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Education

Mating, the core of it all

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, History, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I did a lot of reading over the holiday period, partly because my January  has been consistently hot — not at all with 40 degrees plus — but day after day of around 33 degrees, which gets the ambient heat of our house right up, forces me to put on the air conditioning, and inclines us to sit and read. This essay is the first of a pair, each looking at what seem to me to be the core aspects of human social life, from which everything else hangs. This one is about mating. We human beings rarely have memories extending…

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Truthiness and factiness

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 278 Comments

Both of these terms were coined by an American satirist, Stephen Colbert, more than ten years ago. With respect to ‘truthiness’, he said We’re not talking about truth. ‘We’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist’. He thought that the ‘word police’ would object that ’truthiness’ was not a word, but in fact the next year Merriam-Webster pronounced ‘truthiness’ as its word of the year. I’ll leave ‘factiness’ for a moment. What did Colbert mean by truthiness? In an interview with The Onion he expanded on its meaning in this way: It used…

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The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 145 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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The message still hasn’t sunk in

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics | 129 Comments

Nearly a fortnight after Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States we are still reading commentary in the media that suggests the writers still can’t believe it. Something has gone badly wrong with the world, and that bad wrong must be put right. The day after the result Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club (for which outfit, climate change and the need to stop it are more important than anything else) put out this message: This hurts. There’s no way right now to ease the shock and dismay of what we’re facing this morning. The pain is real — and so much…

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Making sense of the ACT elections

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I thought I would pass on the American presidential election, having no vote and disliking both candidates about equally. Instead I thought I would write about the recent ACT elections, which are now done and dusted. Unusually, given the complications of the voting system, it was all over by ten o’clock on polling day. The Liberal Leader conceded defeat and the Labor Leader claimed victory. Within a week it was plain Labor had twelve seats, the Greens two and the Liberals eleven. There will be another four years of Labor rule in the ACT, in a quasi Coalition with the Greens, and in…

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The sort of prediction one should never make

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 176 Comments

Apart from the banal exercise of predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that I am 90 per cent likely to have a cappuccino in the next day or so, I do my best to eschew predictions. They so often fail spectacularly, and I wrote an essay about failed predictions about climate change some time ago. But I recently came across such a beauty of the kind that I thought it was worth following up. On August 1st 2008, more than eight years ago, someone called Andrew Simms wrote a piece in The Guardian which told an apprehensive readership that there were…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 62 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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Brian Cox versus Malcolm Roberts on Q&A

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 154 Comments

I did not watch the celebrated Q&A program in which Brian Cox, an astrophysicist and science communicator, had an argument with Malcom Roberts, the recently elected Senator who is apparently responsible for the ‘climate change’ policies of One Nation. I’ve watched a couple of these Q&A programs in the past, but felt that they were so manipulated and stacked that one would rarely get any value from them (apparently, however, there was a good one on Shakespeare last week). I did see extracts from the Cox/Roberts program, but that is all. I think Q&A is a good example of the peculiar…

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A less than usual election coming up

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

On October 15th the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory will go to the polls to elect their representatives, and through them their Government. No one much outside the ACT will pay much attention, but I do, since I live there and will be voting. Of course, the result, whatever it is, will be seen as a pointer to the next Federal election, and denied by the other side, dismissing it as simply local. But there are a number of reasons why those interested in politics at all should watch what is happening, because this one is not simply the usual poll….

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The distinction between true scepticism and denial

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 201 Comments

I came across the phrase in the title, and followed a link to a recent journal article which for once was available on open access. Entitled ‘Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism’,  it looked interesting. You can read it here. The four authors come from different fields, and propose to outline ‘the distinction between true scepticism and denial’. They also offer some guidelines to help researchers, and interested members of the public, decide how to deal with enquiries, on the one hand,  and problems which people see in published science, on the other. The reader is brought into the area of ‘climate change’…

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