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Archive for May 21st, 2010

Jonathan I. Katz, a physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis., was fired from the team of scientific experts assembled by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu to confer with and advise oil industry engineers attempting to the plug the gusher in the Gulf from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well.

The Department of Energy canned Katz from the oil-spill team for holding politically incorrect thoughts about homosexuality and global warming. Sodomite bloggers informed the Thought Police of his essays “In Defense of Homophobia” and “Cold Thoughts on Global Warming” on his university website, and the Energy Department determined his writings were “a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill.”

Obviously, the heads of Brother O’s Energy Department perceive Katz’s political opinions as some sort of detriment to his knowledge of physics and his ability to render sound scientific advice for stopping or cleaning up the oil spill.

“In Defense of Homophobia,” thus spraketh Katz:

Homophobia is not like ethnic, racial or religious prejudice, which deny the intrinsic moral rights and value of other people. Rather, it is a moral judgement upon acts engaged in by choice. …

The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts. Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things.

Wouldn’t it be poetic justice for a politically-incorrect, homophobic scientist/researcher to discover the cure for AIDS and be denounced and fired from his job before the discovery can be shared with his colleagues?

And from “Cold Thoughts on Global Warming,” Katz saith:

Climate is a complicated system with many feedback loops, most of which are not understood. … It is not possible to predict the future climate. … We don’t understand climate, and there is no prospect of doing so in the forseeable [sic] future.

His [Al Gore] house uses 20 times as much electricity as the average American house and he flies private jets. Obviously, he does not believe what he preaches … I’ll think about reducing my emissions after he reduces his by 95%.

Consider technological advances and scientific breakthroughs that will fall by the wayside now that blogger informants and Brother O’s Thought Police are cleansing the scientific community of PC heretics.

Reminiscent of Galileo wouldn’t you say?

I.M. Kane


 

In Defense of Homophobia

By Jonathan I. Katz

Homophobia is the moral judgement that homosexual behavior (most of the arguments in this essay refer specifically to male homosexual behavior) is wrong. Homophobia is not like ethnic, racial or religious prejudice, which deny the intrinsic moral rights and value of other people. Rather, it is a moral judgement upon acts engaged in by choice.

If you are religious, you probably agree with the homophobic position, because most major religions make this moral judgement. The Jewish and Christian Bible describes homosexual activity, in most English translations, as an “abomination”. This condemnation is found in the Book of Leviticus, along with condemnations of incest and bestiality. Unlike homosexuality, there has been no organized effort to win approval for those sexual sins, which are condemned by almost everyone. The same word is used to condemn moving boundary markers, a grievous sin in an agricultural society.

If you are a rationalist, you ask for logical explanation, beyond the word of the Bible, and beyond the revulsion which most people feel. Why have most cultures adopted this attitude? The rationalist does not accept any book as the word of God, but regards it as the embodiment of traditional wisdom. He cannot reject it out of hand; he must ask why traditional wisdom came to this conclusion.

Recent medical history provides a convincing argument. HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, has been present, and occasionally found in the human population, for about half a century (a few sporadic AIDS cases have been identified as far back as the 1950’s, or even earlier). Yet they were quite rare; the modern AIDS epidemic began suddenly about 1980. Its first victims were promiscuous homosexual males; it was initially called “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency”.

In America attitudes towards homosexuality changed in the 1970’s. It went from a private, furtively practiced, vice to an open and accepted subculture. In many circles, “sodomite” ceased to be an insult. This acceptance led to the toleration, and wide practice, of gross homosexual promiscuity. HIV, falling onto that fertile soil, made the AIDS epidemic. Even before AIDS was recognized, practicing homosexuals were notorious for a high rate of venereal diseases.

The religious believer may see the hand of God, but both he and the rationalist must see a fact of Nature. The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts. Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things.

Unfortunately, the victims are not only those whose reckless behavior brought death on themselves. There are many completely innocent victims, too: hemophiliacs (a substantial fraction died as a result of contaminated clotting factor), recipients of contaminated transfusions, and their spouses and children, for AIDS can be transmitted heterosexually (in America, only infrequently) and congenitally. The icy road was lined with unsuspecting innocents, who never chose to ride a motorcycle. Guilt for their deaths is on the hands of the homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers who poisoned the blood supply. These people died so the sodomites could feel good about themselves.

At present, HIV testing has reduced the risk of infection by transfusion almost (but not exactly) to zero. However, should a new lethal blood-borne virus arise, it will not be detected, and a test developed, until thousands of people have been infected. Experience with HIV shows that the environments of homosexual promiscuity and intravenous drug abuse can readily turn a single infection into an epidemic.

The homophobe does not engage in violence against homosexuals. Repelled, he stays away from them. Homophobes are divided on the wisdom of laws against homosexual acts. Some believe laws are a good way to reduce their frequency and damaging consequences. Others, probably the majority, believe that outlawing these acts is futile, just as outlawing drug abuse may be futile, and that laws may lead to destructive witch-hunts. These homophobes believe the best approach is moral condemnation, which is the approach our society now applies to many other destructive practices, such as adultery, alcohol and tobacco abuse, and suicide. Moral condemnation will not extirpate them, but neither can the law; a climate of disapproval may reduce their frequency and their harm.

What of those cursed with unnatural sexual desires? Must they forever suppress these desires? Yes, but this is hardly a unique fate. Almost everyone has desires which must be suppressed. Most men and women think adulterous thoughts fairly often, and find themselves attracted to members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. Morality requires them to suppress these desires, and most do not commit adultery, though they feel lust in their hearts. Almost everyone, at one time or another, covets another’s property. They do not steal. Many people feel great anger or intense hatred at some time in their lives. They do not kill.

I am a homophobe, and proud.

Post-Script October 17, 2003: The homosexual movement is now campaigning against blood drives, because blood banks do not accept blood from men who have engaged in homosexual acts. This is “discrimination”, the campaigners say (see, for example, Washington University Student Life October 17, 2003). Of course it is discrimination; the blood banks are discriminating against blood at risk of contamination with HIV, which would give the recipients the fatal disease AIDS. Intravenous drug abusers are also rejected as donors, for the same reason. People who have lived in the United Kingdom are now rejected because they are at (much lesser) risk for CJD. Some discrimination is wrong. Racial discrimination, for example, is almost invariably unethical (and generally illegal) because race is unrelated to the ability to do a job, study, fulfill a contract, or almost any other activity of daily life. Some discrimination, however, is both justified and necessary. For example, it is quite appropriate for a basketball team to discriminate among applicants on the basis of height, agility and stamina, for a prospective patient to discriminate among doctors on the basis of their academic qualifications and past record of practice, and for a blood bank to discriminate among prospective donors on the basis of the statistical risk that their blood is contaminated with infectious diseases. In order to satisfy their demand for full acceptance by society, the homosexual movement demands to kill some transfusion recipients by infecting them with AIDS, or to kill patients who need transfusions by making it impossible for blood banks to collect blood. Or, perhaps, this was just a joke. But I think not.

Post-Script October 9, 2005: In recent weeks this essay has been the subject of controversy at, and even beyond, Washington University (see, for example, recent issues of Student Life). A number of critics have asked if monogamous homosexuals are also culpable. Quite apart from the question of the definition of monogamous (sexual contact with only one person in a lifetime? serial monogamy? some cheating? etc.), I suggest the following analogy: A man joins the Ku Klux Klan. He is not violent, and would never hurt a fly; he just wants a safe place to express his racist feelings. Is he culpable for the Klan’s past acts of violence? I believe that even though he is not criminally responsible for acts that occurred before he joined, he is morally culpable for joining the Klan. The Klan has blood on its hands, and anyone who joins must share the guilt. So, too, with the homosexual movement.

Cold Thoughts on Global Warming

By Jonathan I. Katz

The climate has gotten warmer over the last (roughly) 300 years, since the end of the Little Ice Age c. 1300–1700. Although many of the details are controversial, and some of the data may be corrupted in a variety of ways, the preponderance of evidence strongly supports this conclusion.

There is no “Emerging Consensus”. The physics of “greenhouse gases” and their effect on climate has been understood since the work of Tyndall (1862). The conclusion that anthropogenic emissions of these gases will likely warm the climate has been generally accepted for a century. It is a consensus, but it is not emerging or new. It has been there all along. Only a panicky fear of the consequences is new.

Climate is a complicated system with many feedback loops, most of which are not understood. For example, about half of the emitted carbon is re-absorbed. No one knows where it goes, although probably into some combination of the ocean and biosphere.

It is not possible to predict the future climate. The computer codes all do an excellent job of explaining the past history of climate. This is because they are calibrated to do so. They all contain a variety of “empirical parameters” (fudge factors) that are tuned to agree with present and past climate. That doesn’t mean the codes are right, or have any predictive value (as Paul Dirac said, and “Yoga” Berra made famous, it is hard to predict, especially the future). The codes disagree with each other about the future even when the same assumptions are made, with results for the warming spread over a factor of about 2 1/2. Hence most of the codes must be wrong. Perhaps they all are.

We don’t understand climate, and there is no prospect of doing so in the forseeable future. The Earth reflects 30% of its incident sunlight. Increasing or decreasing this by one percentage point would produce a cooling or warming equal in magnitude to the warming from pre-industrial times to the present. But no one knows how to calculate this value that is measured to be 30%. Without understanding, better computers don’t help.

It is plausible that the the last 100–150 years of warming have been anthropogenic, the result of emission of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide. The IPCC says it is “90%” confident of this. The number is meaningless, and cannot be meaningful until they make a large number of predictions in which they claim a similar degree of confidence, and find that 90% of them are correct. They haven’t done so; 90% is a spuriously quantitative way of saying “We think this is probably the case, but cannot be really sure”. If you accept the 90% as quantitatively meaningful (you shouldn’t), then there is a 10% chance the warming has some other cause. When statistical data actually exist, usually a 95% or 98% confidence is required for a conclusion to be taken seriously.

It is unlikely that the roughly 150 years of warming prior to the mid-19th Century were anthropogenic because emissions of man-made greenhouse gases were slight, and samples of air trapped in ice show that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide did not begin to rise until the later 19th Century. Some warming must have been the consequences of natural processes. The more recent warming is likely to be partly natural and partly anthropogenic. It is not possible to disentangle these two processes because we have no understanding at all of natural warming and cooling trends, beyond the fact (evident from the history of cold ice ages warm interglacials) that both occur.

If global warming is really anthropogenic, what should we do and why? Some people talk about reducing carbon (dioxide) emissions. This is a fantasy. The developed countries aren’t going to reduce their emissions much—1% per year is plausible, but 50% or 80% reductions will not happen. Emissions from developing countries will rise rapidly because so many contributors of emission (travel, electric power, infrastructure that requires carbon emission to build) are things people buy more of as they become more prosperous. People won’t freeze in the dark for the sake of a scientific theory, even a correct scientific theory.

Carbon emissions are going to continue to rise, with a little help from all those politicians and hangers-on jetting off to Kyoto, Bali and (now) Copenhagen. Get used to it.

What will be the consequences? The climate will get warmer. There is no evidence that storms or droughts will increase. In the past few decades severe storms have become somewhat less frequent, and the Sahelian drought of the 1970’s and 1980’s has ended. There is no evidence these trends are related to global warming.

Global warming does not make the tropics, or warm seasons in temperate zones, any hotter. For good physical reasons, greenhouse gas warming occurs almost entirely in arctic and sub-arctic regions and in temperate zones during winter; in other words, when the weather is cold.

The last major episode of warmer climate, the Late Medieval Climatic Maximum (which had nothing to do with anthropogenic greenhouse gases—no one knows why it began, or why it gave way to the Little Ice Age later) was good for humanity. The Vikings settled Iceland and Greenland (which was actually green, as it is becoming again today). There is no evidence of adverse effects on humanity at lower latitudes.

Who is stoking the alarm about global warming? There is Al Gore, an over-the-hill politician who wants to remain in the public eye. His house uses 20 times as much electricity as the average American house and he flies private jets. Obviously, he does not believe what he preaches; it must be an act. Conservation is for the little people. I’ll think about reducing my emissions after he reduces his by 95%. Then there is Jim Hansen, would-be dictator who wants to throw in jail anyone who disagrees with him or burns coal. He may wish himself another Mussolini (or worse), but people just laugh at him. And finally John Holdren, who in his younger days was prophesying disaster from the ice age then just beginning (so he said). Fictitious crises are a demogogue’s route to power.

Some of the more apocalyptic fears about global warming resemble a secular doomsday cult. Rather than God dooming mankind for its traditional sins (robbery, lust, murder, disbelief, etc.), Nature is said to doom mankind for the secular sin of carbon emission. Some (Greenpeace, and even more radical groups) think any human effect on nature to be sinful, and regard “Mother Earth” as a deity that is violated by any use of its resources for the sustenance, comfort or betterment of Mankind. Needless to say, this is opposite to the Biblical grant of the natural world to Man for his benefit.

Predictions of climate doom are no more rational than traditional religous predictions of a Day of Judgement or Armageddon. Divine revelation is not open to rational argument, and its truth can only be judged by further revelation.

Global warming is real and much of it is probably anthropogenic. Nothing serious will be done about it, no matter how frantic or hysterical certain people become. Fortunately, global warming is probably good for humanity. Sit back, relax, and watch it happen.

Postscript (1/1/10): November, 2009 brought the “Climategate” revelations. Leaked emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit showed a number of prominent advocates of drastic anti-greenhouse gas measures engaging in attempts to suppress contrary opinions by a variety of unethical means. Assertions by those embarrassed and their supporters that the leak was “illegal”, whether or not valid, amount to a confession of guilt. For professional scientists, this was familiar—scientists frequently engage in backstabbing and attempt to sabotage the careers of their rivals (see, for example, the “XYZ Affair” in my book The Biggest Bangs). Usually the stakes are prestige, jobs and research grants. In climatology the stakes are trillions of dollars of investment that might better be spent in other ways (such as food and health care for the poor).

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