Thursday, April 17, 2014

Michael Crichton: "Aliens Cause Global Warming"

In 1993 science fiction writer and physician Michael Crichton (who has since passed away) delivered the Michelin Lecture at Caltech. His address, "Aliens Cause Global Warming", has become legendary. It is one of the best discussions of science politics and psychology I've read. It's been widely circulated, and you may well have read it. If you have, it warrants periodic re-reading. If you haven't, you're in for a treat.

An excerpt:

...the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion. 

He takes on a host of shibboleths.  Nuclear winter, second-hand smoke, overpopulation hysteria, and of course global warming.

His essay is a note of sanity very much needed in science today.

21 comments:

  1. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 17, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    That's a Crichton classic, all right.

    Daily Truth™:

    And I'd like to share another, just for the record, by Bruce Ames et. al. Some of you may know Bruce Ames as the developer of the "Ames Test", perhaps the most widely used test to determine the mutagenic potential of chemical compounds. The EPA and various ecolunatic NGOs (NRDC), along with witless "science journalists" have used the Ames Test to gin up fear (e.g., Alar) that the food supply is poisoned with cancer-causing chemicals.

    Of course, this paper by Ames et al has been overlooked by the government and the press. Here's an interesting quote:

    We conclude that natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be positive in animal cancer tests. We also conclude that at the low doses of most human exposures the comparative hazards of synthetic pesticide residues are insignificant.


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    1. I can’t think of a better person to advocate for pesticides than “show me the bodies” Boggs. You should get your own blog instead of piggybacking on this one.

      -KW

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    2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 17, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      Popeye: "You should get your own blog..."

      Why?

      Oh, and by the way.... show me the bodies. My favorite bodies are the statistical "excess death" bodies that exist inside inside canned statistical analysis software and are available for dragging out for public viewing during chemical food supply "crises".

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    3. I know. Think of how many people where tricked out of getting the full flavored satisfaction of a good cigarette by statistics. It’s a damn shame.

      -KW

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    4. What are we arguing here?

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    5. G Boggs, Zionist PuppetApril 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      I'm not sure what Alar has in common with cigarettes. Ask Popeye.

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    6. Chemicals are bad, dontcha know? Have you read about the large quantities of Dihydrogen Monoxide found in just about all of our food supply? Not to mentions being pumped into the bodies of still-developing school children. Someone warn the FDA already

      http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

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  2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 17, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    ALERT: Horrific Massacre Narrowly Averted by Courageous Law Officers

    MILFORD >> A 65-year-old man faces an array of charges after shooting a squirrel in his yard Monday morning, police said in a press release.

    James Toigo, 258 Housatonic Dr., was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm, cruelty to an animal, first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree breach of peace, failure to register an assault rifle and three counts of possessing large-capacity magazines, according to a police press release from Officer Jeffrey Nielsen.

    --- New Haven Register (4/16)

    Whew! That was close!!

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    1. What’s society coming to when people can’t shoot assault rifles in their own yard? If his neighbors don’t like it they can wear body armor in their house or move. Until someone can produce some bodies there’s absolutely no problem.

      -KW

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    2. Why should people register their firearms? It's akin to asking for the state's permission in order to exercise your Constitutional rights. What's next, needing a license in order to exercise free speech? Stupid.

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  3. Crichton's right, of course, that that which cannot be observed and tested does not constitute for science but rather (religious) belief. However, where I don't agree is that Christianity is relegated to articles of faith, because everything in this universe speaks to the existence of the Creator, God, and is therefore evidence. The cycle of time and entropy illustrates how, since everything is wearing down, there was a definite beginning to the material universe and hence will eventually come to an end. Further, there is readily observable order and regularity throughout the universe on an unprecedented scale, to say nothing of the beauty and design everywhere. There's the moral reality of right vs wrong with their respective benefits vs consequences. Finally, there's the existence of miracles, such as those done through the intercession of St. Padre Pio.

    http://infallible-catholic.blogspot.com/2012/04/padre-pio-on-gift-of-healing.html

    Macro-evolution, i.e. speciation, is a process which has never been observed and tested, only inferred through the creative imaginations of Paleontologists and such, and therefore does not constitute for science. Ditto for abiogenesis. I believe the evil one is behind all of this because only he would stand to benefit from deceiving people into denying the miracle of creation by God. Because atheist-scientists are in a state of rebellion against God (and the media/academia has fooled society into thinking that anyone with a lab coat and a diploma is wiser than the common man), they're ideal tools for spreading his deception. To be sure, it is a test of faith. But those with the gift of vision cannot be swayed by their elaborate lies.

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    1. Michael, your god, if he exists, is the great deceiver for making a natural world that is so readily explainable by natural processes. Take evolution for example, from homologies and the fossil record, to the nature of genetics and natural selection, it certainly looks like God went to great lengths to design life to look like it evolved through natural processes. It certainly didn’t have to be that way.

      -KW

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    2. "I believe the evil one is behind all of this because only he would stand to benefit from deceiving people........."
      Bravo, well said. .

      UFOs are real and they are a part of his evil deception. .
      John R.

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    3. KW, for all your boasting about evolutionary processes and such, you cannot validate a shred of it with observable, testable proof. It only gets worse with abiogenesis, i.e. life from non-life.

      John, while UFOs do exist, I believe in a terrestrial explanation for them, i.e. secret government technology, rather than an extraterrestrial one. That said, there could very well be extraterrestrial life somewhere outside of our solar system. The universe is enormous.

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    4. “KW, for all your boasting about evolutionary processes and such, you cannot validate a shred of it with observable, testable proof.”

      Of course I can, but you’ll just categorically reject anything I present. Can you even at least acknowledge that there are many “designed” features of life that are also compatible with evolution?

      -KW

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    5. In terms of micro-evolution or characteristics which adapt to the environment or develop immunity, sure, but not speciation, i.e. the gradual transition from one species to another. Even if you could start with all the genetic information necessary for a single cell (which would be impossible without intelligent guidance), it would still have to be compiled in a very precise way and then you'd still need a functioning system in order to give it purpose, not unlike how the data in an .exe file need be programmed in order for it to function, and even then it requires a computer to run and interpret it.

      If you're trying to present speciation as a scientific fact then the onus is on you to prove that it is, not on me to prove that it isn't.

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    6. Macro evolution is micro evolution over time. If micro evolution occurs as you concede, there’s nothing to stop macroevolution from occurring as well. All it takes is an isolated population accumulating sufficient micro evolutionary steps to prevent them from interbreeding with the parent population.

      “Species” is a much more nebulous and malleable concept than the creationists who demand to see a crocoduck seem to realize. Never has an offspring been a different species than its parents, and there is never a clearly defined moment when can say that a particular population is a new species. Speciation is a process that can take a very long time, and it’s naïve to think that it can observed in the way you seem to think it needs to be. That doesn’t change the fact that the evidence for speciation is overwhelming and it has been proved many times over.

      -KW

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    7. The slippery slope to nominalism. Is "species" a meaningful concept or arbitrary human construct?

      Incidentally, the "species problem" was what sparked my interest in Aristotelian philosophy, as I found his to be the only reasonable solution to the very related "problem of universals". See David Oderberg's Real Essentialism for a great defense of Aristotelian realism in light of contemporary science.

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    8. KW, chemistry destroys the entire premise of your argument. Molecules break down over time; they don't just wait around for some mysterious reaction to take place and become more complex. Even if proteins, RNA, DNA and so forth were floating around in a primordial soup, it would never get to first life -- it would just break down and dissipate over time.

      As far as micro-evolution causing speciation through some slow, gradual (mysterious) process, sorry, that does not constitute evidence for evolution. Since your hypothesis requires an absurd amount of time in order to go from simple to complex, there would be a preponderance of half-step fossils everywhere, which simply isn't the case. And besides, stating that micro-evolution causes speciation is a cop-out which allows you to evade having to show observable, testable proof.

      "“Species” is a much more nebulous and malleable concept than the creationists who demand to see a crocoduck seem to realize."

      Actually, no, it isn't. It's a logical means of identifying and classifying creatures through their differences.

      "Speciation is a process that can take a very long time..."

      Correction: you believe that speciation took place over a long period of time through some gradual evolutionary process, but are thoroughly incapable of proving it.

      One of the best commentaries on evolution that I've ever come across was the following by Fred Reed. Rips the theory to shreds. Of his own proposed model for first-life, which he calls Paleopolymerase Chain Reaction, he says, "It has all the requisites of a major evolutionary theory, being irreproducible, implausible, unlikely, and based on improbable assumptions." Yup, that's evolution in a nutshell.

      http://www.fredoneverything.net/LastDarwin.shtml

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  4. The galactic-cosmic-ray/low-altitude-cloud connection was discovered by Svensmark, corroborated by Marsden & Lingenfelter and again by the CLOUD experiment at CERN.

    The sensitivity of average global temperature (AGT) to low altitude clouds is calculated at http://lowaltitudeclouds.blogspot.com/ .

    Application of the energy equation leads to the time-integral of sunspot numbers as a proxy for the above.

    When combined with the surface temperature oscillation caused by the average of ocean oscillations, this calculates AGT since before 1900 with R^2>0.9 as demonstrated at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com/ . CO2 has no significant effect. AGT trend is down.

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  5. I agree that SETI isn't science. But it's rather ironic that Crichton gave his speech at a time when the discovery of extra-solar planets was taking off.

    Now there's over a thousand known. Phil Plait on his blog today has a thread on a recently discovered one, Kepler-186f, which is slightly larger than the Earth, and is located just within the Goldilocks zone where water could exist as a liquid on its surface.

    When SETI started, it was the only method for detecting extrasolar life - look for human-like intelligence close enough for us to detect the leakage of electromagnetic radiation from 20th century technology (radio and television).

    We wouldn't be able to detect non-technological intelligence. Or an intelligence with technology corresponding to pre-20th technology. Or one a long way away, which hasn't sent us a powerful tightly directed message (and we haven't done that, not seriously).

    It's reasonable to assume that there's life elsewhere in the universe, with its 10^22 stars. After all, life did start early on the Earth, with chemical fossils of life (carbon isotope ratios) in rocks 3.8 billion years old within 200 million years of the Earth being cool enough.

    Crichton is inaccurate about consensus - he should also include the times that the consensus of scientists was also correct in addition to the times it was incorrect. If a scientist wants to upset the consensus by proposing a new theory, then it's necessary to provide the evidence.

    Wegener's Continental Drift theory wasn't new (geographers had been noting that Africa and South America appeared to match each other like pieces in a jigsaw since the 17th century). And it was wrong - continents don't drift, it's the tectonic plates they're located on that drift, and that theory wasn't developed till the '60s.

    No one bothers labelling Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity as being consensus science even though they are, because there's no well funded campaign trying to cast doubt on them (although the Conservapedia has articles disputing Relativity, no one takes notice of it).

    Climate science, however, gets attacked, because it's threatening to the fossil fuel industry and to conservatives, who feel that personal freedom is being endangered.

    I was surprised by Crichton's claim that no one believes weather forecasts more than 12 hours in the future. Really? And therefore climate can't be predicted 100 years in advance?

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