Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An atheist manifesto



I put up here a great deal in support of Christians and Christian causes but since I am myself an extreme atheist in the manner of analytical philosophers like Rudolf Carnap, it seems only reasonable that I present an atheist POV occasionally.  None of the difficulties for theism presented below will disdturb committed Christians but they deserve to be presented.

It always amuses me that both Christians and atheists consider one another to be totally unreasonable.  They both have a point. Atheists consider it unreasonanble to believe in an undetectable object and Christians believe it unreasonable to believe the vast complexity around us happened by chance.  Partly for that reason I never argue for or against belief in God, Thor, Zeus or whoever he is

I do however believe in the Devil.  I think Islam is ample proof of his influence

The fact reported below that Australian young people are much more religious than their elders is certainly an interesting finding.  I suspect it reflects the uncertainties of the modern world -- where the Left have done a pretty good job of throwing all values into question.  The existence of God is much better argued for than most traditional beliefs are so young people cling on to the only firm anchor they can find.  And they find in Christianity a rich system of thinking and values that guides them well through life and its challenges.

I myself am profoundly grateful for my fundamentalist youth.  It was much more helpful to me than believing in the absurd Leftist gospel that "There is no such thing as Right and Wrong".  How can they expect anyone to draw philosophical nourishment from such an etiolated body of thought?

I am still mostly guided in my life by Christian principles.  They work for me.  I even "take a little wine for my stomach's sake" from time to time (1 Timothy 5:23)



The promise of an afterlife – to meet departed family and friends – appeals to many, but especially younger Australians. Are private religious schools playing a part? And why do they dismiss the evidence of physics, asks Brian Morris.

Against all odds, it seems the concept of going to heaven holds far greater significance for the young than for those who are closer – numerically – to death! We need to confront ‘the D word’ itself, but let’s first get a handle on why the idea of paradise has gripped contemporary youth – more so than pensioners.

A national Essential poll shows 40% of all Australians believe in heaven. But the crucial figure is that a staggering 51% of those aged 18-34 hold such a belief! This compares to just 29% of the public who are over 55 years old. The young are almost twice as fixated with an afterlife than those closer to pension age! Why is that?

Is it insecurity or religiosity? One suggestion points to the fact that 40% of secondary students now attend private religious schools – a rate far higher than all other Western nations. There has been an exponential growth in government funding for private Catholic and Anglican schools since the 1960s – from a base of almost zero.

Others suggest that a similar rise in Special Religious Instruction (SRI) and chaplains in public schools has led to the Christianisation of education across the nation. These government-funded programs are run by evangelical Christian organisations in each state – with Catholic and Anglican private schools proselytising their own religions. And do millennials then stay at home too long, with a childhood faith, instead of getting out into the real world?

Since colonisation, Christianity instilled belief in an afterlife. It’s reflected on a daily basis in mainstream media, in film and on television – and in our obsession with sport. No game passes without players pointing skyward when scoring a goal, or honouring a deceased team or family member with hands reaching towards heaven.

But the biggest problem is that we don’t talk about death!

Society needs to get over this end-of-life taboo – to discuss and challenge the sugar-coated religious myth that claims we will all meet up with our loved ones (and pets) when we die and go to heaven. Before confronting the concrete scientific evidence (below) – and how we can better handle the emotional aspects of death – just dwell on this thought for one moment.

Isn’t paradise already just a little crowded? Think about who those you would meet – not only the entire cohort of your departed relatives, your friends and ancestors – but all the people you have detested; and those who gave you so much grief during your lifetime.

Then there’s the rest – every human who died! Research shows that, by 2050, an estimated 113 billion people will have lived and died on planet Earth; so heaven is already a seething mass of ‘souls’. For eternity!

The average punter has great difficulty conceptualising ‘eternity’. Most can’t even grasp the fact of our universe being 13.8 billion years old – or Earth a mere 4.5 billion. The concept is starkly illustrated in a fascinating book, A History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters. While fictional, it focuses the mind on a serious problem with infinity.

Chapter 10 sees our hero arrive in heaven, choosing to spend all his time eating luxurious food, having endless sex, and playing golf. After several thousand years he’s sick of food and sex, and on each heavenly golf course he hits holes-in-one on every par 3. He pleads to be released from this endless “perfect existence” and asks if others finally yearn to be free; to actually “die”. With a short pause for effect, the answer was plain. “Everyone!”

Books on near-death experiences, and visits to heaven, are legion. A recent best seller was Proof of Heaven by Dr Eben Alexander – a neurosurgeon, no less. Alexander sold more than 2 million copies before his claims were debunked. Among those who contested his story was Professor Sean Carroll, a particle physicist and high-profile science communicator. Carroll said there could only be two possibilities for Alexander’s spiritual encounter:

(1) Either some ill-defined metaphysical substance, not subject to the known laws of physics, interacted with the atoms of his brain in ways that have eluded every controlled experiment ever performed in the history of science; or

(2) People hallucinate when they are nearly dead.

Professor Carroll’s detailed explanation of Physics and Immortality spells out precisely why an immaterial ‘soul’ does not exist.

Carroll worked with the team that discovered the Higgs Boson at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider. He could not be more explicit;

“If there are other waves, particles or forces sufficient to externally influence the brain, then we would know about them … Within Quantum Field Theory, there can’t be a new collection of ‘spirit particles’ and ‘spirit forces’ that interact with our regular atoms, because we would have detected them in existing experiments… You would have to demonstrate evidence of a completely new realm of reality, obeying very different rules than everything we know about physics.”

The 3 links above are needed to fully understand why there is no ‘soul’. But science does not devalue the need for compassion and empathy in the face of raw emotions that come with our personal experiences of death. It is necessary to face up to reality – but there are alternatives to religion in coping with end of life crises.

Discussing death openly and honestly – and publicly through the media – is a first step in helping to ease the extreme distress that many suffer with their own fear of death.

The ‘Golden Age of Athens’ pre-dates Christianity by four centuries – it led to a crucial period of new philosophical thought about life and death, about government and democracy, and how ordinary people could live a more fulfilled and contented life.

The philosophical principles of stoicism remain popular today. It’s based on three central themes. ‘Perception’, how we choose to view events; ‘Action’, how we deal with events we can control (and those we can’t); and then there’s ‘Will’ – training ourselves to deal honestly and ethically with events in our own lives. Following the full regime of stoicism may seem daunting; but after filtering the basic principles it becomes somewhat easier to apply.

The stoic approach to dealing with death – of family, friends, or oneself – is particularly relevant. Initially, it may appear morbid to periodically remind ourselves of one’s mortality. But if we consider this approach to death deeply enough, we soon come to realise the benefits of a greatly improved mental state.

The stark alternative for most people is to ignore the inevitable, and to be completely consumed by grief when family or friends die unexpectedly. Religion holds its privileged status based on fear – fear of not believing in God, fear of the unknown, and especially the fear of death. It’s a cruel deception that society needs to overcome.

By sugar-coating mortality with the myth of everlasting heaven, religion simply deprives us all of the ways and means to better cope with the end of life. While stoicism may not be the complete solution for all, it is clear that the basic principles of ‘philosophical ethics’ – honesty, reason, compassion, and love – would be a far better alternative than teaching schoolchildren obedience to God and religious ritual.

Future generations would avoid the trap of today’s millennials who continue to shun science and instead cling to religious concepts of an afterlife.

A ‘soul’ that miraculously ascends to heaven, only to re-unite with 113 billion other souls – for the whole of eternity! Just like our golfing hero, that sounds more like purgatory!

https://newmatilda.com/2018/10/08/private-school-daze-heaven-millennials


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

White do-gooder sees pervasive racism towards Aborigines



I don't know why I occasionally put up rejoinders to Leftist screeches.  I guess I feel that a full picture of the matters concerned has to be available.  And Leftist writing usually leaves out such an enormous amount of the full story that I really feel annoyed at such deception.

The woman writing below, Caitlin Prince, apparently works in some sort of welfare role among Aborigines and appears to do so largely as a result of her political convictions.  And a big part of those convictions is that Australians generally are racist.  But what evidence does she muster for that conviction?  Just three anecdotes.  But you can prove anything by anecdotes.  I could report far more anecdotes that prove Australians generally to be racially tolerant.  So she falls at the first hurdle in her rant.

So her claim that "defensive anger" is the common response to  accounts of the deplorable situation of Aborigines is also just another anecdote.  That she is a racist is however clear. She criticizes "white men of Anglo-Celtic or European background."  Why does she have to bring their race into it?  Why can she not outline the words and deeds of particular people in her criticisms?  Instead she resorts to lazy generalizations with no detectible substance in them.

Another of her broad brush strokes is to say that "mostly racism is unconscious  and internalised".  How does she know?  Does she have a mind-reading machine?  She does not. Instead she relies on her deductions about the motives behind various words and deeds that she has observed. There is a very long history in psychology of failed attempts to read minds but she is not humbled by that.  She knows better.

One of her observations, however, is probably right.  She says that the poor state of Aborigines evokes feelings of powerlessness in whites.  She does not however confront a major reason why.  Successive Australian governments, State and Federal, Left and Right have all set in train big efforts to improve the situation of Aborigines -- but nothing works. If anything, the situation of Aborigines has gone downhill since the era of the missionaries.  People of all sorts have racked their brains to come up with solutions but none have succeeded.  People feel powerless in the face of Aboriginal degradation because they really ARE powerless.

She says that the problem for Aborigines is "the thick walls of indifference, denial, and defensive anger that characterises so much of our country’s response to our First Nations".  If that were so, how come that so many government programs have over a long period been tried in an attempt to help Aborigines?

So the sad state of Aborigines is NOT the result of racism.  It is something in Aboriginals themselves.  And that something is not too mysterious.  They have over many thousands of years adapted brilliantly to a hunter-gatherer life -- but that life is no more.

So what is her solution to the undoubted problems of Aborigines?  It is pathetic.  It is a "national conversation".  She is completely oblivious of all the conversations that have gone before.  She lives only in the present, as Leftists usually do.

As it happens, the lady in my life spent many years among Aborigines providing them with real professional services -- medical services  -- paid for by one of those "racist" Australian governments. She tells me something that the angry sourpuss below gives no hint of.  She tells me that she LIKES Aborigines.  And having seen much of what has been done to and for Aborigines by well-intentioned governments, she is firm in her view that no outside help will do much for Aborigines.  She believes that any solution for their plight must arise from among Aborigines themselves.  I think she is right.


Last week, a nine-year-old refused to stand for the national anthem to protest its lack of recognition of First Nations, and the country erupted in anger. High profile, fully grown adults publicly called her a brat and threatened to “kick her up the backside”.

In the same week, Mark Knight’s cartoon of Serena Williams was criticised internationally as racist, and Australian media doubled down to defend it. “Welcome to PC world” the Herald Sun published on its front page, while Knight accused the world of “going crazy” and suspended his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, two Aboriginal teenagers died in Perth running away from police, and communities pushed again for government action on the high rates of Aboriginal deaths in custody. Yeah — how dare people suggest Australia is racist!

I can’t imagine how it felt to be Aboriginal during this (not atypical) week. Although I don’t have to imagine — Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana), the Aboriginal writer and activist, tweeted:

"We’re constantly stuck trying to remind white people of the humanity of Aboriginal people – particularly Aboriginal women and children. It’s tiring, devastating and as we continually end up back in the same place, clearly not working. Sort your shit out, Australia"

— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) September 17, 2018

Emotions run high when it comes to the topic of racism and First Nations people. The fact that a nine-year-old can elicit such a venomous rebuke from senators and media personalities is testament to that. In my experience though, it isn’t only alt-right conservatives who have strong emotions about this topic. In the past eight years that I’ve worked in remote Aboriginal communities, every non-Aboriginal person I’ve worked with has experienced a strong reaction to the interface of Australia’s race relations.

Defensive anger is a common reaction to having your worldview challenged. Researcher Megan Boler believes it’s an attempt to protect not only one’s beliefs but one’s “precarious sense of identity”; a defence of one’s investment in the values of the dominant culture.

The problem with growing up within the dominant culture is that it’s easy to be oblivious to anything outside of it. As Tim Soutphommasane, the outgoing Race Discrimination Commissioner, recently pointed out in The Griffith Review, Australia’s media and political structures are still dominated by white men of Anglo-Celtic or European background. While in reality, Australia is far more culturally diverse, the positions that shape both the nation’s policies and stories we tell about it, are still dominated by Anglo-Australians.

When voices from outside the dominant culture do reach us, their perspectives are unexpected, drawn from life experience beyond our shared frames of reference. Their criticism can feel like it’s come out of the blue.

Knight said his cartoon wasn’t about race. Perhaps he was naive to the history of caricature that represented black people as infantile sambos. His intention may not have been racist. As white people, we often mistakenly believe that racism requires a conscious belief that black people are less human than us, but mostly racism is unconscious  and internalised.

It’s all the more bewildering to be accused of racism when it isn’t your intention, such as a health professional who wants to help, discovering they’ve unknowingly offended their Aboriginal client; or a well-intentioned teacher, who had no idea teaching only in English to a community with a different first language, might cause harm. Or perhaps a cartoonist, who prided himself on insightful social commentary, but had his blind spots pointed out.

Frequently, we react defensively and insist our actions aren’t racist when we’d be better served by realising we didn’t know it was racist  and listening to people of colour to understand why, without minimising or denying their concerns.

Anger is not the only emotional response I see in non-Aboriginal people when confronted with our country’s racism. Some people respond with grief and sadness, others with guilt and shame. Nearly always, there are feelings of helplessness that easily flick over into dissociation, numbness and denial. Megan Boler writes that denial “feeds on our lack of awareness of how powerlessness functions, effects, feeds on, and drains our sense of agency and power as active creators of self and world-representations. By powerlessness I mean a state that is usually silent and mutates into guilt and denial that gnaws at us….”

Our country struggles with meaningful recognition of our First Nations, in part due to these feelings of powerlessness and being overwhelmed. We are divided, black from white, by the privilege of being able to drift off into denial. Aboriginal people remain pressed up against the painful consequences of racism with the daily deaths, incarceration, and illness of their family members. Non-Aboriginal Australians on the other hand, bump along, failing to grapple with the overwhelming task of reckoning with our genocidal history and its ongoing legacy.

People of colour refer to “white fragility”, and while I think the term is fair (if the suffering could be weighed, there would be no competition), unless we respond wisely to emotions triggered by discussions of racism, we’re not going to progress the national conversation. Emerging from denial is like thawing from ice; it comes with the pins and needles of moving out of a long-held, contracted position. It’s painful, and people react emotionally.

I’ve worked for eight years now in remote health. I often feel paralysed, at a loss as to how to break through the thick walls of indifference, denial, and defensive anger that characterises so much of our country’s response to our First Nations.

How can I, as one voice, possibly affect it? I want to run away, to not face it. And right there, in the choice to not confront racism, is white privilege.

The moment I choose to do nothing, the moment I stop wrestling with my emotions and slip instead into denial and avoidance, I act out the privilege that has and continues to cause so much harm to our First Nations.

To do nothing is to be complicit.

What a painful thing to have to face.

SOURCE



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

You CAN write at length and yet still tell only half the story



Under the heading "It’s OK To Be Right, But Careful What You Wish For Lauren Southern" there is an article in the far-left "New Matilda" by Dr Petra Bueskens, a Melbourne feminist, who offers several criticisms of Lauren Southern.  Her article is very long-winded, like most offerings in New Matilda, but I will try to pick out a few salient passages to reproduce below.

She has obviously been collecting for a long time examples of female assertiveness going well back into history and she spends a lot of time giving us those examples.  She uses those examples to claim that feminism is not a new thing and that it has always been influential in the development of Western civilization.

But there are two problems with that. The examples she gives are NOT representative examples of thinking in those times so any influence they had is purely conjectural.  The second problem is that she assumes that her feminine protesters in the past were similar to feminists today. I would argue that they are a totally different ilk.

Female protest througout history was protesting about formal rules and customs that limited the opportunities for women to show all their talents.  They protested discrimination against women.  Modern-day feminists are not like that.  They achieved equal opportunities long ago.  Testimony to that is the fact that there are now more female graduates than male coming out of our universities.

So modern day feminsts, having overcome discrimination, now discriminate against men.  They want equal numbers of males and females in all walks of life and are not at all slow to discriminate against men to achieve that.  If there is, for instance, a vacancy on a company board, feminists clamour for a female to be appointed, even if there is a male available who is better qualified for the post.  It is now males who are denied opportunities to show all their talents. Females are a privileged caste.

So modern-day feminists are hateful bigots.  And that is what Lauren protests about.  Dr Bueskens says Lauren cuts her nose off to spite her face when she criticizes feminists.  She does not.  She simply dissasociates herself from a gang of angry Harpies.  Females do perfectly well without the "assistance" of female haters.

And the follies go on.  Dr Bueskens says that the emergence of successful colonial societies such as Canada and Australia proves that multiculturalism is a good thing. It does not.  It proves that SOME immigrants can form an integrated society.  But that was never in question.  What disturbs many conservatives is that all immigrants are not equal and that some immigrants -- mainly Africans and Muslims -- just create problems for society while contributing little that is positive.  A big majority in the two groups mentioned are welfare dependent so do not even contribute their labour.

All men are NOT born equal nor are all immigrants . And all societies that I know of have criteria for who can be admitted and who cannot.  So Lauren is not going far in arguing that "indigestible" groups should be excluded where possible.

Dr Bueskens sees Lauren only though the lens of her conventional Leftist prejudices, blindnesses, and contestable assumptions and therefore misses the real person.  I could go on to challenge more of her assertions but I am  in no doubt that I will never be able to clean out the Augean stables. But I think I have shown that, despite her lengthy article, she leaves out a lot of the relevant arguments and considerations.




Southern arrived in Australia wearing an ‘It’s okay to be white’ t-shirt, designed purely to stir controversy and point out what she identifies as an asymmetrical discourse on race. Her core message on this tour is that “multiculturalism doesn’t work”, with little attention to the fact that colonial settler societies like Australia (like her home country of Canada) were built on immigration.

One of the key platforms of Southern’s videos is that the discourse of “political correctness” has become an orthodoxy shutting down free speech, and that the left should respond with ideas and debate rather than with protest, aggression, public take-downs and no-platforming. On this we can agree!

It is something the globally famous intellectual Jordan Peterson has forcefully put on the map in the last two years. However, I invoke Peterson not because of his position on free speech or because, like Southern, he is a “darling of the alt-right”, rather it is to point out something he often says about people at the very beginning of adulthood: you know nothing!  While I am not in full agreement with him on this (I have a daughter Southern’s age), it is clear, for all her defensive protestations, she knows nothing about the history of “western civilization” and nor, for that matter, do Peterson or Molyneux if they cannot see feminism as an integral part of it. 

From Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies to the Querelle de Femme, from Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies to Mary Wollstoncraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, from the bluestockings to the fight for the Married Women’s Property Acts, from the Seneca Falls Convention to J.S. Mill and Harriet Taylor’s The Subjection of Women, from the suffrage movement and the New Woman to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex; from Betty Friedan’s ‘problem with no name’ to Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch we have the clear articulation of a feminist voice invested in reason and rights that is the very epitome of free speech marshalled against the prevailing orthodoxy.

In Southern’s infinite wisdom – though here she is following the ignorance that characterises the alt-right’s approach to feminism – she assumes that feminism had nothing to do with the creation of “the west”, by which she is mostly referring to the transformations in society and culture associated with the European Enlightenment. In fact feminism was an integral and defining voice! You weren’t anybody unless you were invited to Madame de StaĆ«l’s salon and all the well-known philosophes, with the notable exception of Rousseau, were “feminists” (though this of course was not a term in use at the time).

The other assumption – again commonplace on the right – is that feminism is anti-rationality and illiberal. This is patently absurd since it was the desire to have “Woman right” (as it was then called) and the vote enshrined in law that was central to early modern feminist campaigns, as was the desire to own property, including property in the person, and enjoy equal civil rights. 

It is interesting to me that Canada is producing so many of these social media stars: people who were once on the left or saw themselves as liberals and have now undergone a YouTube conversion and seen the alt-right light  – Jordan Peterson, Janice Fiamengo, Lindsay Shepherd and Karen Straughan, as well as more established stars such as Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. In the US there is Sam, Harris, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro and, more recently, Candace Owens.  The so-called “intellectual dark web” of left-to-right converts (as well as left-to-critical left converts) is growing apace.

In any event, the twist in this narrative is that with the institutionalisation of progressive agendas, the new right emerge as the “radicals”, the one’s “shaking the joint up”.  Conversely, those shutting down free speech, the supposed progressives, become the face of the establishment, the arbiters of what is and what is not allowed to be said.  Hence the concerns – that I too share – about the left’s more recent propensity to shut down free speech on contentious issues.

<a href="https://newmatilda.com/2018/08/09/ok-right-careful-wish-lauren-southern/">SOURCE</a> 


Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Nuclear alternative is the greenest



Globally, nuclear power, in case you were wondering, generates just over 2,000 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, about 8 times more than solar and more than double wind power.

Now let’s run some basic numbers and compare the ecological impact of renewables with that of nuclear power.

First let’s deal with the inevitable cry from people who are anti-nuclear without ever having thought much about it: “Nuclear isn’t clean, think about the mining and the waste!!!”.

Mines? Nuclear power is miserly on mines. The amount of mining required for hydro, solar or wind is many times greater. The recent ACOLA report made this point, let me repeat the relevant graph from a previous article.



As you can see, nuclear requires minimal mining.

So why do so many people seem to think mining is some kind of nuclear achilles heel? That’s an interesting question. I’ll try to answer it later. But the graph massively underestimates the mining required for renewables on two fronts; it ignores mining for batteries and it ignores mining for all the extra transmission lines needed by wind and solar. I’ve dealt with the relative ease of nuclear waste handling many times in the past … most recently here.

But mining is a minor issue compared to the massive habitat destruction associated with renewables.

Hydro-electricity, as we’ve seen produces roughly 4,000 terawatt hours per year globally from reservoirs covering 343,000 square kilometres, so, using global averages, you need to flood about 82 square kilometres per annual terawatt-hour. Let’s compare that with the land used by nuclear power. The power station itself uses very little land, but what about the mines?

The Ranger Uranium mine is about 16 square kilometres of open cut mine (including the tailings dam) producing enough uranium on average each year during the past decade to generate 148 terawatt hours of electricity per year. To get that using hydro electricity, you’d need to flood, on average, about (148×82) 12,136 square kilometres.

And what about generating 148 terawatt hours with wood? Vaclav Smil is an expert’s expert on energy. He estimates that using wood to power a 1 gigawatt electric power plant with a 70 percent capacity factor requires about 3,300 square kilometres of fast growing tree plantations. That works out at about 538 square kilometres per annual terawatt-hour. Which means that matching the output of the 16 square kilometre Ranger mine, you’d need to be harvesting 79,647 square kilometres of tree plantations; and considerably more if you were harvesting non-plantation forests.

How much uranium do you need to power a 1 gigawatt reactor for a year? With current reactors, about 200 tonnes. With those of the future? About 2 tonnes.

We can summarise the relative land use impacts of nuclear and renewables in one simple image. When the Fukushima Daiichi reactors failed in 2011 the Japanese effectively lost 4.7 gigawatts of power from their grid. Should the Japanese rebuild with new reactors on or near the site? New reactors of the same power but modern reliability could deliver about 37 terawatt-hours of electricity annually. So how much land would renewables need to generate 37 terawatt-hours annually?

The following figure tells the story. If you wanted to use solar, then you’d need to level most of the 20 km “evacuation” zone to install panels. I’ve seriously underestimated the land required by assuming Japan had Australian levels of sunshine!

If you used hydro power, you’d be flooding a semicircle with a radius of 44 kms.

And what if you did what Germany and the UK are doing, and just started burning forests? Then the semicircle would have a radius of 114 kms.

Here’s a summary map. You can imagine the size of the biggest possible uranium mine (open cut) required to supply uranium to a plant like this. It’s about a square with sides of 2km.



Remember when the environment movement was about protecting forests and rivers? Remember when they cared about maximising habitat for wildlife? Not anymore.

The obvious alternative to hydro and biomass electricity is nuclear, but globally and locally the Green movement is either anti-science or counts far too many in that group among its voting base. Either way it bases its rejection of nuclear power on science formulated in the DNA dark ages; meaning well before the most basic of information on radiation, DNA and cancer was understood.

At the dawn of the anti-nuclear movement, nobody knew anything about the daily churn of normal DNA damage and repair; they didn’t even know that repair of DNA damage was possible; let alone an essential part of staying alive.

The best scientists back in the 1950s and 60s thought DNA damage was an incredibly rare chance event which was permanent and cumulative. But those who study such things now know that both damage and repair are ongoing during every second of your life; due to the entirely normal processes of energy metabolism, simply staying alive.

Let’s suppose you wanted to raise background radiation levels to the kinds of levels that would cause the level of serious DNA damage caused by normal energy metabolism. What do I mean by serious? Breaks across both strands of DNA. Those kinds of breaks are tough to fix and may go on to cause cancer. You get about 50 of these in every cell every day.

How much would you need to increase background radiation to cause this level of double strand breaks? About 219,000 times.

When Japanese Prime Minister Nato Kan ordered the evacuation of Fukushima, he was acting contrary to the best expert opinion, based on 30 years of science, as specified in the IAEA guidelines.

The result of Nato Kan’s fear, ignorance and defiance of the best available science, was cruel and deadly. Sick, frail and elderly people died after being shunted onto busses in the middle of the night in a crazy and totally unnecessary panic spawned by decades of anti-nuclear propaganda; some younger people committed suicide. One radiation expert called the Japanese handling of the Fukushima accident “stark staring mad”; which it was. And continues to be.

No radiotherapist, geneticist, oncologist or DNA biologist trained in the past 40 years believes the assumptions that were used back in 1959 by Linus Pauling to predict cancer and birth defects from weapons test radioactive fallout… except the anti-nuclear movement which those predictions spawned.

Look at any textbook on DNA or cell biology and you’ll find a chapter or two or three on DNA repair. There are whole textbooks on DNA repair. The IAEA guidelines didn’t spring out of the imagination of the nuclear industry, but from bog-standard science. But it’s only bog-standard science if you are paying attention and not stuck in the oral tradition of Green policy which involves passing down mantras about radiation that go back to the 1950s.

Environmentalist George Monbiot called the movement out for its misleading claims about radiation back in 2011, during the Fukushima meltdowns. He began what was a devastating critique of Helen Caldicott as follows:

"Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong."

When he questioned Helen Caldicott over her many failed disaster predictions, she retreated to a grand conspiracy theory about a cover up by the United Nations.

In conclusion

Starting some time before Monbiot’s devastating critique, many environmental scientists had already rejected the fear-mongering and were shifting toward nuclear as simply the cleanest, greenest, safest energy on the planet, including some of the world’s leading climate scientists. Many, like me, had gone back to the basic science and found, like Monbiot, that the anti-nuclear position was built on, at best, misinformation and obsolete science.

What do you say of people that simply refuse to read any kind of information which may challenge their radiation slogans? Technically it isn’t lying if you believe it, but deliberate ignorance is arguably worse; particularly when it threatens so many horrid consequences.

The Green movement has been incredibly effective in using misinformation to make people frightened of nuclear power. Which has been an absolute godsend for those who love building dams, pelletising forests, fracking gas and, yes, even digging coal.

The climate needs fixing and wildlife habitat needs protecting. The latter has been shrinking for decades as wildlife is replaced by more and more animals for those who eat them. The global environment movement doesn’t get that either.

The consequences of basing policy on slogans and populist ignorance rather than evidence are dire for the planet. It’s time for the global Green movement to move to rational evidenced-based policies. Many luddite supporters may abandon it in the short term, but it has to lead and transform it’s support base rather than pander to dangerous ignorant populist bullshit.

We desperately need a strong global evidence-based environmental movement, given that both politics-as-usual and the Trump/Brexit alternative are both just minor variations on poll-based populism.

More <a href="https://newmatilda.com/2018/06/18/flooded-valleys-burning-forests-global-face-renewable-energy-part-iii/">HERE</a> 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Secret trial for Cardinal Pell



The Star Chamber lives on in Australia. Wikipedia: "The term star chamber has come to mean any lawless and oppressive tribunal, especially one that meets in secret".

The Victorian Department of Public Prosecutions has narrowed its application for a complete ban on media reporting of the trials of Cardinal George Pell, but is still seeking an order that will have the effect of a ‘super injunction’.

Yesterday, New Matilda reported than the DPP was seeking a complete ban on any media reportage of Cardinal Pell’s upcoming trial related to a number of offences. The application was so broad that if granted, it would also have the affect of banning any reporting of the ban itself – known legally as a ‘super injunction’.

However late this afternoon, the DPP submitted an amended application, which narrowed the ban on media.

Cardinal Pell is facing two separate trials related to allegations of a number of historical sexual offences.

The DPP is currently only seeking to ban media coverage of the first trial, although if granted tomorrow morning, it will still have the effect of banning reporting of the trial and the injunction until the second trial concludes.

At this stage, media may be able to report some of the second trial as it proceeds, provided the DPP does not seek a fresh suppression order.

The application, to be heard in the Melbourne County Court tomorrow morning before Chief Judge Peter Kidd, requests that:

“Publication is prohibited of any report of the whole or any part of these proceedings and any information derived from this proceeding and any court documents associated with this proceeding.

“The order will expire upon commencement of the final trial save that publication of any report of the whole or any part of previous proceedings and any information derived from previous proceedings and any court documents associated with previous proceedings will be prohibited until verdict in the final trial.

“For the avoidance of doubt, publication is prohibited of the number of complainants, the number of charges, the nature of the charges and the fact of multiple trials.

The DPP will argue that the order is “necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice that cannot be prevented by other reasonably available means”.

Further it is “to ensure that jurors and potential jurors in the prosecution for alleged sexual offences against George Pell do not become aware of the matters the subject of these proceedings other than those in which they are directly involved”.

In other words, the DPP appears to be trying to ensure that potential jurors in each of the trials are not made aware of the trials in which they are not participating. Reporting of the details of the first trial during the course of the second trial would ordinarily be limited on account of contempt laws, regardless of any suppression order.

While ‘super injunctions’ have, traditionally, been a relatively uncommon mechanism in the courts, they’re becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Victoria.

If granted, this story and other New Matilda reporting from earlier in the week will have to be removed from publication.

Cardinal Pell, aged 76, is the most senior Catholic charged with sexual offences anywhere in the world. Cardinal Pell has strongly denied the allegations leveled against him, and has already formally pled ‘Not Guilty’.

<a href="https://newmatilda.com/2018/05/15/prosecutors-narrow-application-media-ban-cardinal-george-pell-trial/">SOURCE</a> 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Doing the numbers on renewable energy



Wind and solar are still currently small in global terms. Which is why advocates never mention absolute size or even relative size, but focus on growth rates. They also never talk about the wildlife impacts.

In Australia, there is little research on such matters, but some figures are coming in from the US. The Gibson paper cites estimates that wind farms are killing 600,000 to 880,000 bats a year, which now makes them the second biggest risk to bats behind White Nose Syndrome. Birds are also getting killed in large numbers, but not large enough to rate next to motor vehicles and transmission lines; unless you are a bird.

But intermittent renewables like wind and solar need a much bigger transmission network than traditional grids, so they will also increase the avian transmission line death and injury toll. How much bigger does the transmission network need to be for wind and solar? 5-10 times. And those 600,000+ bats killed annually in the US are being killed for a power source that generates just 6.3 percent of US electricity.

The Jacobson plan (see Part I or critique here) calls to expand the 82 GW of wind turbine capacity in the US to 2449 GW; so we can expect this to also cost 18 to 26 million dead bats a year. We can also expect the current wind farm toll of half a million birds annually, including 83,000 raptors, to rise by perhaps a factor of 32.

But all these animal and environmental problems wouldn’t be so bad if the technology could both provide a reliable grid while also solving our climate problem… but it can’t.

In Germany, solar power is still only about 6 percent of electricity, but is already stuck.

The following figure shows that solar power growth is levelling off in all the key European countries who spent big on subsidising solar growth. The German data for solar output in 2017 is available and is much the same as for 2016.

Some of this is due to simply running out of money. But the much bigger problem is structural. It doesn’t matter how cheap it is if you can’t sell it. Solar power output in Germany will certainly rise a little more, but it’s unlikely to pass its predicted maximum of about 11 percent of German electricity.

Prediction? What prediction? I don’t know who spotted it first, but this article contains a description of why intermittent renewables will tend to level of at around what’s called the capacity factor… 11 percent for solar power in Germany, and 16 percent for solar power in sunny Australia.

Why? Put briefly, and using wind power, as an example, when you have enough wind turbines to meet 100 percent of the electricity demand on windy days, then the incentive to build more turbines starts to decline. Why? Think about what will happen on windy days after you double the amount of wind power? You’ll simply have to throw half of your electricity out; you can’t sell it.

How much electricity will you get from wind over a year if you satisfy 100 percent of the demand on windy days? This number is called the capacity factor. It’s just the annual average output divided by the theoretical maximum if every day was maximally windy at all turbine locations. It’s about 33 percent, give or take a bit.

So without large amounts of storage, profitability ceases and growth gradually stops, rather like what you can see in the graph.

The largest battery in the world was recently installed with great fanfare in South Australia, but can it store large amounts of energy? No. That was never the intention; as an energy storage device, it’s tiny.

SA typically uses 1,500 megawatt-hours of energy each hour, and the battery could store about 4 minutes worth of this. The battery was never intended to store energy; that’s just a side effect. Its purpose is to reduce frequency fluctuations during generator outages. Not that it will do that particularly well either. ACOLA reckoned it would need to be 6 times bigger to have prevented the September 2016 blackout.

So it won’t store much energy and won’t be much use to stop blackouts; so what’s it for? As a means of securing votes from renewable energy junkies, it’s priceless.

The only available technology which can store significant amounts of electricity to allow renewables to expand beyond their capacity factor is… can you guess? … flooded valleys; otherwise known as pumped-hydro.

So while renewable advocates cheered early exponential growth of solar and wind power, the rates were always destined to be logistic… meaning that they grow exponentially until hit by limiting factors which cause an equally fast levelling off.

If I had included China in the graph, you’d see a massive solar increase during the past few years, because she’s still on the exponential growth segment of the curve. But the limiting factors will eventually kick in, exactly as they have done in the EU countries. In fact, at a local level throwing out excess wind power in China is already a problem.

A few years back AEMO did a study on how to meet Australia’s electricity demand with 100 percent renewable sources. They put forward two plans, both involved putting a baseload sub-system underneath wind and solar; one plan was based on burning forests and the other on geonuclear.

Geonuclear is where you drill a hole in the earth’s crust deep enough to tap into the heat generated by radioactive decay in the earth’s mantle and crust. You might know it as geothermal, but it’s a power source based on radioactive decay so why not call a spade a spade? And did I mention the radioactive material being bought to the surface and spread over the landscape by this industry?

Is it a problem? Absolutely not. Meaning that it is a well understood micro-problem which people solve in many similar industries. But could I construct a true but totally misleading scare story about it?

For some people, I probably just did. Not everybody appreciates the irony of opposition to digging big holes to drop radioactive material down (nuclear waste repositories) while supporting digging big holes down to where extraordinary quantities of radioactive material is generating heat.

And what if you don’t want burning forests or geonuclear? A recent study of the US showed what happens when you try and power the US with just wind, solar and storage. It quantifies the lack of end game with these technologies. It’s like trying to build a 10-story building with inadequate materials and design. Things may go brilliantly until level 9 and then you suddenly realise you are screwed.

The US electricity grid is currently about 99.97 reliable, ours is generally even better. The study found that that you can get an 80 per cent reliable grid with wind and solar without too much trouble. And then it starts getting hard; really quickly. By without too much trouble, I mean lots of overbuilding and extra transmission lines.

Look at the bottom graph, which assumes 75 per cent wind and 25 per cent solar. The black line shows how big an overbuild you need if you want a grid of specified reliability. The reliability is given along the X axis and the overbuild factor on the right.

Draw a horizontal line with your eyes from the overbuild factor of 10 and see where it hits the black line. Somewhere about 99.8 percent reliability. So if you want a 99.8 percent reliable supply of 1 gigawatt, then you need to build 7.5 gigawatts of wind and 2.5 gigawatts of solar.

This is very much an optimistic estimate. There are plenty of unrealistic assumptions here, like a perfect transmission system and all your turbines in the best spots. It’s the best you can do; it’s just that the best isn’t really very good.

Now draw a horizontal line with your eyes from the overbuild factor of 5 to the 12 hour storage line. This shows that you can get a 96 per cent reliable supply of 1 gigawatt by building 3.75 GW of wind and 1.25 GW of solar if you have 12 gigwatt-hours of storage.

You’d have to repeat the study with Australian data to see what happens here, but it’s worth thinking about what 12 hours of storage looks like. In Australia, our average power use is about 28 gigawatts, so to store 12 hours worth of energy would require about 3,100 of those ‘biggest battery in the world’ devices in South Australia. There are plenty of other tiny storage systems that it’s fun to pretend might one day scale to the sizes required, but only flooded valleys have a proven track record.

As it happens, someone has done a very similar study using Australian data. The recently released ACF report A Plan to Repowe Australia lists the study (by Manfred Lenzen of UNSW and others) among its evidence base. It finds pretty much what the US study found; namely that you could power Australia, meaning supply our 28 gigawatts worth of demand) with wind, sun and storage and all you’d need to do is build 160 gigawatts worth of wind and solar farms, including 19 gigawatts worth of biomass burning backup.

A one gigawatt power plant is a large structure, whether it’s burning wood, coal or gas. The 19 biomass burners would be doing nothing for 90 percent of the time, but we’d need them just to plug the holes when there are low wind and sunshine periods. Oh, and they also postulate 15 hours of storage for the 61 gigawatts of solar farms.

How would this be provided? The main paper didn’t say, and I didn’t buy the Supplementary material. But you could do it with about 8,000 “biggest battery in the world” Li-ion batteries. Alternatively you could use fertiliser; otherwise known as molten salt. This is a mix of sodium and potassium nitrate. All you’d need would be about 26 million tonnes, which is over 8 years worth of the entire planet’s annual global production (see here and here); all of which is currently ear marked to grow food.

In South Australia, our wind energy supplies us with a little over the capacity factor percentage of energy; which means we are starting to throw away electricity when it’s windy, while relying on gas or coal power from Victoria when it isn’t.

Which is why the new Liberal Government wants to build another inter-connector. That’s fine as a short-term fix, but eventually the whole NEM will saturate with wind and solar. And then where do you build an inter-connector to?

The statewide blackout of 2016 was also a wakeup call that the automatic frequency control delivered by synchronous energy sources but not by wind and solar actually mattered; big time. Without it you are in trouble when events of any kind take out some of your generation capacity.

But ignoring the problems and assuming the US results apply, then we could surely plough on and build another 6.5 times more wind power plus considerably more solar and also buy another 180 of those Elon Musk special batteries and we could have a working, but sub-standard, grid.

This assumes we added all the rest of the required transmission infrastructure to connect all those wind and solar farms. That’s the thing with solar and wind. It may seem attractive when you kick the problems down the road and rave about the short-term successes. But the devil is in the detail and the total lack of end-game.

<a href="https://newmatilda.com/2018/05/23/flooded-valleys-burning-forests-global-face-renewable-energy-part-ii/">SOURCE</a>  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Leftist hatred of Anzac day



At least as far back as the early 60s, the Left have been trying to ridicule Anzac day to death.  That it is basically a time for us to mourn relatives who died in war seems lost on them. From the French revolution onwards death has never bothered Leftists

In 1958, homosexual playwright Alan Seymour wrote the play "The one day of the year.  It portrayed Anzac day as nothing more than drunken debauchery. It became something of a hit, so much so that it was on the high school English curriculum when I was there a few years later.

The contempt  has not worked, however.  The celebration of the day has gone from strength to strength with young people stepping up to inclusion.

But the contempt rumbles on.  Below is what the far-Leftist webzine "New Matilda" has contributed for this year's occasion -- an article which disrespects Anzac day.

The curious thing about Leftist attitudes to Anzac day is that the day is actually a celebration of a big military defeat suffered by allied troops. With the assistance of incompetent British generals, the Turks gave the Anzacs a drubbing.

Leftists normally love any downfall in their own society so one would think that Leftists would feel somewhat kindly towards Anzac day.  But it is not so.

Why? Just the usual shallowness of Leftist thinking.  They think it is about military men so it must be bad.  Leftist guerillas shooting at others from behind cover is fine and honorable but brave soldiers who voluntarily put themselves in the line of fire are contemptible



NEARLY one year since a controversial Anzac Day Facebook post which sparked a major backlash, Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied has once again weighed in to the debate.

The author and TV host came under fire last April for writing, “Lest. We. Forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine ...)”. Despite deleting the post and apologising for being “disrespectful”, the resulting media firestorm and ultimately led to her leaving Australia, which she later compared to an “abusive boyfriend”.

“Only seven more days before another unsuspecting Australian gets run out of town for some mild criticism of the diggers,” New Matilda journalist Ben Eltham tweeted on Tuesday.

Ms Abdel-Magied replied, “Hot tip — you don’t even need to mention the diggers. You just need to ask for people to extend their empathy to others.”

“We hate asylum seekers and people on welfare and animal rights activists and those who seek a more just society. My dad fought in Vietnam and he would agree with you, Yassmin — and I agree with you.”

Last week, Ms Abdel-Magied was denied entry to the US where she was scheduled to speak at a New York event titled “No Country for Young Muslim Women”. US immigration officials said she was put on a plane back to the UK because she did not have the correct visa.

She later told Channel Ten’s The Project she was subjected to “aggressive” treatment, with the officer at one point saying she would “shoot” her. “When the officer got aggressive, my gut instinct to use humour kicked in,” she said. “I jokingly asked if she was going to shoot me. She said, ‘I will’.”

Earlier this year, Ms Abdel-Magied revealed a racism complaint about her tweets had been dismissed by the Australian Human Rights Commission. She recently made her acting debut in the SBS digital series Homecoming Queens, and will host Hijabistas!, a six-part series on Islamic fashion, airing on ABC iView on May 1.

<a href="http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/media/you-dont-even-need-to-mention-the-diggers-yassmin-abdelmagied-weighs-back-into-anzac-day-debate/news-story/e57e4756352378e6dae1806a542da87a">SOURCE</a>