Category Archives: fakenews

Charles Darwin exposes A N Wilson as a fraud

What a rubbish article!!

Frankly this article by A N Wilson in the Evening Standard couldn’t have been much worse if it had been written by a Young earth Creationist like Ken Ham or Kent Hovind.

I lifted the whole article and made a few comments on the worst errors. I expect the book to be worse.

In the 90s I read Wilson’s two books; God’s Funeral – written in his athiest phase, and The Victorians, which on science and religion just repeated the well-worn, and, by then well-refuted, myth of the conflict of science and religion. I was not impressed then and am less so today.

Since then he has come back to faith , having originally been an Anglican ordinand. However he is still better at creative writing, rather than well-researched writing, which cares about intellectual honesty and accuracy.

It is so different from great biographies like that of Janet Browne, or rob Wesson’s recent study of Darwin’s South American geology – Darwin’s First Theory.

If you think I am annoyed about this, you may just be right.

For those who don’t know me, I am a semi-retired Anglican priest, who still runs a parish. I took a degree in geology and was an exploration geologist before ordination. I have written a fair amount on science and religion and also on Darwin’s geology and his beliefs.

BTW you should never use the word “silly” when criticising someone’s writing, unless………

A.N. Wilson: It’s time Charles Darwin was exposed for the fraud he was

https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/it-s-time-charles-darwin-was-exposed-for-the-fraud-he-was-a3604166.html?amp

Two of his theories about evolution are wrong — and one resulting ‘science’ inspired the Nazis

Comments deleted!!

Visionary or crank? Charles Darwin in 1881, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron
Visionary or crank? Charles Darwin in 1881, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

Charles Darwin, whose bearded face looks out at us from the £10 note, is about to be replaced by Jane Austen. I’ve spent the past five years of my life writing his biography and mastering his ideas. Which do you throw out of the balloon? Pride and Prejudice or The Origin of Species?

Funnily enough, in the course of my researches, I found both pride and prejudice in bucketloads among the ardent Darwinians, who would like us to believe that if you do not worship Darwin, you are some kind of nutter. He has become an object of veneration comparable to the old heroes of the Soviet Union, such as Lenin and Stalin, whose statues came tumbling down all over Eastern Europe 20 and more years ago.

Silly writing. Very few, especially among scientists, venerate Darwin. He is highly regarded as a great scientist and his limitations known.

We had our own version of a Soviet statue war in London some years ago when the statue of Darwin was moved in the Natural History Museum. It now looms over the stairs brooding over the visitors. It did originally sit there, but it was replaced by a statue of Richard Owen, who was, after all, the man who had started the Natural History Museum, and who was one of the great scientists of the 19th century. Then in 2009, the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, Owen was booted out, and Darwin was put back, in very much the way that statues of Lenin replaced religious or monarchist icons in old Russia.

By the time Owen died (1892), Darwin’s reputation was fading, and by the beginning of the 20th century it had all but been eclipsed.

Too simplistic. If you read Bowler’s works eg The Non-Darwinian Revolution, you will note that after 1880 natural selection went out of favour for half a century. However Darwin was still highly respected as events on his centenary show.

Then, in the early to mid 20th century, the science of genetics got going. Science rediscovered the findings of Gregor Mendel (Darwin’s contemporary) and the most stupendous changes in life sciences became possible. Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, and thereafter the complexity and wonder of genetics, all demonstrable by scientific means, were laid bare. Only this week we have learned of medicine’s stupendous ability to zap embryonic, genetically transmuted disorders.

Darwinism is not science as Mendelian genetics are.

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That is a most face-palming comment. The use of the word Darwinism is unhelpful whether to describe the science of Darwin or his so-called followers. As for Darwin his science is as accomplished as it is wide ranging. He started as a geologist and showed great prowess. I have been lucky to study his geology in Shropshire and Wales in depth. This took place before and after his voyage on the Beagle. This can be studied in Sandra Herbert Charles Darwin;geologist and Rob Wesson.Darwin’s first theory. (or my lesser writings just-before-the-beagle  ) He had great plans for his geology in the 1840s and want to look at every limestone reef in Britain but illness put paid to that..

So on moving to Downe he did a highly detailed study on Barnacles, wrote the Origin and after that wrote some wonderful scientific monographs on so many aspects of biology. He was fascinated by the chemistry of drosera/ sundew which catches flies instead of photosynthesising. He was the first to use chemistry in biology. An American friend is writing a book on his experimental work.

I wonder if Wilson has read many of Darwin’s books, scientific papers or even notebooks

None of this denigrates Mendel or Wallace. Though Mendel is not highly significant.

 

It is a theory whose truth is NOT universally acknowledged. But when genetics got going there was also a revival, especially in Britain, of what came to be known as neo-Darwinism, a synthesis of old Darwinian ideas with the new genetics. Why look to Darwin, who made so many mistakes, rather than to Mendel?

A silly comment. All good scientists make lots of mistakes. Darwin described his 1839 work on the Parallel roads of Glenroy  as a “long, gigantic blunder”. I found many in his 1831 geology BUT he produced so much good science.

 

There was a simple answer to that. Neo-Darwinism was part scientific and in part a religion, or anti-religion. Its most famous exponent alive, Richard Dawkins, said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.

Perhaps so for Dawkins up to a point, but still grossly simplistic and silly.

You could say that the apparently impersonal processes of genetics did the same. But the neo-Darwinians could hardly, without absurdity, make Mendel their hero since he was a Roman Catholic monk. So Darwin became the figurehead for a system of thought that (childishly) thought there was one catch-all explanation for How Things Are in nature.

The great fact of evolution was an idea that had been current for at least 50 years before Darwin began his work.

Silly. There had been tentative suggestions for 50 years, but none whether Erasmus Darwin Lamarck or Chambers in the Vestiges were acceptable scientific theories. Darwin produced the first scientifically TENABLE theory of evolution, even though there were gaps

 

His own grandfather pioneered it in England, but on the continent, Goethe, Cuvier, Lamarck and many others realised that life forms evolve through myriad mutations.

silly. See above. BTW Cuvier adamantly rejected evolution but was excellent on the succession of life worked out from fossils

Darwin wanted to be the Man Who Invented Evolution, so he tried to airbrush all the predecessors out of the story.

Pure fantasy. You just need to read all his references in his books

He even pretended that Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather, had had almost no influence on him.

Probably true as Erasmus put his ideas into a poem 🙂

He then brought two new ideas to the evolutionary debate, both of which are false.

One is that evolution only proceeds little by little, that nature never makes leaps. The two most distinguished American palaeontologists of modern times, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, both demonstrated 30 years ago that this is not true. Palaeontology has come up with almost no missing links of the kind Darwinians believe in. The absence of such transitional forms is, Gould once said, the “trade secret of palaeontology”. Instead, the study of fossils and bones shows a series of jumps and leaps.

Many reckon that Gould and Eldredge overstated the jumps, but both they and Darwin were operating on a long timescale.  Hey what!! I wonder if Wilson wants to reject the geological timescale. He might even find Ken Ham a good buddy.

Hard-core Darwinians try to dispute this, and there are in fact some “missing links” — the Thrinaxodon, which is a mammal-like reptile, and the Panderichthys, a sort of fish-amphibian. But if the Darwinian theory of natural selection were true, fossils would by now have revealed hundreds of thousands of such examples.

A typical Creationist argument. in fact “Darwinism” (I hate the term – just say evolutionary science) predicted Tiktaalik and Shubin went to find it in Greenland. In a sense all fossils are intermediates!! Wilson’s misunderstanding of evolution is immense.

Species adapt themselves to their environment, but there are very few transmutations.

Darwin’s second big idea was that Nature is always ruthless: that the strong push out the weak, that compassion and compromise are for cissies whom Nature throws to the wall. Darwin borrowed the phrase “survival of the fittest” from the now forgotten and much discredited philosopher Herbert Spencer. He invented a consolation myth for the selfish class to which he belonged, to persuade them that their neglect of the poor, and the colossal gulf between them and the poor, was the way Nature intended things.

Silly. Despite, or in spite of his wealth., Darwin had a great concern for the poor and needy. This statement runs contrary to everything we read about him and his actions

He thought his class would outbreed the “savages” (ie the brown peoples of the globe) and the feckless, drunken Irish. Stubbornly, the unfittest survived. Brown, Jewish and Irish people had more babies than the Darwin class. The Darwinians then had to devise the hateful pseudo-science of eugenics, which was a scheme to prevent the poor from breeding.

Eugenics cannot be blamed on Darwin

We all know where that led, and the uses to which the National Socialists put Darwin’s dangerous ideas.

A smear tactic with no historical foundation

Now that we have replaced Darwin on the tenner with the more benign figure of Miss Austen, is this not the moment to reconsider taking down his statue from the Natural History Museum, and replacing him with the man who was sitting on the staircase until 2009 — the museum’s founder, Richard Owen?

A.N. Wilson’s Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (John Murray, £25) is out next month

How Organic Food is a contrick

A concept used by some for ideal food is LOAF i.e. Local,. Organic ,Animal friendly and Fair Trade.  Organic becomes contentious and this blog of David Zaruk explains why. (I did not write it but like it)

How Organic is a marketing concept

Rickmonger is Dr David Zaruk a prof at a Belgian Univ  https://risk-monger.com/about-2/

https://risk-monger.com/2017/08/04/how-organic-is-a-marketing-concept/

For almost two decades, the Risk-Monger and others have held the belief that scientific facts, data and evidence were sufficient for rational decision-making. In the case of the rise in public demand for organic food, he was foolishly wrong and quite tragically Stupid. Facts don’t matter in our decision-making process (although we all agree they should), emotions do. And when we come to emotions, we are in the domain of marketing, not scientific facts.

Using scientific data to address the emotional messages crafted by the marketing geniuses from the organic lobby is like bringing a knife to a gun-fight. The organic lobby has slaughtered science and common sense on agri-tech with their marketing machine, expensive campaigns and networks of special interests filling the well-funded troughs with their brands, referral fees and sponsorship deals.

Definition note. I use the term: “organic industry lobby” to include interest groups dictating and defining organic. Lobby groups like IFOAM and OCA (which funds USRTK and many anti-industry campaigners), NGOs like PAN, FoE or CFS, Internet generators like SumOfUs, label bodies like Non-GMO Project, Trojan Horse organisations like Moms Across America or GM Watch, funding foundations like Rodale or Cliff Family, internet gurus, activist scientists, retailers and organic brands (most usually led by outspoken “philanthropists”). Often I hear organic farmers and advocates correct me that these groups do not represent “organic”, but rarely do they stand up and speak out against their lobby’s unethical marketing practices.

This week I released a summer series of memes on twitter to illustrate how the organic industry is built on a number of basic marketing concepts. People on social media often talk about “organic” merely being a marketing label, but I have never read an analysis of which marketing tools they use. These six concepts are by no means the only tools used by organic industry marketing experts, but they are standard tools taught in schools. As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks. I asked myself that and have drawn a blank.

As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks.

1 fear1. Marketers use fear to sell

Hands up: Who wants to eat toxic chemicals?

Most people will spend more on organic food to avoid pesticides or chemicals. A UK survey stated that 95% of consumers choose organic to avoid exposure to (conventional) pesticides. This was the motive behind the Swedish retailer, the Coop, with their chemical-free “Organic Effect” campaign (since ruled by a Swedish court to be false advertising forbidding the Coop to continue to make such claims). Marketers merely have to mutter: “chemicals in your body” and frightened consumers run to their wallets.

Marketing organic is overly built on fears and doomsday scenarios. In the last month, like most of the months before, we have been told the following:

  • that biodiversity and the agricultural system is on the verge of collapse,
  • that humanity will go extinct from pesticide influence on the endocrine system,
  • that autism will soon affect half of our children.

There is no reasonable evidence provided for any of these claims; the mass repetition on social media is justification enough. Other daily doses of fears on the threat from conventional farming include: bees, water, biodiversity, cancer, obesity … and, of course, climate change. Need I also add corporate domination of the food chain, particularly by a company that begins with an M (which apparently I troll for!)?

Few people ask whether organic (non-GM) farming actually is better for health, biodiversity, bees, pesticide reduction… Why? Well the scientists with the evidence are not marketing alternative products; the companies with the data have ethical codes of conduct that restrict them from openly assaulting competitors’ products; and people want to believe organic is better (a fear is only effective if there is an antidote). Whenever the Risk-Monger tries to show these marketing experts are full of shit, he gets a load dumped on him!

cachet2. Marketers create a false perception of  luxury

Whether it is a designer label, a technology trinket, a gourmet burger or a sleek logo, the marketing sweet spot has always been associating your brand or product with a perception of quality or luxury.

Organic food carries a cachet of being better: better taste, better nutrients, better quality, better for you, for the environment and for biodiversity. None of these perceptions are true by the way (see links) but this perception of being better implies that the consumer who buys organic is better. The price for organic food is mostly not justified (any more than an iPhone or Burberry trench coat price is justified), but is often a luxury levy for the organic label. Chains like Whole Foods do well with the increased margins, but their price gouging does hurt the overall image of organic food.

Organic’s marketing message is clear: conventional food is cheap, unhealthy and toxic. You and your family are worth more; the planet is worth more. The message is clear: organic is smug. It doesn’t help that the organic lobby has embraced elites and celebrities to speak on their behalf.

3 star power3. Get your product star-struck

Of course any luxury brand gets its cachet from the star power it generates. Marketers have known this simple equation since the early James Bond films. Not since the glory days of tobacco advertising has the marketing world seen anything like the golden carpet the organic lobby has laid out for celebrities having grown tired of remembering their lines. The rush for pixie dust has allowed B-listers like Paltrow, Alba, Cox and Hurley to profit handsomely from putting their names on organic operations.  It is a win-win. Today a celebrity needs a “cause”, and standing up for the organic lobby is righteous enough without the need to get your hands dirty. All it takes is a few lines in front of a camera!

We all aspire to be like the famous, to be “Like Mike”, and we are willing to pay for it. Given the number of small, emerging organic food brands, a simple endorsement from a celebrity is enough to bring a hitherto unknown brand into the mainstream with shelf-space. It is not uncommon for these small brands to pay celebrities in part-ownership of the companies: more product placements, more shareholder profits.

If you are a typical celebrity, with all the personal quirks, then promoting organic brands is a lot safer than identifying yourself with other environmental causes. You can still fly on private jets, check into rehab (Hey! That even offers more marketing opportunities with a new ‘detox’ line!) – hell, you can even wear fur! And once the organic lobby sniffs that a star may drift towards the foodie side, they handle all the coms … and they never impose ethical expectations or codes of conduct!

The organic lobby has also created their own home-grown star power (Vani, Dr Merc, Zen, Ranger Mike and the Avocado can move millions and product referral fees pay handsomely. Mamavation even organises an event called Shiftcon which helps emerging bloggers to network and find organic industry reps who will support them (a mutual “wellness” exchange!).

4 simple4. It’s all about feeling good

Consumption is based on our need to feel good about ourselves, and those choosing organic (more natural, fewer inputs) are told to feel wonderful about themselves. The organic lobby has presented an image of benign consumption with clear simple messages: Buy local, from small farmers, chemical-free, all-natural, less waste, sustainable …

Activists who engage with me on social media want to let me know how they are solving all of the world’s problems with simple solutions: organic roof gardens, getting homeless people to work in urban gardens, saving seeds, organic food banks, school lunch contributions, fighting industry domination … These are little solutions, however, to big problems. They are promoted with a religious zeal by opportunists who understand that complex debates have no marketing value. Of course we can feed the world with organic, we just need to stop food waste and build more roof gardens! Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Scientists addressing these problems with agri-tech solutions are attacked as being the source of the problem. GMOs don’t work! Get industry out and let the little farmers feed the world. Stop pumping poisons into the soil and these farms will flourish. Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science). That makes the message simple and clear – exactly what organic lobby marketers want. And if a pro-organic scientist cannot find the facts or data to back up what he wants to say, no problem. Just say: “I guess we just have to trust our intuition at times. I’ve met many people who say they just feel better eating organic foods — or foods that are sprayed less often.”

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science).

5 narrative5. Follow the Cultural Narrative

Our cultural and social narratives define how we perceive the world, order the stories we tell and structure our values. Narratives don’t have to be true or factual but simply trusted (and trust is emotion-based). A dominant cultural narrative in many affluent countries is that products coming from nature are good (and that which is man-made is suspect). Recently this has led to a growing negative public perception of conventionally grown produce, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and vaccines. The more Western societies are relying on technological advances, the less consumers understand or trust them.

Marketers are not in the business of educating consumers with science and data. Their goal is to sell more and satisfy consumer wants. If the narrative defines these wants as being nature-based then the marketing gurus will put some ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ label on the product.

pinkunicornBrands do not have a moral imperative to do what is right; they have a fiduciary imperative to their shareholders to do what is profitable. Marketers simply take whatever narrative is widely accepted, and fashion a campaign around it. So if your society’s narrative convinces you that invisible pink unicorns grow organic salt, brand marketing experts will put a picture of a cute unicorn on the package. More than that, they will develop a religious fervour around unicorns to ensure you keep buying their salt.

Intensive marketing of products around an illogical narrative will reinforce it and insulate consumers from rational discourse. It took several generations to get mothers to return to breastfeeding and today the stigma still resonates. The more companies, brands and retailers promote high-margin organic food brands as attainable luxuries, the more the stigma of conventional farming will spread. I fear this marketing episode will take more than a generation to return the narrative to a rational balance, and with a growing global population, I am not sure the food chain can survive such a prolonged stretch of Stupid. Lives will be lost (… but not those involved in the market research studies!).

While the narrative shift towards organic and natural has created enormous marketing opportunities, without any scientific guidance, it has also led to significant societal risk. Some examples: Pepsi has started promoting soft-drinks with traditional (natural or real) sugars; Chipotle has grown beyond the capacity of a safe, organic supply chain. I cannot fathom the depth of depravity of snake-oil supplements salesmen like Joseph Mercola or Wayne Parent who invest heavily in spreading the narrative mischief that underlines their bottom line. The most blatant marketing offender though has been Cargill, who recognise that the anti-GMO science is wrong, but, with zero integrity, spot the market opportunity of the growing cultural narrative and are working with the activists to take over the organic supply chain.  Pepsi is not responsible for the rise in obesity levels (or the environmental damage of increased sugar cane production), nor is Chipotle responsible for growing public distrust in the food chain, and it seems Cargill will not be accountable for serious stresses in global food security and potential famines.

6 You Suck6. You Suck!

The key marketing trick is to convince the consumer that he or she sucks. Shame, (fear of) humiliation and peer inadequacy are key tricks for motivating consumption. If you don’t buy my expensive fashion label, use my high-end mobile phone, eat in this expensive gourmet hamburger joint or drive the right type of car, well, You Suck!

Nobody wants to be a bad parent, bad boyfriend, bad person so the solution is to buy an overpriced product, shop at the Organic Emporium, wear trendy clothes from Goop, get designer nappies from Honest … please spend all of your money to finally be someone. Otherwise, … You Suck! (Ironically, I developed this idea from an early piece from the head of Greenpeace America, Annie Leonard.)

Organic retailers like Whole Foods Market create an aspirational brand – a smug: “You’ve made it and can afford what is good for you and your family!”. A Belgian Bio-Planet supermarket (equivalent to Whole Foods in its elitist foodie pretentiousness) is on my running route, and each time I pass, I can’t help but count the number of Beemers and Mercs in the car-park (strangely, no bicycles). What sort of person who could afford a luxury lifestyle would not then pop a couple thousand extra a year for luxury food? Only one who sucks!

Mamavation and Moms Across America are the most unethical exploiters of this marketing trick, aiming at the marketer’s sweet spot: the guilt-prone mother. When Mamavation published its smug Top 10 Reasons to Feed Your Family Organic (let’s face it, only a bad mother would not!), I lost it and wrote my Top 20 reasons not to feed your family organic. I was not prepared for the positive reaction that blog received from people who were fed up with the condescending nature of these marketing experts.

What the organic lobby has done so brilliantly is turn the “You Suck!” nuclear option back on the brands and retailers themselves. Just Label It and USRTK tell brands that if they use GMOs or don’t put GMO-free on the label, then their consumer movement will reject the brand or company. Vani Hari, The Food-Babe, used “You Suck!” to cower chains like Subway and McDonald’s to fall in line to her organic simplicity. Recently, the Organic Consumer Association used their patsy in the New York Times to try to “greenmail” Ben & Jerry’s to go all organic. Until now, Unilever are resisting the “You Suck!” pressure tactics.

Even more interesting is how the organic lobby has made divisiveness core to their campaigns. Without any ethical codes of conduct, organic lobbyists are fighting dirty, attacking anyone who disagrees with them, labeling them Monsanto shills (the ultimate sucking!) and portraying conventional farmers as evil capitalists poisoning the planet. If you don’t farm organic, then You Suck! If you support science and agri-tech, then you’re a shill and … yes, … You Suck!

Apparently I suck so bad that quite regularly some pro-organic actor wishes me dead on twitter.  I suppose this blog isn’t going to make that go away.

I had mentioned at the start that there were other marketing tools that the organic lobby uses. For example, our yearning for the good ol’ days (nostalgia) is very effective. How often do you see superficial memes reminding us that all agriculture used to be organic? The organic farmer is often portrayed as an old, friendly man with a straw-hat (as opposed to the conventional farmer in a hazmat suit).
Every marketing textbook will tell you that sex sells and a goal in making your product attractive. Sex is used as a marketing tool by the organic lobby (but not as much as one would anticipate). Besides the obvious efforts of Vani Hari’s Food Babe character, Rodale and Cliff have been trying to show how an organic life leads to better sex.

The Risk-Monger has Hope

I know, I know, … “hope” is a pathetic straw clutched by losers still in the game … but I need something to fuel these lonely, late night writing sessions!

I cannot see any intrinsic value to promoting organic food (note this blog did not get into the negative consequences, of which there are many), which implies that the organic lobby has used superficial marketing tricks alone to grow their business. Ironically, this is good news long term (although history will judge the present period as pathetically stupid).

Building your house on the marketing concepts discussed above is not a sound business decision. While scientific facts, evidence and data are reliable for long-term planning, fear and emotion are not. People may wake up tomorrow and realise that the arguments and tricks these marketers built up are quite hollow, ethically-challenged or, simply put, scams. Consumers may see the elitist privilege behind the labels and look for other meaningful brand identification. Or the supply chain may struggle under the weight of such marketing success, leaving retailers and manufactures to race to find alternative marketing tools (remember “organic cotton”?).

The rise of Big Organic, its marketing muscle and its regulatory influence has been impressive. Social media in the Age of Stupid, combined with the affluence of western societies persuading people to fear commerce and industry, has allowed this new consumer sector to flourish. Such a tower built on sand can, however, collapse in a heart-beat … and then what?

In the autumn, I will publish a series of blogs providing an alternative to the mess these marketers have forced upon us. The solution will not be more science and facts however … but more clever marketing tricks.

Yes, indeed, The Risk-Monger sucks!

 

More on moneygrubbing by Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth are great at presenting emotional arguments for their various green concerns  – from Bees to Fracking.

Here Nick Grealy argues it is all a money-making ploy by FoE. (Yes, I nicked his blog, which though two years old is still relevant)

I cannot understand why any still support them

SHALE OPPONENTS: WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

http://www.reimaginegas.com/?p=2470

mothers

I’ve always wondered why Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are against shale gas, but I never thought them cynical. But recently, I’m starting to think that they, and many of the  householders they ally themselves with, aren’t interested in the big picture of climate change, but spare change. They could well be only in it for the money.

For example, Dr Paul Stevens of Chatham House, is often quoted approvingly by FoE, this being only one of several examples on the FoE website.

Exploitation of shale gas in the UK could have a major impact on the investment in renewable energy needed to decarbonize the energy sector. Energy expert Professor Paul Stevens of Chatham House has written that “There is a real fear among many analysts that shale gas may substitute not for coal but for renewables” and that “the anticipation of cheap natural gas could inhibit investment in renewables. But again, if the revolution fails to deliver a lot of cheap gas, by the time this is realized it could well be too late to revert to a solution to climate change based upon renewables”

Dr Stevens also appeared at the Canterbury Debate this year, mostly on the anti-side. He’s been quoted here over the years as the search button shows.  After all, he’s predicted doom and gloom about US shale for five years.  He hasn’t been right there obviously, but his way of thinking is very popular in the City of London for example. In a deferential society like the the UK,  only those with credentials can become experts.  Actually being right or wrong doesn’t come into it.

But on June 17 at the World National Oil Companies Congress,  I asked him while I was moderating the session on shale oil and gas worldwide, a little local question:  Why are FoE and Greenpeace so vocal in their opposition to UK shale?

No video exists, but Paul, with no prompting, and far less hesitation replied something like this:

 “After the financial crash, the FoE and Greenpeace lost, like everyone else, a lot of financial support and members. They use shale as a fundraising tool”

Me (somewhat incredulously):  “They’re only in this for the money?”

Stevens:  “Well, they’ve had a surge in membership since Balcombe in 2013”

The FoE don’t have any easily accessible membership numbers to see the trend but they do highlight this within their 2012/13 report.

18,000new supporters as a result of The Bee Cause campaign.

I recall a conversation I had with an FoE fundraiser (she admitted she was paid £6.80 an hour plus commission) in Covent Garden London earlier this year. She admitted that a lot of people complained about the fracking opposition, but during her training was told to divert those conversations to their bee campaign.

I’m happy to support the Bee campaign, but the FoE anti-fracking campaign is mentioned far more often by both them and the media.  Speaking of the media, Here’s an exchange between Roger Harrabin (Chief Environmental Correspondent of the BBC) and I earlier in June:

Roger

Considering the debate in the UK constantly talks about “unstudied”  “controversial” shale gas impact on water supplies, I’m at a loss to understand the editorial decisions as to why the end of a four year US EPA study of water in the US that found no big effect is not worthy of comment

Multiple other stories in US press, the FT has been the only one in Europe that’s covered the story.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/epa-hydraulic-fracking-water-supply-contamination.html?_r=0

 

On 7 Jun 2015, at 15:51, Roger Harrabin – Internet wrote:

I have said virtually the same for the past six years Nick – so it’s not news to me

For others… it has been impossible to get stories on air recently cos of other major news

From: Nick Grealy

Date: Sunday, 7 June 2015 17:44

To: Roger Harrabin

Subject: Re: Fracking Has Not Had Big Effect on Water Supply, E.P.A. Says While Noting Risks – NYTimes.com

Well I’m hoping that this is a sign of the normalisation of “unconventional” shale,  it has rather slipped reassuringly off the radar of the national press.

But at the point of trying to get planning permission it is very hard to undo the damage of years of assertions about how shale is killing the water, when the biggest study ever done gets ignored. Shale opponents can cite a wall of assertions to their local councils and MPS. It would be nice if the refutation was included. Not including peer reviewed multi year studies, while anecdote and innuendo made every front page two years ago, and more importantly, lives on the internet forever. This makes enabling natural gas, and cutting carbon, that much more difficult.

Hope to hear nothing more about shale ever again from mainstream UK press, but doubt that I have…

Thanks anyway for the response Roger, much appreciated

All best

Nick

Finally:

Nick

It’s about house prices

It always is

At least shale unlike wind has not been flattened by the syndrome

There we have it. It’s down to money from the FoE and house prices according to the chief environmental correspondent of the BBC. And all this time I have been rather innocently trying  to point out that natural gas is a solution to the climate question. When it appears that isn’t the real issue after all.

Worth mentioning again, Norton Rose‘s report of last year, which saw a link between proximity and how likely people will sue:

While merely speculation, the rise in such litigation evidenced by the cases discussed may be attributed, at least in part, to increased drilling in proximity to populated areas and heightened media scrutiny of the process.

A discussion about Scottish land rights in the FT recently had a quote which transfers perfectly to Balcombe or Lancashire:

“In small communities, if you kick one person, 20 people start to limp,”

The difference between legitimate protestors and shake down artists, as we see from those in Lancashire who tried to get payouts from Cuadrilla for earthquake damages without ever providing even photos, may not be so far after all.

 

GMOS and science, money, and fake news

 

Some Greens have several shibboleths; usually  pro-organic, anti certain pesticides and glyphosphate and most certainly anti-GMO. (I forgot renewables and fracking)

To focus on GMOs many Green GMOs , like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth oppose them. As do the Green Party.

As a Christian I am concerned that they also are a shibboleth for Christian Greens and groups like Christian Aid. Eco-congregation encourage you to oppose, and as I don’t like people starving to death I don’t do Eco-congregation

GMO EU action

Typical Greenpeace fake news

GMOdeaths

Black humour on the lack of danger of GMOs

NonGMO salt

This sums it all up. But I take non-GMO salt with a pinch of salt.

 

Well, here is a good article on the subject, based on the film Food Evolution

Source: Food Evolution documentary looks at science, money, and fake news around GMOs | PLOS Synthetic Biology Community

Food Evolution aims to take a look at the science underlying the heated rhetoric of the GMO debate. Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson and on-camera experts walk through the major claims and key players. While the documentary tries to communicate the science, it also realizes that the GMO debate isn’t just about the science. It’s about financial interests, fear, and fake news.

Follow the money

The financial interests in GMOs, and GM foods in particular, are enormous. We’re talking about the food supply of billions of people and some of the biggest brand names in the world. On the GMO side sits one of the most hated brands in the world, Monsanto. Food Evolution talks about their history producing harmful pesticides like DDT and the infamous herbicide Agent Orange. Crowds of people rally against the company and at one point even singing “Monsanto is the devil” in a church choir style.

When the documentary looks beyond the United States, we see countries dealing with the fear of GMOs against the real threat of crop shortages. In Uganda, farmers watch as fields of banana trees are lost to the “Ebola of the banana” called banana wilt. We meet the scientist who has to explain how the new GM banana gets its banana wilt resistance from sweet pepper genes and how the government has to act to let the technology move forward. Then one of the farmers has to explain to her that others “think your work is against humanity”. This is the result of anti-GMO messaging being pushed across the globe.

There’s big money to be made from both sides of the GMO debate. Obviously companies like Monsanto have been derided for their profits while selling GM crops. but Food Evolution also gets into the financial incentives of the anti-GMO side. Companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle can build their brand as a healthy and all natural by demonizing the GMO products. Millions are spent on ad campaigns to make things sound healthier, even if there are no studies to back it up. Making GMO foods sound scary gives an advantage to the products with the no GMO sticker on them and more profits to places like Whole Foods.

Fear still wins a lot of arguments

The biggest tool that anti-GMO activists use is fear. Genetically modifying sounds like something from a poorly written supervillain. Inserting more uncertainty into the discussion helps bolster the argument for sticking with traditional agriculture. While scientists want to see multiple studies supporting a claim, activists interviewed in the film were more than willing to stake claims based on one study even if it’s later refuted. The argument goes that any chance that the study is right puts a risk on us. One speaker even instill the fear in parents of giving their children diseases by having fed them GMO or non-organic foods. No parent wants to feel that there’s any chance they may have given their child cancer.

Environmental activist Mark Lynas knows from experience that fear is a more effective tool than facts. He used to be an anti-GMO activist and is still active in raising awareness about threats from climate change. Upon researching the science he found the anti-GMO position on shaky ground and the climate change position with the scientific consensus. However, his tools for convincing people and motivating change remained largely the same.

“It’s much easier to scare people that it is to reassure them” ~Mark Lynas in Food Evolution

Arguments based on fear can sound convincing regardless of how sound the underlying facts are. Food Evolution pokes holes in many anti-GMO arguments but does find partial truths in some of their arguments. The trick is to take partial truths and uncertainty and dress them up as science. On the consumer end, it’s difficult to discern the validity of sources and scientific claims.

GMO science has its own fake news problem

Fake news knows more than most that fear is one of our most motivating factors. Fear sells because it drives ratings on TV and clicks online. Like fake news in other areas, the stories are driven by viral content regardless of its accuracy.

In the GMO debate there’s a narrative that genetically engineering crops brings threats that are totally non-existent in traditional breeding and farming. As anti-GMO activist Zen Honyecutt puts it, “Organic food is the way God made it”. These scenes with Honeycutt and other activists aren’t flattering when juxtaposed with the scientific evidence that humans have been changing crops since the dawn of agriculture. That doesn’t mean they’re not effective in clickbait headlines.

Some information can avoid being completely false while still being misleading. A major chunk of the film is devoted to the back and forth over the use of the herbicide glyphosate, commonly called Roundup. Plants engineered to be resistant to glyphosate–Roundup Ready crops–have lead to the increased use of  glyphosate since it now only kills weeds without harming the crop. This has lead to the increase in glyphosate in our food supply and environment. However, it’s significantly less toxic than the pesticide DDT or other herbicides. In fact, by some standards it’s rated less toxic than caffeine. The argument over GMOs and glyphosate usage hinges on what our alternative is. Are we willing or able to drastically reduce yields without an herbicide? Or do we go back to the more toxic versions? We rarely get to these questions as it’s much harder to settle a common understanding of the facts.

So what do we do now?

The film acknowledges that science and facts aren’t enough to change people’s minds. There are no clear answers here on how to convince the skeptical public. The scene at an Intelligence Squareddebate in which the GMO side wins shows that it may be possible to convince an audience of people with open minds, but it certainly doesn’t show you how to change the mind of those who have already dug in with a position. It might however give you some science-based answers to your GMO questions.

Food Evolution’s distribution is now being handled by Abramorama with a planned New York release of June 23 and select cities after that. See the trailer and more movie info at www.foodevolutionmovie.com.

Aaron Dy is PhD student in Biological Engineering at MIT.

Is Young Earth Creationism actually scientific?

THE SCIENCE OF YEC

Now this cartoon is a bit naughty but after it I answer the question!

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The tendency to dismiss YEC as pseudoscience or antiscience overlooks
the fact that YEC emerged from a scientific culture. McCready Price and
Morris were products of a technological education, which they revered.
YECs use an extreme version that science is empirical and experimental
to support a literalistic faith. This goes beyond the witticism of Ernest
Rutherford (1871–1937), and Nobel Prize winner in 1908, who said, “All
science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Like many aphorisms it is a
half-truth, but it explains why experiment is thought to be the essence of
science. This is reinforced as many studies on the philosophy of science
focus on empirical science and ignore historical science. Historical science
includes geology and archeology which deal with unique past events not
open to empirical test. However that does not mean that historical science
cannot be tested rigorously. This extreme experimentalismis reinforced as
many, especially males, tend to have studied more physical science than
geology or biology. Also, the study of rock strata and their relationships is
observational rather than experimental, but that does notmean that it lacks
scientific rigor. This can result in the hierarchy of sciences with physics
at the top and the “soft” social sciences at the bottom and geology and
biology somewhere in-between.
In Scientific Creationism Henry Morris develops this and questions the
reliability of any historical science because past events are unrepeatable.
He states, “At the same time, itmust be emphasized that it is impossible to
prove scientifically any particular concept of origins to be true. This is obvious
from the fact that the essence of the scientific method is experimental
observation and repeatability” (Morris, 1974, p. 4) He then develops his
two-model approach. To him neither is provable as both are “faith positions”
and dependent either on the Bible or materialism. As the Bible is
true so must be “creation,” that is creation in six days. Thus brieflyMorris
presents the case for rejecting all geological and cosmological arguments
for deep time. Thirty years onMorris’s argument is still held.On a popular
level Ken Ham developed this with his question, “were you there?” about
anything relating to the deep past, which is recommended for schoolchildren,
claiming biblical support from Job 38 vs 4, “Where were you when I
laid the foundation of the earth?”

Image result for ken ham image

Similarly, John Morris of ICR says that
not once has a rock “talked to him” and explained its history. The YEC
extreme experimentalism also questions whether historical sciences can
be science, as nothing in historical science can be tested experimentally.
In a sense, that is true. However, rather than recognizing the difference
between empirical and historical science YECs aim to show that historical
science cannot demonstrate anything about the past. This would also
nullify historical arguments for the existence of Jesus Christ!
Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson tried to resolve the problem of
“Creation and Evolution” in their book Origin Science, a Proposal for the
Creation-Evolution controversy (Geisler and Anderson, 1987). Geisler was
a witness at the Arkansas trial in 1981 and a well-respected conservative
theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary. Following the suggestions of
Bradley et al. (1984, p. 204) that a science about past singularities should
be termed origin science, the authors tried to resolve the controversy by
distinguishing between operational and origin science, and “If both evolution
and creation honor these principles, then proponents of each can
at least engage in meaningful discussion” (Blurb to book). Origin Science
dealswith the unrepeatable events of the past and operational science deals
with repeatable present events. This goes beyond the common distinction
of empirical and historical science in that there is a possibility of divine
action in origin Science. They regard geological science as dealing with
historical regularities, but singularities can be explained by special creation
or macroevolution and that scientific evidence can show “that there is a
constant conjunction between a primary intelligent cause and a certain
kind of event” (p. 17) which points to a supernatural cause. The authors
are critical of the development of a “modern naturalistic approach” in astronomy
(Descartes, Buffon, and Laplace) and geology (Lyell) and biology
(Darwin).

james-hutton-caracitureAngular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

Hutton and his unconformity

They overstate their case as they fail to realize how close the
naturalistic geology of Lyell and much of Darwin’s biology (and geology)
is to that of their “theistic” counterparts like Sedgwick (Roberts, 2004,
pp. 280–285) and others mentioned in Chapter 4. Their conclusion is that
origin science, which allows for divine intervention is better than today’s
naturalistic historical science.
This and The Origin of Life (Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen, 1984) has provided
much of the basis for Intelligent Design (ID), with its attack on
Naturalism. The distinction of operational and origin science is now well establishedwith
YECs and ID,with origin science nowincluding all historical
science. However despite the avowal of geological time by Geisler and
Thaxton, origin science is often used to question geological time. This is
combined with a rejection of conventional geology as uniformitarian and
naturalistic and based on the antitheistic beliefs of Lyell (in fact a theist)
and Hutton, who both had roots in the Enlightenment. The combination
of origin science and anti-naturalism in its various guises, whether YEC
or ID, provides the basis for a powerful rhetorical attack on geology and
evolutionary biology. First, all “uniformitarian” geology can be charged
with being naturalistic and secondly that as geological arguments for great
age are historical, they cannot be verified empirically. Thus deep time or the
short timescale of YEC are equally valid and both ultimately faith-positions,
based on naturalismand theismrespectively. It can also be used to dismiss
all geology, by claiming that as an evolutionary origin science its conclusions
are entirely dependent on its presuppositions,without definingwhat
those are as does the AIG speaker Paul Taylor (Taylor, 2006). Opponents
of evolution used this during the campaigns of 2002/2003 in Ohio, when
SEAO published the following statement.

Historical science. Most sciences, including chemistry and physics, are empirical
(or experimental) in nature; theories can be tested by experiments in the laboratory
and/or by observations of the world. Some disciplines, like origins science, are
historical in nature; that is, they attempt to explain events and processes that
have already taken place in the distant past. Theories in historical sciences cannot
be verified experimentally, so the explanations are always tentative. Biological
evolution (like creation and design) cannot be proven to be either true or false. The
historical nature of evolution/design theory should be explained in the standards.

Had that passed into the statutes in Ohio it would have been impossible
for conventional scientists to teach either geology or biology without
breaking the law. At present, this distinction of operational and origin science
is widely used in both ID and YEC circles, including on the teaching
of science.Many find it plausible and so; if “creation” and “evolution” are
equally valid “faith” positions, why not teach both?
Uniformitarianism has long been criticized by YEC writers. In The Genesis
Flood Morris criticises Uniformitarianism at length, and this is now a
basic tenet of YEC. When Morris wrote the book in the late 1950s, there
had been little serious study of the history of geology, except that by the
evangelical Hooykaas (1957) and the then received account of the birth of
geology was that the founders, notably Hutton and Lyell, struggled heroically
against the constraints of the church. Historians of geology have
overthrown this “heroic” understanding of the history of geology during
the last three decades (Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time 2004). Hutton and Lyell were only two of many geologists, rather than the founders of geology with an anti-
Christian bent. It is, of course, impossible to do any geology without a basic
assumption of the uniformity of past physical processes. Otherwise one
would simply invent changes to physical processes in the past to explain
the unexplainable.
Steve Austin greatly misuses Uniformitarianism in his comparison of
the Grand Canyon and gorges carved out Mt. St. Helens after the 1980
eruption. Mudflows carved out thirty meters gorges in soft volcanics in
one day. YECs falsely claim that uniformitarians argue that this would
have needed millions of years.

146

178

A jet of water 🙂 quickly erodes this!!

They then claimed that the Grand Canyon
could be carved out rapidly.

570

 

Featured Image -- 5288

 

This argument is found in the AIG tract The
Voice of the Volcano and might convince the uninformed, but it fails to
recognize that unconsolidated volcanic ashes can be eroded rapidly but
not the hardened rock of the Grand Canyon. This can be shown by turning
a garden hose on a pile of loose sand and then on the brickwork of the
house.
On the philosophy of science YECs make use of Thomas Kuhn’s The
Structure of Scientific Revolution. Kuhn’s thesis of paradigm shifts in scientific
theories is well known, but is not the last word. By using Kuhn’s
Paradigm Shifts writers try to demonstrate that because of the new YEC scientific
paradigm, the old evolutionary paradigmis crumbling and needs to
be replaced by a YEC paradigm. Throughout his book Creation and Change,
Genesis 1.1–2.4 in the light of changing scientific paradigm Kelly argues that
the new evidence (for a young earth) is crying out for a paradigm shift.
There is an incongruity in the YEC use of Kuhn as he reckoned paradigms
were changed because of scientific consensus rather than a closer approximation
to scientific truth. Kuhn rejected realism in science, whereas YECs
(and Dawkins) are na¨ıve realists and tend to absolutizewhat they consider
true science.

Fracking doesn’t damage your health: an impartial study

Anyone who has heard of fracking will have heard of horror stories of ill-health caused by fracking, summed up by Dame Vivienne Westwood’s shocking doll, supposedly showing the effects of fracking on new-borns.

(NB This is NOT Westwood 🙂 )

frackedbaby

Or the scaremongering of Friends of the Earth, who could not prove their claims. Poor Bosworth got tied in knots on BBC TV.fracking-sand

 

and the grossly misleading signs outside Maple Farm at Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire

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Dishonest memes resulting from usual Guardian reporting

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This nonsense

CaJVbzFWEAgmsif

or these two Nanas afraid of getting cancer

Frackingsmoking

This type of scaremongering is the staple of anti-frackers in Britain and America.

It comes out in the newsletter of the Chartered Inst of Environmental Health in this article by the recently arrested Gina Dowding

Green view: the 10 ways fracking ‘may harm your health’

Gina Dowding

 

http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=13110

2

She includes this picture of close oil wells not realising that gas uses christmas trees not donkeys and wells are not closely packed. Tut tut.

10. Inadequate regulation

 

Her stuff on regulations seems to be nicked from Mike Hill

Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

and so this report from the USA helps to counteract these silly myths.

It points out how weak the actual claims are, and that the increased health risks are either non-existent or minimal.

Quite a few of these pee(r) reviewed papers by academics have had to be withdrawn.

This does science no good at all.

If you want a longer report here is one; http://eidhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Positive-Health-Compendium.pdf

So here we go.

 

 

Environmental Research Group Report Exposes Flaws Of Fracking Health Studies

BY SETH WHITEHEAD JULY 3, 2017

http://eidhealth.org/environmental-research-group-report-exposes-flaws-of-fracking-health-studies/

Ever notice how fracking opponents tend to focus on quantity rather than quality when touting studies claiming shale development harms public health? The following 2015 comments by Food & Water Watch’s Emily Wurth are just one example,

“In 2014 alone there were 154 peer-reviewed studies that came out on the impacts of shale gas development, many of which found serious concerns. So that’s about three studies a week. I mean, those of us who work on this issue thought to ourselves, wow, it seems like there’s a new study on the problems of fracking every other day.”

A comprehensive report released earlier this month by environmental research group Resources for the Future (RFF) — certainly no shill for oil and gas — reveals why anti-fracking activists are focusing on quantity rather than quality. RFF reviewed 32 of the more prominent shale-focused studies on birth outcomes, cancers, asthma, and other health effects, including migraines and hospitalization.

Cumulatively, none of those major categories of studies were deemed “high quality,” while studies on birth defects, hospitalizations and multiple symptoms were cumulatively deemed to be of “low quality,” as the following matrix from the report shows.

 

 

Report authors Alan J. Krupnick and Isabel Echarte of RFF were rather blunt in their critiques of the shale-focused health studies they evaluated. As EID has pointed out many times before, a vast majority of studies released linking fracking to adverse health outcomes fail to prove causation, and the RFF report also notes this prevalent, glaring flaw,

“Overall, we find that the literature does not provide strong evidence regarding specific health impacts and is largely unable to establish mechanisms for any potential health effects.”

“Due to the nature of the data and research methodologies, the studies are unable to assess the mechanisms of any health impacts (i.e., whether a certain impact is caused by air pollution, stress, water pollution, or another burden). Even where good evidence is offered for a link between unconventional oil and gas development and health, the causal factor(s) driving this association are unclear.”

Krupnick and Echarte took particular issue with epidemiological studies, which represented a vast majority of the literature reviewed, including several studies EID has debunked (more on those in a bit). Epidemiological studies are inherently limited in that they can only determine associations rather than proof of causation. Notably, such studies have been employed prominently since a 2012 activist memo was released detailing a strategy to use scientific research to drive opposition to fracking and expand regulations. And although such studies have proven to be an ideal vehicle to generate alarmist headlines despite the continued trend of failing to prove causation, RFF notes that the epidemiological fracking health studies “all had shortcomings that were most often significant,” adding:

“These studies furthermore reported contradictory results for each impact. Some studies, for example, found increases in preterm birth, while others found decreases or no association. As is illustrated by the Community Risk-Benefit Matrix, all impacts had inconsistent findings across the literature for that outcome. Where the results of these studies did not contradict each other, the impact was only analyzed by a single study.”

Though the report does not directly identify exactly which studies it categorized as being “lower quality” — which is defines as having “multiple, serious flaws” that invalidate its conclusions entirely — it is not difficult to glean which studies are considered “lower quality” by RFF, based on the following comments made about the following epidemiological studies EID has debunked.

• Casey et al. (2016). Authored by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, this study, attempted to link fracking to premature births in Pennsylvania. EID pointed out soon after the study was released that its data not only failed to establish such a link, the researchers failed to use available baseline data, take measurements and didn’t factor in genetics and socioeconomic factors. The study also drew sharp criticism from Dr. Tony Cox, a clinical professor of biostatistics and informatics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. RFF notes many of the flaws flagged by Cox and EID in its report:

RFF: “The authors found no correlation of unconventional natural gas activity with Apgar score, SGA or term birth weight. Cox (2016) critiques the study, primarily on the issue of using proxies to estimate exposure (an issue present in most studies). The problem with the methodology of the study is that Casey et al. (2016) have addressed only for mothers in 2010 and 2013 yet analyze 2009 through 2013. Between those two years, almost 80 percent had the same address, with 6 percent moving within 1,500 meters (m) and another 10 percent moving 1,500 m to 16 km from their original addresses. This discrepancy has the potential to introduce some error into the estimates — particularly those from 2009.”

• Jamielita et al. (2015). This University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University study asserts correlation between natural gas development and an increase in hospitalizations based on zip codes in three Pennsylvania counties: Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne. But among a myriad of flaws highlighted by EID — including the fact that the county with the highest number of wells (Bradford) actually had the lowest overall inpatient occurrences, are two reoccurring themes repeatedly flagged by RFF in its report: failure to prove causation and failure to determine other contributing factors.

RFF“This issue with this analysis — simply comparing zip codes with and without wells — is that a number of unobservable differences may bias the results, meaning zip codes that have drilling might be different than zip codes that do not have drilling in a way that affects the prevalence of inpatient cardiology or neurology rates. Additionally, this level of analysis likely is not able to address within-zip code variation in exposure.”

• Hill (2013a, 2013b) Despite the fact that these papers by then-Cornell doctoral candidate Elaine Hill purporting that there is a “causal” relationship between natural gas development and low birth rates, hadn’t (and apparently still haven’t) been subject to peer review, they were used to justify New York’s fracking ban. Outside experts interviewed by the New York Times said the paper was “devoid of meaningful data” and a “badly suspect piece of work,” and the RFF report also noted that criticism:

RFF: “[T]hese working papers have received critical reviews and are not yet published in peer-reviewed journals… The most important is that they relied on the assumption that mothers who live near a permitted well and mothers who live near a drilled or producing well have similar characteristics — that their socioeconomic characteristics, which may also influence birth outcomes, do not change between the time a well is permitted and when that well begins producing… This is an important issue, as mothers who are more well-off may move away from oil and gas development, or mothers who are less well-off may take advantage of decreased home prices.

• McKenzie et al. (2014) This study, which suggests a link between fracking and birth defects, was authored by a team of researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) led by Lisa McKenzie. The researchers were actually disavowedby the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which provided the state birth records used for the paper. It was so poorly researched, and its findings were so alarmist, that the CDPHE demanded the inclusion of a disclaimer in the paper itself: “CDPHE specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.” Considering it is the only birth defects study mentioned in the RFF report, it is clear this study alone led to RFF’s “lower quality” label for such studies, and the report notes further criticism of the 2014 paper:

RFF: “Fedak et al. (2014), in a published critique of the study, also took issue with the study’s hypothesis that benzene is the mechanism through which the defects occur, as the study provides little evidence to support this claim.”

• McKenzie et al. (2017) This study, claiming to find an association between oil and gas development and childhood cancer, was immediately disavowed by the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) for a myriad of reasons, including its small sample size, failure to measure individual exposure and failure to address additional or alternate risk factors. The RFF report kept its criticism of this universally panned study short, but to the point:

RFF: “There are many issues that might bias the results of the study.”

• Rasmussen et al. (2016) This well known study, the second of a series of three Johns Hopkins University study spearheaded by researchers affiliated with the Post Carbon Institute, claimed to establish a link between proximity to natural gas development and asthma flare-ups. EID exposed several of this study’s flaws, most notably the all-too-common theme of lack of proof of causation and other factors among the population that could contribute to asthma exacerbations. RFF notes the latter flaw in its report:

RFF: “[T]he study, however, did not report the characteristics of populations within each exposure quartile, and it is therefore difficult to assess whether the results are credible.”

• Stacy et al. (2015). This study, which was funded by the anti-fracking Heinz-Endowment and published in a journal that does not require peer-review, claimed to find a link between fracking and low birth weights. The study (as usual) failed to prove causation and included contradictory data. None of the average birthweights found were actually considered “low” by the medical definition of the term, and all regions studied had average birthweights above the national average. Furthermore, the study’s data actually showed that the average birth weight in study area farthest away from shale gas wells was 3,343.9 grams, much lower than those in the second region (3,370.4) and third region (3,345.4), which were closer to shale gas wells. RFF noted the latter in its report:

RFF: “The study did not find any significant effects of well density on premature births, except for a higher average birth weight and a lower share of premature infants born to mothers living in the second exposure quartile — an odd result. The study also uses a 10-mile radius, larger than many other studies for analysis, which makes it difficult to control for variation within that area of interest. This large radius means the results could reflect differences in health outcomes due to socioeconomic status, for example, rather than proximity to natural gas development.”

• Tustin et al. (2017). The third in a series of Johns Hopkins University studies led by a researcher who is a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, this study trumpeted a link between migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms and severe fatigue. But as the RFF report notes, one of its numerous flaws was failing to take into account the myriad of factors that can contribute to these ailments and — once again — failure to even remotely prove causation.

RFF: “Each of these symptoms can be caused by multiple factors, such as stress, sleep deprivation, noise, odors, hormonal issues, toxins, allergens, and more. Though too much weight should not be placed on the results, because of the aforementioned issues with bias in self-reporting symptoms and with exposure proxies, it is suggestive of a relationship between natural gas activity and health effects. Like many of the studies discussed in this section, however, the mechanism for such effects is not able to be ascertained.”

Conclusion

This RFF report confirms the prevailing flaws of fracking health studies EID has been highlighting for years: lack of proof of causation, contradictory findings, faulty methodology and classic “more studies needed” mantra.

And the fact remains that fracking opponents’ preferred scientific study of choice — epidemiological studies — aren’t designed to prove causation in the first place, which means we can expect more of the same going forward, so long as the media continues to give the movement the alarmist headlines it truly desires.

 

 

Backlash to flawed ‘landmark’ European neonicotinoid study: Inconclusive data suggest both health benefits and harm

Over recent years we have heard much on the decline of bees and that the main cause is neonicotinoid pesticides.  Green groups like Friends of the Earth have turn it into A money-making campaign,  sorry, I mean a matter of serious concern. As I don’t trust Fiends of the Earth on other matters I suspected that this claim was wrong. My observations in my garden indicate that bees of all sorts are thriving.

(However, we need to increase all insect loving plants as a matter of course, and I’ve done my bit in my garden.)

I follow Genetic Literacy and find their arguments convincing – but I am not a biologist. When this came out I was concerned as it was by biologists form good British universities, so I checked out and found that it is a weak paper.

What worries me is that some environmentally concerned scientists are not critical enough in their studies and produce weak papers with unsupported conclusions. This happens frequently over aspects of fracking e.g. health, methane emissions, pollution etc. Several papers have been retracted.

So here is a worrying read, but please go and plant a hebe or buddleia after you have read it

I hope Genetic Literacy don’t mind me re-blogging it, but their stuff is worth following

 

Upside down news: A backlash by independent scientists has begun to emerge, challenging sensational accounts of a ‘landmark’ European field study of bees and neonics that the study authors claim ‘proves’ neonics are a key driver of bee health problems.

Source: Backlash to flawed ‘landmark’ European neonicotinoid study: Inconclusive data suggest both health benefits and harm