Number of the Month

November 2003

The new lords of misrule

In this post-scientific age of ours it is not only routine to brandish scares that are based on non-science, it is also considered normal to bury any news of dangers that conflict with the received new religions. What is truly remarkable, however, is that a few individuals are now empowered to threaten the health and wealth of whole populations, by their misappliance of science.

The MMR controversy has all the hallmarks of a classical scare induced by junk science, but one with the most serious possible consequences. As Number Watch remarked back in February 2002, the original hysteria was induced by a model piece of junk (publication by press conference, minuscule numbers in the trial, use of the post hoc fallacy, absence of a mechanism etc.) Now one of the authors involved in that exercise has recanted. The lead promoter of the panic, however, maintains his stance. Dr Andrew Wakefield persists in propagating his destructive creed. All three diseases pose very serious risks to the vulnerable and the unborn. The take up of MMR vaccination has fallen as low as 61% in some areas of the UK, enough to trigger extensive outbreaks of plagues the horrors of which only the elderly now remember.

Last month we reported the first of the plagues of Europe. What next? The promoters of so-called organic farming also rely on the propagation of the sort of chemo-phobia that is embraced by Mad Margot and the EU. The establishment media routinely ignore any adverse reports from the organic industry, such as the recent withdrawal of supplies of organic corn contaminated with fungi. Fungicides have played an important role in the virtual elimination of many dangerous organisms, such as ergot (claviceps purpurea). The last plague of ergot occurred in southern Russia in 1926. Among other things it causes gangrene in the extremities of the body, burning pains and convulsions.

It is not, of course, only in the areas of health that the gurus of the post-scientific age hold sway. The Kyoto treaty threatens world economic chaos. As we have frequently observed, this treaty is doubly fraudulent, as even if the global warming myth were true it would have a negligible effect. The exposure of serious internal errors in the research that produced the notorious “Hockey stick”, on which the IPCC based its devastating propaganda, has led to a raft of letters circulating under the aegis of the Yahoo Climate Skeptics Group. The contributions from the establishment apologists for the original claims have more than a whiff of Langmuir’s laws about them. Here are a couple of the comments made, with added comments on the comments:

The main conclusions drawn by IPCC 2001 are strongly based on the instrumental record (Jones et al. 1999), and make a statement about the warming of the last 10 years in comparison with the last 1000 years. Since McIntyre and McKitrick chose to ignore the later part of the instrumental record, their conclusions are irrelevant for the current debate.

What this means is that the critics did not repeat the sophistry of grafting recent surface records contaminated by the Urban Heat Island effect onto data generated by an entirely different method. The gross discontinuity of slope in the two data sets is enough to indicate its invalidity.

As to the call for Michael Mann to rebut this work.  If michael spent the time rebutting each criticism of his paper, he'd not get anything else done.  In fact I wonder if the increasing silence of the climate community to repeated attacks or at least differing results is not symptomatic  of a growing need to work on new science instead of rebut a seeming unending line of detractors.

What a delightfully loaded paragraph! Not only does it acknowledge the massive scientific opposition to this theory (hidden, of course, from the ordinary punter who has to rely on the establishment media) but it is saying “We have produced this theory that is being used to justify destabilising the world economy, but we are too busy to deal with the outcry it produced among the scientific community.” Does not the “seeming unending line of detractors” suggest the teeniest hint that something is wrong? Anyway, this is how the scientific method works – any theory is a perpetual Aunt Sally that has to stand up to the bombardment of critical tests.

Furthermore, the McCritics did not endorse the methods used by Mann, they simply tried to reproduce them. In fact, there is a considerable amount of dubiety about the application of principal component analysis, which is essentially a tool of linear algebra, to phenomena that are not only non-linear, they are not even monotonic. Take plant growth for instance. Those of us who are chronic growers of vegetables know that variables such as temperature and moisture increase growth in the mid range, but if one of them is extremely low an increase in the other will lead to a decrease in growth rate. This is not linear, orthogonal or monotonic behaviour, so is therefore unsuitable for the application of linear algebra.

Tutorial 

Regular readers will know that Number Watch attempts to provide a service to all its readers. We have obviously been remiss in failing to support the legal profession, who are always in need of a nice little earner. Here is a dilemma that, in these litigious times,  should be worth a few dollars if you can get it to court:

1. Dr A creates a scare about vaccination that is later shown to be spurious.

2. As a result Mrs B decides not to vaccinate her children.

3. As a result the neighbour, Mrs C, contracts rubella from them while she is pregnant.

4. As a result her baby is born blind, deaf and with a defective heart.

Whom does Mrs C sue?

 Testing times

There’s no getting blood out of a turnip.
Frederick Marryat

So Margot Wallström had a blood test. Unfortunately this was a failure, as there was no indication of anything that could account for bouts of destructive insanity. Of course, it did contain chemicals from the eco-theological hit list of vacuous scares and, naturally, no indication of concentration was given. Modern instrumentation is miraculously capable of identifying just a few molecules of any substance, which has proved a boon to scaremongers. Like the hole in the ozone layer, these minuscule traces of complex organic compounds might always have been there, but we could not see them. No doubt millions of dying Africans would be only to pleased to swap Mad Margot’s minute traces of DDT for their own malarial parasites.

 Blood, toil, tears and sweat

Talking of blood, here is the latest from the Carbon Trust (Making business sense of climate change):

In November 2003 Action Energy from the Carbon Trust launches a national campaign to raise awareness of energy efficiency.

The campaign, called 'Lifeblood', highlights the fact that British small business is wasting as much as 30 per cent of its energy. With SMEs footing an annual energy bill of £3.5 billion, this amounts to a loss of £1.1 billion or £7,000 per business….

 It is bad enough that small businesses are taxed to death on such false grounds as the global warming myth, but this is adding insult to injury.

 Beverage report

The BBC tells us that A cup of cocoa keeps the doctor away. It is all, of course, yet another variation on the untested hypothesis that so-called anti-oxidants protect from disease. Last year, on the same tenuous basis, they were telling us that tea could prevent cancer. Even further back in 1998, with the help of the good old Harvard School of Public Health, they advised that chocolate was good for us.

Naturally, all this does not deter the Nanny State. Now sweets may carry health warnings. The obesity campaign goes from strength to strength, but it is as always very selective. It does not go for the local councils who sell off sports fields for housing or the personal injury lawyers who close the rest or the scaremongers who see paedophiles on every street corner, so that children are cocooned in front of their TVs rather than being out celebrating their own natural exuberance, or the educational zealots who ban competitive sports on the grounds of political incorrectness. No, as is the wont of Puritans throughout the ages, they live in the perpetual fear that someone somewhere might be enjoying something, so they seek to disfigure it with their crude and mendacious slogans.

 It was back in January 2002 that Number Watch commented:

Obesity is the new cause celebre among the health fascists of the Nanny State. Watch out for dutiful epidemiologists “proving” that it causes every known ill of mankind, as do tobacco and alcohol.

Life gets predictable, don’t it?

Salt sellers on the rack

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?   It is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Matthew 5:13. 

Much as we might dislike them we have to be impressed at the resolution with which the establishment media swing behind a political correctness campaign. The Junk Food operation is summed up nicely by the Social Issues Research Centre in a review of the orchestrated coverage this month.

 For a classic case of the virtual body count based on a big lie it is hard to beat this one:

Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardiovascular medicine of St George's Hospital Medical School, said an immediate cut of 10 per cent in salt in the average diet would save 5,800 lives over the next year and is unhappy that this is not being forced upon manufacturers. 'The industry tells us that they can't cut salt levels immediately because the customers won't like the taste, but lots of studies show that such a reduction wouldn't be detectable. I find it astonishing that a train operator can be held accountable if he causes deaths in a rail crash but we don't hold the manufacturers responsible for these many thousands of preventable deaths because so much salt is hidden in processed food.' 

As Number Watch reported at the beginning of this year (To be taken with a pinch of salt) the salt scare is one of the emptiest of them all.

A genuine Hamburger, the food that is always pictured to illustrate diatribes on junk food, is a highly nutritious item, though some of the commercial reproductions of this traditional delicacy might fall short of the ideal. Children have always resisted vegetables; well, from personal knowledge, they did half a century ago. There is no such thing as junk food; there are just balanced diets and unbalanced ones. There is, however, junk science and this is it.

Back in September 2000, Number Watch also welcomed the arrival of Sir John Krebs as chairman of the Government’s new Food Standards Agency, when he poured appropriate scorn on the organic food scam. Unfortunately, he has now gone native and joined the ranks of those who enjoy coercion of the public for its own sake.

Man, like animals who seek out salt-licks, has been conditioned by evolution to like salt because it is essential for his well being. If he has too much, he simply excretes it.

Big Brother is watching you!

For more than you wanted to know about the salt debate, read Gary Taubes' thorough study.

 The scientific limbo dance competition

March of the Morons
Title of a prescient science fiction story by C M Kornbluth

The progressive trivialisation of what now passes for academic research is now way beyond the bounds of reason. Two fabricated stories that reached the front pages of the posh dailies in mid-November illustrate only too well the climbing onto populist bandwagons that typifies the modern approach.

The Rugby Union World Cup has made the headlines for weeks, so two academics came up with an equation that hit the headlines.  It is total pseudo-mathematical balderdash. The terms are vague and undefinable, while there could not possibly be enough data to evaluate coefficients (so there aren’t any). Some might argue that it is only a bit of harmless fun, but this is the same sort of stuff that promotes health scares and other social ills.

And “scientists” at the University of Central Lancashire hitched a ride on the coattails of a callipygous Australian chanteuse. This in The Times:

The science of Kylie's bottom
Kylie Minogue really does have the perfect bottom, according to scientists at Central Lancashire University. For the best behind, they say a woman should have a waist to hip ratio of 0.7. And for the perfect man? Never mind the backside, just measure the wallet.

 How low can you go?

 Welcome!

On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns -- after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces -- at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.
Nineteen eighty four

The State visit to the UK of George W. has promoted a rash of statistics about how unpopular he is with the British people. This is hardly surprising, as he has been at the receiving end of one of the most bitter and concentrated campaigns ever conducted against one individual. It has united the establishment media (rotating round the BBC-Guardian axis) with the Murdoch empire. Some of the most savage jibes have been  the Peter Brookes cartoons in The Times. Anarchists are flooding in from all over Europe to join the demonstrations.

It all seems rather unfair on the person who saved the world from its most dangerous man; and besides Al Gore he has also dealt with Saddam Hussein. In the eyes of the establishment, however, his sins are grave. He not only launched a war of liberation against one of the most evil death-dealing tyrannies of modern times but, worse, he failed to make due obeisance to the new religion of global warming.

 Rock bottom

Talking of global warming (and we would rather not, but if you are interested in science and truth it is impossible to ignore it) the latest scandal unveiled by John Daly is a whopper. From Watergate to Enron, the fevered destruction of files is a dead giveaway for the whiff of something nasty in the woodshed. Mann et al have responded to the dissection of their Hockey Stick scam by doing just that. Added to the worldwide tampering with temperature records that is going on, this is the last word in the corruption of science. Just when we thought it could sink no lower than an antipodean’s arse!

  Weak end

It always rains on Sunday
Classic film title

Sunday November 23rd – a dark day, with the rain hammering down in the proverbial stair rods from dawn to dusk. Nothing unusual for autumn in South West England, you might think. Nevertheless, it makes the weather forecast in The Sunday Times interesting reading:

Early cloud will clear to leave a largely bright day with spells of sunshine. However, some early mist or fog may linger during the day.

To reinforce  the message there is a nice little map with symbols of the sun coyly peeping out from behind light clouds. This from the people who confidently proclaim they know what the climate is going to do in one hundred years time.

We could forgive the odd isolated lapse, but this is the lot that kept promising us rain during the devastating drought of  August and September, then did not warn of the even more devastating record early frost.

 Bread, cornflakes and snake oil

Sometimes it is hard not to give up in despair. When one of the least hysterical broadsheet newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph, comes up with a whole page article carrying the headline Spina bifida in babies is linked with cornflakes and white bread,  where are you to turn? It is all the more confusing because the author of the article, one Robert Matthews, seems to be the namesake of the author of a brilliant hard-hitting pamphlet entitled Statistical snake-oil: the use and abuse of significance tests in science (published by ESEF). It is rather reminiscent of the time when we had two Robert Parks.

No numbers are given, apart from the Trojan Number, which is almost 1,000 women in the study and the fact that the offending food items may double the risk of such birth defects. Naturally, the main message is "more research is needed".

Junk epidemiology is pretty despicable at the best of times, but when it prays on such vulnerable people as prospective parents, parading its random associations as science, it is beneath contempt. The offending article threw in a whole raft of other epidemiological pap as offerings to the food fascists – 50 to 80 percent increases in risk of oral and ovarian cancers and, it goes without saying, obesity.

Footnote: Our man in Puerto Rico feels it would be justice to quote the last two paragraphs of the said article. He is right of course. The occasional intrusion of common sense into the media should be celebrated:

Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE, who was born with spina bifida and has become Britain's best-known paralympic athlete, said last night: "These findings are interesting but you have to put them into context. Living in areas with heavy industry is also a factor, for example. It is really useful to encourage women to eat a better diet but there are also financial reasons why women eat what they do."

Ms Grey-Thompson, who has won 14 paralympic medals and eight medal placings in the London Marathon, added: "There are a huge number of scary things that women are told when they become pregnant that can put a lot of guilt on mothers. Sometimes disability is no one's fault and there is nothing you can do about it."

The big push

Eighteen presidents of medical institutions wrote to The Times on November 25th demanding a ban on smoking in public places.

Sir, We believe that the time has come for legislation to make public places smoke-free. Passive smoking causes an estimated 1,000 deaths in adults each year and causes asthma, lung infections and middle ear disease in children…..

It is remarkable testament to the power of political correctness that the entire medical establishment should unite to repeat an outrageous lie. The claims about the body count from passive smoking derive from a so-called meta-study conducted by the US EPA in 1992. There are at least five cold-blooded statistical frauds in that study. If you strip them out, it clearly shows that environmental tobacco smoke is harmless (as did a more recent, properly conducted, but much vilified, study). The rest is just the usual epidemiological junk based on unacceptable significance levels.

This is not a unique example of the way the medical establishment has parted company with real science (other prominent examples are salt and cholesterol) but it is their most egregious attempt to substitute coercion for liberty. They obviously envy the strides made by PC authoritarians in such places as California, New York and Ireland.

Number of the month – four

Four is the number of mobile telephone masts destroyed by British campaigners in one week. It demonstrates the power of the irrational fears that can be stirred up by mischief-makers. The newspaper version of the Telegraph story is supported by two photographs. One shows an attractive woman, who is a cancer sufferer, taking part in a 24 hour vigil to prevent a mast being erected near her home. The other features a placard being carried over a fallen mast that reads “No masts until proven safe”. The first is tragic but irrelevant, while the second represents the modern retreat into illogicality. A third of us are going to get cancer and whether we live by a phone mast is neither here nor there. You cannot prove that anything is safe. Indeed, it is questionable whether anything is safe. You might be able to prove that anything is unsafe, but in this case the physics and biology are against it.

A few of the phone masts are an aesthetic offence, but in New Labour Britain this is not a relevancy. In the same week the Government announced that so-called green power is to receive a further two billion pounds of money wrested from the suffering taxpayer. Most of this will go to plonking monstrous wind turbines in the some of the most scenic places in the world, for no rational purpose. Like the big heads on Easter Island, they are a testament to an irrational and destructive theology. It is notable that the opponents of one visual offence adhere to the law, while the others do not.

The Government does not recognise the existence of scenic beauty. It is, for example, content to authorise concreting over much of the remaining precious countryside in the name of solving a claimed housing problem. There is no housing problem. There is an immigration problem and there is a family breakdown problem, both largely Government inspired, but the provision of housing is otherwise adequate for a declining population.

Many nations go through periodic destructions of their heritage, which they later come to regret bitterly. The Bolsheviks, the Maoists, Cromwell and Henry VIII in their destructive zeal all deprived future generations of their rightful cultural inheritance. So it is with New Labour, though they selectively approve one desecration while condemning another.

 

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