Thoughts on economics and liberty

Political science, the “science” behind IPCC

IPCC has "assigned high confidence to statements for which there is very little evidence, has failed to enforce its own guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest". (See this report).

This is not news to me. It  confirms the low esteem in which I hold IPCC. I believe it is engaged in political science, or voodoo science (as Rajendra Pachauri labelled those who questioned him), not science as we know it. This is science from a political perspective, science with a vested interest, science with a view to one's personal bank balance. It is dangerous for its potential to harm the world's economies and in particular, the poor.

IPCC falsehoods and exaggerations have been, unfortunately, accepted at face value by many economists like Stern who ought to have known better. But unfortunately, 95% of economists are not trained as critical thinkers. They follow anyone in authority. They serve their leaders, they do not think independently. (Of course there are a few economists like Steven Landsburg and Steven Levitt who do know how to think!). That means you need to be a critical thinker to investigate all authorities.  NEVER accept authority figure claims at face value. Investigate. Question. If you accept anyone's statements without question you are finished.  

I'd be very concerned if I could clearly see that increased CO2 is likely to be dangerous for mankind. I'd be the first to jump out of my seat and claim that we ought to do something about. But I'm very relaxed about it. My views on climate change are clear, being informed by science, not voodoo science:

a) The greenhouse gas effect is real. But it is very small (being logarithmic), and it can't ever become life-threatening.

b) Increased CO2 is good for the world. It will increase crop (and animal) yields and increase the human population (The IPCC severely plays down the positive impacts of CO2)

c) The harm caused by increased CO2 is small or non-existent.


What's wrong with IPCC's 'science'?

There's so much material out there that shows what is wrong with IPCC science that I can't possibly do it justice. In brief:

  • IPCC relies heavily on non-peer reviewed material. “Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was to claim that everything in its report was “peer-reviewed”, having been confirmed by independent experts. But a new study put this claim to the test. A team of 40 researchers from 12 countries, led by a Canadian analyst Donna Laframboise, checked out every one of the 18,531 scientific sources cited in the mammoth 2007 report. Astonishingly, they found that nearly a third of them – 5,587 – were not peer-reviewed at all, but came from newspaper articles, student theses, even propaganda leaflets and press releases put out by green activists and lobby groups.”
  • It is prone to massively exaggerating the current changes in climate, as something exceptional. It is not. They are pretty much consistent with what has happened in the past. The medieval and Roman warming events are conclusively proven. By real scientists. Not voodoo scientists. The first IPCC report (1990) had a clear mention of medieval warming:
  • The IPCC is prone to grossly exaggerate sea level projections (see Don't forget that sea levels have been going up and going down for millions of years and will continue doing so. IPCC has spread the myth has been spread that malaria would increase with increases in global warming. This is highly exaggerated (see  IPCC has spread the myth that corals would be dramatically impacted by acidification. This is false. Corals love heat. They are flourishing. And the oceans are not going to become acidic.   

Some articles to read if you are interested

(I'll keep adding to this list as time permits. There is TONS of material out there to educate yourself should you want to think on your own)

The United Nations' IPCC reports have been regularly discredited over various exaggerations and unproven claims, most recently that Himalayan glaciers were melting, a claim that even the UN had to admit was false. (From The Detroit News:

CSIRO predictions that don't come true:

Lamb's graph:

Important :

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45 thoughts on “Political science, the “science” behind IPCC
  1. Bhagwad Jal Park

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And this seems to be prevalent amongst those arguing that Climate change isn't a big problem.
    There are many things in science that people like you and I take for granted without questioning them. And for good reason too. For example, I'm a graduate in Physics (General) and have a better understanding of physics than the large majority people in the world. But even I cannot prove the General theory of Relativity. But I believe it because of the scientists who say it's true. I have no choice. I can't look at everything.
    One must know one's limitations. It's easy to pick and choose facts at one's convenience to prove a point. However, one must realize that in the end, the consensus is usually right – not always of course, but often enough for us to believe it given a choice.
    Over 98% of all top scientists in the world believe that Anthropogenic Global Warming is not only real, but a significant threat. I choose to believe them instead of the 2% who say it's not happening.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks, Bhagwat.

    Note though, that the error you make is to assume that a vigorous critical thinker like me comes to a table with selected, limited facts, and biased scrutiny.

    I have taken TEN YEARS (actually more) to finalise my views on this subject. During these 10 years I have continued to read as widely and extensively as possible. I have perhaps read about 10,000 pages on this (including scientific papers, and books) subject.

    I repeat one basic thing every time to everyone. I respect myself and my mind. I DO NOT believe in nor TRUST anyone. Only in my own mind. ONLY this I know that I exist because I think. The moment I will stop thinking I’ll be as good as dead (or dead!). Irrelevant to the universe.

    My mind is not a trivial plaything or tabula rasa on which ANYONE’S opinions can be imposed through a trivial magic trick or trivial shouting on rooftops that the sky is falling down. I am an analyst. I form my own opinions after examining the facts myself. I take my own time. I read. I consider all possible facts.

    That approach of critical thinking is so sadly missing from most people who are happy to believe whatever is told to them by authority figures. I am the only authority I believe in. No one can fool me by making as many assertions as they like.

    But note that once I have formed my view, I am very firm in advocating what I have to say. The net result of my findings is that CO2 in the atmosphere is POSITIVE for life on earth. That is my firm conclusion so far and nothing I have read so far has changed my mind on this.

    You are a physics graduate (so are millions others) but then what you have done is to eliminate the concept of critical thinking from your mental make up. In India critical thinking is not valued (nor is it in the rest of the world for that matter).

    But the only thing I teach is critical thinking. Everything else is secondary. Why believe me? Why not find out for YOURSELF. Read up 100s of books and articles on the subject. Investigate. USE your scientific background, don’t just talk about it.

    As I write in DOF: “While scientific thinking is a boon, it is important to treat the ideas of scientists with scientific caution. Most scientists do not follow the scientific method in the daily routine of their lives. Most are not trained to think scientifically beyond their limited field of specialisation. Too often the very concept of science is put to question by so-called ‘scientists’ who recklessly pass judgement on areas on which they have no expertise or understanding. That does not mean that they are always wrong in such matters. Even the common man is not necessarily less capable of thinking clear-headedly than trained scientists. The thinking process matters, not the role or title of a person.”

    Find out the truth for yourself. I’m happy for you to write a blog post on this blog (or anywhere else) that PROVES me wrong on this. Start by reading my posts on climate change. Then prove me wrong on anything I have said. That is the only way to the truth: not to assert things and chant that 98% of this or that people believe in something. I don’t care a fig for what others think. Only the truth please.


  3. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjiv, you're missing my point. It is physically impossible for a person to know everything by himself or herself in our world. We live in a world of specialization – and even if you take something like a computer, there no one on EARTH who knows exactly how each piece works – including the software.
    When you step onto an airplane, you more or less take it on faith the it will not fall. Sure, we know the principles of airodynamics, but it's very easy to make something sound scientific which a rigorous analysis will debunk.
    You're right when you say we must use our intellect. However, I disagree on the means. The correct way to use one's intellect is NOT to try and and know everything for oneself. That is not only impossible, but also a waste of my time. But my intelligence tells me that there are other people who DO know. My intelligence also tells me that when a lot of scientists from all parts of the world from different organizations and from different fields agree on something, the chances of that are low.
    As of now, there is an overwhelming consensus that climate change is not a minor effect: My intelligence tells me that there is a remarkably low probability of all these people being wrong.
    The logic I use is no less rigorous than you claim to apply. In fact it is rather more rigorous because no matter how much you study, I will not believe that you are qualified to make a judgement unless you're a scientist yourself. Moreover, your intelligence should also inform you that others are equally smart. And when lots of smart people from different backgrounds agree on something, there must be a reason for that.
    Your implication that my intellectual integrity is compromised is thus false. I use the same principles of logic in a more efficient manner instead of trying to figure out everything for myself.

  4. Bhagwad Jal Park

    By the way, your articles are not appearing on Networked Blogs on Facebook – that's why I haven't been commenting on your articles since I didn't know they existed!
    Perhaps there's something wrong with the RSS feeds?

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    In the case of complex systems like the human body, the human society (even more complex) and climate (even more complex, once again), the biggest mistake one can make is to trust anyone but one’s own judgement. I can go on and on and on about the EXTREME stupidity of so-called experts – doctors, economists and others. There is a point where you can’t rely on expertise, but MUST study the issues and decide for yourself. In complex areas tunnel vision comes into play. That marks the end of the truth. Intelligence has nothing to do with it. This is a matter of judging between competing views.

    The judge need not be an expert. The judge must use critical thinking to DISTINGUISH between experts. That is my job as a citizen, to not believe in any expert but to question each expert till I get the understand the truth. That is critical thinking. All else is mindless faith. In trivial matters (e.g. a malarial infection) a doctor may do you good. When it goes beyond that you must challenge and question the doctor who is very likely to go wrong.

    Let’s leave this here. I’ll look at the networked blogs system. Thanks for letting me know.


  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Just reminded. This is called the group think bias. When one authority figure starts saying something (Al Gore in this case), then high profile chamchas first given in. Once sufficient chamchas are in, then the public starts believing that there is some truth in the story. Once the public starts believing, then so-called scientists think that since so many people think something is right, it must be right. So I should not explore anything that might contradict it. 

    Throughout history, mankind has been swept by the disease of group think. The entire Germany went into group think mode against Jews not so long ago. The entire world used to think that a 'population bomb' is going to explode! The entire world at one stage started believing in socialism. The entire world then became Keynesian (as is the case even today). The entire world used to think that Sigmund Freud was right. The entire world thinks that 'miracles' listed in ancient scriptures are real. Entire groups of highly educated Indians thought that various 'babas' (I won't name them) possessed supernatural properties.

    And then came James Randi. And then came Hayek. And then came Carl Rogers, and so on. Just one person was enough to shift group psychoses.

    The world is largely made up of EXTREMELY shallow thinkers – people too busy to think. Hence group think is the norm, not the exception. No one thinks it worthwhile to STUDY and DECIDE. It is so easy to believe! So comfortable. So easy to achieve moral superiority over others!

    I am mindful of this CHRONIC bias of mankind, and so on EVERY issue of importance to me, I STUDY diligently. For years. I explore. I ask questions. I investigate. Then I decide. Nothing that is important should ever be decided on faith. Rise. Be the scientist that you claim you are!



  7. Bhagwad Jal Park

    You've rightly given examples when the majority of scientists have been wrong. But there have been many many more times when they have been right! Why should we ignore those instances.
    You also use the word "scientists" in a way that leads me to believe you're questioning their credentials. Do you have a reason for this? Also to claim that every scientist from every country from every background from every organization has fallen prey to this delusion is a bit thick. You're hinting at a a conspiracy of unbelievable proportions with nothing but the observation that they COULD be wrong.
    The German example isn't relevant here – that wasn't a question of science. Also, remember that the best way for scientist to gain fame is to disprove the current prevalent theory. If climate change really wasn't as serious as you say, some young enterprising scientist hungry for fame would have shaken the world with their analysis.

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    To me a scientist is not the one with a degree (if that were the case India would be a leading scientific country) but the one with the scientific attitude (of which there are barely a handful in India, perhaps). I know very few scientists with such an attitude – of total openness to facts.

    I consider a person a scientist who will still insist that evolution is a theory despite it being proved a million times. The scientist keeps an open mind. The non-scientist closes his mind. The scientist acknowledges areas of uncertainty and ignorance. The non-scientist reduces and ignores them.

    I’m not talking about any conspiracy (group think doesn’t need conspiracy!) but about the common human failing of group think. That is quite a common phenomenon. If you are a Hindu or a Muslim or Christian,or Buddhist, etc. you will know what I mean. There is 99.9% chance of your buying into the religion into which you are born, rather than examining all religions on merit, laying them aside, and choosing one (in which case there is a possibility you’d switch to the one that was true – assuming any of them are true). That is because as a child you came under pressure called group think.

    Group think is innate to human nature. It is part of our socialisation. It starts with deference to authority and shutting down one’s rational mind. Once questions are shut down, there can be no science.

    The issue here is not a simple proof or disproof. Of course the greenhouse gas effect exists! The question is about its magnitude and effects. That is the issue. There are many scientific papers that show that its effects are very small. But even they are mere specialists, who don’t understand economic self-adjustment, and don’t understand biological self-adjustment systems at work in this world. It needs a far broader understanding to understand what may happen with increased CO2.

    All simplistic linearities assumed by panicky IPCC are false (to be fair they don’t assume linearity in their models, but their conclusions hide this fact and make it sound like the sky is falling down).

    You might be mixing me with ‘deniers’ who are equally unscientific (as you) and rush to opposite beliefs without full verification. I am not a denier of CO2 induced global warming. I am saying (1) it is small in its effects and (2) the net effects are beneficial to life on earth. I have a fine tuned understanding of the issues, including economic and biological. I have not been in any mad rush to form judgement. I took ten years to read and think.

    I remain open to being proven wrong on this issue. I am a scientist, a critical thinker, always open to new facts. But I don’t think it is possible to prove me wrong at this stage, with the evidence so far available.

    I urge you once again to be the scientist you claim to be. Your degrees matter for zilch if you have locked your mind.


  9. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjeev, of COURSE evolution is a theory – as is gravity.
    You said that I'm unscientific. How? I've replied to you three times so far. Which statement of mine do you find wrong or unscientific? Just disagreeing with me isn't enough without telling me WHICH link in my logic you find unacceptable. If you agree with my premise, and my deductions, you must by necessity accept my conclusions. That's the way logic works. So before passing judgement, let me know where you find the illogic in my arguments.
    Part of applying my intelligence rests in deciding which authority to believe. For this, we need not just look at the degree – as you seem to imply which I do. I assure you, I never made the claim that a degree is enough to justify believing someone. This is another example of a straw man argument where you attack something I never said. It would be most productive if you were to restrict your rebuttals only to those statements which I have actually made.
    Coming back, a better way of determining competency is to look at the number of peer reviewed papers in reputed journals one has published. Of course, this isn't foolproof either but when taken over a sufficient number of scientists, over a significant period of time, it's good enough as a guide. And as I mentioned before, 98% of the top 1372 climate scientists agree that AGW is highly significant.
    I wrote a blog post on this sometime earlier:

  10. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    The scientist can never let down his guard, no matter how many peer reviewed publications someone cites. I don’t agree that it is scientific to say: “Part of applying my intelligence rests in deciding which authority to believe”.

    Yes, that is an intelligent decision, no denying that (given time constraints we all have) but it is not a scientific decision. All intelligent decisions are not scientific decisions. All intelligence is not critical thinking- based. That’s my point.

    I would NEVER accept something just because 98% of so called “climate scientists” say so. Not only is there no well established body called climate science (this is a multi-disciplinary area which is at its infancy), but ultimately it is not the number of people engaged in proving something that matters but the truth.

    Today, to take another example, 98% of theoretical physicists are string theorists. However, there is not an iota of science underpinning any of their theories. They teach, they proclaim string theory but have not one shred of evidence to prove it. The fact that they publish in peer reviewed journals matters for zilch.

    Not long ago, 98% of development economists were inclined to socialist ideas. The fact that they published in peer reviewed journals mattered for zilch.

    I don’t care for authority, even peer reviewed authority. Yes, I’ll pay more attention to it, but I’ll zoom into the facts and arguments, not the authority of the person who is making the argument. I trust my mind above everyone in the universe. None but my own mind. That is what I ask everyone to trust. None but their own mind. That is called being a scientist.


  11. Bhagwad Jal Park

    Sanjeev, where did you get the statistic about 98% of theoretical physicists being string theorists? I tried to find evidence of this but wasn't able to.
    By its very nature, climate research (either in favor of AGW or against) is untestable – at least in the span of our lifetimes. The very criticisms you level against climate scientists can also be applied to yourself – namely that you can't design an experiment that meets the criteria of the Popper's falsification hypothesis – one of the distinguishing features of what purists like to call science.
    But that doesn't mean it's not a valid field of inquiry. That doesn't mean it's not open to being studied systematically. That doesn't mean that those who study it are intellectually dishonest. And it doesn't mean that we ignore climate research just because it doesn't meet a narrow definition of the word "science."
    You're right when you say that intelligence doesn't automatically lead to critical thinking. But by definition an intelligent decision is one that meets the standards of critical thinking. Otherwise one doesn't call it intelligent.
    By using my mind to determine which authority is competent, I AM trusting my mind more than any other person in the universe. I say again that it's a more creative and efficient way to use one's mind instead of getting into details that one has neither the time nor the competence to do.
    The ultimate purpose is to find out the truth as you rightly said. But there are many ways to find out the truth. And I love the truth so much that I will find the best way to reach it. It may not be the most obvious way (namely dedicating one's life to studying it) because the obvious way is impractical (as you agree) and so I reject it. Instead I find the truth using my intelligence in creative ways that give me a better chance of knowing the nature of reality.

  12. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Bhagwad

    Terribly sorry I called you ‘Chaitanya’ in my previous post. Too much haste. On my screen Chaitanya showed up on the side somewhere – but my apologies, there is no excuse I’ll fix it right away!

    And the other one is a typo as well. 98% of particle physicists are string theorists, not all theoretical physicists. This figure comes from the same source as yours does: a guess. No one has counted them but there are people like Smolin who have suggested some such high figure. In brief, there is not one iota of evidence for the existence of a fourth dimension (excluding time), leave alone multiple dimensions hypothesised by string theorists. All their theories are questionable. Just theories without any proof.

    But let’s be very clear about intelligence vs. critical thinking. It is intelligent to made deductions that God exists, but it not a sign of critical thinking. It is intelligent because others believe it, because it saves us the hassle of finding proof, because we can’t find proof, because not believing it might lead to some fanatic killing us (as happened in the middle ages), and so on. Intelligence has been part of the human make up for 200,000 years but critical thinking is found only in a few, possibly a handful in the world at any given point in time. Intelligence is NOT critical thinking. Not by a thousand miles.

    Your short-cut heuristic to ‘believe’ something (e.g. that AGW is problematic) is intelligent. It is not scientific.

    Let’s leave this here. I’ve got to keep a balance between teaching my harsh and stringent criteria of critical thinking, and learning myself about things that matter. Plus I have never found anyone ever persuaded by any argument. The human brain doesn’t permit itself to be persuaded by others. It is like a broken record, and will keep insisting that what it thinks is right (that could well apply to me as well, except that I’m exceptionally harsh on my own mind and will whip it if it doesn’t prove its case to me).

    The fact that I am claiming that complex systems like the climate require a vast canvas of understanding, and proof must meet multiple criteria, has been documented in many of my blogs. Panicky IPCC types have failed at multiple points. Their theory is falsified beyond doubt. I have failed to find any reason to worry about CO2. I will continue to explore this issue with my own mind. Don’t need any proofs of the sort you are offering.

    Over time, the proportion of critical thinkers in the world might increase through better education. So let’s focus on that, and let the world move on. Nothing you or I say will change the errors that mankind must make. It is part of our nature to err, and err big time!


  13. Harsh Vora

    Sanjeev — I skimmed through the conversations above. I learned that you seem to believe in what Descartes said, "I think, therefore I exist." If that is the case, then it means that you do not exist after death. What are your views so far on after-life? Have you applied your critical thinking there?
    Please note that I am not alluding to the existence of God here. I am purely referring to YOUR existence, without mind (or brain). Let's be good scientists in this field as well.
    I highly suggest you watch this video. He speaks along your (and my) lines, to an extent:

  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    Re: ” What are your views so far on after-life?”

    In brief, I can’t, with critical thinking, prove that it exists. Nor can I, with critical thinking, prove it doesn’t. I therefore neither accept nor deny any spiritual explanations.

    The standard of proof needed to demonstrate a continuing ‘soul’ is so high that none can possibly come even close to its requirements of proof. I do know that as soon as my brain will die, I will not exist in this form or shape. That is all I need to know. That is sufficient to live a reasonable life.

    One thing is clear: the laws of physics are invariant. Even the Rig Veda acknowledges this basic fact. From the moment of creation (whether that requires any further explanation or not), EVERYTHING can be explained through action and reaction, through energy and its transformation. So it is sufficient for us to use our mind to understand how the world works and to make use of this knowledge for our own (and others’) benefit. The ONLY way to do so is by following Buddha’s injunction:

    Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations. Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice. Do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere. Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text. Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning. Do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy. Do not believe something because it appeals to ‘common sense’. Do not believe something just because you like the idea. Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy. Do not believe something thinking, ‘This is what our teacher says’


  15. Harsh Vora

    So, here comes a limit, a boundary to the reaches of our critical thinking ability. Definitely, we should be not believe NOR disbelieve that which is beyond our comprehension — beyond our field of experience — as of yet. That said, just as we plan our retirement, we must also "plan" out and dig deep into knowing what will happen to us after we transcend this bodily form and shape. Only when we maintain such keen foresight — one that reaches far into the after-life — will we be wise, in real sense. Until then, we are just narrow-sighted (our sight is limited to the confines of our mortality).

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    One can’t have foresight into things beyond our brain’s capacity. We are a computer that follows the laws of nature. We can’t know what creates these laws of nature. Anything that aims to do so is mere speculation, not a scientific theory. It can’t be falsified, it can’t be proven.

    I do not speculate. I therefore deny that ANYONE has any capacity to KNOW (not imagine – which anyone can) what lies beyond death. Note that I do not deny that things like soul/ afterlife might exist. It is simply not worthwhile spending time on this issue.

    I’m quite happy if before I die I can make India the richest and most healthy country in the world. That’s all I care for.


  17. Harsh Vora

    While everything else you say makes sense, and is practical, I want to make a brief comment on your following words: I therefore deny that ANYONE has any capacity to KNOW (not imagine – which anyone can) what lies beyond death.
    This is not a fair conclusion to make. Just because you haven't come in the association of people who KNOW, people who have EXPERIENCED the real, OR just because you have come in the contact with few people who are charlatans, does not warrant you to make a conclusion. Let this remain in an area worthy of being open to explore, to discover.
    Let not your critical mind make conclusions on the metaphysical, or on the people who claim to have EXPERIENCED the metaphysical. Let us remain in the state of "I don't know," until we find out the truth ourselves. Till then, please don't conclude.
    This is all I have to say. Rest, if you think otherwise, you are entitled for your views. We can cease this discussion here, if you wish!
    P.S. Sorry for deviating from the main topic of climate change.

  18. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    Knowledge is the science of objective confirmation. It is like a physics experiment which must be replicable thousands of times by independent observers, else the proposal (like string theory) is speculation and imagination, NOT knowledge. It is like cooking a dish: the same taste and experience once the same set of ingredients is put into it. Each time. No change.

    IF, and assuming that there do exist some people who ‘know’ or ‘experience’ life after death, there is real knowledge about this subject, then ALL those who experience it must be able to describe EXACTLY THE SAME thing, down to the last detail, including the LAWS that govern this etherial dimension (this is very important: there must be precise laws). That is a bare minimum requirement.

    The reality (and this is a fact!) is that those who claim to have experienced life after death ALL describe things differently. In addition, there are very simple scientific explanations for some relatively commonly reported ‘return to life’ experiences from near death situations in hospitals, so that has been ruled out.

    I therefore classify ALL these experiences in the category of genuine human error, genuine intellectual speculation, or worse, in some cases: deliberate creative imagination posturing as knowledge.

    It is NOT sufficient for me to experience something ‘special’. From experience must come exploration of all the facts, from that must come arrangement of the facts and induction of the relevant laws, from that must come testing and falsification of hypothesis, from that, finally must come a viable theory which is the closest we can get to knowledge. Critical thinking is very stringent, its standards of rigour are very high.

    However, I can’t prove that there is NO life after death. Hence personally, I’m indifferent to this hypothesis. If there is life after death then I’ll get to know. If not, I’ll also get to ‘know’ (by not ‘waking up’ after death!).

    This ‘knowledge’ is irrelevant in deciding what is good, bad, or desirable in THIS life which is definitely real, measurable, has fixed laws that can be repeatedly tested.

    This is not a diversion from the climate change topic. It is the same line of thinking, actually. The proof required for any hypothesis in complex systems (like the human body, society, or climate) is extremely high, and IPCC reports have not crossed that hurdle.

    It is just like some scientists who one day claim that wine is good for your heart, and the next day say it is bad for your brain. It becomes worse when people try to deduce the causes of simple common things like cancer. Speculation after speculation, with barely any proof. Deducing the causal pathways in complex systems is VERY hard. That is why very stringent critical thinking is needed, else you’ll get swept away in the first fashionable idea that comes by.


  19. Harsh Vora

    Re: It is like cooking a dish: the same taste and experience once the same set of ingredients is put into it. Each time. No change.
    When we think from the material point of view, this is true. However, when things pertaining to the incorporeal, or immaterial, are in question, we have to adopt an approach which goes beyond the material, specifically, beyond the brain (or mind!). Remember, after we die, the brain dies with us. We do not carry our brain with us after-life. Given this fact, it only makes sense to approach the metaphysical through the standards which IT demands. We cannot expect to know the metaphysical through the dimensions of the physical, just like we cannot learn mathematics simply by knowing English alphabets. In order to learn math, we have to learn numbers. Critical thinking will help us to deduce things to an extent, BUT not beyond a certain point howsoever we may try.
    Another problem that prevents us from reaching closer to the truth is the path (or paths) itself: For example, how many people do you think have been truly able to follow the rigorous path shown Buddha? Most people misinterpreted his teachings, some simply found them hard to follow, and others began worshiping him as God. Critical thinking is very much a part of the Upanishads which ask us to  question, "Neti, neti," meaning "not this, not this." We have to consistently argue with whatever we come across as truth. And at the same time, we have to be prepared to dismiss the hypothesis.
    Again, another, and perhaps the most serious, problem that further confuses us is that these spiritualists — ranging from Buddha to Patanjali — have found it particularly hard to describe what they have experienced. The Upanishads try their best to catch the mark, for example, when they describe the Ultimate as indescribable. They say that "it can walk, but it has no legs. It can see EVERYTHING, but it have no eyes. It is in one place, yet it is all-pervading. It is beginningless." Now this, you will agree, is confusing, for how can anything be beginningless. And yet the Upanishads have tried to explain the best they could. All this, of course, only given that we CONSIDER, at least to some extent, what the Upanishads have to say.
    The above-mentioned is just an example. This is not to say that we have to dismiss critical thinking all-together or that we have to believe what the so-called mystics preach. We have to hold on to our critical thinking until a certain point, after which we have to forsake it, just like a sailor leaves his boat behind once he reaches the shore. We have to strive to seek, to experience, or dismiss, what the spiritualists have so far been claiming. Who knows? Maybe, the after-life is really indescribable and inexplicable. Or may be it is not. The only thing is we have to be prepared to jump out of the confines of secularism, and be ready to explore, even if it demands us to go beyond the realm of the mind, or the rigorous standards of critical thinking.

  20. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    I have no objection in principle to what you are saying (I don't agree with secularism which is a confusing and confused word, but let us leave that for now).

    I have no objection with people imagining things (afterlife, etc.etc.) or writing about them. I believe these are purely personal matters for each of us.

    My only objection is when someone's views on the spiritual (for want of a better shorthand word) are mixed up with non-spiritual relationships. Thus I insist that when we deal with each other we deal ONLY on one level: of the facts. When we deal with God we can deal without facts since we don't have access to facts.

    Man <-> Man must be factual, critical thinking based

    Man <-> God (if any) can be anything, regardless of facts as we know them

    The problem comes when Man <-> Man becomes tinged with the 'facts' derived from people's spiritual encounters. Then unfortunately the spiritual people forget INSTANTLY about the basic truth that, say, everyone is entitled to their own freedom to achieve their own goals. At the point when people start imposing their views on what others should eat, wear, or say, then I become their mortal enemy. 

    I cannot condone or tolerate intolerance. 

    As you'll notice I'm quite a fan of Vedanta (Vivekananda, Suddhananda), Buddha, and even other religious foundations. I have no objection to having two sides of my personality: one deeply founded on facts, the other speculative (spiritual). But I strictly distinguish between these two. I cannot and will not impose any of my speculative (spiritual) views on anyone. I will never ask people to eat this or that, or to not eat this or that. And so on.

    I am 100% committed to freedom of thought and expression, subject to accountability.

    That means rigorous critical thinking determines all my worldly views. That's all you should care for. It is irrelevant to me what you think of the afterlife and should be irrelevant to you what I think of it (or whether I think of it). You can retain your own views and I can retain mine without colliding with each other.

    I trust it is clear now that for ALL relationships between men (I mean all humans), critical thinking MUST be the only yardstick. All else should be a private matter that we can discuss, but we decide to do our own thing after that. 



  21. Harsh Vora

    Sanjeev — There seems to be a thin line between imposing and advocating a particular view. For example, if I believe we shouldn't wear or eat animals, I can stand up for it. I can encourage people to avoid violent behavior, taking care not to IMPOSE anything. Likewise, people who believe against me can stand up for their view without actually imposing anything on me. This is freedom which, I believe, you are talking about. And I advocate it as well, BUT TO AN EXTENT.
    To elaborate, let me discuss this issue further so I can illuminate myself about your views: When I was eight, I used to feed milk to a stray cat every morning near my house. Over time, I developed an emotional attachment with her to the effect that I considered adopting her. One day, our gardener, who was unaware of my attachment to her, hit her badly with a stick. I felt so hurt that I began to cry in an instant. So, here's the question: Should I have stopped the gardener from hitting the cat (to defend my emotional attachment with her), or should I have allowed him his freedom to behave violently?
    I am asking this to bring the topic of cow-slaughter to the fore. Let's take another case, imagine a woman feeding a roti to a stray cow every single morning. One morning, she learned that the cow was taken away and butchered for someone's food. What should she do? Should she stay quiet and allow freedom to the guy who butchered the cow, and in the process, kill her own attachment to the murdered cow? Or should she react?
    Such problems do not occur in the US or Australia, because of two reasons — One: There are no stray animals on their streets. Second: They do not love cows. However, let's think: How would they react if dogs, who they love so dearly (instead of cows!), were stray animals and were killed by the Italian people who ate them?
    To get an idea of what I'm talking about, watch this video:
    P.S. Please consider this as a genuine discussion, and not an argument. I am appreciative of your views, irrespective of their nature and relevance to me.

  22. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    Re: What should she do? Should she stay quiet and allow freedom to the guy who butchered the cow, and in the process, kill her own attachment to the murdered cow? Or should she react?

    Clearly she is entitled to react! This is a serious matter. A stray cow – being no one's property -can't just be butchered by anyone. There must be an owner who has to decide its fate, or else the community. But assuming there is an owner and the owner has duly decided the cow's fate, then the said lady can and should explain her views to the owner of the cow and try to change him through persuasion. She is not entitled, however, to kill the owner of the cow, as part of the 'reaction' you refer to (which is what Baba Ramdev is advocating, I gather).

    No creature should be brutally treated. There can be (and are) laws for prevention of cruelty to animals. These need to be enforced. That is a very important matter.

    However, emotional attachment must be subordinated to the claims of reason in our dealing with others, for emotions will invariably cloud our reason, and prevent us from seeing the  broader principles of freedom and justice. 

    I won't digress into cow slaughter issues which I've already explained at length (namely, the reasons why people may or may not choose to slaughter cows). If you somehow wish to persuade me that there is an area in which people can impose their emotional preferences on others, I'd strongly differ.

    Let reason rule in our inter-relationships. Or else mankind is doomed. Doomed to constant killing of other humans to prove someone's emotional points. For "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction", Pascal (Pensees, 1670). Your or Baba Ramdev's religious conviction (which I question since Hindus used to eat cows in the past) does not give you authority to kill those who may wish to eat a cow today.

    Reason and tolerance must prevail. Let the cows be slaughtered in most humane manner, and I'm with you and that, and will work assiduously to ensure that, but let's not kill HUMANS who choose to sell the meat of the cows they own. Sure, persuade them against doing so, it if you wish, and don't kill the cows you may own, but don't kill other humans. How about that as a logical critical thinking solution? 



  23. Harsh Vora

    Re: She is not entitled, however, to kill the owner of the cow, as part of the 'reaction' you refer to (which is what Baba Ramdev is advocating, I gather).
    Baba Ramdev is not advocating the common man to kill another man for ANY reason. He is strongly against it. However, he asks the law to do it. By now, I know your views and understand that you are against the laws interfering in personal matters such as this. And I won't discuss this issue further. Just one point: I assume you haven't read the counter-arguments (preferably a scholarly book like, for example, Holy Cow by Steven Rosen) to the topic of Hindus eating cows in the past. It would be legitimate to read counter-arguments and then, if you choose, take a stance for or against.
    Re: "However, emotional attachment must be subordinated to the claims of reason in our dealing with others, for emotions will invariably cloud our reason, and prevent us from seeing the broader principles of freedom and justice."
    You've made a very good statement, PART OF which is strongly advocated by Baba Ramdev (since you brought him in the discussion!) as well.
    Overall, as a critical thinking solution, I think it is very legitimate. Thanks for explaining. However, I still maintain a few qualms about the the effectiveness of Classical liberalism: Recently, a few people on Youtube began a campaign to draw denigrating pictures of Mohammed, the prophet. They video-shot it and posted the videos online, which severely hurt the sentiments of Muslims. According to these campaigners, this single act was their "response" to the Muslims for advocating too many "freedom-of-expression" constraints on Americans. Such an act, according to me, is highly contemptible. Only Muslims really know what pains they had to suffer to get through such an insult to their beloved prophet. Do you think that such "freedom of expression," seriously hurting the religious sentiments of American-Muslims (and perhaps, enraging the terrorists in Afghanistan) should be allowed by the law?

  24. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    I’m not a specialist in the history of cow-eating by Hindus. I have taken Vivekandanda’s statement that they did so, at face value (I also recall seeing such comments by Nehru and Gandhi). I assume that he is was an expert Hindu. It doesn’t really matter for the purposes of my arguments whether Hindus ate cows in the past or not. I will therefore pass on the offer to read further books on this topic (too much on my reading list at the moment!).

    The argument re: Baba Ramdev not killing people for cow slaughter is specious and round-about. The law simply acts on our behalf. In Australia they have forbidden capital punishment for ANY offence, including heinous murder. The society here refuses to kill someone even if the crime is heinous. For Baba Ramdev to ask the law to kill people is the same as HIM killing them for the crime he claims they have undertaken. I am personally quite happy to kill heinous killers with my own hands without suffering the slightest emotional damage; hence I advocate capital punishment for heinous murderers. Give me a Hitler and I’ll press the electric button to kill him AND FEEL GOOD in the process, for having saved millions of lives. Baba Ramdev must be personally happy to kill WITH HIS OWN HANDS if he ever supports a law to kill people for cow slaughter. The law represents society’s views. It does not sit outside the system. Therefore the fact that he is willing for the law to kill people for cow slaughter is the SAME as his advocating the killing of such people. The law cannot kill unless the society authorises it to kill.

    Re: the Youtube campaign, I have spoken quite vigorously against such claims of freedom of expression. Please read: In particular:

    “It has become fashionable these days for artists and writers, claiming artistic ‘license’, to brazenly insult Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other religions. But they are wrong in doing so. They have no such license. While an analytic critique of a religion is fine, vilification and abuse of a religion is not. Artists must stop being stupid. They must exercise self-restraint. In no way are they special, or exempt from the laws of the land. Everyone’s liberty is subject to the same standard of accountability.”


  25. Harsh Vora

    Baba Ramdev  STRONGLY advocates capital punishment for people who slaughter cows. However, he would NEVER do so by himself, simply because he respects the existence of law and order. In addition, encouraging violent behavior by a particular unauthorized individual upon another individual may lead to further unnecessary violence. Just as there are physical laws that govern the world, we need laws to govern the society. We simply cannot go on killing every criminal without the proper authority of law.
    Even though you have spoken vigorously against such contemptible campaigns, you show no practical laws to control such behavior. Remember, your trying to persuade, or advocate a particular behavior does not bring effective results. It is law which brings control over such activities. And just as we should make laws to protect such stupid artists, etc., there should also be laws to prevent them from crossing their moral boundaries.

  26. Harsh Vora

    In fact, if there are no laws to prevent artists or other people from severely insulting/hurting the religious sentiments of others, then there would be even more chaos. Today, the Christians have hurt Muslims by denigrating the picture of Mohammed. If proper action is not taken against them, then tomorrow, the Muslims will attack Americans (Christians) in some other way. In such a case, there is no other way but for the laws to interfere and put behind bars any person who commits such an act.
    Remember, violence is not ONLY physical. It can be emotional as well.

  27. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    You are unfortunately incorrect. I’m not denying that there must be a due process, but in the end SOMEONE – a real human being – has to kill. I would HAPPILY kill heinous murderers once authorised. I am expecting Baba Ramdev to happily kill, PERSONALLY, once such authorisation is provided by the law. If he is unwilling to kill personally, then he (or you) should not advocate such a law. I think his advocacy is wrong in many ways, but it would be even more wrong if he advocates something he can’t or won’t implement personally.

    Second, re: laws against artists: I’ve advocated clear solutions in the article referred to above. Let civil cases be instituted by those who feel wronged.


  28. Harsh Vora

    I am not sure (being an uninformed student myself) whether Baba Ramdev would personally execute such criminals on authorization, and therefore I am unable to comment on that. I personally think he would be willing to do so, if authorized by the law — because committing small violence for the prevalence of greater non-violence is legit. By executing a single person to save thousands of cows would be appropriate.
    re: laws against artists:If you indeed allow civil cases to be filed by those who feel wronged, then how possibly will they get justice, if there exists no law at all to protect their religious sentiments from being trampled by the so-called artists?

  29. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    Fine, that clears the air – that Baba Ramdev will personally kill someone who kills a cow (why thousands? is there a minimum number involved – I wasn’t sure if there was). So how about accidental killing, what about killing with proper care (e.g. in a modern abbatoir), and what about heinous killing (i.e. killing with torture)? Are they all the same?

    Second, the issue of harm is clear. I’ve explained at great length in DOF. It must be objectively demonstrable. You must suffer symptoms of loss of sleep, or whatever it is. Won’t go into details. See DOF. There is no general crime of hurting religious sentiments. What does it mean? What does it lead to? Loss of sleep? That is that harm. And people can claim damages for such harm.

    Btw, I’ve got to stop this discussion now. Please read DOF fully and provide comment on that book, for all these issues are fully covered in that book. My blog is less important than my book.

  30. Harsh Vora

    Sanjeev – This is my view. I haven't consulted Baba Ramdev on what he would do or won't on such an issue. So, please keep his personal views and my views separate on this, as of now.
    I know this: He is a strong adherent of dharma. This dharma involves many forms, such as pitru-dharma, matru-dharma, putra-dharma, acharya-dharma, etc. He is a sannyasi and he has to follow his sannyas dharma first. Given this, he may not kill anyone. However, if you or I were given authorization by the law, I believe he would agree that we can execute criminals.

  31. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    That’s fine, Harsh. Let’s move on now.

    The point I was clarifying has been at least partially clarified, that in the minds of some people (could be you, could be Baba Ramdev), a human that kills a cow is a CRIMINAL worthy of being killed. That means, since this law is not in place today, that you and the Baba will have to launch an army to first kill 80% of the world population, since 80% eat beef. (Or only Indians must be killed first?)

    I’m not saying that’s what is going to happen (or whether anyone will join such an army) but you see, what you’ve done is to go down the path of EXTREME violence in order to impose your religious views! That’s what I said a moment ago: “Men never do evil so cheerfully and so completely as when they do so from religious conviction.” Your religious conviction leads you the MOST EXTREME evil.

    That’s my problem with such views. I trust you get my point! At least Hitler only hated a few million Jews. You and the Baba apparently hate more than 5 billion people! How many dead human bodies will satisfy the Baba? Assuming that the beef eaters REFUSE to listen the the Baba (and I can guarantee they will refuse to listen to him), then he will now have no choice but to kill them all!

    That’s pretty ethical, isn’t it? Something of a world high standard in ethics. Of course not. That’s precisely what other religious fanatics do every day. There is nothing more dangerous in the world than religious fanaticism.

    So much for Hinduism’s claim to be a tolerant religion. No wonder I left Hinduism a long time ago (and write against all religious fanaticism). I’m happy to listen to wise people like Swami Suddhananda or read Swami Vivekananda. When I hear such evil views (of the sort Baba Ramdev is advocating), though, then my views change. I feel really sorry for India. I feel really sorry that when millions are dying of starvation and from bad policies, we have in the midst such evil thoughts, like killing billions of people.

    I’m very clear: I just want India to become healthy, wealthy, and environmentally clean. And have a corruption-free government. I don’t want to kill people for the food they may choose to eat. I am happy to associate with Baba Ramdev on the former, but will oppose him on the latter. It is VERY WRONG to kill people for the food they may choose to eat.


  32. Harsh Vora

    Sanjeev — Baba Ramdev, like Mahatma Gandhi, is against the evil within men, not necessarily the evil person himself. To say that he hates people who eat meat is a blasphemy, an insult to a peace-maker such as Baba Ramdev. He certainly encourages people to give up on meat (or cow!) to the whole world, for moral and ethical reasons, not necessarily religious reasons. If they do not, it it entirely up to them.
    As far as cow-slaughter issue is concerned, Baba Ramdev wants it to be banned only in India, as of now — the reason being that India's heritage, as he and tons of other Hindu scholars believe, regarded cow as our mother. And one does not kill one's mother. Will you kill you mother who breast-fed you when you were a child? No. Then why would you want to kill cow, whose milk you drink everyday, perhaps until death? IT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT.

    PLEASE DON'T INFLATE THE MATTER to include Hindu extremism into this. Swami Ramdev is perhaps one of the most liberal Hindus you will find. He is against idolatry (like Swami Dayananda), against rituals, and against all the superstitions that Hindu extremism has produced. He solely believes in the power of dharma, of which non-violence is an integral part.

  33. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks, Harsh

    I know that. I agree that Swami Ramdev is a good man. None of the stuff he is doing is coming from any hatred towards anyone. And I can see that in you as well. Good intentions are evident.

    All I’m pointing out is the huge danger that goodness, when taken to the extreme can create. Nehru was a good man, too.

    So long as he (or you or anyone else) stick to the art of persuasion with argument and reason, I have nothing to say. That is the civilised way, and people can listen to all sides and then choose what they wish to do. The problem comes when good men believe that killing others will resolve difference of opinion. Capital punishment is nothing but a call to kill those who don’t agree with him.

    What bothers me is that this call is being given within India. Why not first kill off all the non-Indian beefeaters? Isn’t that what a nationalist should do? The problem is that when fundamentalists (religious, communist, fascist) get into the picture, they generally kill ten of their own for every one outsider! I do, in all seriousness, suggest that Baba Ramdev drop his capital punishment demand on a matter related to what people choose to eat. I’m sure he has more important things to do in life than that. Such a demand risks taking him down a very slipper slope. He won’t be able to control the rabble that assembles around him. India will degenerate into a burning inferno!

    Once again, I won’t debate the merits of the cow slaughter issue (which I’ve done elsewhere, and which is irrelevant to the critical thinking points I’m making). Just one point to ponder: How can one possibly claim to advocate ahimsa and yet threaten to kill (up to) 5 billion people (assuming they don’t agree with him!)? What kind of a philosophy is this?

    Finally, I’m pretty familiar with Swami Dayanand (I studied in DAV college and have read his work extensively). I don’t think Baba Ramdev is even close to stalwarts like Vivekananda, Dayanand and now Suddhananda. You’ll pardon my saying so, but I don’t see much intellectual prowess in Baba Ramdev’s teachings.

    For me to develop a positive image of his ideas, I need to see a list of ALL main books he has read so far in his life. I want to know whether he has read widely enough to be able to distinguish between what is good for mankind and what is bad for us. So far, unfortunately, I get the idea that he is severely misrepresenting the great philosophy that underpins Hinduism. He also seems to display little humility for learning more about the useful and good things the world has discovered since the Vedas were written thousands of years ago.

    I may be wrong (I often am!) about this so I’m happy to be shown how Baba Ramdev is an intellectual powerhouse of some serious calibre; how he fits into the pantheon of the great teachers who have emerged from India.


  34. Harsh Vora

    Re: "How can one possibly claim to advocate ahimsa and yet threaten to kill (up to) 5 billion people (assuming they don’t agree with him!)? What kind of a philosophy is this?"
    First, let's talk about India: When capital punishment is given to every person who slaughters cows, the number of persons who slaughter cows will reduce drastically — not because they will all be executed but because they will fear being executed. Hence, establishing capital punishment DOES NOT mean having to kill hundreds of people who are beef-eaters in India. Only a few people's execution will be enough to save thousands of cows, and at the same time, dissuade many other slaughterers from committing the same act again.
    Now about foreign countries: As I said earlier, and as you understand, Baba Ramdev is not hateful towards ANYBODY. He, and his team, would try to persuade ALL to stop meat-eating, not on the basis of religious reasons (let me emphasize), but for moral, ethical, and physical reasons. Baba Ramdev has said that 'yoga' is a word which is MOST familiar in the entire world, and yet  is commonly misinterpreted. The genuine practice of yoga requires us to give up meat-eating. When Babaji (or later his team) will spread REAL yoga across the entire world, people will naturally want to give up meat-eating. There need not be any force. Yet, as of now, for billions of people who want to eat beef, they can do so — no imposition of any kind. Swamiji will continue to advocate vegetarianism as long as he lives. At the moment, he is ONLY concerned with India so far as the cow-slaughter issue is in question, for he believes that's what Swami Dayananda and all our ancestors advocated in life.
    Re: "Such a demand risks taking him down a very slipper slope. He won’t be able to control the rabble that assembles around him. India will degenerate into a burning inferno!
    MOST of India, including the Muslims, is supporting Baba Ramdev in his Bharat Nirman Yatra. I don't see any rabble assembling around him as of now, nor will it assemble in future. Baba Ramdev is handling this issue with considerable balance and thought. In addition, he has discussed his approach with intellectuals of both AIMS and the IIMs.
    I don't know what Vedic literature Swami Ramdev has read. I know that he has opened Patanjali university which teaches interested students our rishi-parampara and all the philosophy of our ancestors Swami Dayananda, Sri Aurobindo, etc. I have yet to personally visit this university and his Patanjali Yogpeeth for learning further information.
    It's interesting to know that you have studied a vast literature of Swami Dayananda when in DAV. I am not sure of how Swami Ramdev meets Swami Dayananda's teachings. All I know is that he is a very strong supporter of Swami Dayananda. And this has kindled an interest in me to read his philosophy. Do you know any books (except Satyarth Prakash) about Swami Dayananda which I could secure/read online?

  35. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh

    I’ve got to move on. Clearly I’ve failed to persuade you about the most fundamental tenet of freedom: to let people choose. And when you claim that Baba Ramdev must kill a few hundreds in India (through the law, no doubt), in order to generate sufficient FEAR, then what you are advocating is terrorism. Please think about the implications of what you are suggesting. This is the complete opposite of freedom.

    Let me state this clearly. I not only oppose corruption, I have opposed illiberal ideologies like socialism, and definitely, I oppose any religious fanaticism. Hence, I ask you once again to reconsider your support for killing people. That is immoral, ghastly and improper. It does NOT represent India or the Indian mind.

    Re: Dayanand I think the Hindi book by him that I had (I read it about 30 years ago) must have been among the nearly 1000 books I gave away to libraries or to anyone who wanted my books before migrating to Australia. Don’t have a copy now. Try the internet. My understanding of these people (Dayanand, Vivekanand, etc) is that the one thing they were is that they were NOT fanatics intent on killing people. They knew how to persuade using argument.


  36. Harsh Vora

    I completely understand your views Sanjeev. I do buy into Classical liberalism very much (particularly, to the 'invisible-hand' concept of Adam Smith), except for a few glitches I find. Hopefully, time and experience will help me learn more. Thanks for your time to explain me your thoughts. I value it.

  37. Supratim

    Coming back to the original debate, that was hijacked for the topic of cow slaughter yet again (!), I have a couple of points for your consideration:
    1. Climate is such a hugely complex system, that our ability to understand it, let alone predict it, is quite puny – you only have to look at so many earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis volcanoes not being predicted for evidence of our limited predictive understanding of our ecosphere. We now have ocean bed sensors, volcano sensors, hundreds of weather satellites, yet we can not predict weather or other events with any degree of statistical accuracy. And, this is with multiple super computers at work.
    Therefore, when you ask me trust the body of work generated by "climate scientists", my response is to say "Physician, heal thyself first".  If you can not predict when the next hurricane will occur, you expect me to believe your predictions about 50 years from now?
    Do you also remember the Malthusian population time bomb? This is the equivalent for this century.
    2. There are no "independent" "climate scientists" who are waving the danger flag – those who are independent,  i.e not funded by the UN, are saying yes, there is AGW, but it is *impossible* to predict how this will play  out. The system is too complex, with too many variables, which can not be effectively modeled. 
    This kind of schism has never been seen in "scientific studies" in the past and reeks of corruption – you say that 98% of scientists are saying AGW is harmful, and *all* of them get funding from the UN????  Man, those are scary stats for independent scientific research and this is no longer science, it is theology or belief systems!!!
    And, scientists are human, too – as likely to be corrupted by research grants as the bureaucrat/politico we love to blame.  I challenge you to name 5 independent, "climate scientists" who are saying that AGW is harmful for the earth, according to their models.
    3. Peer-reviewed research by "hostile scientists"  is virtually absent from all the IPCC papers – this is a major flaw. If you are only going to invite your buddies to review your papers, then they are better used in the bathroom, rather than for scientific thesis. Have you read the emails released in the hack on the East England laboratory – there are "scientists" deciding how to massage the data! WOW!!!!! And, then the himalayan blunder about the himalayan glaciers – paperback research, anyone?
    And, heads have not rolled yet – Pachauri has not yet been fired. And, you want me to believe that IPCC is not a corrupt organisation, besmirching science with its voodoo theories?
    I have not done as much research as Sanjeev on this topic, but this whole harmful climate change "science" really smells – there is no difference between this "science" and the koran or the bible. Seriously, think about it.

  38. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Supratim

    Re: ” There are no “independent” “climate scientists” who are waving the danger flag – those who are independent, i.e not funded by the UN, are saying yes”

    As far as I am aware the UN doesn’t fund any of these climate scientists. IPCC’s budget is very puny, barely enough to organise its meetings and to produce its reports. Government funding of research is the general cause of the bias, not UN funding. Yes, many IPCC members seem to have huge personal stakes vested into the reports, through their conflicts of interest (e.g. ownership/partnership with alternative energy technologies). That is a very severe problem that the Harvard University has pointed out.

    Actually I’m not bothered about anyone’s independence or not. In the end I don’t care whether anyone has a vested interest or not. I care for the truth. I therefore have investigated this issue (and continue to do so) through intensive readings. That is my preferred approach wherever so-called experts come into conflict (btw, there are MANY experts arraigned against IPCC findings). I put on my own thinking hat.

    As Steven Landsburg has written in his new book “The Big Questions” (p.233), “To speak sensibly about climate control, you must confront roughly a half-dozen difficult questions. What are the harmful effects of climate change? What are the costs of avoiding those effects (say by moving New York inland)? What are the offsetting benefits (an Alaskan wheat crop? How likely is the Earth to suffer from some other disaster – an asteroid strike? – that will make our carbon emissions irrelevant? What do we owe our future generations? How risk averse are we?”

    IPCC has overblown the potential harm of increased CO2, grossly underestimated the potential benefits, and avoided sensible discussion on any of the other relevant questions (including Landsburg’s questions).

    In my view, most importantly, IPCC has failed to consider the adaptability of life, and the natural self-adjusting processes at work. And it has shown no signs of considering automatic economic adjustments. And finally, there are some trivially cheap geo-engineering solutions (such as in Levitt’s book) that might fix the ‘problem’ (if any).

    IPCC doesn’t display ANY DEPTH OR WIDTH of understanding. Driven by a passion to prove its case, by hook or by crook, it ignores the subtleties of complex systems.


  39. Supratim

    Dear Sanjeev,

    I have not gone too much into the details of the funding of each individual government lab – but, they are all governed by an UN Framework on climate science research – the money comes from member governments, and, I believe counts against their fees to UN (checking for sources on this).
    IPCC is a pure UN body, funded through the UN directly –
    "IPCC doesn’t display ANY DEPTH OR WIDTH of understanding. Driven by a passion to prove its case, by hook or by crook, it ignores the subtleties of complex systems."
    Worse, it does not even acknowledge that it is dealing with a live, hugely complex , inter-connected system – and, then primarily uses statistics to analyse this system. This is void, ab-initio – you can gainfully use statistics to predict or analyse events, only in controlled experiments – what is the control for our ecosphere?
    At a very basic level, each action that we take modifies it – how can an organism, which is part of this ecosphere then be able to study it objectively, and more importantly model it – because the model and the observation of the model changes the ecosphere. You would have to be on Mars to really predict climate change for earth – this has been my basic disconnect with this alleged science stream.
    And, here is the latest update from NASA on earth's ecosphere – a giant electromagnetic storm will hit the Earth in 2012 (end-of-world theorists and Mayan astrologists, take a bow!) – this is likely to be the biggest such storm to hit Earth in over 100 years. NASA has no clue as to what this will do to our electricity grid based civilisation. That begs two questions:
    1. We are able to predict sunstorms, but not hurricanes developing on Earth – why?
    2. What does this do the climate change model of our, ahem, climate change scientists?
    Heh, heh – save up on candles, water, canned food and silver – the doomsday folks were right.

  40. chaitanya

    Hi Supratim, since you said it twice in this thread, i have point out a logical fallacy.
    >> If you can not predict when the next hurricane will occur,  you expect me to believe your predictions about 50 years from now?
    Short term events may be harder to predict than longer term events. Example: It is perhaps impossible to predict if one will have cold two months from now. But, if one is smoker life long, it is almost certain to harm the lung system in the long run. So, just because it is difficult to predict cold two months from now, doesn't invalidate the prediction of lung decease due to smoking.

  41. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Chaitanya, I agree with you. I even agree that AGW theorists are not obliged to predict precise ups and downs of annual temperature. Statistically, all they are obliged to demonstrate is a trend and strong causal pathways.

    My problem is they have seriously neglected crucial ingredients of theory. Their arguments don’t stack up as a logical, coherent conception enough to panic me into pulling back on my CO2 emissions (although I perhaps emit virtually nothing, travelling by bus to work, hardly moving out of my computer, and rarely travelling by air: I’m no Al Gore with 1000 times my emissions!)

  42. Supratim

    Thanks for your comment – I do not believe that my statement is wrong from a climate change perspective. The issue is that these scientists are using statistical data to model for a system that is hugely complex – there is no control system, and therefore the null hypothesis that AGW is harmful to our ecosphere over 50 or 100 years can not be proved. This is like excel modeling by investment banks for housing prices, in a way.
    The difference with your smoking analogy is that – 1. there are different causes for common cold and cancer;  2. it is statistically possible to prove that smoking causes cancer – through the use of control groups and people who have smoked for a long time (historical data groups) 3. These are single-variate analysis in a closed environment.
    Therefore, I do not think that your analogy works – while I agree with Sanjeeev that climate scientists need not be able to predict exact temperatures for the next year or the following year, they should be able to predict a range of temperatures, within a confidence interval of say 95%, and be proven right statistically. This may be the only way to verify that your multi-variate, open environment model actually works – else, why should I trust its output for 50 years out, and face economic consequences today for an unsure outcome 50 years out?

  43. Supratim

    BTW, Chaitanya, WHO has now developed very good models for predicting influenza/flu epidemics (a virulent forum of your common cold!) across different population classes in Western countries, which has a very high predictive quality.
    This is a again a single variate (in this case, single vector) model, across a homogenous population class, back tested with historical data and proven to be accurate (95% confidence levels) for prediction. This model does not work so well in Asian countries – where the population is more heterogenous.
    This example is just to point out the possibilities and limitations of statistical modeling.

  44. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks, Supratim,

    Re:”they should be able to predict a range of temperatures, within a confidence interval of say 95%, and be proven right statistically.”

    That’s correct. The problem here is just too confounded. Even the data are not available:

    a) The measurement of human carbon emissions is fraught (try adding up what 6 billion humans do – including deforestation etc.)
    b) The measurement of actual CO2 levels is even more fraught! (see this). We just don’t know the true level of atmospheric CO2
    c) The ratio of human emissions to total CO2 is very small
    d) Life REACTS by absorbing more CO2 which means there is no exponential trend in CO2 despite (alleged) exponential growth in CO2 emissions.
    e) Assuming we know what CO2 levels exist, we don’t know the temperatures. Which temperature to take is the first issue (surface/ ocean/ sky). Data on temperatures are extremely questionable. E.g. surface temperatures are contaminated by urban heat island effects and require artificial calibration which distorts the truth.

    Thus if we model T = f(CO2) we go into total confusion because data on both sides is uncertain!

    In other words one can’t dream of 95% confidence intervals for temperature predictions. Just broad trends would do. That too, is questionable as you look back and find that basically we are recovering form the Little Ice Age, so some warming is inevitable. So how do you distinguish the contributions of CO2 from general heating effects as the earth recovers from the little ice age?



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