Pick of the Day: Our Body: The Universe Within

Here’s links to articles Carle and I did on this exhibt which opened at the Saskatchewan Science Centre on May 15. As we note, we saw the show as part of a media preview that the Centre arranged. Also invited was a biology class from Sheldon Williams Collegiate that had been studying human anatomy.

In the introduction to the show it’s made abundantly clear that morality, usually of a religious nature, has often interfered with and thwarted the human quest for knowledge. That’s the essential parable of Adam and Eve’s story in the Bible. But other cultures also have cautionary stories and myths about humanity overstepping its bounds and delving into things best left unexplored. Prometheus and Pandora are two examples from ancient Greek culture.

I don’t think knowledge, in and of itself, is ever evil. It’s more a matter of what we do with it once we acquire it that determines whether its a benefit or detriment to us and all other life on Earth. Dissections and autopsies are undoubtedly gruesome procedures, but without that type of rigorous investigation, where would the state of medicine be today?

The point Carle makes about all the subjects being Asian is a valid one. Other exhibits of this type that have been assembled haven’t been restricted to people of Asian ancestry. But it does evoke a certain amount of discomfort as in Western civilization there is a long history of scientists studying and categorizing other cultures. Implicit in this practice is the notion that Western society was more advanced and sophisticated and therefore fully justified in critiquing, measuring and analyzing other cultures.

At the same time we also have strong taboos associated with the handling and disposition of human remains. Part of this was surely driven by necessity, as if care isn’t taken in the disposal of human (and animal) remains the decomposition process that occurs is a dangerous vector for disease. But funeral rituals are also indicative of a desire on our part to properly honour and mourn the dead.

No matter how disappasionate we try to be, when a person is charged under the Criminal Code with committing an indignity against human remains, as a Weyburn woman was recently after disposing of her dead baby by placing it in the garbage, and two Regina boys were last year after they set a friend’s body on fire after he’d been killed accidently, we definitely experience feelings of revulsion. On the other hand, many of us have few qualms about committing indignities against other living beings as we go about our daily lives.

In my mind, that’s a far worse sin than anything in this exhibit where the preserved bodies, limbs and organs are treated with dignity and respect..

Debunking Monckton Live

Over on ClimateTV.tv, the host of Climate Crocks of the Week, Peter Sinclair, will be presenting the second part of a very special Climate Crock, “Debunking Lord Monckton.” And, it will be broadcast live.

That’s right, Monckton has produced so much anti-factual blather that exploding all the half-truths, errors and misinformation requires a two-parter.

For those who missed the first episode, here it is…

The live broadcast begins at 7pm tonight and as I said before, it’s available at ClimateTV.tv. On that website you can also find DeSmog Weekly, more episodes of Climate Crock and interviews with people like Gwynne Dyer.

And, just because a certain other Saskatchewan blog was propagating that “it’s the sun, stupid” myth in the last few days, here’s the Climate Crock episode, “Solar Schmolar” in which Sinclair explains why solar forcing does not explain away the globe’s current warming.

Ball Busted By UVic Students

Richard Littlemore over at DeSmog Blog reports on an interesting encounter Tim Ball, Canadian climate-change denier extraordinaire, had at the University of Victoria. Ball, in a lecture put on by the University of Victoria Young Conservatives Club, presumably thought he was speaking before an audience comprised of friendly, credulous Harper fans.

But UVic is where Dr Andrew Weaver teaches. He’s the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis. And what Tim Ball actually encountered was a room full of up-and-coming climatologists.

Here’s how Littlemore describes the scene:

The conversation … went on for two-and-a-half painful hours, with Ball dismissing all climate science as a fiction promulgated by a small group of ideologues and the students – laptops in hand – challenging and dismissing his arguments on the basis of ready information.

And here’s an example of one of the exchanges:

Ball: “You look at the list of forcings [the IPCC has]; it’s only those forcings caused by human activity.”

Student: “You’re saying that volcanoes are caused by humans?”

Ball: “Well exactly. The volcanoes is one and look at the thing I showed you with Milankovich.”

Student: “Yeah, but the IPCC accounts for volcanic activity AND Milankovich cycles.”

Ball: “They identify them, but they do not consider them in their models ….”

Student: “They certainly do ….”

Ball: “No they don’t ….”

Student: “Yes they do. I run models….”

Tim Ball, by the way, is pretty much the gold standard for climate deniers. Well, maybe “gold” is overstating things. “Decent quality but slightly tarnished silver” is probably closer to the mark. Regardless, as a former climatologist out of the University of Winnipeg, he’s one of the first “experts” invited onto talk shows when climate science is to be discussed and his arguments are widely cited within the denialist community.

In other words, this is about the best the climate deniers can do. And as it turns out, as soon as they’re confronted with real climate science, all their tired old canards wither and die.

Anyway, I highly recommend reading the rest of Littlemore’s post. Hopefully, DeSmog Blog will soon have a recording of the entire lecture available for download.

Climate science and the people who deny it

As someone whose education is natural science (biology, ecology), and as someone who worked for a local research group which studies climate change on the prairies (PARC), and as a human being who believes in facts, climate change deniers really irk me.  Like, make-me-twitch-and-send-me-into-a-spiral-of-madness irk me.

It bothers me that childish, unfounded, fear mongering, opinions are pitted against peer-reviewed, data-intensive, scientifically-rigourous, objective, research as though they are comparable… and the only thing that bothers me more are people who blindly believe the lies.

Luckily there are smart and thoughtful people who stand up for what is scientifically accepted as fact, who take up the challenge of debunking the “debunkers”.  Take for example Peter Sinclair who posts his climate “crock of the week” videos challenging the claims made by climate change deniers.

Enjoy this, his latest installment:

Godless Liberals Get The Brains

 So a study apparently says that the average liberal is smarter than the average conservative. From the story in the Toronto Star:

“Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics and Political Science, says it makes sense biologically. In an article for Social Psychology Quarterly, Kanazawa lays out facts based on U.S. data to support his theory. According to that research, young adults who identify as “not at all religious” had an average IQ of 103 as teens, while those who identified as “very religious” had an average IQ of 97. Similarly, young adults who called themselves “very liberal” had an average IQ of 106 during adolescence, while those who identified themselves as “very conservative” had average IQs of 95.”

For Canadian readers confused by the term, “liberal” basically means “socialist wimp” in the American language.

I wonder if this researcher would get the same results in other countries. Somehow I doubt it. Only in America: where “don’t be smart” is something angry parents say to their kids.