May 28, 2013

Future Leaders

Green Army: Communications

Challenges to Australian Agriculture

Lauren Rickards and Karlie Tucker

{Australia’s river systems [already] have the lowest and most variable streamflow of any continent.}

For dryland farms (those reliant only on local rainfall) [rainfall] events will … become more intense but less frequent …
[Precipitation] will be less reliable, and the rain that does fall will be less useful for plant growth.

For irrigated farms [any] reduction in rainfall leads to a proportionately greater reduction in streamflow (water flowing into storages).
[In] the Murray-Darling Basin … a 10% drop in rainfall leads to a 35% drop in streamflow. …
[The] Murray-Darling Basin … produces 40% of Australia’s agricultural produce …
[Agricultural output] is projected to fall by 12% by 2030 and by up to 92% by 2100, if adequate mitigation measures are not undertaken. …

If Not Now, When?

Peter Christoff

Since 1990, Australia’s domestic and industrial greenhouse emissions have increased, on balance, by some 4.2%.
Its underlying emissions have increased by 28.8%.
Most of this change is associated with the unchecked development of coal-fired and gas-fired power stations to produce electricity (+47% in emissions since 1990) and increased transport use (+27%).
It is only because emissions from land clearing have been halved … that Australia has managed to offset this underlying increase and approach its Kyoto Protocol-determined target of 108% above 1990 levels.

As a result, Australia has the world’s highest level of emissions per person …

(Climate Change: On For Young and Old, 2009)

May 24, 2013

Severe Climate Change

CSIS-CNAS: Security Implications of Climate Change

Scenario Overview

Time Span: 30 Years
Warming: 2.6°C
Sea Level Rise: 0.52 meters
“[Tipping] point” events such as the abrupt release of massive quantities of methane from melting tundra or of carbon dioxide as the sea warms up [contribute to abrupt and accelerating changes and impacts:]

  • Dynamical changes in polar ice sheets accelerate rapidly [leading to] high confidence that the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets have … destabilized and that 4 to 6 meters of sea level rise are now inevitable over the next few centuries …

  • Water availability [falls drastically] at lower latitudes (dry tropics and subtropics), affecting 1 to 2 billion people worldwide.
    The North Atlantic overturning circulation slows significantly, with consequences for marine ecosystem productivity and fisheries.

  • Crop yields decline significantly in the fertile river deltas because of sea level rise and damage from increased storm surges.
    Agriculture becomes essentially nonviable in the dry subtropics [because of dwindling water supplies,] soil salinization [and enhanced] evaporation of water from irrigated fields.
    [Desertification takes] previously marginally productive crop lands out of production.

(p 72, italics added)

  • Global fisheries are affected by
    • widespread coral bleaching,
    • ocean acidification,
    • substantial loss of coastal nursery wetlands, and
    • warming and drying of tributaries that serve as breeding grounds for anadromous fish.

  • The Arctic Ocean is now navigable for much of the year because of decreased Arctic sea ice and the Arctic marine ecosystem is dramatically altered.
    Developing nations at lower latitudes are impacted most severely because of climate sensitivity and high vulnerability.
    Industrialized nations … experience net harm from warming and [are forced spend an increasing proportion] of GDP adapting to climate change at home.

[This scenario depicts] possible societal consequences of severe climate change over the course of thirty years.
These consequences are not to be taken as predictions [but are] intended to encourage reflection about the [plausible] consequences of continued inaction.
(p 73)

Systemic Events

[Massive] nonlinear events in the global environment [could] give rise to massive nonlinear societal events. …

  • We could see class warfare as the wealthiest members of every society pull away from the rest of the population, undermining the morale and viability of democratic governance, worldwide. …

  • [Global] fish stocks [may] crash. …

(p 76)

  • [The] risk of pandemic explosions of disease [will] increase.

  • As drinkable water becomes scarcer it will become an increasingly commercialized resource.
    Governments, lacking the necessary resources, will privatize supply.
    [In poor societies such measures have provoked] violent protest and political upheaval [in the past.]

  • Human fertility may collapse in economically advanced regions, as the consequence of increasingly difficult living conditions and of general loss of hope for the longer term.

  • [Rapid] economic decline may [occur due] to the collapse of [globalized] financial and production systems that depend on integrated worldwide systems.

  • [Transnational corporations may eclipse] governments as the rich look to private services. …

  • Alliance systems and multilateral institutions may [break down] — among them the UN, as the Security Council fractures beyond compromise or repair.

(p 77)

May 23, 2013

Global Civilization

Live Long and Prosper

Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all. …
The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny
the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers.

Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003), The Tragedy of the Commons, Science, Vol 162,
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 13 December 1968, p 1244.

Is what kills you
If you ignore it for long enough


97 out of 100 active climate researchers are CONVINCED that human induced climate change is underway.

John Kennedy (1917 – 63):
[In] the final analysis, our most basic common link is that …
  • we all inhabit this small planet …
  • we all breathe the same air …
  • we all cherish our children's future, and
  • we are all mortal.
(Commencement Address, American University, 1963)

Mark Pesce (1962) [Futurist]:
One of my friends taught me long ago that: reality is that which kills you when you ignore it long enough.
(Dangers of digital tribalism, Sunday Extra, ABC Radio National, 17 May 2015)

Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003):
World food banks move food to the people, hastening the exhaustion of the environment of the poor countries.
Unrestricted immigration, on the other hand, moves people to the food, thus speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries. …
We are all the descendants of thieves, and the world's resources are inequitably distributed.
[However, we] cannot remake the past.
We cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates.
To do so would [only] guarantee that future generations would have … a ruined world to inhabit.
(Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor, Psychology Today, 1974)

Alistair Cooke (1908 – 2004):
[As for the] pollution of the atmosphere, the cities, and the rivers — the destruction of Nature.
I find it impossible to believe that a nation that [has produced so many] ingenious human beings … is going to sit back and let the worst happen …
(David Heycock, The More Abundant Life, America, Episode 13, 1972)

Rachel Carson (1907 – 64):
The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment.
Man, too, is part of this balance.
Sometimes the balance is in his favor; sometimes — and all too often through his own activities — it is shifted to his disadvantage.
(Chapter 15, Silent Spring, 1962)

Kim Robinson (1952):
[In the late 21st century] capitalism writhed in its internal decision concerning whether to destroy Earth’s biosphere or change its rules.
Many argued for the destruction of the biosphere, as being the lesser of two evils
(2312, Orbit, 2012, p 124)

Philip Dick (1928 – 82):
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
(How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later, 1978)

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936):
Cities and Thrones and Powers
    Stand in Time's eye,
Almost as long as flowers
    Which daily die:
But, as new buds put forth
    To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth
    The Cities rise again.
(Cities and Thrones and Powers, Puck of Pook's Hill, 1906)

James Cameron:
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.
(Terminator, 1984)

James Hansen:
Human-made climate change is … the greatest threat civilization faces.
(Storms Of My Grandchildren, Bloomsbury, 2009, p 70)

Tim Flannery:
If humans pursue a business-as-usual course for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilisation due to climate change becomes inevitable.
(The Weather Makers, Text, 2005, p 209)

Al Gore:
[What] is at stake is the set of environmental conditions and the health of the natural systems on which our civilization depends.
(The Future, 2014)

Ross Garnaut [Professor of Economics, Australian National University]:
With human society, if you give it a big enough shock, things fall apart. …
We've got plenty examples of history.
Germany, at the time arguably … in the 20's and 30's … the best educated community … in some sense one of the highest points of civilisation … had the shock of … very high unemployment for a period and the normal moral foundations of society fell apart …
That's the sense which I see civilisation threatened by [an] increase in temperature of four degrees.
We would be giving human society such a big shock, displacing so many people, shaking the foundations of organized society to an extent that it's unlikely that normal patterns of political and social organization would survive.
And so then you do get disintegration of civilisation as we know it.
(Cutting Carbon: Australian Answers to a World Problem, Big Ideas, ABC Television, 12 June 2014)

William Nordhaus:
Once we open the door to consider catastrophic changes, a whole new debate is engaged.
If we do not know how human activities will affect the thin layer of life-supporting activities that gave birth to and nurture human civilisation and if we cannot reliably judge how potential geophysical changes will affect civilisation and the world around us … should we not be ultra-conservative and tilt towards preserving the natural world at the expense of economic growth and development?
Do we dare put human betterment before the preservation of natural systems and trust that human ingenuity will bail us out should Nature deal us a nasty hand?
(Climate Change, 1996)

Alfred Wallace (1823 – 1913):
[The atmosphere is] a most complex structure, a wonderful piece of machinery, [which,] in
  • its various component gases,
  • its actions and reactions upon the water and the land,
  • its production of electrical discharges, and
  • its furnishing the elements from which the whole fabric of life is composed and perpetually renewed,
may be truly considered to be the very source and foundation of life itself.
(Man's Place in the Universe, 5th Ed, 1905, pp 258-9)

Dan Kahan:
[There] is no logical connection between what you propose to do to solve a problem and whether there … is a problem in the first place.
Either the earth is heating up, it's being caused by humans, and it's going to have a bad effect — or not.
[Whether] those are true propositions or not does not depend [on how] you're proposing to deal with that problem …
(Water Institute Lecture, 2009)

Nate Silver:
Human beings have an extraordinary capacity to ignore risks that threaten their livelihood, as though this will make them go away.
(The Signal and the Noise, 2012, p 25)

Myron Ebell:
[If it turns out we're wrong about anthropogenic climate change, then] I'll have to say I’m sorry and I wish we could speed up our efforts to reverse the policies that we have supported here at [the Competitive Enterprise Institute.]
(Climate of Doubt, PBS Frontline, 23 October 2012)

Richard Lindzen:
[The] likelihood over the next century of greenhouse warming reaching magnitudes comparable to natural variability seems small.
(MIT Tech Talk, 27 September, 1989)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 59):
A false notion which is clear and precise will always meet with a greater number of adherents in the world than a true principle which is obscure or involved.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam 2011, p 189)

A Potentially Hazardous Experiment

Thomas Graedel: Professor of Industrial Ecology, Yale University
Paul Crutzen: Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1989)

Humanity's unremitting growth and development [are not only] changing the chemistry of the atmosphere but are driving the earth rapidly toward a climatic warming of unprecedented magnitude.
This climatic change … constitutes a potentially hazardous experiment in which everyone on the earth is [being forced to take] part. …

[Evidence] indicates that a major decrease in the rate of fossil-fuel combustion would slow greenhouse warming, reduce smog, improve visibility and minimize acid deposition. …
[The] solution to the earth's environmental problems lies in a truly global effort, involving unprecedented collaboration by scientists, citizens and world leaders.

The most technologically developed nations have to reduce their disproportionate use of the earth's resources.
[And] the developing countries must be helped to adopt environmentally sound technologies and planning strategies as they elevate the standard of living for their populations …

With proper attention devoted to maintaining the atmosphere's stability, perhaps the chemical changes that are now occurring can be kept within limits that will sustain the physical processes and the ecological balance of the planet.

(The Changing Atmosphere, Scientific American, September, 1989)

May 14, 2013

Observations and Impacts

World Bank: Four Degree World

Extreme Events in the Period 2000–12 [1]

(Adapted from Table 1, p 18)

Region (Year)

Record-breaking Event

Impact & Costs

England and Wales (2000)Wettest autumn since records began in 1766
Several short-term rainfall records
~£1.3 billion
Europe (2003)Hottest summer in at least 500 yearsDeath toll exceeding 70,000
England and Wales (2007)Wettest May to July 1766Major flooding
~£3 billion damage
Southern Europe (2007)Hottest summer in Greece since 1891Devastating wildfires
Eastern Mediterranean, Middle-East (2008)Driest winter since 1902Substantial damage to cereal production
Victoria, Australia (2009)Heat wave
Many station temperature records (32–154 years of data)
Worst bushfires on record
173 deaths
3500 houses destroyed
Western Russia (2010)Hottest summer since 1500500 wildfires around Moscow
Crop failure of ~25%
Death toll ~55,000
~US$15 billion in economic losses
Western Europe (2011)Hottest and driest spring in France since 1880French grain harvest down by 12%
Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana (2011)Record-breaking summer heat and drought since 1880Wildfires burning 3 million acres
(Preliminary impact of $6 to $8 billion)
Continental US (2012)Warmest July since 1895
Severe drought conditions
Abrupt increase in global food prices due to crop losses
1.  [Unusual] weather events for which there is now substantial scientific evidence linking them to global warming with medium to high levels of confidence (p 16).

Heat Waves and Extreme Temperatures

These events were … typically more than 3 standard deviations (sigma) warmer than the local mean temperature …
[Such] 3-sigma events would be expected to occur [by chance] only once in several hundreds of years.

The five hottest summers in Europe since 1500 all occurred after 2002, with 2003 and 2010 being exceptional outliers.
[During] the 2003 heat wave … daily excess mortality [reached] up to 2,200 in France. …
(p 13)

On August 28, [2012,] about 63% of the contiguous United States was affected by drought conditions … and the January to August period was the warmest ever recorded.
[Wildfires set] a new record for total burned area — exceeding 7.72 million acres.

In the 1960s, summertime extremes of more than three standard deviations warmer than the mean of the climate were practically absent, affecting less than 1% of the Earth’s surface. …
Now such extremely hot outliers typically cover about 10% of the land area.
(p 14)

Arctic Sea Ice and Greenland Surface Melt

Figure 3-5
Arctic Sea Ice Cover in September (the Summer Minimum Extent) in 1979 [the first year of satellite observation] and in 2005.
(NASA, May 2007)

(Stefan Rahmstorf, Anthropogenic Climate Change: Revisiting the Facts in Ernesto Zedillo, Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto, Brookings Institution Press, pp 34–53, 2008)

Figure 21.4
September sea-ice extent, already declining markedly, is projected to decline even more rapidly in the future.
The three images above show the average of the projections from five climate models for three future time periods, using the B2 emissions scenario. …
Some models project the nearly complete loss of summer sea ice in this century.

Figure 21.6
Seasonal surface melt extent on the Greenland Ice Sheet has been observed by satellite since 1979 and shows an increasing trend.
The melt zone shown here for 1992 and 2002, where summer warmth turns snow and ice around the edges of the ice sheet into slush and ponds of melt-water, has been expanding inland and to record high elevations in recent years.

(Susan Hassol & Robert Corell, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment in Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, Hans Schellnhuber, Editor in Chief, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp 207-8)

World Meteorological Organization

Arctic sea ice extent reached its record lowest [annual minimum in the last 1,500 years on] 16 September [2012.]
This value broke the previous record low set on 18 September 2007 by 18% [and] was 49% … below the 1979–2000 average minimum.
The difference between the maximum Arctic sea-ice extent on 20 March and the lowest minimum extent on 16 September was 11.83 million km^2 — the largest seasonal sea-ice extent loss in the 34-year satellite record.

(WMO Annual Climate Statement Confirms 2012 as Among Top Ten Warmest Years, Press Release No 972, 2 May 2013)

Would you like to know more?

May 11, 2013

George H W Bush

PBS American Experience

George H W Bush (1924):
Where is it written that we must act as if we do not care?
As if we are not moved.
Well I am moved.
I want a kinder, gentler nation. …
(Republican National Convention, New Orleans, 1988)

Margaret MacMillan (1943):
In 1991, the American televangelist Pat Robertson warned that Bush Sr’s victory over Iraq was not what it appeared.
It was paving the way not for peace but for the triumph of evil.
It was all so clear to Robertson.
Ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a secret conspiracy had been pushing the world toward socialism and the triumph of the Antichrist.
The European Union was clearly part of the plot and so was the United Nations.
The Gulf War and the missiles that Saddam Hussein had fired on Israel were yet more steps toward the final reckoning.
(The Uses and Abuses of History, Profile, 2009, pp 64-65)

On The Distinction Between True And False Visions

[Ronald Reagan (1911–2004),] who spent World War II in Hollywood, vividly described his own role in liberating Nazi concentration camp victims. …
On many occasions in his Presidential campaigns, [Reagan recounted his] epic story of World War II courage and sacrifice, an inspiration [to] all of us.
Only it never happened …
[It] was the plot of the movie A Wing and a Prayer
{Living in the film world, he apparently confused a movie he had [experienced] with a reality he had not.}

Many other instances of this sort can be found in Reagan's public statements.
It is not hard to imagine serious public dangers emerging out of instances in which political, military, scientific or religious leaders are unable to distinguish fact from … fiction.

(Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, 1997, p 132)

Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited

In many ways George Bush was what Ronald Reagan pretended to be.
As an actor, Ronald Reagan played the war hero.
George Bush was a war hero — a decorated naval aviator.
Ronald Reagan played the athlete.
George Bush was the captain of his Yale baseball team and played twice in the college championship game.
He was also a first rate tennis player.
Both preached family values, but only Bush could point to a happy family.

After four decades of public life, George Bush feels his most important accomplishment in life is that his children still come home. …
When Ronald Reagan learned he had Alzheimer's disease, he wrote a letter for history.
He addressed it to the American people.
[Nine] years after his defeat, George Bush [also] wrote a letter.
He addressed it to his children. …
George H W Bush (1924):
I had a little plaque made.
It says CAVU [—] the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific — "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited."
I will not pass by it without realizing how lucky I am …
[For] the plaque describes my own life — as it has been over the years, as it is right now.
After leaving office, Bush saw his son George W get elected Governor of Texas, and his son Jeb Governor of Florida. …
[And when] George W was elected president in 2000, it was the first time a father and son had occupied the White House since John and John Quincy Adams almost 200 years earlier.

May 10, 2013

Forms of Government

Bertrand Russell: Power

Except when he feels enthusiasm for a leader, the voter in a large democracy has so little sense of power that he often does not think it worth while to use his vote.
If he is not a keen propagandist for one of the parties, the vastness of the forces that decide who shall govern makes his own part in them appear completely negligible.
[All] that he can do … is to vote for one or other of two men, whose programmes may not interest him, and may differ very little, and who, he knows, may with impunity abandon their programmes as soon as they are elected.

If, on the other hand, there is a leader whom he enthusiastically admires, the psychology involved is that which we considered in connection with monarchy: it is that of the tie between a king and the tribe or sect of his active supporters.
Every skilful political agitator or organiser devotes himself to stimulating devotion to an individual.
If the individual is a great leader, the result is one-man government …
[If] he is not, the caucus which has secured his election becomes the real power.

(Power, 1938, p 133)

May 5, 2013

Carl Sagan

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Pale Blue Dot

The Earth in a sunbeam. …
This is where we live. …
On that blue dot.
That's where everyone you know, and everyone you ever heard of, and every human being who ever lived … lived out their lives.
I think this perspective underscores our responsibility to preserve and cherish that blue dot — the only home we have.

Carl Sagan (1934 – 96)

(Emer Reynolds, The Farthest, 2017)

(Kenny Scott, Man Made Planet, 2017)

(Saturn Approaching Northern Summer, Cassini-Huygens, NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI, 2016)

(Death Dive: Into The Rings of Saturn, Catalyst, ABC Television, 14 September 2017)

Carl Sagan (1934 – 96):
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.
In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. …
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.
(Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994)

Jack McDevitt (1935):
Man has always considered himself the peak of creation, the part of the universe that thinks, the purpose for it all.
It's no doubt a gratifying view.
But the universe may have a different opinion.
(Seeker, Penguin, 2006, p 174)

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626):
[The true method of science] first lights the candle, and then by means of the candle shows the way; commencing as it does with experience duly ordered and digested, not bungling or erratic, and from it deducing axioms, and from established axioms again new experiments. …
Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much.
It is by instruments and helps that the work is done.
(Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620)

Georges Lemaître (1894 – 1966):
Standing on a cooled cinder, we see that slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished brilliance of the origin of the worlds.

Christiaan Huygens (1629 – 95):
How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them.
A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.
(New Conjectures Concerning the Planetary Worlds, Their Inhabitants and Productions, c1690)

Herbert Wells (1866 – 1946):
A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars.
(The Discovery of the Future, Nature, 65:326, 1902)

[We] must remember what ruthless and utter destruction own own species has wrought not only upon animals … but upon its own inferior races.
The Tasmanians … were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants in the space of 50 years.
(War of the Worlds, Pearsons Magazine, April-December 1897)

George Orwell (1903 – 50):
Men of science can study the life-process of a flower, or they can split it up into its component elements, but any scientist will tell you that a flower does not become less wonderful, it becomes more wonderful, if you know all about it.
(Listener, 12 June 1941)

Jules Verne (1828 – 1905):
Science … has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.
(Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864)

Plutarch (46 – 120):
[In ancient Greece, public] opinion was instinctively hostile towards natural philosophers and visionaries … since it was generally believed that they belittled the power of the gods by explaining it away as nothing more than the operation of irrational causes and blind forces acting by necessity.
For this reason even Protagoras was driven into exile and Anaxagoras imprisoned … while Socrates, although he had nothing whatever to do with this kind of speculation, was nevertheless put to death for his connexion with philosophy.
It was not until later that the glorious fame of Plato shone forth, and served … through his teaching that the forces of nature are subject to a higher principle, to dispel the odium which had attached itself to such theories, thereby enabling them to circulate freely.
(Nicias, p 244)

[Anaxagoras (c510 – c428 BCE) taught men] to rise above that superstitious terror which springs from an ignorant wonder at the common phenomena of the heavens [and which] affects those who know nothing of the causes of such things — who fear the gods to the point of madness and are easily confused through their lack of experience.
A knowledge of natural causes, on the other hand, banishes these fears and replaces morbid superstition with a piety which rests on a sure foundation supported by rational hopes.
(Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athens, Ian Scott-Kilvert, Translator, Penguin, 1960, p 174)

Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 92):
In Antiquity Anaxagoras was believed to have excelled all others in treating matters celestial and divine; but … the brain of Anaxagoras finally became disturbed: that often happens to those who immoderately pore over matters which do not appertain to them. …
[The] best judgement you can make about the heavens is not to make any at all.
(pp 600-1)

What vain human dreams, to make the Moon into some celestial Earth, dreaming up, like Anaxagoras, mountains and valleys for it, planting human dwellings and habitations on it and, like Plato and Plutarch, settling colonies there for our convenience: and then to make our own Earth into a brightly shining star …
(p 505)

There is some element of multiplicity within every species; it seems unlikely, therefore, that God made only this one universe and no [others] like it …
Now, if there are several worlds … how do we know whether the principles and laws which apply to this world apply equally to the others?
Other worlds may present different features and be differently governed.
(An apology for Raymond Sebond, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991, p 587)

Carl Sagan (1934 – 96):
[For] every dollar spent on the [planetary exploration,] seven dollars are returned to the national economy.
(Cosmos, p 343)

Edward Gibbon (1737 – 94):
[The] practice of superstition is so congenial to the multitude that, if they are forcibly awakened, they still regret the loss of their pleasing vision.
Their love of the marvellous and supernatural, their curiosity with regard to future events, and their strong propensity to extend their hopes and fears beyond the limits of the visible world, were the principal causes which favoured the establishment of Polytheism.
So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition …
(The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-89)

Moses Maimonides (1135 – 1204):
It is forbidden to engage in astrology, to utilize charms, to whisper incantations …
All of these practices are nothing more than lies and deceptions used by ancient pagan peoples to deceive the masses and lead them astray …
Wise and intelligent people know better.
(Avodah Zara, Mishneh Torah, Chapter 11)

Carl Sagan (1934 – 96):
Many of those alleging satanic abuse describe grotesque orgiastic rituals in which infants are murdered and eaten.
Such claims have been made about reviled groups by their detractors throughout European history, including Ironically, reports of cannibalistic infanticide and incestuous orgies were among the particulars used by Roman authorities to persecute the early Christians.
(Demon-Haunted World, 1997, p 151)

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546):
[The Jews should be dealt with in the same fashion as a surgeon treats a gangrenous limb:]
Cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. …
Burn down their synagogues …
[Deal] harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying 3,000 lest the whole people perish …
If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them.
(On the Jews and Their Lies, 1542)

Thomas Huxley (1825 – 95):
Trust a witness in all matters in which neither
  • his self-interest,
  • his passions,
  • his prejudices, nor
  • the love of the marvellous
is strongly concerned.
When they are involved, require corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of probability by the thing testified.
(p 77)

The foundation of morality is to … give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about things beyond the possibilities of knowledge.
(Demon Haunted World, 1987, p 194)

Anthony Grayling (1949):
Religion is the legacy of our cave-men ancestors.
Religious beliefs constituted their science, religious practices their higher technology.
  • As the former it offered them explanations of wind and storm, the origin of the world, the meaning of the stars.
  • As the latter it offered a means of avoiding drought, curing illness, and winning wars — by prayer, sacrifice, and the careful observance of taboos and rituals, all aimed at pleasing or at least appeasing the mysterious and often terrible forces which seemed to them to govern the world.

God … is the name of our ignorance.
(The Meaning of Things, Phoenix, 2001, pp 120 & 122)

Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 93):
I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance.
(The Jew of Malta, 1589-90)

(Space Shuttle, Episode 3)

(Emily Calandrelli, Space Station, Engineering Space, Episode 4, 2016)

Necessary Evil

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

— Exodus 22:18, King James Bible, 1611.

Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

Voltaire | François-Marie Arouet (1697 ‒ 1778)

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623 – 62), Pensées, 1669.

(Brian Cox, Why Are We Here?, Human Universe, Episode 3, 2014)

Heinrich Kramer (1430 – 1505):
What else is woman but:
  • a foe to friendship,
  • an unescapable punishment,
  • a necessary evil,
  • a natural temptation,
  • a desirable calamity,
  • a domestic danger,
  • a delectable detriment,
  • an evil of nature painted with fair colors?
(Malleus Maleficarum, 1486)

Anthony Grayling (1949):
Following a visitation of the plague in 1630 there was a series of hysterical outbreaks in the [Ursuline convent in Loudun,] which began to coalesce around references to [Urbain Grandier (1590 – 1634), the priest of St-Pierre-du-Marche,] and finally into accusations that he had summoned the devil to possess not only the Mother Superior, Jeanne des Anges, but most of the other nuns.
(p 119)

The principal evidence against Urbain Grandier was a contract he had signed with Satan and assorted subordinate devils, all of whom — Astoroth, Beelzebub, and Leviathan among them — had put their signatures to the document too, in flourishing calligraphy.

Before being burned alive at the stake (lesser felons were strangled before the flames were lit) he was tortured in the 'boots', a contraption designed to crush the prisoner's feet and lower limbs.
His exorcists, fearing that the common executioner would not be strong enough to overcome the resistance of the devils in Grandier, wielded the hammers themselves.
He was dragged from the torture chamber to the stake, and even as (according to one witness) the blood and marrow from his mangled legs left a trail on the cobblestones, some of the nuns took pity on him and tried to recant.
To the exorcists this was proof that the devils were not quite yet banished.
(The Meaning of Things, Phoenix, 2001, p 120)

Carl Sagan (1934 – 96)

The demonic seducers
  • of women were labelled incubi;
  • of men, succubi.
There are cases in which nuns reported, in some befuddlement, a striking resemblance between the incubus and the priest-confessor, or the bishop …

The theologian Meric Casaubon argued — in his 1668 book Of Credulity and Incredulity [—] that witches must exist because … everyone believes in them.
(p 111)
Pope Innocent VIII:
It has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their sorceries, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they suffocate, extinguish, and cause to perish the births of women [along with all manner of] abominations and enormities. …
[Consequently,] Our dear sons Henry Kramer and James Sprenger [have] by Letters Apostolic [been] delegated as Inquisitors of these heretical [depravities.]
With this Bull, Innocent initiated the systematic … torture and execution of countless [women and girls] all over Europe. …
(p 112)

With exhaustive citations of scripture and of ancient and modern scholars [Kramer and Sprenger] produced the Malleus Maleficarum
What the [Hammer of Witches essentially] comes down to … is that if you're accused of witchcraft, you're a witch.
Torture is an unfailing means to demonstrate the validity of the accusation {[— provided] the instruments of torture [are first] blessed by the priests.}
There are no rights of the defendant.
There is no opportunity to confront the accusers. …

[At the Pope's instigation,] Inquisitors began springing up all over Europe.
It quickly [degenerated into] an expense account scam.
All costs of investigation, trial and execution were borne by the accused or her relatives [including:]
  • per diem for the private detectives hired to spy on her,
  • wine for her guards,
  • banquets for her judges,
  • the travel expenses of a messenger sent to fetch a more experienced torturer from another city …
  • the faggots, tar and hangman's rope [and]
  • [bonuses for] the members of the tribunal for each witch burned.
[Following a successful prosecution, the balance of the witch's estate was then] divided between Church and State.
As this legally and morally sanctioned mass murder and theft became institutionalized [attention shifted] from poor hags and crones to [more lucrative targets among] the middle class and well-to-do of both sexes.
(p 113)

[It] was widely accepted] that tens of thousands of witches had gathered for a Sabbath in public squares in France [and] that 12,000 of them darkened the skies as they flew to Newfoundland. …

Legions of women were burned to death [based on a] well-intentioned sentence [from] canon law:
Council of Tours:
The Church abhors bloodshed.
Innocent himself died in 1492, following unsuccessful attempts to keep him alive by transfusion (which resulted in the deaths of three boys) and by suckling at the breast of a nursing mother.
He was mourned by his mistress and their children. …

In Britain witch-finders [so called 'prickers', received] a handsome bounty for each girl or woman they turned over for execution. …
Typically they looked for 'devil's marks' — scars or birthmarks or nevi — that when pricked with a pin neither hurt nor bled.
A simple sleight of hand often gave the appearance that the pin penetrated deep into the witch's flesh.
When no visible marks were apparent, 'invisible marks' sufficed.
Upon the gallows, one mid-seventeenth-century pricker
… confessed [that] he had been the death of above 220 women in England and Scotland [—] for the gain of twenty shillings apiece. …
(p 114, emphasis added)

Not a single saint criticized the practice of torturing and burning 'witches' and heretics.
(p 139)

At great personal risk, [Jesuit Friedrich] von Spee protested the witch mania.
So did a few others, mainly Catholic and Protestant clergy who had witnessed these crimes at first hand — including:
  • Gianfrancesco Ponzinibio in Italy, Cornelius Loos in Germany and Reginald Scot in Britain in the sixteenth century; as well as
  • Johann Mayfurth ('Listen, you money-hungry judges and bloodthirsty prosecutors, the apparitions of the Devil are all lies') in Germany and Alonzo Salazar de Frias in Spain in the seventeenth century.
Along with von Spee and the Quakers generally, they are heroes of our species.
Why are they not better known?
(p 387)

The last execution for witchcraft in
  • Holland … was in 1610; …
  • England, 1684;
  • America, 1692;
  • France, 1745;
  • Germany, 1775; and
  • Poland, 1793.
In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitorial torture was not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816.
The last bastion of support for the reality of witchcraft … has been the Christian churches. …

Why was it resolutely supported by conservatives, monarchists and religious fundamentalists?
Why opposed by liberals, Quakers and followers of the Enlightenment?
(p 388)

(The Demon-Haunted World, 1997)

Only once before in our history was there the promise of a brilliant scientific civilization. …
(p 333)

{Alexandria was the greatest city the Western world had ever seen.}
From the time of its creation in the third century BCE until its destruction seven centuries later, it was the brain and heart of the ancient world.

Alexandria was the publishing capital of the planet. …
Books were expensive; every one of them was copied by hand.
The Library was the repository of the most accurate copies in the world. …
The Old Testament comes down to us mainly from the Greek translations made in the Alexandrian Library. …

Rarely has a state so avidly supported the pursuit of knowledge.
[Not only did the Ptolemys devote] much of their enormous wealth to the acquisition of every Greek book, as well as works from Africa, Persia, India, Israel and other parts of the world [they also] financed scientific research [and encouraged the generation of] new knowledge.
  • Eratosthenes accurately calculated the size of the Earth, mapped it, and argued that India could be reached by sailing westward from Spain.
  • Hipparchus anticipated that stars come into being, slowly move during the course of centuries, and eventually perish; it was he who first catalogued the positions and magnitudes of the stars to detect such changes.
  • Euclid produced a textbook on geometry [—] a work that was to help awaken the scientific interest of Kepler, Newton and Einstein.
  • Galen wrote [foundational] works on healing and anatomy …
(p 334)

The last scientist who worked in the Library was a mathematician, astronomer, physicist and the head of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy …
Her name was Hypatia [and she] was born in Alexandria in 370. …

The Alexandria of Hypatia’s time — by then long under Roman rule — was a city under grave strain. …
The growing Christian Church was consolidating its power and attempting to eradicate pagan influence and culture.
Cyril, the Archbishop of Alexandria, despised her because of her close friendship with the Roman governor, and because she was a symbol of learning and science, which were largely identified by the early Church with paganism.
(p 335)

[In spite of] great personal danger, she continued to teach and publish, until, in the year 415, on her way to work she was set upon by a fanatical mob of Cyril’s parishioners.
They dragged her from her chariot, tore off her clothes, and … flayed her flesh from her bones [with abalone shells.]
Her remains were burned, her works obliterated, [and] her name forgotten.
Cyril was made a saint. …
[The last remnants of the Library] were destroyed soon [afterwards.]

It was as if [an] entire civilization had [lobotomized itself — erasing] most of its memories, discoveries, ideas and passions [forever.]
[Of] the 123 plays of Sophocles … only seven survived. …
Of the physical contents of that glorious Library not a single scroll remains.
(p 336)

(Cosmos, Macdonald Futura, 1980)

May 3, 2013

Climate Science 1

Naomi Oreskes: Merchants of Doubt

[As] one leading scientist said about [Bill Nierenberg's 1983 National Academy of Science report, Changing Climate: Report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee],
Edward Frieman:
We knew it was garbage, so we just ignored it. …
(16 March 2007)
Unfortunately, garbage doesn't just go away.
Someone has to deal with it, and that someone is all of us:
  • journalists who report scientific findings,
  • specialist professional bodies who represent the scientific fields, and
  • all of us as citizens. …

Global warming is a big problem, and to solve it we have to stop listening to disinformation. …
We all need a better understanding of
  • what science really is,
  • how to recognize real science when we see it, and
  • how to separate it from the garbage.

(Merchants of Doubt, 2010, p 265)