Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Catastrophic Gradualism (redux)

Thanks to Tony for pointing me towards an amusing article on the BBC website entitled ‘
Climate scepticism: The top 10’…

“We look at 10 of the arguments most often made against the IPCC consensus, and some of the counter-arguments made by scientists who agree with the IPCC”

There is much sceptical amusement to be had here and for me personally the stand-out argument is #7…



Ice-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans.


This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years - a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth's orbit. However, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from human emissions. Levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records, and are possibly higher than any time since three million years ago.

Fellow Man Made Global Warming sceptics will no doubt enjoy that definition of ‘largely irrelevant’ immensely

And as a MMGW sceptic, I’m a little disappointed that the top reason for my own scepticism is absent from the list…

"Man Made Global Warming advocates are fucking pussies"

Not only are they Climate Change Deniers they are actually too scared to face up to the fact that there’s absolutely nothing we can do to prevent Climate Change

George Monbiot and some pals on the campaign trail

So, instead of advocating measures that will enable mankind to adapt to that inevitable change they prefer to kid themselves that tweaking Humanity’s CO2 output a few percent is going to ensure that global climate stays exactly the fucking same for all time. Somewhat akin to trying to steer a 100,000 ton supertanker into dock with a lolly stick

Well, I’m convinced


Standing back from the MMGW ‘debate’ a little, it’s fascinating to see the Doublethink which underpins contemporary Natural Science being exposed on a such a big public stage

The godfathers of modern geology and evolutionary theory made it very clear that natural science was all about very boring things happening, very gradually over the kind of mind-numbing timescales that dwarfed a human lifespan.

This is known as the principle of uniformitarianism

“Uniformitarianism is one of the most basic principles of modern geology, the observation that fundamentally the same geological processes that operate today also operated in the distant past. It exists in contrast with catastrophism, which states that Earth surface features originated suddenly in the past, by geological processes radically different to those currently occurring.”

However, the motives for the adoption of uniformitarianism were arguably more ideological than scientific

A uniformitarian view of earth history permitted the huge timescales required for Darwinian Evolution to be a viable concept and, more importantly, it separated science from religion and all those dusty old books filled with catastrophic creation myths; especially floods

The only problem being that uniformitarianism is a load of old, gradualistic cock

Trying to piece together the history of the Earth without acknowledging the key role played by catastrophes is like trying prepare a report on an air crash without making any reference to any actual crashing

The Earth is littered with evidence of past catastrophes and processes that are not in operation today

And for the better part of 200 years geologists have either ignored that evidence or made up some really silly gradualistic stories to account for it

Personal favourite examples of catastrophic, in your face, geological features with bollocks explanations include; the periodic reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field, the formation of 1km thick beds of pure salt through evaporation (that’s a lot of fecking evaporation), limestone formation, the mechanism for plate tectonics and last, but not least, fossil formation.

Hands up anyone who can point me to anywhere on Earth where fossil beds or even that most tediously common of rocks, limestone, are currently being deposited

/ waits patiently

/ doesn't hold breath

The problem with contemporary uniformitarianism is that whilst pushing the Bible and religion out of the picture it also negates the Number One reason why Catastrophes were written into the Bible in the first place…

To scare the shit out of people

Big Scary Floods brought about by ignoring Prophets and continuing with Our Sinful Ways ...undergoing a bit of a Renaissance at the moment

And scaring the shit out of people, especially kids with their lovely squishy unconditioned minds, is very much the name of the game these days

and the Question for the Day is : "Why is it, with the constant diet of unrelenting optimism about their future being rammed down our kids' necks every day, that so many of our teens choose to drink themselves stupid on a regular basis? Yes, I know!! It must be the availability of alcohol. Yes, that's got to be it..."

We are now living in a weird point in time where mainstream science still pays lip service to uniformitarianism but simultaneously ramps up the catastrophe side of things to meet the needs of the current social and political climate

So, modern science is very much like the Bible then but without the Holy Men

OK, slightly fewer Holy Men


PS Another favourite example of bollocks explanations for possibly catastrophic past events I didn’t list above was the level of radioactive isotopes in the Earth’s atmosphere. If you don’t calibrate/ fiddle raw data for atmospheric levels of Carbon and Helium isotopes you find yourself looking at some rather short, embarrassingly biblical-looking, dates for the age of our atmosphere. But that’s by the by. Whilst looking for pointers towards any new rationalisations in the field of radiocarbon dating I’ve just noticed that someone has sneaked in a couple of amusing links into Wikipedia’s article on RC dating

The links point towards the works of a guy called Anatoly Fomenko, a proponent of the most amusing piece of Loonery
I’ve seen all week…

“Fomenko is a supporter of revising chronological history. He has created his own revision called "New Chronology", based on statistical correlations, dating of zodiacs, and by examining the mathematics and astronomy involved in chronology. Fomenko claims that he has discovered that many historical events do not correspond mathematically with the dates they are supposed to have occurred on. He asserts from this that all of ancient history (including the history of Greece, Rome, and Egypt) is just a reflection of events that occurred in the Middle Ages and that all of Chinese and Arab history are fabrications of 17th and 18th century Jesuits. He also claims that Jesus lived in the 12th century A.D. and was crucified in Constantinople; that the Trojan war and the Crusades were the same historical event; and that Genghis Khan and the Mongols were actually Russians. As well as disputing written chronologies, Fomenko also disputes more objective dating techniques such as dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating.”

Whilst I'm not exactly convinced by Fomenko’s thesis I have to admit that it does display a certain degree of style and can’t be faulted for lack of scope or ambition...


PPS and a couple of stills of Klaus Kinski's finest hour I really wanted to, but couldn't find a legitimate way to, include in this post...



Anonymous said...

Rude to ask, I know, but where did you do your geology?

Stef said...

in quarries mostly

Stef said...

and it was only years afterwards that I twigged that very few of the formations and features I saw in those quarries were being deposited in the present day

Stef said...


Stef said...


Stef said...


Stef said...

metre thick beds of unbroken fish skeletons?

Stef said...

though I'd be the first to admit that a lot of silt is being deposited in the present day

sooner or later everything gets turned into the stuff

hmmmm, silt...

Merkin said...

Liked the anti-terrorism certificates.
Does that mean we can just award then to each other - same as those meme thingies and other shite like Creative Blogger Award?
Having just seen the first ever conviction for dissemination, today, we could all be lifted unless we have scripts to unblame us.

lwtc247 said...

I like the guy looking at 'King' Monbiot supporting himself on in the shield. His body posture tell you what he's thinking... "What a tosser" (or was that me when I saw Dorkins's photo??) hummm..


Let's muse, yes, lets! about the ice cores just for a second. I wonder which ice cores do they use?

At the Antartic basin where elevation (from extra snowfall) shows changes in snowfall from 0 to 6 cm/year, or perhaps from East Antarctica where thickening AND thinning occur to levels of –10 to +19 cm/year or perhaps form the Artic shelf which shows strong thickening of between 8 and 19 cm/year! Oh dear! Perhaps the West Antarctic ice sheet is a bit more reliable. Ooops! That showed a snapshot overall trend of slight
thinning in the interior of 0.9 +/- 0.3 cm/year. Errrrmmm...

Ah ha!

East Antarctica! Nope... 0 to +6 cm/year change in elevation. Dooooh! and elevation-change results for West Antarctica, East Antarctica, and the ROC are significantly more positive than previously reported from 1992 to 1996!!

Rubbish!! This is conspiraloonacy!! The ice cores are perfectly reliable at telling us the CO2 levels for the duration of the history of the planet!!

P.S. Next time you go to Antartica tell them damn flies not to die so that they don't fall on the snow, get covered with more snow and then decompose slowly to release CO2 - just so that we can maintain 100% reliability in them, which in any case can be used to prove global temps were higher before the industrial revolution. Oh dear.

*** Shussssh. Best be quiet, there's a probable bit of lobbox to uphold.***


Urs in specticism

Anonymous said...


WEST Antarctica! = 0 to +6

sheepishly urs...