Friday, April 29, 2011

More Rejectionism at the Las Vegas Review Journal

The Las Vegas Review-Journal continues to sneer at global warming. Its most recent editorial outburst, "Global Warming's Awful Fortune Tellers", largely cribbed from an April 13 editorial ("The Climate Refugee Hoax") in Investors Business Daily, claims that a 2005 article in the Guardian predicted 50 million refugees from rising sea levels by 2010.

If the Guardian had actually said that, it would be premature (or prescient). But the actual 2005 article in the Guardian included rising sea levels, desertification, and shrinking freshwater supplies, not just rising sea levels. This makes it at least debatable whether or not there are currently 50 million refugees from environmental causes.

The Review-Journal, again cribbing from Investors Business Daily, quotes a Swedish researcher, Nils-Axel Morner of Stockholm University, who proclaimed that there has been no rise in sea level in the 35 years that he has been studying the topic.

The R-J editorial writers ought to take a look at the data (see above right).

The guru, Dr. Morner, has a serious problem with the scientific method. He is a believer in dousing, finding water using a dowsing rod. This topic is closely related to witchcraft. The International Union for Quaternary Research has publicly disavowed Morner's research. (The Quaternary period is the last two million years of Earth's history). It makes sense that the sea level would rise: the Greenland ice sheet is melting and the sea is warming up. Both contribute to the sea level rise, currently estimated at 3 mm/year by satellite measurements.

There are all sorts of skeptics out there. For example, consider the Danish researcher
Uffe Ravnskov, who wrote a book, "Cholesterol Myths", claiming that cholesterol and other saturated fat has no effect on heart disease. There are enough "cholesterol skeptics" that they formed their own rejectionist organization, the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics. When I first discovered Ravnskov, I emailed a relative with an M. D., asking "is this guy nuts?". The reply was "yes".

Which pretty well sums up Dr. Ravnskov, Dr. Nils-Axel Morner, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.


Aaron said...

Dousing helps find the bottom of surface irregularities that are often over old stream bed, or old ponds. Sometimes such features hold water. The dousing stick responds to an involuntary change in the position of the hands as the douser's balance changes at the bottom of a subtle terrain feature.

The sad thing is how many settlers on the high plains pinned their family's futures to tiny amounts of perched water found by dousers. People tried to farm in places that were just too dry for that kind of farming. Indirectly, dousing contributed to the Dust Bowl of the 30s. I would not call "dousing" witchcraft, but I would call it very evil.

susan said...

While agreeing that relying on dousing has the effects mentioned by Aaron, I am ambivalent about it. Many decades ago my family had a little party experiment with dousing. We found that all of us in blood relationships could do it, and all connections by marriage could not. I'd agree that whatever we were measuring was not reliable, but we are all skeptics in the true scientific sense so whatever was pulling that stick down, it was neither fakery nor slight variations in the surface of our lawn. No doubt some dedicated denier will dig out this link and "expose" me somewhere not long from now.

We did think it was unlikely to be reliable in finding real steady sources of water, but still don't know why it worked.

Aaron's point is irrefutable. While I'm against demonizing what we don't understand, like the kerfuffle about vaccinations,* pseudoscience can do a lot of harm.

We are all human, and making assumptions about our opponents and taking wildly impractical stances does not help in the life and death battle at our feet. But the WSJ has a lot of answer for.

*I think one of the best exposes on the vaccination issue was done by Law and Order!

Same Ordinary Fool said...

WUWT blames the UN for the 50,000,000 refugees.

William M. Connolley said...

You wanted

Rattus Norvegicus said...

All you have to say is "Nils-Axel Morner". If they are citing this guy (and by extension Watts, because that is where this story seems to originate) and you know that you can trust their sources!

David B. Benson said...

Some engineers used to douse to find water pipes before deciding where to dig. Everybody now uses a combination of very good maps and so electroinc gadgets, the combination being much more reliable than dousing. Still, dousing was better than just guessing.

John said...

When I wrote the piece, I assumed that a scientifically literate audience, including the distinguished readers of Rabbet Run, would know that dowsing is a pseudoscience. Boy, was I wrong!

Here's some remedial background about dowsing.

By the way, it's spelling "dowsing", not "dousing". And note that I spelled it right once and wrong once.

But as Ronald Reagan (supposedly) said (when criticized for factual inaccuracy), "if I got it right half of the time, who cares about the other 10%?"

UK rabbit said...

I remember Investor's Business Daily from the editorial a couple of years ago claiming that Stephen Hawking would have died under the UK National Health Service. He is in fact British and has spent the vast majority of his life in the UK. More info here.

Anonymous said...

David B. Benson:
Still, dousing was better than just guessing.

Really? Why?

Adam R.

EliRabett said...

Seems appropriate as dousing is the practice of throwing cold water on everything.

susan said...

sheesh, you're right, dousing the lights. However, we did try it and that silly stick did move, and it moved for me and my blood relatives and not for the rest. And believe me, there were good scientific minds on that lawn and likely they would not mention they participated (those who are still alive). I shoulda followed their example. None of us believed any of it, we just thought it would be fun to check it out. Somebody even rigged up an electrical frame, but I was rather young and don't remember it ezzackly.

I have *never* had any interest in using dowzing for practical matters. (z intentional)

There let it lie, please.

susan said...

Time to return to topic, per John. Distractionalists have too easy a time of it without people like me treating it to a sidetrip into silly season.

Speaking of which, I was appalled at the comments on the latest seriousness from Trenberth, Mann, and Schmidt over at Wonk Room:

They are very good at getting punters to pile on (stinkin' piles).

David B. Benson said...

John --- Nothing scientific about it; some engineers found dowsing helpful. I've experienced my hands involutarily move while holding
a dowsing stick once at a particular location recommended by our guide in Cornwall. Most of the small tour group did as well. I have no explanation for this whatsoever.

Adam R. --- The city engineers who used a dowsing rod thought it better than just guessing. I suppose I don't know whether or not they were right.

cRR Kampen said...

A little off topic: April 2007 used to be the warmest in Holland for at least three centuries, a position this month has held for four long years but now finally lost.
Number three (in at least three centuries) was 2009.

Lars Karlsson said...

It surprises me that nobody has brought up Mörner's famous tilted sealevel graph. It appears as Figure 10 in this article in the LaRouche periodical 21st Century Science, but is older than that.

"While the IPCC and its boy scouts present wilder and wilder sea level predictions for the near future, the real observational facts demonstrate that sea level has remained virtually stable for the last 40-50 years." - Mörner 2011

John said...

Lars Karlsson:

Many thanks for the information that Dr. Mörner publishes in a LaRouche publication, which is definitely not a peer-reviewed publication.

Lyndon LaRouche was the first to claim that Queen Elizabeth II controls the worldwide drug trade. :) :) :) Oddly enough, this useful information was omitted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.


Anonymous said...

David B. Benson - get your engineering friends over to the James Randi Foundation website they have been offering $ 1 million for many years to anyone who can demonstrate that dousing works better then chance. So far no one has gotten past the preliminary testing. IMO the definitive book on dousing called 'Water Witching USA' was written by Ray Hyman.


EliRabett said...

David, that is why Eli puts not much faith in engineering level reports.

David B. Benson said...

LEM & EliRabett --- I'll guess that the effect has something to do with minor variations in ground elevation which the dowsing fork helps one to notice.