Number of the Month

April 2002

April is the cruellest month
T S Eliot, The Waste Land

More of the Brown stuff

This is traditionally the month of the budget statement in the UK. A speech by the present Chancer of the Exchequer (Gordon Brown) is always a collector’s item for students of numerical prestidigitation and misdirection. There was a lot of the usual tinkering and so-called green tax changes, but the major change was a ten percent increase in National Insurance. This used to be a genuine insurance against ill health, unemployment and retirement. Thanks to the efforts of recent governments it has become just another form of income tax and a particularly pernicious one, as it only applies to those who earn their living and not the idle rich who live on their investments. Only the nastiest old cynic would point out that the latter category includes the major financial supporters of New Labour and the likes of Government Minister Lord Sainsbury. The excuse for all this is to pour money into the bureaucratic morass know as the National Health Service. As the announcement was followed by a proposal actually to increase the amount (and cost) of auditing, the possibility of any improvement was completely negated.

Warmers’ toast

Those who make their living from the global warming scam were opening the champagne bottles this month.

The latest eructation of junk statistics issued by the British Government in support of the Global Warming myth was, of course, provided by their protégés at the Tyndale Centre of the University of East Anglia. It was seized upon by most of the media, as ever always hungry for a really good scare. According to The Times (April 26 Britain goes to extremes as the world warms up) Dr Jenkins of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre announced that the world was 0.71° C warmer in January, February and March this year than the average of these months between 1961 and 1990. The previous record was 0.67° C, so the rise is a staggering 0.04° C.

What are the major fallacies on which this new "evidence" is based? First there is the end–point fallacy, which might also be called the boundary or a posteriori fallacy. The "researchers" have waited for a period (previously unspecified) for which the measurements suit their purposes (an unusually warm period, though not spectacularly so) and then they have trawled through the records to compare the measurements with the same (previously unspecified) time of year. This is a travesty of the normal scientific method, which tests a theory by making predictions from it and then seeing whether they are verified. It is related to the Texas Sharp Shooter Fallacy. Another variation of the end point fallacy is that they have restricted their comparisons to the period 1961-1990. If they had included the mediaeval warm period their record would not look quite so impressive. Then there is the extreme value fallacy. This appears most famously as the birth month fallacy, of which we have given many examples. Here they have taken one quarter as the extreme value period. Then there is the short public memory fallacy. The punters know that they have just had a warm spell and the journalists’ credo says that people’s memories do not last longer than a month or two. Unfortunately for the promoters of the scam, the long lasting stable warm weather system was replaced by a sharp cold front on the day they launched the story and the rest of April saw unseasonable cold weather with gales, torrential rain, hail and snow. Fear not, they not so easily fazed. Then there is the record fallacy. Records always increase (as the logarithm of the time over which they are kept). Then there is the selective data fallacy. These "researchers" notoriously ignore measurements from satellites, radio-sonde balloons and well-kept rural weather stations in favour of stations such as Central England, that are subject to the urban heat island effect. Guess why.

But all of this pales to insignificance when we look at the predictions that are made. On the basis of fanciful computer models bolstered by an increase in the "record" of 0.04° C, they are able to tell us that South East England could be 5° C warmer by 2080. Global Warming will also bring wetter but milder winters, drier summers, more storms and extreme weather, dramatic rises in sea levels, floods etc. If only yesterday’s 24-hour forecast had been more accurate, your bending author would have got his potatoes planted before the squalls struck.

You have to admire the precision that the "researchers" achieve with their computer models. Very hot summers of the sort that Britain experienced in 1995 will strike in one in three years (no more, no less) and the vast majority of years will be warmer than the record-breaking year of 1999. Trouble is, according to data collected in the real world, 1999 was not particularly special. Anyway, according to one reliable source (your bending author’s mother) when she was a girl all the summers were long and hot. Lower precipitation will produce changes in Britain’s flora and fauna. Remember as far back as April 14th? Well you are not supposed to. Then The Times was telling us that Britain would become like the Everglades. They can’t have it both ways, can they? Of course they can. They are the Establishment.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number Watch……

Hold on! I am beginning to get the hang of it. This ought to be worth ten million or so of government grants. And the Thames shall turn red and the fish will die, and the water will turn foul and there will be blood throughout the land of Great Britain. And then the country will be plagued with frogs, who will cross the channel easily via the Eurotunnel. And then there shall come gnats throughout the land, for in the days of global warming they shall flourish. And then there shall be swarms of flies, for fifty fly killers will be banned by command of the gods of epidemiology. And then there will be a plague upon the cattle and on the horses, the asses, the camels, the herds and flocks, which shall be known as foot and mouth disease. And then there shall be boils breaking out on in sores on man and beast. Then there shall be a great hail that shall fall upon every man and beast and every plant of the field and fire flashing in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such has not been seen in the land of Britain since it became a nation, which shall be a bit of a bummer, because it is not supposed to happen in the days of global warming. And there shall be an east wind upon the land which shall bring locusts which shall settle upon the land in a dense swarm as has never been seen before. For they shall cover the land, so that the land is darkened, and they shall eat all the plants in the land and the all the fruits of the trees that the hail had left; not a green thing shall remain, neither tree nor plant of the field through all the land of Britain. And all the firstborn – no, too Jewish. And the nation shall be visited by four horsemen, two of war and two of famine and pestilence. Enough’s enough! What do you expect for ten million? On the other hand, if everyone signs up to the green agenda and agrees to go back to the Stone Age, everything will be all right and Britain will be a land flowing with milk and honey.

The way in which the global warming myth has been maintained is quite a remarkable phenomenon of social history. In the bad old days, when your bending author first became a University Professor, such theories, if they got past the referees, would be first published in journals and immediately knocked down in subsequent correspondence. Now such journals have politically correct editors who are only too pleased to pick up the scraps after a Government Minister’s news conference. Any academics who retain that so out of date scholarly bent have learnt to keep their heads down or get purged. For the professors of propaganda now rule the roost. The efforts of Times Newspapers in propping up the myth are truly astonishing. At approximately fortnightly intervals they publish half a page with garish illustrations, far-fetched extrapolations as we have seen, rigged graphs. Why do they do it? What’s in it for them? Surely Rupert cannot have shares in it, or can he?







Nature Notes

Greater Californian Poppyock (Papaver phaloides californiensis)

A once rare but now widespread variety. Thrives in well cultivated soil heavily manured with dung from the bovine male. Some exotic cultivars (such as the F1 hybrid Jane Fonda) are highly prized by wealthy collectors, but degenerate hybrids of the plant have become invasive in many parts of the world, particularly Western Europe, where it is frequently known to disrupt agriculture and clog the wheels of industry. Immune to most major herbicides, which it appears to be able to nullify, this variety poses a major threat to humanity. Like its cousin, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), it can cause addiction and eventual insanity.

New Age Number Watch

Always on the look out (who said desperate?) for a nice little earner and (let’s admit it) jealous of the success of the CRU at the Univeristy of East Anglia, Number Watch has decided to establish the Phlogiston Research Unit at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop. In shameless imitation of the CRU’s Data Exercise (or CRUDE) it is to undertake its own (i.e. PRUDE). Ever since that old meddler Joseph Priestley failed to realise that Phlogiston had negative mass, a spurious theory of oxygen has held reign. In exchange for large amounts of taxpayers’ money, the Man from the PRU will demonstrate that the unprecedented rate of combustion around the globe has released millions of negative tonnes of Phlogiston into the atmosphere. Life on Earth, which depends on dephlogistated air, is threatened with extinction. The only hope is for the world to go back to a politically correct horse-drawn existence. Nevertheless, people will have the benefit of cheap space travel with our Phlogiston filled balloons. Watch out for further announcements at national press conferences. Have we got scares for you.

Flies in the face of reason

Insect sprays withdrawn in cancer alert (The Times April 20). The Government ordered the immediate removal from sale of 50 leading brands of insect killer fearing that they may cause cancer.

Ministers acted after "experts" on the Advisory Committee for Pesticides (ACP) said they could not rule out the risk of skin, liver and breast cancers. The decision was described as precautionary.

Friends of the Earth spokesman, Sandra Bell, said that dichlorvos had been in use for 40 years and it was classified as a possible carcinogen in 1990. This begs the question of why it has taken the UK so long to act.

So another devastating blow to a major industry has been wielded on the basis of may, could not rule out, precautionary and possible. This is such an illustrative example; advice from a committee of self appointed experts, action by ministerial decree, with no debate and no appeal; above all the world wide range of the EPA’s junk science, spreading waste and disease wherever it reaches. The common housefly Musca Domestica is one of the most potent spreaders of disease, carrying millions of bacteria on its feet from outside excrement to kitchen surfaces. It does not, however, excite epidemiologists and therefore is unimportant. Which brings us to:

It was meant to be a joke (No 3)

It was just a year ago that your bending author discovered and alarming Midas-like tendency for his little jokes to come true. In Sorry, wrong number! apropos a soliciting letter received from the World Cancer Research Fund the following remark is made:

Am I being a bit slow here? They are asking me to take part in a survey to which they already seem to know the answer. Almost the only things they are interested in are from the standard SIF hit list. What if cancer is caused by liquorice allsorts, potato crisps or a hundred other things that might be in my diet.

Agreed, it was not much of a joke, just a little light weight banter to soften a rather deadly subject, but then we knew the epidemiologists were insensitive to the bizarre nature of some of the suggestions they came up with from their accidental associations; so a little bit of preposterous extrapolation was meant just to add a touch of ridicule.

Little did we know! In the month when it was announced that hair dye causes bladder cancer (Whatever next; toenail varnish as a cause of alopecia?) on April 25th we have the BBC, among many other media outlets, announcing in all seriousness:

Bread and crisps in cancer scare.

It came, of course, from Sweden, which has set out to be the California of Europe, or even the junk capital of the world. There are some lovely quotes in the piece:

Leif Busk, head of the Food Administration's research department, said: "I have been in this field for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this before."

The study found that an ordinary bag of crisps may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies acrylamide, a colourless, crystalline solid, as a medium hazard probable human carcinogen

Experts at Cancer Research UK believe the study is highly significant.

It is all no doubt based on the concentration fallacy. Enormous amounts of arbitrary substances are fed to rats pathetically bred to develop tumours at the drop of a lab coat and, lo, they develop tumours.

Naturally, the above items have been added to our cancer list, but the time might have come when we should change to a list of things that do not cause cancer according to epidemiologists, if only to save disc space.

Number of the month 0.04

Little things can mean a lot. A Minister of State calls a press conference, all for 0.04° C. Senior journalists rush to hear what "the scientists" have to say, all for 0.04° C. Whole pages of newspapers are given over to the scare, all for 0.04° C. Long items of radio and television with catastrophic images of ice breaking up and vast deserts spreading regale the public, all for 0.04° C. The Chancer of the Exchequer sits smug in his lair knowing that his draconian and destructive taxes have been justified, all for 0.04° C. The perpetrators can rest assured that they will receive millions more of taxpayers’ money, all for 0.04°C . It is all based on concealing the statistical fact that all records always increase with the logarithm of time, with increments even down to as little as 0.04° C.


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