Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Last day here

I fly out of Melbourne at 1855 Thursday evening arriving in Birmingham at 1140 Friday morning - chasing the sun this time. I've been working up three in-house projects in Jersey, Barnet and Staffordshire in spare moments, so should be in Jersey Sunday afternoon for seminars on Chairing Scrutiny on Monday.
Yesterday I went again to see the painting that had held me, as I dip into Blainey's Triumph of the Nomads, then from two to six in the afternoon I cycled on to the Yarra Trail below Federation Square, who's free WiFi I'd enjoyed, and on around the city for over 20 miles lunching at Collingwood Children’s Zoo, traversing the higher path to the north then descending back down past Melbourne Zoo – all on immaculately prepared and signed paths, mingling but separated from road and rail routes into Melbourne, treating myself to a Coopers from the bottle on Collins as commuters made their way to Southern Star station. Geoff’s Orbea made the few slopes easy. When I lost my way with a wrong turn at Dights Falls I was soon guided back by friendly strangers some as confused as I by my map but pointing me in the right general direction.
The Liberal opposition is in contention over the deal struck between their Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, to support an ETS Bill that Kevin Rudd can take to Copenhagen to show the world Australia’s serious about climate change. The Herald Sun (25/11/09) is full of the higher energy bills that householders will face and business will have to pay; vexing at the ‘insanity, infamy and inanity’ (Terry McCrann in the Business section of Herald Sun) of making sacrifices that other nations, especially China, will ignore; with a spread on the 'faked' J-curve showing how global warming is a hoax by scientists – following a leak of e-mail exchanges between Phil Jones, Head of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, Keith Griffa, Jones’ deputy and Michael Mann – inventor of the hockey stick graph (see below) used by Al Gore to present An Inconvenient Truth, and Kevin Trenberth, Head of the Climate Analysis Section at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, lead author of IPCC reports. Monbiot recognises a gift to the deniers. Thus a UK court judgement at the beginning of October suggests Gore's film may be disallowed from some schools as being 'political' rather than 'scientific' (see Dimmock vs Secretary of State). It takes me to the continued argument about heliocentric versus geocentric descriptions of earth's relationship to the sun. The last Pope, John Paul II, apologised for the church’s treatment of Galileo, but the latest seems to be placing on that apology, without denying heliocentrism, that the proviso that Galileo (unlike Copernicus) was an egoist who published his findings without the full range of data required to prove that the earth circled the sun, rather than the other way round, and without consideration of the social impact of his findings. Ratzinger has the support of reputable philosophers of science, Feyerabend in particular, for this seemingly bizarre intention. It surprises me little that urgency, and possibly egotism, has involved massaging complex data. We are trying to see a possible eventuality over a time scale of millennia using the samples of a few human lifetimes, plus ice core samples. It is a pinhole view of a vast panorama that until the 1850s most scientists thought was hardly broader than the few thousand years since Genesis. As Richard Feynmann said “Few outside the world of science know how hard it is to find out the truth of anything.” It’s always a working hypothesis, always contested, always turning on tiny details - in Galileo’s case on anomalies. Who was it said when pondering the likelihood of evolution amid the fractious turmoil of debates about the origins of species.
[Scientific opinion on climate change]
Three independent global temperature data series assembled by: • CRU and the Met Office Hadley Centre (HadCRUT3) in the UK. • The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Asheville, NC, USA. • The Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), part of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) in New York.
One of the things that stands out for me is how the arguments have shifted from there is versus there is not climate change, to widespread acceptance that there is climate change, thought hat gets mixed up with global warming, and that GW is not or is brought about by humans - the acronym being thrown around on forums being 'AGW'. Comparisons to the great debates about heliocentric vs geocentric understandings of the solar system and evolution vs. special creation become even more apparent. Such a race and how superbly these dramas are described by Thomas Kuhn's great book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was originally printed as an article in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, published by the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle. In this book, Kuhn argued that science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but undergoes periodic revolutions, also called "paradigm shifts" (although he did not coin the phrase), in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. In general, science is broken up into three distinct stages. Prescience, which lacks a central paradigm, comes first. This is followed by normal science, when scientists attempt to enlarge the central paradigm by "puzzle-solving". Thus, the failure of a result to conform to the paradigm is seen not as refuting the paradigm, but as the mistake of the researcher, contra Popper's refutability criterion. As anomalous results build up, science reaches a crisis, at which point a new paradigm, which subsumes the old results along with the anomalous results into one framework, is accepted. This is termed revolutionary science. In SSR, Kuhn also argues that rival paradigms are incommensurable—that is, it is not possible to understand one paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of another rival paradigm. He also points out that those who uphold the replaced paradigm never abandon it. They eventually die.
The boundary between
[Back to the future - 1 December 2009: The opposition Liberal Party have voted out Malcolm Turnbull and elected a climate change sceptic. Australia's new opposition leader Tony Abbott said opposition senators will reject the government's carbon-trade laws if they are not deferred until early 2010.
The move could undermine the green bargaining power of Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, at the Copenhagen negotiations, which aim to agree a successor to the Kyoto protocol. It could also trigger a general election in Australia, which some observers say would be the world's first electoral crisis prompted by climate change. (Guardian 1/12/09)

1 comment:

  1. Off topic my former housemate from Germany is getting a divorce! I want to give her a cyberhug! Good luck with jet lag.


Back numbers