famously argued that people unfit for survival out to be “killed” This was the moral framework of Russell et al as well. The authority of the decision was a moral one that was made a second time it made it to the SCOTUS after years of activism.

        Time stamp 1:55

      • Regarding arguments against eugenics, the crux of the matter is government involvement and coercion. Certainly the consideration of genetic endowment is the right of any person when considering a mate, but that is a long way from the government having the power to sterilize those it judges to be unfit for propagation. However, the role of government gets confused when that same government subsidizes the propagation of persons whose fitness is probably lower, then you have a dysgenic effect.

        Curiouser and curiouser.

    • You didn’t mention that the list also includes Aldous Huxley. Curiously, “Brave New World” was published in (if my memory serves me correctly) 1933.

      • Perhaps you’re confusing Aldous Huxley with his brother Julian. Huxley wasn’t a eugenicist. “Brave New World” was a caste system in which the elites kept the lower castes ignorant and manipulable. It was a warning he expounded on further in 1962.

    • In his not-so-fascinating 1929 book “Marriage and Morals,” mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell advocated the mass sterilization of the “mentally defective.”

      A perfectly sensible proposition in pure evolutionary terms. A distinctly dubious suggestion in social and moral terms. But which takes precidence?

      As it happens, the cocktails of drugs given to the greatly disturbed by modern medicine have much the same effect as Russell advocated. So who was right, in this moral debate?

      Please don’t argue that grey is black or white.

      • One of the problems in eugenics as actually practised was that some of the people identified as “mentally defective” were simply inconvenient. It went hand-in-hand with the assumption that all differences were genetic differences, so that growing up in a crowded house with damp walls and no books couldn’t possibly have any relevance to your doing poorly at school.

        I’m not arguing that grey is black or white; I’m arguing that ignorance isn’t knowledge, no matter how loudly one shouts. Not, I would have thought, an unusual position in this forum.

    • While your facts are AFAIK correct, regrettably your logic has two separate defects. (1) By dismissing Bertrand Russell over one error (“So much for Bertrand Russel[l]“) you are implying that anyone who gets one thing wrong gets everything wrong I don’t know of anyone who is or was always right, and I don’t know of anyone who is or was always wrong, not even AH. Ideally, all arguments should be treated on their merits (much easier said than done). (2) Citing a Supreme Court decision is to argue from authority. Obviously, the Supreme Court will get some decisions “right”, and this one may well have been right – we all think it is right now because it has developed further in our culture – but what will you say if the Supreme Court finds for Michael Mann against Mark Steyn?

      • Indeed. Were we all to adhere to such logic no one would be using differential calculus or the equations of motion because of Newton’s unfortunate love of the occult.

      • Mike Jonas,

        Let us assume you are correct. By the same argument, it is also true that exalting Russell because of one thing that he said he is never wrong. Furthermore, Timmy Ball nearly always attempts to hijack authority for his subsequent reasoning by quoting (often misquoting or mis-attributing quotes) of pseudo god-men who have a natural place in our psyches. He does it often. In this case Ball, in service to his need to self-validate, hijacked the authority of a man who opposed Ball’s very opposition to the Malthusian efforts of the UN, the justification for the IPCC. So, Ball fell off his own borrowed ladder. In the case of the SCOTUS decision in 1942, it followed a long battle and reversal of the SCOTUS, Buck vs Bell (1935). It also followed GK Chesterton’s work, “Eugenics and Other Evils” (1929?) And it was rendered as news of the extermination camps in the 3rd R3ich were just becoming known to the USA. So the SCOTUS ruling was not simply an authoritative act, it was a consequence of salient arguments made by the aggrieved based on real life data and real life suffering, that Russell did not anticipate and or for which he had no empathy.

      • Paul Westhaver,

        “Timmy Ball”?

        Are you on intimate enough terms with Dr. Ball to address him as “TImmy”, or were you attempting a cheap putdown?

    • Eugenics enjoyed considerable popularity among intellectuals in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. As a broad concept it has merit, but it falls down badly on the issue of practical implementation. Where does one draw the line on “mental defectives”? Obviously, those who disagree with ‘authorities’ need to be looked at closely. The potential for gross abuse far outweighs any possible benefit.

      On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court has managed to tolerate slavery and Constitutionally dubious legislation. (I’m thinking specifically of the Patriot Act here, but there are other examples.) The Court is certainly relevant, but not for determining the worth of a philosopher.

      Even if Lord Russell could be shown to be wrong on many other points, he is a goldmine of quotable quotes. Any pithy saying, once said, may be examined on its merits independently of its originator. The above quotes stand up quite well, in my opinion. The individual is supposed to be the captain of his conscience and the reader will take whatever he can find of use.

      • Instead of backing off the logical fallacy, Paul wants to pile on more fallacy in order to what? in order to pretend that logical fallacy was not important? By this means, the proponent of the original fallacy and the subsequent ones has declared his values rely on pretense and obfuscation.
        Yet, if his fallacy were true, then his act has forever tainted anything he has ever said and anything he may ever say in future.
        Paul, meet petard; petard, hoist away
        Fakers attempt to embezzle respect with the fraudulent coin of mendacity.

      • “Any pithy saying, once said, may be examined on its merits independently of its originator.”

        Yes, agreed totally.

        I often post quotes on twitter, and normally use quotes from those who are on my side of the question of politics, but I have quoted some anti-war quotes by the worst president the USA has ever had. The bloodthirsty old bast*rd said a few things that are gems of anti-war rhetoric. It matters not the the old war-mongering president said them first.

      • so “fakers attempt…”

        EXACTLY if you actually read my critique. You use embezzle. I used “borrowed.”

        So Let me use embezzle… Ball fell off his own embezzled ladder. as you say…

      • I read what you call a critique, Mr Westhaver.
        It was not any kind of critique; it was merely crude. It reveal you vying for recognition by attempting to deprecate the work of somebody who has valuable information to convey.
        Dr Tim’s experiences are first hand and he has something to say. You, on the other hand, use him as a target of snarkiness and claim triumph when your envious mediocrity can not be cloaked by spin and bluster.
        And what have you won? A reputation, of course! Don’t darken my door again. What you are selling is nothing the world needs any more of.

      • At now we have a group of pseudo-intellectuals subscribing to Agenda 21, which in its aims, is no different to the aims of eugenics. The difficult part of how to ‘downsize’ the earth’s population from the current 7 Gigapersons or so to the ‘right-size’ of 1.5 Gigapersons without unduly upsetting anyone is yet to be addressed. Maybe the eugenics approach will need to be revisited.

    • Another famous Irish novelist and essayist wrote a piece recommending that the Irish poor eat their own children (A Modest Proposal), I suggest that the clip is an example of ’Shavian Wit’, Shaw’s irony, gone awry.

      • Shaw and the other members of the Fabian Society were eugenicists. (They were also communists and otherwise not nice people at all in my view.)

  8. For me the main problem in all the CAGW meme is that people in general have great difficulty in admitting that they got it wrong, and those who depend on getting it “right” in order to earn a living find it doubly so.
    MSM think that they will look silly if they say “We got it wrong, there is a great amount of evidence that there will be no catastrophy if the earth gets warmer, and CO2 has little effect on temperature.”
    Little do they know that if they did that they would be deafened by the cheer going up from those scientists who are still honest.
    Likewise politicians find it very difficult to U-turn without losing credibility.

  9. “They never asked the fundamental scientific method question, but is it true? Instead, they attacked those who tried to ask.” ~ Dr. Ball

    This is probably the most important part of your wonderful essay. We see that sort of thing in many fields and on all sides it seems. It is very hard to find scientists who really believe in the scientific method. I don’t pretend to know why that is.

  10. The question “but is it true?” is OK, but I prefer “How can we test it?”, because that gives a path to the truth.

    • Asking “how can we test it?” isn’t always a path to the truth. It depends on your motive. A snake-oil salesman, for example, may want to test his new drug laced formula to see how well it fools the public into thinking it’s a cure for their ailments. He may already know that it cures nothing but only makes people feel good for a short time. So his tests are not designed to uncover the truth, but only to discover how well the new formula fools his customers. His motive is to determine how much he can get away with charging for his snake oil. That’s why it’s important to first ask, “but is it true?.” The next step is to ask “how can we test it?”

  11. Markstoval…it’s because scientists are human beings. They put their pants on one leg at a time, look silly when they are frolicking naked with their lovers, many have terrible table manners, and outside their particular field of inquiry unless they really work at it they foolishly believe dumb stuff. They are only dangerous when they stop having a sense of humor about it all.

  12. My first and only academic job interview in 1977 was with Aaron Wildavsky. An exceptionally astute and bright man. I did not get the job! Regardless, if you have not read “But Is It True?” I strongly recommend it, if no other reason than to see how Aaron trained a cadre of graduate students as critical thinkers (and skeptics). Sadly, it appears he did not train enough of them. He had the full measure of the dangers of embracing the “Precautionary Principle” where there is a lack of readiness to continuously and objectively assess the scope and likelihood of negative outcomes.

  13. I’ve only got 120 years to live ! The sky is falling ,the sky is falling quick somebody do a study to tell us how bad it’s going to be .
    Excuse me while I put on my tinfoil hat and hide under the stairs while I await the response of some honest scientists and politicians .

    Do I need sarc

  14. That Russell may have advocated ideas that some do not like is hardly the point. What matters are the views he propounded regarding general morality, and most importantly truth. For example in A Liberal Decalogue (1954) he wrote “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” And in Free Thought and Official Propaganda (1922) “What is wanted is not the will-to-believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.” By posing unpopular philosophies he was challenging others to take issue with him, to debate them. If debate is denied, clearly, the “will-to-believe” triumphs. In some ways this reminds me of the aphorism attributed to Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that a good man does nothing.”

    Tim, you wrote “After 20 years of doom and gloom predictions …” and I was going to suggest that 20 years was too short, thinking of a particular example which had disastrous, probably unintended, consequences. I had 54 years in mind. But then you cited the particular example, Rachel Carson’s “The Silent Spring”, which was published in 1962. I use the term “probably unintended” because I do not believe she had genocide in mind when she advocated the banning of DDT. Many well-meaning people have picked up her environmentalism without appreciating the scope of unintended consequence.

    I would like to hope that the recent impacts of Zeka virus might help those well-meaning individuals to review their attitudes because, ironically, the spread of the virus could probably be contained in short time were the use of DDT be sanctioned.

  15. Liberal academic hijacking of Environmentalism, subsequently capitalized on by crony “renewable” energy vultures and others such as the eminent chemist, McKibben, lecturing us falsely of late on methane –

    Peter Wood and Rachelle Peterson

    The green line, environmentalism, is the conspicuous public face of the movement and its emotional center. It is where the sustainability movement links up with the theory of anthropogenic global warming and where the movement gets its eschatology”.

  16. lsvalgaard March 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm @ vukcevic
    As usual, you don’t know what you are talking about. The Earth’s dipole strength is currently 32 microTesla, not 124.

    Says who, measured where?
    North is about + 59 and south is around – 65, in my book the magnetic dipole is the arithmetic difference 60 – (– 65) = 124.
    ‘not knowing is preferable to the telling knowingly wrong’ said my late grandma.

      • Tesla is a unit of a field intensity, not of a dipole strength. You can have 59uT at one place, and 65uT at another place (you added a minus sign to indicate an opposite orientation), and 34uT in between. It is not additive – or subtractive. When you pump water horizontally in a middle of a big pond to provide water movement, and measure a flow speed at a pump input 59km/h and 65km/h at a pump output, would you say that the pump pumps at 124km/h?

      • Curious George, thanks for your comment
        Magnetic field strength intensity unit is Tesla, it is a vector, vectors for all field forces are additive. think of a bar magnet not water pumps. Arithmetic difference in intensity between two poles I call dipole,according to its conventional definition: magnetic dipole is a pair of equal and oppositely magnetized poles separated by a distance.

      • I love your ‘Vuk failure’ library, I see you assembled 35 items to date.
        Soon I’ll be the ‘settled science’ number one persona non grata.

        you said : “The magnetic dipole is…..which comes to ~30,000 nT or 30 microTesla” ,
        you’ll get told off by Curious George, he objects to using Tesla.

      • I see. One pole is 59uT the other one is -65uT, they are equal and opposite.
        Belatedly I appreciate the genius of James Clerk Maxwell.

      • George, hi again
        What I was trying to convey is magnetic potential between two poles. If you wish for a crude mechanical analogy (I’ll get into trouble for this) think of the potential energy of a boulder that could (but doesn’t) roll down from top of Himalayas to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, with the zero altitude at the sea surface.

        Without Maxwell (Scotland’s Einstein) there wouldn’t have been the other Einstein, at least not at that time.
        Albert Einstein said: “The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell’s equations of the electromagnetic field. ….. Since Maxwell’s time, physical reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields, and not capable of any mechanical interpretation. This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton”

      • The geomagnetic field is probably generated by currents, not by magnetic monopoles stuck somewhere deep. It is pretty much like the magnetic field of a coil. “Poles” of a coil without a magnetic core are just imaginary. A magnetic dipole moment has in SI units a dimension of Ampere x m2, whereas the dimension of Tesla is kg/(Ampere x sec2).

      • Thanks for the reminder; just to add that at centre of the Earth the ‘magnetic dipole moment’ of 8×1022 Am2 = 60,000 nT (60 microT) at the poles, or 30,000nT at the Equator (see Dr. Svalgaard’s comment further below).
        I think it was understood that I was not referring either to centre of the Earth or the Equator, but if it wasn’t this time, I shall make it clear in future.
        George, all the best

    • The magnetic dipole is calculated as SQRT(g01^2+g11^2+h11^2) where the g’s and h’s are the spherical harmonic coefficients of the Earth’s magnetic field, which currently are g01=-29442, g11=-1501, h11=4797 nT (xttp://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/IAGA/vmod/igrf12coeffs.txt, replace ‘xttp’ by ‘http’) which comes to ~30,000 nT or 30 microTesla.

      From Slide 14 of http://www.epm.geophys.ethz.ch/~cfinlay/teaching/core_l5
      N.B. (1) Although the dipole component accounts for much Earth’s field IS NOT just a simple dipole and it makes no physical sense to think of it as such!
      (2) Geomagnetic dipoles ‘poles’ ARE NOT coincident with the magnetic poles where D=0, I=90, the position of magnetic poles are affected by non-dipole field.

  17. Excellent article, Tim, as usual.
    I noted a 1995 reference (attributed to Aaron Wildavsky) to the “notorious” Love Canal waste site and its supposed posing “no significant danger to residents”. Not enough people know that the Hooker chemical company followed all regulations applicable at the time and that they warned the Board of Education not to penetrate the clay cap over the disposal area. The BofE did penetrate it and the chemicals that then came to the surface definitely were a danger to residents. But the danger was due entirely to the Board of Education, not the Hooker company.
    I can send a long article to anyone interested in the story; I was unable to attach a TinyURL for the article. Contact me at imcqueen(at)nbnet.nb.ca
    Ian M

  18. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

    Strangely, it’s the “just ain’t so” stuff that earns the big bucks.

      • “And you lifted it from them and presented the Figures without attribution pretending they were your own…”

        Total nonsense, if you bother to click on the image it will give you the BGS page source.
        Anything of my own I sign, BGS or NOAA or anyone else could do the same, if they want attribution, else don’t put it on the web.

      • don’t put it on the web…
        Wrong. Especially, if you put it on the web.
        BGS says:
        “The following acknowledgement must accompany the reproduced BGS material:
        ‘Reproduced with the permission of the British Geological Survey ©NERC. All rights Reserved’
        Where figures, sketches, illustrations, diagrams, map extracts or cross-sections are used as the basis of specifically generated illustrations, the source of the material should be cited as follows:
        ‘Based upon [source details], with the permission of the British Geological Survey’.”

  19. Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, is false

    That is so true. I usually put it another way, “the most dangerous people are the people too stupid to realize they are wrong.” If you don’t know you are wrong, there is no reason for them to stop doing what they are doing. Socialists are great examples, no matter how many times they fail, they just keep believing in a lie. They keep running the exact failed experiment over and over and over expecting a different outcome.

    • “the most dangerous people are the people too stupid to realize they are wrong.”

      Ambitious, stupid officers will get everyone killed. Fire them immediately. link

    • I’d actually contend the opposite has a larger degree of truth: “The most dangerous people are the people too smart to realize they are wrong.”

      Intelligent, educated, clever people have many more intellectually dishonest tools to deflect contradiction and criticism, and the pesky cognitive dissonance they inspire, than simpletons. They can rationalize, craft ambiguous language, spot-the-fallacy nitpick, decry “anti-intellectualism”, etc. And they are the ones with the talent and drive to ultimately get into positions of power in the greater society.

      Basically, the smarter you are, the better you are at lying to yourself.

      University educators (read: indoctrinators) are very good at getting smart young people to lie to themselves when they want to push their politics. They play to the ego (which talent and ability tends to enlarge). They play to that general sense of adolescent rebellion that hasn’t completely faded. They conjure up a nemesis in the form of “anti-intellectualism” and/or “anti-science”, and talk about how these sinister forces are on the march. How these can only be held at bay by standing together for truth and reason (read: whatever politics they consider true and reasonable).

      Many students will accept a stifling intellectual conformity on campus because it’s framed as a noble rebellion against a stifling conformity in the world at large. And the indoctrinators can deny that they tell students what to think. They’re in the business of teaching “how” to think, thank you very much. (read: how to think in such a way that you come to the exact same conclusions I do).

      • Intelligent, educated, clever people have many more intellectually dishonest tools to deflect contradiction and criticism, and the pesky cognitive dissonance they inspire, than simpletons. They can rationalize, craft ambiguous language, spot-the-fallacy nitpick, decry “anti-intellectualism”, etc.

        Philip E. Tetlock has written a book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Over many years he asked experts to make predictions about world events; eg. is this criminal reformed, will the USSR break up, will Canada break up, etc. Much of the book is dedicated to deciding whether the experts were actually wrong. They had many reasons (ie. ‘many more intellectually dishonest tools’) to assert that they weren’t. For example they might assert that they were right but merely got the timing wrong. (Canada didn’t break up but just you wait.)

        Tetlock should be required reading for everybody. A dart throwing monkey is just as good at predicting as are the experts, especially those who are the most confident and compelling. Everybody (especially the experts) should understand the limitations of expertise and the hazards of hubris.

  20. When I was a school boy, we studied the foundations of our culture; Shakespeare, The Bible, and the Greek myths.

    The Greeks gave name to a fatal flaw in human character; hubris. Shakespeare and the Bible provided plentiful examples. The Bible preached the virtues of humility. The other works furnished corroborating evidence.

    Our education gave us an inkling that there was such a thing as wisdom. Even the dullest of us understood that overconfidence was the opposite of wisdom. Our culture celebrated the likes of Bertrand Russell, G.K. Chesterton, H.L. Mencken, Northrop Frye, etc.

    Things have slipped in the wisdom department. Oprah is about as good as it gets (if you like platitudes). Overconfidence is celebrated as a virtue.

  21. Just a note about the head graphic “truth/lies”.
    How about “best practices/grant approvals”

  22. Well, some 50 to 60 years ago, environmental pollution was a serious issue in the industrialized areas (I guess that does let out Winnipeg) of all western countries, as is now the case in China for example. Environmentalism took a wrong turn after those issues had been sorted out.

    And once again we get to read about the tired old DDT ban canard. DDT is not banned for use against malaria; this application is legal and regulated under the Stockholm protocol. (Indeed, considering that DDT has become something of a poster child for misguided environmentalist
    activism, it is a little ironic that it is one of very few organochlorides to retain such approval.
    In contrast, dieldrin and several other organochloride compounds have been
    banned categorically under the Stockholm convention.)

    DDT continues to be manufactured in and commercially available from India. There, its use against malaria continues, but mosquito resistance (which was first observed very shortly after its introduction) is now so widespread as to render it almost useless, and it has mostly been superseded by other insecticides. The ban of DDT for agricultural use did, if anything, slow down selection of mosquito resistance and thereby extend its useful life for malaria control.

    For those interested in more details, I have written a memo on the subject that includes a number of useful references.

    • Rachel Carson was a misguided environmentalist who grossly overstated the threat from DDT, and grossly understated the benefits in the 1960s.

      I offer two brief quotes summarizing the benefits of DDT, one from the CDC, and the other from your own report.

      The DDT scare was similar to the scare about acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, global cooling, and now global warming — environmentalists grossly overstating risks to get attention, funding, and crony capitalists looking for government subsidies.

      Your post gives the impression that environmentalists were 100% correct about DDT, when in fact, they were speculating, and wild guessing, as usual.

      US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
      “Successes (using DDT) included elimination in nations with temperate climates and seasonal malaria transmission. Some countries such as India and Sri Lanka had sharp reductions in the number of cases, followed by increases to substantial levels after efforts ceased. ”

      Source of above quote:

      “Only a few years after almost complete eradication (of malaria from DDT), case numbers skyrocketed in an epidemic of sorts in 1968 and 1969. DDT use was subsequently reinstated.

      Further reading for people who care about accurate science:

      • The point is not that DDT did not work — of course it did. The point is that its use against malaria was not banned. The reason it was not banned is that the signatories of the Stockholm protocol realized that, when used properly, the benefits of DDT outweigh the risks.

  23. Most political manifestations come from a fear of death. From that we want to predict our world, and want certain outcomes. If we can live forever, well, so much the better. Prophecies of doom therefore hit the extinction button all the time, but with constant use, it gets worn out. So when they sell us cars, they sell us sex. When they sell us subjugation, they sell us extinction.

  24. I don’t know if anyone else noticed (haven’t read all the way through the comments, as this one caught my eye first, but apparently went unnoticed by the first group to comment), but Aaron Wildavsky could only have addressed anyone in 2003, much less the Commonwealth Club, during a séance, or mAybe via a Ouija Board, since he died in 1993. Dr. Ball, or mods, please correct the year of that conference?

    • Perhaps not the most unambigous writing, but he who spoke to the Commonwealth Club 2003 was Michael Crichton, addressing the same problem as Aaron Wildavsky once did. At least that’s how I read it.

  25. Well this thread got off track in a hurry, and never came back.

    The main point was that a group of people with no science background were exposed to a relatively brief training in the scientific method, and then sent to look at the big environmental issues of that time period. They correctly identified the misinformation that the public was willingly accepting in very short order.

    20 years on, nothing has changed. The CAGW debacle should have ended with “CO2’s effects are logarithmic”. Yet here we are debating a few hundredths of a degree year after year after year instead.

  26. Leif,
    The paper that you quote above that asserted that the standard geomagnetic model can be fiddled with to ‘explain’ the sudden acceleration of the North magnetic drift velocity from 15 km/year to 55 km/year does not refer to the before European geomagnetic specialty satellite data.

    The paper you refer provides zero physical explanation as to the reason why there should suddenly be a massive change in fluid motion in the core of the earth starting in the mid 1990s which is immaterial as a core based self generating geomagnetic field model to has a limited speed of change of field intensity (the self generating model is change is limited to 5%/century) as the mantel is slightly conductive and will generate a back emf to resist fast field changes.

    The SWARM data supports the assertion that the geomagnetic field intensity is currently dropping at 5%/decade which is ten times faster it was previously dropping (5%/century) and is ten times faster than a core based self dynamo geomagnetic field model is capable of. Above I provided a link to multiple peer reviewed data that shows the geomagnetic field has abruptly changed in periods of a year which is impossible for the self dynamo model as the a back emf is generated which resists a core base change.

    I also included a link to a paper that notes there are unexplained cyclic changes to the geomagnetic field in the paleo record (there is a very interesting NOVA program that was produced which explains the methodology that was used to find the cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field through the study of fired tiles by the French) and the cyclic changes to the geomagnetic field correlate with large and very large climate changes.


    While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought.

    P.S. There are hundreds and hundreds of astronomical paradoxes and anomalies that have the same explanation (related to the physics of what happens when a very large body collapses) as to how the sun is different than the standard model. Note there are now specialists in peer reviewed papers that are calling out the fact that are paradoxes that need to be explained for the astronomical observation and fro the geomagnetic observations. The geomagnetic observations and a dozen different solar system observations point to the sun as the cause the paradoxes for cyclic abrupt climate change and cyclic abrupt geomagnetic field changes. There are almost every month new astronomical paradoxes. It is comical that no one has tried to make the astronomical paradoxes go away it is absurdly obvious the paradoxes are linked.

    See below paper that notes the solar convection zone motion is 100 times less than the standard solar model predicts. The solar convection motion cannot be 100 times slower than theory if the primary and only mechanism of transport of heat/energy from the radiative zone out through the convection zone to the surface of the sun is surface of the sun is primarily thermal convection.

    What new mechanism is required to quickly transport energy from the core of the sun which is around 10 millions degrees Kelvin to the surface of the sun? Hint this additional energy transfer mechanism is not completely effective (some energy is left in the particle that is moving from the core of the sun to the surface of the sun) which explains why the solar coronal is around 1 million degrees Kelvin. A hint of the mechanism is the solar wind accelerates in the vicinity of the sun.

    P.S. Another hint is something caused the geomagnetic field to drop in intensity ten times faster than a core based change is capable of, starting sometime in mid 1990s. Another hint is there are burn marks on the surface of the earth and that correlate in time with the most rapid change in C14 in the paleo record (the C14 change is caused by a massive rapid change to the geomagnetic field) that correlates with the Younger Dryas abrupt climate change (11,900 years ago) at which time the planet went from interglacial warm to glacial cold at a time in which solar insolation at maximum. The YD abrupt cooling duration was 1200 years. The duration of cooling is also a hint as to the mechanism.


    ‘MRI’ of the Sun’s interior motions challenges existing explanations for sunspots
    The Sun’s heat, generated by nuclear fusion in its core, is transported to the surface by convection in the outer third. However, our understanding of this process is largely theoretical—the Sun is opaque, so convection cannot be directly observed. As a result, theories largely rest on what we know about fluid flow and then applying them to the Sun, which is primarily composed of hydrogen, helium, and plasma.

    What they found significantly departed from existing theory–specifically, the speed of the Sun’s plasma motions were approximately 100 times slower than scientists had previously projected.

    “Our current theoretical understanding of magnetic field generation in the Sun relies on these motions being of a certain magnitude,” explained Shravan Hanasoge, an associate research scholar in geosciences at Princeton University and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. “These convective motions are currently believed to prop up large-scale circulations in the outer third of the Sun that generate magnetic fields.”

    “However, our results suggest that convective motions in the Sun are nearly 100 times smaller than these current theoretical expectations,” continued Hanasoge, also a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Plank Institute in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany. “If these motions are indeed that slow in the Sun, then the most widely accepted theory concerning the generation of solar magnetic field is broken, leaving us with no compelling theory to explain its generation of magnetic fields and the need to overhaul our understanding of the physics of the Sun’s interior.”



    Are there connections between the Earth’s magnetic field and climate? Vincent Courtillot, Yves Gallet, Jean-Louis Le Mouël, Frédéric Fluteau, Agnès Genevey
    We review evidence for correlations which could suggest such (causal or non-causal) connections at various time scales (recent secular variation approx 10–100 yr, historical and archeomagnetic change appox. 100–5000 yr, and excursions and reversals approx. 10^3–10^6 yr), and attempt to suggest mechanisms. Evidence for correlations, which invoke Milankovic forcing in the core, either directly or through changes in ice distribution and moments of inertia of the Earth, is still tenuous.

    Correlation between decadal changes in amplitude of geomagnetic variations of external origin, solar irradiance and global temperature is stronger. It suggests that solar irradiance could have been a major forcing function of climate until the mid-1980s, when “anomalous” warming becomes apparent. The most intriguing feature may be the recently proposed archeomagnetic jerks, i.e. fairly abrupt (approx. 100 yr long) geomagnetic field variations found at irregular intervals over the past few millennia, using the archeological record from Europe to the Middle East. These seem to correlate with significant climatic events in the eastern North Atlantic region. A proposed mechanism involves variations in the geometry of the geomagnetic field (f.i. tilt of the dipole to lower latitudes), resulting in enhanced cosmic-ray induced nucleation of clouds. No forcing factor, be it changes in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere or changes in cosmic ray flux modulated by solar activity and geomagnetism, or possibly other factors, can at present be neglected or shown to be the overwhelming single driver of climate change in past centuries. Intensive data acquisition is required to further probe indications that the Earth’s and Sun’s magnetic fields may have significant bearing on climate change at certain time scales.

    This suggests the prevalence of a different paradigm of turbulence from that predicted by existing models, prompting the question: what mechanism transports the heat flux of a solar luminosity outwards? Advection is dominated by Coriolis forces for wave numbers < 60, with Rossby numbers smaller than 10􀀀2 at r=R suggesting that the Sun may be a much faster rotator than previously thought, and that large-scale convection may be quasi-geostrophic. The fact that iso-rotation contours in the Sun are not co-aligned with the axis of rotation suggests the presence of a latitudinal entropy gradient.


    Response to Comment on “Are there connections between Earth’s magnetic field and climate?, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 253, 328–339, 2007” by Bard, E., and Delaygue, M., Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., in press, 2007

    Also, we wish to recall that evidence of a correlation between archeomagnetic jerks and cooling events (in a region extending from the eastern North Atlantic to the Middle East) now covers a period of 5 millenia and involves 10 events (see f.i. Figure 1 of Gallet and Genevey, 2007). The climatic record uses a combination of results from Bond et al (2001), history of Swiss glaciers (Holzhauser et al, 2005) and historical accounts reviewed by Le Roy Ladurie (2004).

    Recent high-resolution paleomagnetic records (e.g. Snowball and Sandgren, 2004; St-Onge et al., 2003) and global geomagnetic field modeling (Korte and Constable, 2006) support the idea that part of the centennial-scale fluctuations in 14C production may have been influenced by previously unmodeled rapid dipole field variations. In any case, the relationship between climate, the Sun and the geomagnetic field could be more complex than previously imagined. And the previous points allow the possibility for some connection between the geomagnetic field and climate over these time scales.

  27. Shame Wildavsky didn’t take up the wildly speculative claim that burning half of the earth’s recoverable fossil fuel stores has no deliterious effect on climate system, oceans or human society.

  28. · The magnetic field has weakened for 1000 years.
    · If it continues at the current rate, the field will disappear in approximately 120 years.

    Oh, we could build a superconducting line along the equator and start electric current in it to aid terrestrial magnetic field.


    1. What current is needed (in amperes) to have a noticeable effect?
    2. How much would it cost (to build &. operate)?
    3. Who would pay for it?

    • Eh, not very practical. A superconducting wire along the equator needs 1.5 GA current to produce a magnetic field strength at the pole comparable to current values (~0.5 gauss = 50 μT). To that end diameter of said wire should be 40 m to keep field strength on its outside under the critical value of 15 Tesla. Volume of superconducting wire would be 50 cubic kilometer and it would require a corresponding volume of liquid helium to keep it cool. Estimated cost is $500 trillion to $1000 trillion, hardly affordable.

      Unfortunately magnetic field is excessively strong close to the wire. At one kilometer distance it is still 3000 gauss. Therefore traffic crossing the equator may get into trouble, including ships, cars, even planes flying at higher altitudes.

      You can try to put the damned thing to orbit, let’s say at an elevation of one Earth radius, but in that case volume of wire is doubled to 100 cubic kilometers and hundreds of billion tons should be sent to orbit, increasing costs a thousandfold perhaps.

      With a bill close to a billion dollars per capita, world economy still has some way to improve to make this project affordable.

      But hey, put the UN bureaucrats in charge and all will be well.

      • there is such current, immensely strong and there every single day, goes by name
        The Equatorial Electrojet

        the intense ionospheric current confined to a narrow ribbon along the magnetic dip-equator.

      • It is not an ‘immense’ current. In fact, many thousand times weaker than the currents causing the dipole.
        Again, you have no idea what you are talking about.

      • The Equatorial Electrojet is a good start. We only have to increase its intensity 30 thousandfold and the job is done.

        That’s why UN bureaucrats are needed. If we do not start to address the issue now, there’s certainly no solution, right?

      • It may disappear indeed. But in the meantime we can establish an international organization to handle the problem, with thousands of well paying jobs and a huge research fund to get Academia involved. That’s a splendid start in the right direction.

        People would pay for it happily, and if not, they can still be forced on a gun point.

  29. Thanks for the post. I met Dr. Wildavsky in the early 80s and was a big fan before and have remained one since. He’s perceptive and worthwhile on many topics. At that time he spoke of his book “Speaking Truth to Power” which highlighted how governments only want to hear what they want to hear. He also recognized and described the limits of overarching change and promoted incrementalism.

  30. lsvalgaard on March 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    The magnetic field has weakened for 1000 years.
    · If it continues at the current rate, the field will disappear in approximately 120 years.
    You are off by an order of magnitude…

    Reply — Yes, Leif. Givit to them solar warmers – the cruix lays some other place.

    Not on Sun spotting. Or Sun obsession.

  31. Speaking from the grave:

    Wildavsky confronted what Michael Crichton identified as the biggest challenge facing mankind. In a 2003 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco he said,

    I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

    Wildavsky set out to determine the truth about environmental threats by using the proper scientific method of posing a question and testing it with experiments. The question he posed was, “But is it true?” that later became the title of his posthumously published (1995) book.


    I suspect you mean 1993 or something of the sort.

  32. Dr Ball, a superb article. Here is another good read: https://enthusiasmscepticismscience.wordpress.com/
    Hats off to those who have the knowledge to document how humanity lurches from one sorry state to another.

    ‘So long as men are not trained to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans.’


  33. vukcevic @ Curious George further above

    “What I was trying to convey is the magnetic potential between two poles.”
    Question is how that ‘magnetic potential between two poles’ could be associated with the global temperature change?
    One of possible answers could be associated with the Svensmark effect, while an alternative could be based on the oceans’ conveyor belt.

    science has no answer, at least not yet, what might be the true driver of the global temperature variability science has ‘data’ but no valid mechanism

    • Except what you show is not the Earth’s dipole, and your claim that it has reversed its decline is also false. As I said, you have no idea what you are talking about. You make silly claims, like using “actual measurements” from 1900 and [it gets better] even 2020.

      • doc you are quick of the mark, don’t you get anything else to do? trailing Vuk across the blog however entertaining, it may not be the most valuable use of your academic competency, however your observations are most welcome as always.
        I just use maps, charts, graphs and the data you and your colleagues put on line, if they are no good perhaps you need to go back to work and sort it out.
        all the best

      • Rejecting pseudo-science is always a worthwhile thing to do. In your particular case it is especially easy. Can be done in a few seconds. No effort at all.
        But you are being evasive when it comes to substance. It is easy to understand why.
        So, here is your chance of being honest: did you use ‘actual measurements’ from 1900 and 2020 made in the polar regions?

      • Dr. S
        In the above graph the blue line shows magnetic ‘di-pole’ from 1870 to 2014″ , the green line is not data to 2020, as clearly indicated on the graph, not once but twice, it is shifted along time axis in order to visually demonstrate high correlation of the global temperature to the Earth’s polar magnetic potential changes.

        If you think or even believe that the CO2 would do better job you are entitled to your believes, regardless of your public stance on the subject, which is of no interest to me.
        However, if that is not the case the readers of this blog, and more importantly the science would benefit far more if you have go and formulate a more credible alternative to the CO2.
        I do my best to do so, if there is anything of value in it then someone may build on it, if there isn’t it will be ignored. See you elsewhere, another time, another day another place; I will still reply to purposeful comments of other readers if related to the subject.

      • the green line is not data to 2020
        You are still evading answering. You claimed that you used ‘the blue points’ for 1900 and 2020. And now you run away.

  34. Dr. Ball. Good presentation. Few politicians understand science. The EPA should be defunded by at least 90%.

    In your very last sentence: the word ‘societies’ should be ‘society’s’.

  35. Hi, very interesting post, Dr. Ball, and very interesting ensuing discussion.

    I was one of Wildavsky’s graduate students who worked on the But Is It True? book. My topics were dioxin, Agent Orange, Times Beach, Missouri, and reporting environmental science, where we compared content analysis of media coverage of the causes of cancer and climate science to expert opinion on the same topics as manifested in surveys administered to those experts.

    Very interesting stuff. Got me interested in the politics of science and in studying the cultural construction of nature. Also got me interested in systematically studying environmental, health, and safety regulation, its patterns, and their causes and consequences.

    If you’re interested in Wildavsky’s explanation for the rise of environmentalism and for why environmentalism is attractive to the political left, you will be interested to read his The Rise of Radical Egalitarianism and Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Environmental and Technological Dangers (with Mary Douglas), and Richard Ellis’s The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America.

    For those who liked But Is It True? I also highly commend to you Allan Mazur’s True Warnings and False Alarms: Evaluating Fears about the Health Risks of Technology, 1948-1971.

    And, if you want a bunch of papers on current topics at the intersection of science, environmental, health, and safety risks, and the cultural construction of nature that builds on Douglas and Wildavsky’s work, I can also commend to you the work of Dan Kahan and the “cultural cognition” group at Yale:

    My own efforts in these areas can be found on Researchgate.


    Brendon Swedlow

  36. Wildavsky’s book was published in 1995, posthumously. Then in 2003 he gives a speech? I am very confused. I must be a warmist.

  37. Hey you two….vukecvic and lsvalgaard..how about getting your own blogs to play tennis with each other. The vitriolic slanging match here is getting boring. Its been going on with just about every new topic. Please take it down a notch or stop being so public about your obvious differences. I doubt many others like me might have been interested initially but now do not give a shit how big each others ego is.

  38. Dr. Ball,

    This may help:

    “We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p
    of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune
    to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%,
    there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion.

    “Commonly used models for this process include the thresholdmodel [8] and the Bass model [9]. A key feature in both thesemodels is that once an individual adopts the newstate, his state remains unchanged at all subsequent times.”

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