William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Some Like It Hot: The Hottest Year Ever Inside A Global Warming “Pause”? The Stream. Updates

I rarely ask this, but I’d like you all to go The Stream and pass my article on to as many as you can. (Don’t link here, but link at The Stream.)

Strange New Climate Change Spin: The Hottest Year Ever Inside a Global Warming ‘Pause’?

I’ve been railing about these mistakes for years—here is a list of articles—but the criticisms never stick. Of course, any sane and correct criticism of global-warming-of-doom doesn’t stick, not in a climate where the government-funded want to criminalize critics’ opinions.

Incidentally, every scientist who signed that “Please, Mr President, Use The RICO Act To Silence Our Opposition” letter ought to have their name engraved on a plaque. I’d like them not to be forgotten. A lasting testament that scientists are not superior human beings and can’t be trusted more than anyone else.

Here’s the start of the article:

There are two stories floating around about the state of the earth’s atmosphere. Both are believed true by government-funded scientists and the environmentally minded. The situation is curious because the stories don’t mesh. Yet, as I said, both are believed. Worse, neither is true.

Story number one is that this year will be the hottest ever. And number two is that the reason it is not hot is because “natural variation” has masked or stalled man-caused global warming.

Which is it? Either it’s hotter than ever or it isn’t. If it is, then (it is implied) man-caused global warming has not “paused.” If it isn’t, if man-caused global warming has “paused,” then it is not growing hotter.

There are two things to keep straight: (1) why these divergent contentions are believed, and (2) why they are incompatible and individually false. The first point is easy. Climatology has become a branch of politics…

Go there to read the rest. And pass it on.

It is not the hottest year ever. “Natural variations” can’t cause a “pause.” And never say “pause” or “hiatus”—it admits global-warming-of-doom is true! Never adopt the language of your enemy.

The Editors at The Stream were particularly patient with me, since this is a long article and my enemies were inserting as many errors as they were removing.

Update So some guy at The Stream commented (all sic; I answer here because I’m not going to sign up for Disqus and be even more tracked all over the web):

You try to draw a distinction between Satellite “measurements” and other temperature measurements on the basis that one of them ( the older ones” ) are “proxies”

Perhaps you dont know that satellites do not measure temperature.

the sensor sits in space. It collects photons….

I want to cry sometimes. Whatever you don’t leave in, somebody points out as a mistake. OF COURSE satellites don’t measure temperature; they estimate it in an inverse problem. Not only do I know that, but I’ve written about it, and provided links in the Stream article to my many, many, many articles on dealing with temperature time series.

Goodness, I had no space to go into the inverse problem.

On the other hand, a True Believer at Twitter (I won’t link to him because links to the coward Greg Laden) claimed “WM Briggs @mattstat thinks dinosaurs read thermometers?” And that made my whole day.

Update “No, Briggs you fool, they said the hottest year on record. Ha!”

I despair sometimes, I really do. Hottest year on record is your argument? On record? Good grief!

I made the point in the article, but it was lost, that a “record” of only 40 to 50 years old is not very exciting. You agree, right? Right? And claims of “records” for the last 120 or so years must be, but are not, accompanied by predictive uncertainty, since anything before satellites is an estimate of disparate sources, places, and methods. Good grief!

And what makes the starting point of 1880, or whatever, so damn special? Only because that’s when the “modern record” begins? Good lord! How egotistical!

And even if considering the last 200 years—see how generous I am!—there was a genuine heat record now, what does that mean? Everybody without warrant assumes that if there was a record now, it must have been caused by man. I want to scream!

If we knew what was causing changes in the atmosphere—and I repeatedly emphasized this point in the article—then we would have made good, skillful predictions. We did not. Therefore we do not know all that is happening. Yes, we know some things. But not all. Sheesh! Not only is there no good evidence that man-caused global-warming-of-doom is so, there is terrific evidence because of model failure that the enhanced feedback of CO2 in the models is false. Why? Because they models can’t make good predictions and that is the most likely culprit for the failure! Why? Because the other physics, like the equations of motion, are found to work fine in, for instance, weather models.

And yesterday, on Twitter, I had an argument with a physicist that said the models predicted ice would melt as well as predicting it would get hotter. I wept!

Buy, say, did you notice something? In yesterday’s drama, nobody (that I noticed) defended that preposterous “natural variability” claim? Interesting, no?

Stay tuned…post coming soon at The Stream

A big one.

Update Due to my causing the editors extra work (it’s a longish piece), it appears it might not go up until late this evening or early tomorrow. Apologies.

The Theology of Water—Is Design Intelligent? Guest Post by Bob Kurland

ice structure

Physicist Bob Kurland gives us a twist on the anthropic principle.

“The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.”—Quoted in the Office of Readings (Monday, Week 7 of Easter), from a catechetical instruction by St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

The title of this post, “The Theology of Water”, is taken from a short story by Hilbert Schenck in a collection of science-fiction stories with a religious theme, Perpetual Light.

In this story, after fruitless searches in the rest of the solar system, some middle-aged astronaut scientists explore Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, to find life. Titan is unique amongst solar system satellites in having an atmosphere, albeit a very cold one.

The scientists don’t find life in any form, but they do find a strange type of water: freezing and melting points much lower than “earth” water, but still with the unusual feature of solid water (ice) lighter than liquid at the freezing point, and with other differences in the thermodynamic properties. The different properties are in fact those that would be suitable for life on this cold world, if life existed. In testing the Titan water, the scientists turn it into earth-type water and realize that they are the life for which water is intended.

I dispute the essential scientific point of this story, that water at comparable temperatures and pressures would be different on Titan than on earth. The properties of ice—its relatively high melting point (compared to what one might expect doing a Periodic table comparison), it being lighter than liquid water—and the unusual thermodynamic properties of water can be traced ultimately to fundamental bonding properties, specifically to the properties of the hydrogen bond (see the illustration above), which in turn can be explained (in principle) by fundamental physics–quantum mechanics and electrostatics.

Nevertheless, in telling the story, Schenck makes this important point: the properties of water are tightly linked to the properties of the planet earth in order to provide an environment suitable for life (that is to say, carbon-based life as we know it). Here are those properties (and I quote from the story—all temperatures are in degrees Centigrade—0 degrees Centigrade is the normal freezing point of water):

1) liquid water has a maximum density at 4 degrees. If it didn’t (if the maximum density was at the freezing temperature), the cold water would sink to the bottom of the ocean and earth’s average surface temperature would be more than 20 degrees lower;

2) if the vapor pressure or the unusually high heat of vaporization of water is changed, either too much or not enough cloud would exist, which, in either case, would be a meteorological disaster;

3) if the density of ice is greater than that of liquid water at the freezing point (for most substances the density of the solid is greater than that of the melt), the ice would sink to the bottom of the oceans and the oceans would be perpetually frozen at the bottom, leading to massive winds at the surface;

4) if the high specific heat of liquid water is reduced, the temperature stabilizing effect of the ocean is lowered, and more storms and lower average temperature results;

5) the properties of water are optimized for the tilt of the earth’s axis (23.5 degrees from the vertical)–if it were 0 degrees tilt, the temperature stabilizing effect would be too large, with complete cloud cover and ice-caps down to 40 degrees latitude

(6) in the story, the properties of water are set for a mean earth temperature that is optimum for metabolism at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (and guess to what temperature that corresponds?)

Our biochemistry crucially involves the chemistry of water and hydrogen bonding. The structure and reactions of proteins, enzymes, and DNA is critically dependent on hydrogen bonding, internally and to other biochemical molecules. Here are some resources about biochemistry and about the role of hydrogen bonding in DNA and proteins.

Biologists interested in alien life have considered biochemistries other than carbon-based/H2O. (See the Wikipedia article on hypothetical types of biochemistry.) Of these, one based on ammonia, NH3, seems most likely. However the hydrogen bonds between ammonia molecules are only half as strong as those between water molecules. Also, the temperature range for liquid ammonia is much lower than that for water, -78 to -33 degrees, so chemical reactions would proceed much more slowly, possibly too slowly for life-sustaining reactions.

So, the chemistry of hydrogen-bonding is one of those “finely-tuned” realities of nature that enable human life to exist. We recall the Anthropic Principle, used to explain the fine-tuning of physical constants and cosmological facts (among which are the age of the universe and the unlikely existence of a large moon for our planet) that enables the existence of intelligent, carbon-based life. I have not invoked the improbability of such fine-tuning, because probability, as a quantitative measure, is not properly applied to a single entity, and there is but one universe—we can know no other despite the speculations of metaphysical cosmologists.

How then do we justify the unlikelihood of such fine tuning, cosmological, physical and chemical? And when I use the term unlikelihood, I’m not referring to the improbability of picking one white ball out of a bag of a zillion black balls. Rather, I’m saying that we can think of all sorts of other universes, with different physical constants and laws, for which our type of life would not be possible. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how any of the operative laws/constants might be nudged just a little bit and still allow for our kind of life.

Such fine tuning for hydrogen-bonding physics and chemistry should not, I believe, be tossed as another ingredient into the Intelligent Design” (ID) stew. As I understand ID, its principal tenet is opposing the Darwinian model for evolution (common descent). Proponents of ID argue that gradual changes in form or biochemistry that might enhance survival (the cornerstone of the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest program) are not sufficient to achieve the drastic differences in morphology and the “irreducible complexity” of various biochemical schemes.

To my mind this is a “God of the gaps” type argument–to attribute that which we don’t understand to specific divine intervention. Moreover, a God who frames fundamental physics so that variety and complexity grows “naturally” from a unified beginning is much more to be admired and worshiped than a God who assembles, Leggo-like, all the objects of a Young Earth (including evidence for a 4.5 billion year old earth and a 14 billion year old universe). Paul Davies puts it very well:

…the hypothesis of an intelligent designer applied to the laws of nature is far superior than the designer…who violates the laws of nature from time to time by working miracles in evolutionary history. Design-by-laws is incomparably more intelligent than design-by-miracles. (Emphasis added, The Cosmic Jackpot: Why our universe is just right for life, p.200.)

“Design-by-laws” (in Davies’ felicitous phrase) is just how the anthropic principle can be interpreted. Since a full discussion of the anthropic principle would require a much lengthier article, I’ll defer that. But I would like to end with one further comment. My home blog is entitled “Reflections of a Catholic Scientist“. And, as a Catholic scientist, my God is much more than a creator, a demiurge who designed the universe engine and pressed the starter button. My God is a Trinity, a personal God, who intervenes from time to time in history, who sustains the laws of physics that make the universe-engine chug along, and who came to us in the person of His son, verified by historical revelation.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Wills The Future

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

This chapter starts with four counter-arguments which are then answered, much in the way St Thomas would come to write his future disputations.

Chapter 79 That God Wills The Things That Are Not Yet (alternate translation)

[1] Now if the act of willing is by comparison of the willer to the thing willed, someone might think that God wills only the things that are: since relatives must needs be simultaneous, and if one cease the other ceases, as the Philosopher teaches. Wherefore if the act of willing is by comparison of the willer to the thing willed, no one can will other things than those which are.

Note Relatives in similar sense of simultaneous cause and effect, as is clearer in the next example.

[2] Moreover. Will relates to things willed, even as cause and creator. Now not even God can be called Creator, or Lord, or Father, except of the things that are. Neither therefore can He be said to will other things than those which are.

[3] One might conclude further, if God’s willing is unchangeable, just as the divine being, and if He wills nothing but what actually is, that He wills nothing but what always is.

[4] To these arguments some answer that things which are not in themselves are in God and in His intellect. Wherefore nothing prevents God willing things even which are not in themselves, in so far as they are in Him.

[5] This reply, however, is seemingly insufficient. For every willer is said to will a thing in so far as his will is referred to the thing willed. Wherefore, if the divine will is not referred to a thing willed that is not except in so far as it is in God or in His intellect, it would follow that God wills it merely because He wills it to be in Himself or in His intellect. Yet those who make the above statements do not mean this, but that God wills things which as yet are not to be also in themselves.

Note This is the summary of the counter-arguments. Long sentences! The objection is, in other words, that God wills future things as they are in themselves and that the future is not in God’s intellect. And how could this God-independent future come about by God?

[6] Again, if the will be referred to the thing willed through its object which is a good understood; the intellect understands that the good is not only in (the intellect) itself, but also in its own nature: and the will must be referred to the thing willed not only as it is in the knower, but also as it is in itself.

[7] Accordingly we must say that, since the apprehended good moves the will, the act of willing must needs follow the condition of the apprehender, even as the movements of other movables follow the condition of the mover which is the cause of the movement. Now the relation of the apprehender to the thing apprehended is consequent upon the apprehension, because the apprehender is referred to the thing apprehended through its apprehension thereof. Now the apprehender apprehends the thing not only as it is in the apprehender, but also as it is in its proper nature: for we not only know that a thing is understood by us, which is the same as the thing being in our intellect, but also that it is, or has been, or will be in its proper nature. Wherefore although the thing is then only in the knower, yet the relation consequent upon the apprehension is referred thereto not as it is in the knower, but as it is in its proper nature which the apprehender apprehends.

Notes Got that? Apprehender, apprehended, apprehension, apprehends. A whole lot of thinking going on. If you know a thing, such as your dog Spot, he is in your intellect. You also know his nature or essence, what it means to be a dog (at least in some rough sense; nobody knows everything there is to being a dog; knowing a nature or essence does not imply you know everything). You can understand what it means for him to walk in the room, even though he’s not currently in it.

[8] Accordingly the relation of the divine will is to a nonexistent thing, as it is in its proper nature in reference to a certain time, and not only as in God knowing it. Therefore God wills the thing that is not now to be in reference to a certain time, and He does not will merely to understand it. Nor does the comparison hold with the relation of willer to thing willed, nor of creator to creature, nor of maker to thing made, nor of Lord to the creature subject to Him. For to will is an act abiding in the willer, wherefore it does not necessarily imply anything existing outside. But to make, to create, and to govern denote an action terminating in an external effect, without the existence of which such an action is inconceivable.

Notes I kept this whole argument this week because I want the reader to understand that even such a simple contention that an omnipotent, omniscient “being” can will the future, which is obvious in its own way, requires proof. And St Thomas’s proof is as meticulous as they come. Mathematicians would say it is rigorous. Thus far, we have a 79-Chapter continuous argument. If you aren’t astonished by the miracle that was St Thomas, you haven’t been paying attention.

This proof also fulfills another goal of our review of this book. To prove to us moderns that theology, at least as it was practiced by the schoolmen, was an intellectual achievement of the highest order. This sort of thinking is practically unknown among modern atheists because they haven’t bothered to look, which is why modern atheists are always chattering about “invisible friends in the sky” and other such things.

Notice, too, that any scientific observation is irrelevant to what we have done so far. This is metaphysics, the science behind science. The philosophy that necessarily must exist before any science gets off the ground.

Anyway, next week, like I falsely promised last, we’ll skip ahead more quickly.

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