When is it right to trust the experts?

October 22nd, 2016

Last post (I’m beginning to see a pattern here) I looked at a number of scientific and historical facts where a bunch of non-experts challenge the consensus of the real experts. These areas were:

  • evolution vs creationism;
  • whether Jesus was a historical person and Nazareth was where he lived;
  • climate change;
  • the medieval church vs science;
  • the beneficial effects of religious belief and practice

On all of these matters, there is substantial agreement among the experts (scientists, historians, psychologists, etc) but the consensus is often challenged and disbelieved by sceptics. They ask us to believe them rather than the experts, and tend to accuse the experts of some sort of conspiracy or bias.

We all know that experts are sometimes wrong (though more often right). And most of us like to feel free to go against the experts on occasion. So when should we trust the experts?

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There is no Planet B

September 7th, 2016

Australians have had a polarised and sometimes ambivalent attitude to the threats to this planet, and to our comfortable Aussie way of life, from climate change. Most people, most of the time, want to make positive changes, but a sizeable minority follow the shock jocks and the Murdoch press in mocking climate change.

Governments have vacillated too, sometimes bravely moving forwards against the doom claims of some in the business lobby, sometimes doing the absolute minimum. As a result, Australia lags most developed countries, and quite a few less developed countries, in promoting renewable energy sources – all the more reprehensible since we have such a large land area and so many opportunities for solar, wind and tidal power generation.

But the battle goes on, and this week a new shot has been fired.

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Climate report for 2015

January 24th, 2016

I think there are very few people now who don’t realise that climate change is happening, the world is indeed heating up, and this is causing some serious problems that will only get worse. So this report card on 2015 can be brief.

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A brief addendum on climate science

January 14th, 2014

Further to my rave on climate science yesterday, here is a website where a geochemist reports he reviewed thousands of peer reviewed articles on climate science, dated November 2012 to December 2013.

Of 2258 papers, with a total of 9136 authors, he found only one paper and one author who denied that human-caused global warming is occurring.

When will Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and the other deniers recognise the facts? Or will their motto be …?

My ignorant unsubstantiated opinion is equal in value to the verified and tested findings of experts

2013 – that was the year that was ….. hot!

January 4th, 2014


The Daily Telegraph in Sydney has been mounting an extensive disinformation campaign on climate change for years now. The tactic is simple, and apparently effective, if not truthful – latch onto any isolated “fact” that seems to show some evidence of a cool world, ignore all the facts, evidence and reports to the contrary, and sneer rather than argue logically. And make sure all your columnists, cartoonists and featured letter writers are ‘on message’.

So now that 2013 is over, what does the data tell us in Australia?

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Christians, atheists and confirmation bias

November 21st, 2013

Horse with blinkers

“Confirmation bias …. is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way …. [or] interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.” (Wikipedia)

Atheists often accuse christians of confirmation bias, but we all do it to some degree – it is part of developing a consistent world view. But sometimes it obscures the truth.

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Where was God in the bushfires?

November 4th, 2013


Bushfires have recently raged through parts of NSW, with some of the more severe burning on the fringes of Sydney, destroying more than 200 homes and taking 2 lives. Without good planning and preparedness, and some desperately hard work by firefighters, it could have been much worse.

I live in the middle of suburbia, far from the firefronts this time (though 20 years ago fires destroyed 100 homes in adjacent suburbs), but the ferocity of the fires and the apparent randomness of the destruction lead people to ask questions.

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Science and religion

May 10th, 2013

Church in test tube

Conventional ‘wisdom’ says that religion and science are at war, or at least opposed. Certainly you’ll find many atheists and many believers saying that. But there is another side to the story.

Some scientific discoveries seem (to some) to support belief, and many scientists are believers. And in recent times, the scientific study of religion as a social and biological phenomenon has become an active area of research.

Let’s explore.

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