Author Archives: Paul Braterman
Explosives, Fertilisers, Chemical Weapons and the Unintended Consequences of Discovery: The Tragedy of Fritz Haber
What’s a tragedy? Hamlet is a tragedy, not just because our hero ends up dead, taking half a dozen people with him, but because his own reflective intelligence is instrumental in his fate. By this strict definition, the story of Fritz Haber, indicted war criminal, Nobel laureate, patriot and miserable exile, is indeed a tragedy. He sought to serve this country, and helped destroy it. The moral dilemmas of Haber’s career will not go away, and the ironies of unintended consequences are timeless. [Notes on talk to Callander and W Perthshire U3A, 22 March 2023]
- Einstein’s German world, Fritz Stern
- Fritz Haber – Chemist, Laureate, German, Jew, Dietrich Stoltzenberg
- (See also Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Karl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production, Vaclav Smil)
BBC muzzles David Attenborough, suspends top sports presenter, for fear of Tory backlash
by Paul Braterman
UPDATE (March 15, 2023): The Home Secretary has said in the House of Commons that “Police chiefs around the country, what they tell me is that criminality, in particular drug supply and usage, is now connected to people who came here on small boats illegally in the first place.” WhatDoTheyKnow has made a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office, asking for evidence to back up this inflammatory claim.
The Guardian has revealed details of internal BBC emails in which a senior editor was asking reporters to modify their presentations because of complaints from Downing Street.
There will no doubt be more in the coming days, but I’ll leave it at that.
UPDATE (March 13, 2023, 8 AM): Gary Lineker has been reinstated, and has reaffirmed his position:
Read the rest of this entry
A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.
The problem’s not Kate Forbes’ faith; it’s her judgment
With admirable honesty, Kate Forbes has told us that had she been an MSP in 2014, she would have voted against recognising same-sex marriage, because of her religious faith.
But marriage according to law of the line is not at all a matter of religion. It is an agreement entered into between two individuals, recognised by the civil authority, and conferring certain rights and obligations as defined by law. Faith has nothing to do with it. If you regard homosexuality as sinful, then paradoxically you should strongly welcome same-sex marriage, since the married couple, being committed to each other, will then be less likely to recruit new members into their sinful lifestyle.
Kate Forbes clearly thinks that homosexuality is sinful. I would disagree, for many reasons, but that is not the point here. The point is that she is willing to allow her personal views on an issue of private morality to affect her stance on a matter of public policy.Read the rest of this entry
Why a key creationist climate change denier has gone antivaxx
Summary: The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Nature presents itself as a Christian thinktank on environmental ethics. In reality, it is a direct link between evolution denial and climate change denial, with personnel overlapping Answers in Genesis, and
direct links to the Heartland Institute, a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry, and the influential Heritage Foundation. It is now engaged in assembling an ideological package, based on rejection of the principle that policy should be guided by scientific knowledge, and linking together everything from evolution to environmental concerns to elementary measures for restricting the spread of Covid. The rhetoric is masterly; the consequences, lethal.
A friend just sent me a copy of materials that the Cornwall Alliance is sending to its supporters. Here is an extract [fair use claimed]:
BE ARMED AGAINST THE DANGERS OF SCIENCE SO CALLED
Question any part of the climate-change “consensus” (how much climate change is going on, how much humans contribute to it, what if anything we should do about it), and you’re instantly declared “anti-science” or even a threat to the future of the human race.
But don’t be intimidated—or fooled. That response is itself anti-science. It is rhetoric designed to win not by persuading others but by silencing them.
And it arises not just about climate change. From good old Darwinism (goo to you by way of the zoo) and Malthusianism (population growth inexorably exceeds food production and causes a sudden die-off), to the Obama Administration’s insistence that employers must provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion regardless of their religious conscience, and COVID-19 mask, social distancing, travel, church worship, and vaccine policies.
People in America and around the world are in danger of becoming slaves of scientism and scientocracy.
The rest of the piece is a blurb for an essay by John G West that forms part of a forthcoming book on CS Lewis and his views on the relationship between science and religion (science ought to know its place), leading up to an appeal for funds. The Cornwall Alliance is a charity under US law, rather than a political body, and contributions are tax-deductible.Read the rest of this entry
Creationism and climate – birth of a new pseudoscience
The usual creationist nonsense is just tedious. But creationist “climate science” is toxic, disastrous in its implications for policy, and frighteningly well-connected politically
|Major event||Date (using Ussher)1|
|Curse||4004 BC (Day 10 after creation)|
|Global Flood||2348 BC|
|Tower Babel||2242 BC|
|Egypt began||After 2242 BC but prior to Abraham going to Egypt (Genesis 12)|
|Call of Abraham||1922 BC|
|Ice Age peak||1848 BC (500 years after the Flood)|
|Time of the Judges (Moses was first)||1491 BC (God appearing to Moses in the burning bush)|
|Time of the Kings (Saul was the first)||1095 BC|
|Split kingdom||975 BC|
|Christ was born||~4 BC|
We are all too familiar with creationist life science (theory of kinds) and creationist Earth science (Flood geology). As I explain in an article at 3 Quarks Daily, recent decades have seen the emergence of a creationist climate science, which is a direct attack on the “secular” climate science of climate change. Creationist climate science rejects, as it must, the palaeoclimatology that helped establish the existence of positive climate feedbacks, and from this draws the inference that our present concern about human effects on climate is unbiblical, unscientific, and exaggerated. This fits in directly with the agendas of the organisations opposing fossil fuel restraint, and even involves some of the same people. We need to pay attention.Read the rest of this entry
Anti-Science Conspiracy Theories, Power, and Morality
By Carl Weinberg, republished with permission. Read the original article here.
[My own comments: It is easy to link creationism to religion, but to me this seems counter-effective, as well as ignoring the many believers who oppose creationism all the more fervently because it is a travesty of their own faith. Debunking the science in “creation science” is an endless activity, but I don’t think anyone ever became a creationist because of things like polonium halos, or alleged gaps in the fossil record. Digging deeper, we can identify creationism as a conspiracy theory. Indeed it could hardly be otherwise, given its claim that the entire scientific establishment and most of the educational system is engaged in a diabolical plot. This is a particularly dangerous conspiracy theory, not only because it is fiercely anti-intellectual, but because it keys into climate science denial and, these days, into even crazier and more toxic beliefs.
Why do people buy into conspiracy theories, and how to thwart those who use such theories to enhance their power?
This raises further urgent questions; why do people buy into conspiracy theories, and how to thwart those who use such theories to enhance their power. Questions for the psychologist, the social scientist, and the historian, as this article exemplifies.]
Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inundated with COVID conspiracy theories: Satan-worshipping globalist elites, including George Soros and Bill Gates, deliberately developed and spread the COVID virus around the globe. The COVID vaccine is the Mark of the Beast from the Book of Revelation. Hollywood celebrities caught COVID by drinking infected adrenochrome harvested from live children in a satanic ritual. Mask and vaccine mandates are a communist plot by the Jewish Illuminati. Polling data suggest that millions of Americans—up to 20 percent of the country—believe at least some of these claims.
Read the rest of this entry
Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inundated with COVID conspiracy theories…
Black swans and other deviations: like evolution, all scientific theories are a work in progress
Discussions about the nature of science and scientific theories are often confused by the outdated view that such theories are rendered false when anomalies arise. The notion of a scientific theory as a static object should be replaced with the more current view that it is part of a living research programme, which can broaden its scope into new areas.
For example, take the hypothesis that all swans are white, which seemed pretty good to Europeans until Dutch explorers found black swans in Australia in 1636. So what happens to our hypothesis? There are a number of options.
1) Redefine swan-ness to include whiteness. Then black swans aren’t really swans, and the hypothesis remains true by definition.
2) It’s been disproved. Discard it.
3) Compare different species of swan the world over, and see how well black swans fit in.
(1) is the least useful. Definitions can only tell us about how we are using words. They tell us nothing about the world that those words attempt to describe. (2) is based on the common-sense idea that hypotheses should be discarded when falsified by observation. This was the idea put forward by philosopher Karl Popper in the 1930s, to distinguish between science and pseudoscience.Read the rest of this entry
‘God intended it as a disposable planet’: meet the US pastor preaching climate change denial
This piece,written in October 2020, seems more relevant now than ever. The Reverend John Macarthur returned to this theme in November 2021, repeating his description of the world as disposable and comparing it to a styrofoam cup
Paul Braterman, University of Glasgow
Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is a sermon on global warming by American pastor John MacArthur. Full of beautifully constructed rhetorical flourishes, it is forcefully delivered by an experienced and impassioned preacher to a large and appreciative audience.
For me, as a man of science, it is the most complete compilation of unsound arguments, factual errors and misleading analogies as I have seen in discussions of this subject. But it’s important because climate change is a big election issue this November in the US, where there is a growing movement of evangelical Christians who deny its existence, while Joe Biden promises a “clean air revolution”.
Read more: Faith and politics mix to drive evangelical Christians’ climate change denial
The minister of the COVID-denying, law-defying Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California – which has encouraged worshippers to congregate as normal despite state COVID-19 restrictions – MacArthur is an impressive figure whose Study Bible has sold almost 2 million copies.
He regards the infallibility of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, as essential to his faith, and his sermon about global warming can only be understood in that context. MacArthur’s rejection of the science is shared by other major US ministries and organisations such as Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International and the Discovery Institute. https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZTlYl8E_B14?wmode=transparent&start=0Read the rest of this entry