Category Archives: science

Georges Lemaitre – the Big Bang Cosmology and its metaphysical implications (I)

A short account of the FATHER of the Big Bang

science meets faith

Georges Lemaitre was astrophysicist and Catholic priest; he did not find a conflict between science and faith. He carefully distinguished between „physics“ and „metaphysics“. We can learn from him to see God’s actions as those from the “Hidden God”. Modern Cosmology does not make God redundant or degrades God to „just another actor in our cosmos”.

During the 1920ies, the Belgian astrophysicist George Lemaitre developed his cosmological theory postulating an abrupt beginning of the universe from an initial, superdense concentration of nuclear matter called the “primeval atom” that expanded rapidly building stars and galaxies. He was not only an astrophysicist – he was also a Catholic priest, ordained in 1923.

The cosmological model at the time was static, and both Albert Einstein and Arthur Eddington, Lemaitre’s teacher in Cambridge, did not like Lemaitre’s dynamic model. Eddington even said that “the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature…

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GMO critic Vandana Shiva’s anti-modernity crusade threatens world’s poor

A vital green shibboleth is GMO food , which is seen as dangerous both physically and mentally. Thus eco-activists tend to be anti-GMO as well as anti-vaxxer, anti-petroleum and so on.

This article raises questions about the anti-GMO darling Vandana Shiva whose views are widely accepted including Green Christian circles. It shows the follow of too many Greens, who , in fact, undermine their own cause

She has fanned the opposition to Golden Rice and GMO cotton as this article shows.

Genetic Literacy Project

Viewpoint: GMO critic Vandana Shiva’s anti-modernity crusade threatens world’s poor

Henry Miller, Drew Kershen | Genetic Literacy Project | April 12, 2018
Vandana Shiva GMO 4248987
The recently-published “Social Justice Warrior Handbook,” which satirizes people who promote liberal, multicultural, anti-capitalist, anti-globalization, politically correct views, could have had Indian activist and mountebank Vandana Shiva on the cover. She opposes the tools and practices of modern agriculture and science–and well, modernity in general—and advocates retrogressive policies that will cause widespread malnourishment, deprivation and death to the very people she claims to champion. And she’s no friend of the environment, either.


Vandana Shiva GMO 4248987

Illustrating the quest for “Back to Nature” and anti-globalization fervor that has infected many U.S. universities, Shiva has been a popular guest lecturer at American universities. In recent years, she has been invited to a number of U.S. campuses, including Beloit College, the College of New Jersey, Arizona State, the University of Utah and Wake Forest and Georgia Southern Universities, among others. Although she gets good press from left-wing and environmental publications, and naïve undergraduates dote on her, Shiva is widely considered by the scientific community to be abjectly unbalanced (in both senses of the word) for advocating unsound policies and promulgating disproven theories about agriculture.

As science writer Jon Entine and Monsanto science communicator Dr. Cami Ryan discussed in a Forbes article, many of Shiva’s hobby horses have proven to be exceedingly lame. Some prominent examples:

The “Green Revolution.” The new varieties and practices of the Green Revolution provided greater food security to hundreds of millions of people in developing countries on much of the planet; it made available high-yielding varieties of wheat and also new agronomic and management practices that transformed the ability of Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, and parts of South America to feed their populations. From 1950 to 1992, the world’s grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland—an extraordinary increase in yield per acre of more than 150 percent. India is an excellent case in point. In 1963, wheat grew there in sparse, irregular strands, was harvested by hand, and was susceptible to rust disease. The maximum yield was 800 lb per acre. By 1968, the wheat grew densely packed, was resistant to rust, and the maximum yield had risen to 6000 lb per acre. Without high-yield agriculture, either millions would have starved or increases in food output would have been realized only through drastic expansion of land under cultivation—with losses of pristine wilderness far greater than all the losses to urban, suburban and commercial expansion.
rice 2 13 18 2And yet, from her perch in a parallel universe, Shiva contends that the Green Revolution actually caused hunger. Here, as elsewhere, she employs the propaganda technique known as the Big Lie, a phrase coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 book Mein Kampf. Shiva promulgates lies so “colossal” (as Hitler put it) that it seems inconceivable that someone could “have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Read on.

rice 2 13 18 2

Golden Rice, genetically engineered varieties that are biofortified, or enriched, by genes that produce beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. These could be a monumental public health breakthrough, because vitamin A deficiency is epidemic among poor people whose diet is composed largely of rice, which contains no beta-carotene or vitamin A. In developing countries, 200 million-300 million children of preschool age are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, which increases their susceptibility to illnesses including measles and diarrheal diseases. Every year, about half a million children become blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency and 70% of those die within a year. But Shiva is opposed to it: “By focusing on only one crop, rice, which by itself does not provide all the nutrients, including higher quantities of Vitamin A than Golden Rice, the Golden Rice pushers are in fact worsening the crisis of hunger and malnutrition.” “Promoters of Golden Rice are blind to diversity, and hence are promoters of blindness, both metaphorically and nutritionally,” she adds. Shiva has dismissed Golden Rice as a hoax and a myth–which are the vilest sort of lies, not unlike those of the pernicious charlatans who condemn childhood vaccination for the prevention of infectious diseases.
As Entine and Ryan wrote: “Shiva’s alternate proposed solution for promoting a ‘diversity of diet’ has not worked for the very poor who cannot afford to buy vegetables or fruits, or cannot devote the land on their subsistence farm to grow more of them.” The hoax is Shiva’s unworkable alternative, not the proven capabilities of genetic engineering.

cotton 2 13 18

Genetically engineered, pest-resistant cotton (Bt-cotton, so-called because it contains a protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that kills certain insects). Shiva claims that the cultivation of these seeds is not only ineffective but actually causes hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides in India. But Shiva’s statistics are cherry-picked, largely irrelevant and often simply wrong, and her argument relies on a fallacy of logic known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc–after the fact, therefore because of the fact. In other words, she confuses correlation with causation, the kind of “logic” that leads one to believe that autism is caused by organic food because of graphs like this one.
In a 2013 article in the journal Nature, agricultural socio-economist Dominic Glover observed, “It is nonsense to attribute farmer suicides solely to Bt cotton,” and moreover, “Although financial hardship is a driving factor in suicide among Indian farmers, there has been essentially no change in the suicide rate for farmers since the introduction of Bt cotton.”

Reinforcing Glover’s observations, a definitive, comprehensive study of Bt-cotton in India published in 2011 concluded: “Bt cotton is accused of being responsible for an increase of farmer suicides in India. . . Available data show no evidence of a ‘resurgence’ of farmer suicides. Moreover, Bt cotton technology has been very effective overall in India. Nevertheless, in specific districts and years, Bt cotton may have indirectly contributed to farmer indebtedness, leading to suicides, but its failure was mainly the result of the context or environment in which it was planted.” A 2006 study of four of India’s major cotton-producing states found that Bt-cotton gave rise to yield gains of approximately 31% and a 39% decrease in number of insecticide sprays, which led to an 88% increase in profitability, equivalent to about $250 per hectare.

cotton 2 13 18Eminent UC Berkeley agricultural economist David Zilberman echoes those findings and sums up India’s experience with genetic engineering this way: “India gained from adopting [genetic engineering applied to] cotton but has lost from not adopting it with other crops. The US, Brazil and Argentina adopted [genetic engineering] in corn and soybean, which led to increases in output and gains from exporting these extra crops. India and the rest of the world have also indirectly enjoyed benefits from the increased global supply of corn because of [genetic engineering].

In a 2014 article, “Seeds of Doubt,” in The New Yorker, investigative journalist Michael Specter called into question a number of Shiva’s claims regarding genetic engineering, as well as her ethics and judgment:

At times, Shiva’s absolutism about [genetic engineering] can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors. When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

We endorse shopping in the marketplace of ideas, but not when toxic goods there pollute it. Recall Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. Shiva is a seemingly endless font of bogus, made-up facts–that is to say, lies–and bizarre reasoning.

Even the way Shiva represents herself to the public at large and to potential speaking venues–variously as a “scientist,” “nuclear physicist,” or “quantum physicist–is untrue. However, she earned her doctorate not in physics, but in philosophy.

Ironically, Shiva’s connection with physics illustrates not her expertise in the discipline, but her wrong-headedness. Her dissertation in the philosophy of science at the University of Western Ontario focused on the debate over a central notion in physics known as Bell’s Theorem, which is concerned with “testing whether or not particles connected through quantum entanglement communicate information faster than the speed of light,” and which has been called the “most profound theory in science.” The abstract of Shiva’s dissertation states, in part: “It has been taken for granted that Bell’s [theorem] is based on a locality condition which is physically motivated, and thus his proof therefore falls into a class by itself. We show that both the above claims are mistaken”(emphasis added).

But contrary to Shiva’s conclusion, Bell’s theorem has been proven scientifically correct. As Entine and Ryan wrote, “The main thesis of quantum mechanics that she challenged has since been confirmed by experimental physics, meaning that her thesis stands at odds with factual reality.” But reality testing has never been Shiva’s forte.

The New Yorker’s Michael Specter wrote that Shiva has been called the “Gandhi of grain” and been “compared to Mother Teresa.” We think a more apt comparison would be to Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the charlatan and ideologue who single-handedly laid waste to Soviet agriculture during the Stalin era and for years thereafter.

While this upper-caste Indian gets little right about science, she is adept at extracting money from sponsors on the lecture circuit. According to her speakers’ agency, the Evil Twin Booking Agency (we did not make up that name), Shiva’s usual fee for an American university appearance is $40,000 plus a business class round-trip ticket from New Delhi. We can infer, then, that American universities probably pay Shiva around $50,000 for each appearance, at which she exposes their students to her mendacious, baseless attacks on modern agriculture and science.

As for the actual substance of Shiva’s presentations at universities, we can only imagine… After all, she is the author of “In Praise of Cowdung” – a paean to peasant agriculture and an attack on improved seeds and modern fertilizers in Indian agriculture. That essay in particular reminds us of an old “Peanuts” cartoon in which the character Lucy van Pelt is about to embark on a writing assignment. “Write about something you know well,” the teacher instructs. Lucy begins typing, “The air hung heavy with stupidity…”

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former trustee of the American Council on Science and Health. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Follow him on Twitter @henryimiller

Drew L. Kershen is the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma College of Law, in Norman, Okla.

This article was originally published at the American Council on Science and Health as “‘Social Justice Warrior’ Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate For The Poor” and has been republished here with pe




Dan Brown TheOrigin – a book for the wistfully educated sceptic


Dan Brown, The Origin

This is one of the best-selling novel  at present and follows the usual Dan Brown formula; easily written, a bit far-fetched, and chimes in with the upper end of pop culture. It’s a very easy read and you feel sucked into it. Yet here, as in the Da Vinci Code, Brown brings out his subtle and not so subtle misrepresentations of Christianity. In The Origin refers to the supposed conflict of science religion with various misunderstandings of Galileo and Darwin. This appeals to much of pop culture.

After all, it is God or science! Nobody ever told Galileo or Darwin.
Yet despite his rejection of Christianity and other religions he has some religious feeling but looks elsewhere than main churches encouraging odd spiritualities!!
There is more that we could write on the corruption and failures of the church. And so the book races on for 450 pages and culminates with a murderous encounter in the gaudy Gaudi Sagrada Familia in Barcelona!


Brown throws out so many half-digested ideas and despite his rejection of the corrupt old religions such as Christianity, he gives the impression there is something more than materialism and an anti-spiritual life. He never defines what that is, but seems to accept there is “something more”.
It ends with a climax and an anti-climax.

The climax is the way Artificial Intelligence is taking over, but that is presented in hyped-up manner. In other words, science has cruelly defeated religion.
The anti-climax is that all religions cannot cope with all these new ideas of science. That is simply nonsense as most scientists do not see the problem! But somehow Brown seems to imply there needs to be an unspecified spiritual dimension. But then he leaves his readers in the air, maybe to convince themselves that they are spiritual! But he leaves us with the thought

“The dark religions must depart, so sweet science can reign.”

It is clear that Christianity to Brown is a dark religion so we have his racy rejection, wrapped up in his pseudo-intellectual view that religion is opposed to science. The popularity of Brown’s books show how these ideas have pervaded our culture and result in a scepticism of the Christian Faith.
We need to ask WHAT a spiritual dimension could be and one which doesn’t just give us a cosy feeling, but actually helps us to live our lives in all its complexities, joys and sadness.
Here some ancient carpenter is far better a guide than a pot-boiling novelist. He never wrote a book, but said and did some good things.

Or was he a builder?

Fracked Gas is worse than Coal. Whoops, another paper claiming that is retracted!!

Coal-power-plant-sunset-retire-XL_721_420_80_s_c1So often we are told fracked gas is worse than coal for emissions. Here is a peer-reviewed article which claims just that.

Oh dear, it has been retracted for errors which showed just the opposite

Retraction of Peer Reviewed Report Indicates Need for Smear Review
Posted on March 4, 2018 by Tom Shepstone
penneast pipeline – Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

A retracted study that had been peer reviewed indicates the danger in relying on it to ensure sound science when it comes to fractivist applauded reports.

Back in 2015, this is how an Akron, Ohio newspaper headlined some methane leakage research then being conducted by the University of Maryland:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Wells
Are Increasing & Traveling Far Downwind



A new University of Maryland study shows a steep rise in greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas wells produced by fracking in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The emitted gases travel far downwind from the producing states, suggesting the need for regional cooperation in monitoring and reducing emissions from natural gas production, say the authors.

The preliminary reporting turned into a study released in April, 2017 as a peer reviewed document. Now, the study has been retracted. It’s a lesson in the risk of depending on the words “peer reviewed” as a measure of credibility.



Here’s more from the early reporting on the preliminary research conducted by the same University of Maryland team that produced the subsequent retracted study:

Emissions linked to hydraulic fracturing, the method of drilling for natural gas commonly known as “fracking,” can be detected hundreds of miles away in states that that forbid or strictly control the practice, according to a new paper published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. The study, conducted at the University of Maryland (UMD), is among the latest data presented in the ongoing debate over fracking’s long-term effects on the environment.

The team used years’ worth of hourly measurements from photochemical assessment monitoring stations (PAMS) in the Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., areas to identify the sources of organic carbons in the region’s air. Starting in 2010, the data didn’t seem to make sense…

Preliminary research revealed that there was nothing happening in Maryland that could account for the steep increase. Maryland does not currently permit fracking, but when Ehrman’s team compared the rise in ethane to the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale play in neighboring states, they found a month-to-month correlation. After running a wind rose analysis – a tool used by meteorologists to track the wind direction, distribution and speed in a specified area – they felt even more confident that Maryland was receiving the tail end of emissions originating from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio…

“The question you start to ask yourself is, if ethane levels are going up this much, and it’s only a small percentage of all natural gas, how much methane and other, more reactive emissions are escaping from these wells?” says Ph.D. student Tim Vinciguerra, the paper’s lead author. “Following the fracturing process, the well undergoes completion venting to clear out fluid and debris before production. A substantial amount of hydrocarbons are emitted as a result of this flowback procedure.”

These new findings on natural gas emissions also are consistent with established findings by University of Maryland scientists showing westerly winds can carry power plant emissions and other pollution from states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to the Washington, D.C., region and elsewhere on the East Coast of the U.S.

Thus was a false story born. The University of Maryland team that effectively generated it went on to conclude, in the retracted report, the following (emphasis added):

We estimate the mean ± 1σ CH4 leak rate from O&NG operations as 3.9 ± 0.4% with a lower limit of 1.5% and an upper limit of 6.3%… Although recent regulations requiring capture of gas from the completion venting step of the hydraulic fracturing appear to have reduced losses, our study suggests that for a 20 year time scale, energy derived from the combustion of natural gas extracted from this region will require further controls before it can exert a net climate benefit compared to coal.

There was just one problem; the University of Maryland team had made a critical error, revealed, to their credit, by themselves in the subsequent retraction:

The article… has been retracted by the authors because of an error in wind measurements used to calculate methane emissions in the southwestern Marcellus Shale region. The error was discovered by the authors in October 2017 upon their installation of an improved, differential GPS, wind measurement system onto the aircraft used in this study. The original wind measurements led to an overestimate of methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

A reanalysis with corrected winds reduced the total estimated emissions by about a factor of 1.7, with a correspondingly larger reduction in emissions of methane attributed to oil and natural gas in the southwestern Marcellus Shale area.

This is expected to reverse a conclusion of the paper, which had asserted that leakage from oil and natural gas extraction in this region results in a climate penalty compared to the use of coal.

The authors are in the process of submitting a new manuscript based on an updated analysis that will describe the process to correct the erroneous wind measurements used in the original manuscript, provide a more accurate estimate of the methane emissions, and assess the implications of the fossil fuel production from the Marcellus Shale.

If your wondered whether the Akron Beacon Journal covered the retraction with the same enthusiasm as the original research, the unsurprising answer is a simple “no.” That almost never happens, of course. The public was told something that was blatantly wrong and it is now ingrained in memory as part of a big picture on fracking that is one gigantic distortion because of a rush to judgment in a mad dash for political correct publicity and research dollars. Correcting the false impression, as usual, is no easy task and will require years of explanation.

Who’s at fault? Well, we can blame lots of folks, but most of the discredit has to go those who gave the 2017 a peer reviewed imprimatur. Here’s how Tim Benson at the Heartland Institute summed it up:

Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst at the Institute for Energy Research, says with so much potential to affect public policy, it’s troubling the initial paper passed peer review.

“That an error of this magnitude made it through the publication process is unfortunate,” said McGillis. “It is not difficult to imagine the paper’s startling conclusions influenced the public against hydraulic fracturing, against gas infrastructure, and against gas generally.

“Misinformation perpetuates anti-energy bias in our culture and can result in real harm,” McGillis said.

McGillis says state governments in two regions near Marcellus energy operations have limited pipeline development because of environmental activists’ opposition.

“Consider the fact the New York and New England regions should be benefiting from the Marcellus Shale’s proximity but are instead hamstrung by pipeline opposition,” said McGillis. “Just this winter, ISO New England [the regional electric power transmission provider] produced a report citing insufficient gas infrastructure as a leading factor in their prediction of future fuel insecurity and operator-imposed blackouts.”

And, who were those peers? We’ll never know because their names aren’t provided. There’s no accountability with much of peer review today and these are the fruits of such lax publication and university policies. Peer review today now requires smear reviews to get to the truth.



Evolutions in Trust, Part 2: Blockchain (Citizen) Science

The serious problem of citizen science, when so often measurements are made by thosue who haven’t a clue

The Risk-Monger

In Part 1 of this blockchain series, the idea of “blockchain trust” was introduced. We no longer trust our experts, institutions and authorities but will happily get into a car with a stranger or rent out our sofa-bed to people we have never met based on widely shared reviews, believed to be transparent and objective. This is the world of blockchain trust – where everyone is watching and reviewing everyone else forming an anonymous, decentralised consensus (chain) of affirmation. Authority is determined by all parts of the chain who participate (and are allowed) on the chain.

The Risk-Monger has long ago been voted off the island.

As most scientists have also been voted off (or given merely one voice among the chain), we need to focus on how this blockchain trust tool functions for environmental health policy decisions that should be evidence-driven. This is the purpose of Part…

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Some philosophy of science behind all the geology

Are the principles of geology justified? Some think all claims of vast ages and geological time are speculaltive.


This blog by Paul Bratermann looks at the issues.

It is interesting he consulted three “God-botherer” geologists!!


Unconformity in the Grand Canyon

Source: 3quarksdaily: In praise of fallibility: why science needs philosophy

Take the Pro-Truth Pledge (because we’re all fallible)

Not all like signing pleadges like this, but it very relevant today.

LPolitics is plagued by fakenews and post-truth as it seems politicians compete with each other to spew out the most blantant post-truth aka lies.

It is equally bad when science impinges on daily lives. We all know of the post-truth of Creationists, which is often deliberate. But we see the same on GMOs and glyphosphate. On climate change we have the fake news and post-truth from the extreme climate deniers to the radical activists like Bill McKibbin, Friends of the Earth and Christian groups like Operation Noah. I don’t who are the worst

And then there is fracking, and antifrackers have got post-truth down to fine art.

Read and enjoy, but only after you have marked, learned and inwardly digested

Even if you do not sign the pledge, make sure that you carry it out by sharing, honouring and encouraging truth and show no quarter to those who persistently do not

This is another pertinent post from Paul Braterman

Primate's Progress

Pro-Truth Pledge LogoI  learnt about this pledge from the Skeptic Reading Room. And while I generally loathe public pledges (too much virtue signalling for my liking), I am making an exception for this one, in response to our exceptional times. And the fine print makes admirable reading. Besides,  several hundred public figures and organizations have signed it, including Steven Pinker and Peter Singer, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for me. Many dozens of politicians have signed it as well, and one of the aims is to persuade more to do so, and hold them accountable.

Truth matters. Propagating untruth is big business and big politics. The traditional guardians of truth have abdicated, are compromised, or lack traction. By default, the job of protecting truth falls to us. We need to take our responsibility seriously.

We are all drawn towards confirmation bias, group think (our own group, of course!)…

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