Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arctic's 'fiery ice' is potential new energy source

The Gazette, 15 November 2010

On the upside, hydrates are said to contain more energy than all other fossil fuels combined, and are much cleaner than oil and coal.

Global estimates "range from merely jaw-dropping to the truly staggering," according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Canada is believed to have enough hydrates along its coasts to meet the country's energy needs for a couple of hundred years.

How A Scientific Integrity Act Could Shift The Global Warming Debate

The Air Vent, 23 November 2010

Up until now, peer review has been held up as the gold standard in scientific discourse. Recent developments in the climate science arena, such as Climategate, have led many to conclude that peer review is not all that it is cracked up to be. Having said that, peer review may well be perfectly adequate as a scientific standard when the issues in debate are the mating habits of squirrels. However, if the issue in debate is whether or not trillions of dollars should be spent combating global warming, perhaps a new more rigorous standard should be applied.

I propose that henceforth, five levels of scientific rigour be defined. In brief, they are Level zero which is grey literature from advocacy organisations such as the WWF. Level one, which is the current peer review process. Level two, which I will call replicatable, is the current peer review process but with mandatory archiving of data and software code within six months of publication. Level three, which I will call audited, is where an authoritative body of some sort holds a competition on the internet to “find something wrong” with the calculations in the paper with a prize for any independent researcher who can find incorrect calculations. Level four is what I will call Cross Examined and is where the paper in question is deemed so important that, a full scale “internet trial” is conducted. You can think of it as a Scopes Monkey Trial of the researchers and their paper by competent legal personnel advised by scientists. It would mainly consist of oral testimony but with anyone on the internet free to comment and interject in any forum they wish. Naturally these comments can inform the questions put to the researchers.

The University of East Anglia & its Climatic Research Unit up to their usual tricks

Climate Audit, 24 November 2010

On October 22, 2010, David Holland re-iterated his FOI requests 08-23 and 08-31. Once again, the University of East Anglia has refused 08-31, this time using an excuse the obtuseness of which is remarkable even for the University of East Anglia.

08-31 is, of course, the request that prompted Phil Jones to ask Briffa to deny the existence of the Wahl correspondence to UEA administration and then to ask Briffa, Wahl and others to delete the relevant emails – emails that showed what Fred Pearce called a “subversion” of IPCC policies of openness and transparency. 08-31 is, of course, the email that Muir Russell obtusely pretended not to exist – a piece of obtuseness that Fred Pearce hoped was “cockup rather than conspiracy”.

UEA has once again provided tortured refusals to 08-23 and 08031 respectively are in Appendix E and Appendix F to David Holland’s FOI – see here.

I’ll discuss 08-31 today. The original request is online here.

Holland’s request stated (excerpt here):

I have now read Dr Briffa’s letter of 15th May in answer to mine of 31st March for which I have thanked him. As he indicates that he will refer further enquiries to you I must advise you that I do not feel it answers any of my questions satisfactorily apart from the last and continue to seek any and all documents held by CRU relating to Dr Briffa’s participation in the IPCC, 2007 assessment reports.

In addition to the questions I put to Dr Briffa, and without limiting my request for all information relating to the IPCC assessment process not already in the public domain, I will specify further particular areas for which I am seeking information.

1. The IPCC stated1 on July 1, 2006:
“We are very grateful to the many reviewers of the second draft of the
Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report for
suggestions received on issues of balance and citation of additional
scientific literature.”

Did the IPCC receive any such “suggestions” in a written form other than those reported in the documents for each chapter entitled “IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report: Expert and Government Review Comments on the Second-Order Draft”2? If so, please provide them.

As CA and Climategate readers know, in July 2006, Briffa sent the supposedly confidential IPCC final draft and his proposed replies to Second Draft Review Comments to Eugene Wahl, a protagonist in the Mann controversy. Wahl inserted a change to the IPCC assessment of the Hockey Stick controversy, a change which passed into the Final Draft, without any recorded discussion.

In refusing item (1), the University of East Anglia’s response says that Wahl’s comments to Briffa – comments solicited by Briffa in his capacity as an IPCC author – were not received by IPCC and that the suggestions sent by Wahl to Briffa fall outside the scope of Holland’s question:

In regards question 1, we have no idea of what suggestions the IPCC received and I have verified that if, indeed, they did receive any, they did not pass them on to any staff member within UEA. There is no question that a suggestion was received by Prof. Briffa from Eugene Wahl and this material is publicly available and has been widely commented upon.

This ‘suggestion’ was not provided to the IPCC, only to Prof. Briffa and therefore is outside the remit of question 1.

I wonder what East Anglia think that they are accomplishing by pretending that Briffa did not receive the Wahl comments in his capacity as an IPCC lead author.

In addition, their statement that the Wahl “suggestion” is already “publicly available” is untrue. The Wahl suggestions are contained in attachments to Climategate emails. I sent an FOI to UEA last spring for the attachments and they refused, saying that they didn’t have them. (I guess they’d been deleted.) Despite the fact that they told me that they didn’t have the attachments any more, Acton told the Sci Tech Committee that they had everything, that nothing had been deleted.

This is precisely the sort of intentional obtuseness that brings both the University of East Anglia and climate science into disrepute.

There are many Climategate articles wondering how climate scientists can regain public trust – with the Guardian praising the creation of an attack squad. A better method would be for institutions, including IPCC and CRU, to provide straightforward answers. To stop playing the stupid word tricks that characterize so many climate science “answers”.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why So Many (Medical) Studies Based On Statistics Are Wrong

Without peering into the mathematical guts, here is how statistical studies actually work:
  1. Data are gathered in the hopes of proving a cherished hypothesis.
  2. A statistical model is selected from a toolbox which contains an enormous number of models, yet it is usually the hammer, or “regression”, that is invariably pulled out.
  3. The model is then fit to the data. That is, the model has various drawstrings and cinches that can be used to tighten itself around the data, in much the same way a bathing suit is made to form-fit around a Victoria’s Secret model.
  4. And to continue the swimsuit modeling analogy, the closer this data can be made to fit, the more beautiful the results are said to be. That is, the closer the data can be made to fit to the statistical model, the more confident that a researcher is that his cherished hypothesis is right.
  5. If the fit of the data (swimsuit) on the model is eye popping enough, the results are published in a journal, which is mailed to subscribers in a brown paper wrapper. In certain cases, press releases are disseminated showing the model’s beauty to the world.

Despite the facetiousness, this is it: statistics really does work this way, from start to finish. What matters most, is the fit of the data to the model. That fit really is taken as evidence that the hypothesis is true.

But this is silly. At some point in their careers, all statisticians learn the mathematical “secret” that any set of data can be made to fit some model perfectly. Our toolbox contains more than enough candidate models, and one can always be found that fits to the desired, publishable tightness.

And still this wouldn’t be wrong, except that after the fit is made, the statistician and researcher stop. They should not!

The rest here.

Darwin's theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history

From Science Centric

Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution is not supported by geological history, New York University Geologist Michael Rampino concludes in an essay in the journal Historical Biology. In fact, Rampino notes that a more accurate theory of gradual evolution, positing that long periods of evolutionary stability are disrupted by catastrophic mass extinctions of life, was put forth by Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew prior to Darwin's published work on the topic.


'Matthew discovered and clearly stated the idea of natural selection, applied it to the origin of species, and placed it in the context of a geologic record marked by catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations,' says Rampino, whose research on catastrophic events includes studies on volcano eruptions and asteroid impacts. 'In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view.'

The rest here.

Britain: Without government intervention, natural gas would be too cheap

Bloomberg, 17 November 2010

Britain’s electricity market, “left untouched” by government regulations, would rely too much on gas and neglect other fuels needed to limit emissions and price volatility, the minister in charge of energy said today.

The U.K. government said it will set out steps later this year, such as guaranteeing electricity capacity, establishing a minimum cost of emitting carbon-dioxide and obliging energy suppliers to source low-carbon power such as wind and nuclear, to help attract investment.

“The current market framework is not fit to deliver the investment we need,” Chris Huhne, U.K. secretary of state for energy and climate change, said today in published remarks from a speech later today in London to the Confederation of British Industry. “Left untouched, the electricity market would allow a new dash for gas, increasing our dependence on a single fuel, and exposing us to volatile prices.”

Britain committed to cutting its CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. The country needs to ensure sufficient energy supplies as it prepares to shut as much as 30 percent of its aging nuclear and fossil-fueled power capacity within the next decade. Power consumption may double by 2050 as the nation plans to encourage electric-powered cars.

Full story

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why gay conservatives worry about gay marriage

My own view is that whatever marriage might mean for the happy couple, the reason the rest of us give it society’s imprimatur is that it’s the best way to keep the wandering male at home, to raise socialised children.

Weaken the marriage and you weaken the chances of the next generation being good citizens. All the rest - the love, the happy-ever-afters - is just icing on a sternly healthy cake.

From this central truth comes what should be the conservative case against gay marriage, or, at least, conservative concerns about a redefinition of marriage and the weakening of an already compromised tradition that helps to protect us all.

Therefore gay marriage advocates who claim that the case for gay marriage is opposed only by homophobes, religious bigots and haters are lazy, ignorant, obsessively self-admiring or a combination of the above. Those who say marriage must be redefined to end homophobia are using the wrong tool for the job, and damaging it in doing so.

The rest at Mr Bolt's place.

Amid the climate gloom life goes on and nature thrives

Left orthodoxy maintains that the story of man's interaction with the ecosphere is a story of habitat degradation leading to species extinction. That's the headline. But by overstating the risks of climate change, and underestimating the capacity of humans and other species to adapt, we risk missing the chance to address real, pressing, soluble environmental problems.

Scientists at James Cook University last week announced they have discovered an exquisite new species of pygmy seahorse, 200 kilometres off the coast of Cairns. At less than half a centimetre long, the tiny creature may be the smallest vertebrate.

The discovery adds to the work of 2700 scientists from 80 countries who just completed the first Census of Marine Life. The census increased the estimate of known species from 230,000 to 250,000, finding "an unanticipated riot of species, which are the currency of diversity".

A startling find is the "rare biosphere" of microbes - species surviving in numbers of less than one in 10,000. These tiny cohorts subsist among masses of a dominant competitor, apparently waiting and hoping that conditions will change to allow their moment on the evolutionary stage. They seem to be a planetary insurance policy so that even if nutrient or temperature conditions change over time, there will still be an abundance of microscopic sea life in the food chain.

Outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef have reduced by half over the past decade. Scientists have no way of explaining their pattern of aggression and regression but it is clear that runoff from the farmers of north Queensland is not the main culprit.

Our lack of perspective derives in part from shortness of memory.

The rest here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'll give you kitteh cuteness (wait for it)

I heartily endorse this tweet

RobertCandelori I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land: King George III & his heirs up to and including Queen Elizabeth II
I know, it's politically incorrect and if I thought about it too much I would appreciate the problems with it (I suppose), but really, I'm just over all this bullshit acknowledging of traditional owners.

It's a completely meaningless term and is actually contradictory. Either you are the traditional owner of land or you are not. Other than for unimproved Crown land, aboriginal people are not the owners of land and there is nothing to be gained by this well-intentioned sop that effectively seeks to delegitimise our presence in this country.

Now, you may pine for a time before British Australia and wish that the British had never come here and established the modern nation state called Australia.

But we aren't going away. Non-aboriginal Australians aren't going to pack up and move back to where ever they or their families came from.

And yet we tolerate this idea that implicitly says that our presence here is illegitimate, that there are people with a claim to this country that is real, whereas ours is not.

We put up with that ersatz "traditional" welcome to country ceremony that didn't exist until 40 years ago when Ernie Dingo and another fellow made it up.

Do we Australians really need to be welcomed to what is our own country?

Our sensibilities should be troubled by the dispossession of the aboriginal people and the disastrous effects it had on them, but it happened. It can't be undone and it wont be undone.

So we are all here together and surely the last thing people rotting in the remote communities, or the deracinated urban aborigine passing generational failure and disadvantage to yet another generation, is to be encouraged to nurse grievances about the wrongs of the past and wallow in an impotent victimhood?

Because, gee, hasn't that been working a treat for the last thirty or forty years?

The greatest tragedy of the 2007 federal election was the fact that at just the moment we had a government that had found the courage to 'name' the failed policies of the past for what they were, and to declare that we had to do things differently, we changed the government and we have gradually seen since the old alliance of the white urban Left and those aborigines who profited from the disadvantage of the rest of their people reassert the disastrous policies of the rights agenda, separatism and victimhood.

I'm sick of symbolic gestures that are more about white people feeling good about themselves, (and superior to the less 'enlightened'), than about making sure this current generation of aboriginal kids isn't destroyed like the ones before it.

And let's be honest about this shall we? Even here in Perth's suburbs I can see exactly that happening. Kids tagging along with their parents (who have never worked a day in their lives) as they wait before half past eight in the morning with social security money for the bottle shop to open, and a day's drinking to begin.

Kids whose formative years is a never ending succession of violence, foul language and the most appalling anti-social behavior. Kids who are doomed to fail at school before they even get there.

But what makes our inner-city hipsters angry? Apologies and preambles to the friggen constitution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coldest Arctic autumn since 2004, following coldest summer on record


This has been the coldest autumn in the high Arctic since 2004, after the coldest summer on record.

Hansen’s claim that it is the “hottest year ever” are based on his imaginary Arctic temperatures.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mother Jones reader "I can't do this anymore...This is OUR Iraq War of lies and fear"



I can’t do this anymore, this climate change hysteria. And I consider myself both progressive and a liberal too, so hear me out. I found out what “they” all agree on, they agree that the effects of CO2 are predicted to be anywhere from unstoppable warming, to no noticeable effects at all. No wonder they all agreed. And it’s been 24 years. We look like we WANT this climate hell to happen. We have been had folks. This is OUR Iraq War of lies and fear. I’m both embarrassed and ashamed for endorsing this CO2 mistake through two and a half decades of dire warnings of doom and Armageddon.. But I was too much of a climate coward to actually say out loud: THE END IS NEAR. Because it’s exactly the same thing! I actually gave my kids CO2 death threats. Why? Why did I do this for so long? Let history know that this responsible environmentalist is now a Green Climate Change Denier.


From Real Science


Green Jobs Cut Despite $500 Million Government Subsidy

Editorial, The Orange County Register, 11 November 2010

Listening to outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and incoming Gov. Jerry Brown, Californians might think the California economy's salvation lies in so-called "green jobs," which now account for about 3 percent of the state's workforce.

What boosters of green jobs don't usually mention is most of these jobs require substantial taxpayer subsidies and other special government treatment even to exist in a competitive market. It appears now that even a half-billion dollars in government aid is no guarantee of success.

Don't get caught in the web of conspiracy theory truthiness

Wel, I'm actually going to point to something from the Fairfax media for a change!
ABC Melbourne broadcaster Jon Faine got into a stoush a couple of weeks ago with the  September 11 conspiracy movement. It was entertaining talkback radio, but the phenomenon of large numbers of people willing to believe dastardly things — even in the face of solid, contradictory evidence — was scary and depressing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

4G may trump Gillard’s $43 billion #NBN

MIT has news that cast even more doubt about the wisdom of the Gillard Government committing $43 billion to a national broadband network that leaves users chained to a socket in the wall:
During the first wave of the wireless revolution, businesses realized that being out of the office didn’t mean being out of action. BlackBerrys, iPhones, and 3G dongles for laptops let businesspeople stay connected on the move.

But the second wave, ushered in by the development of 4G mobile broadband, will take the mobile revolution indoors. Although consumer excitement over apps and smart phones is high, and has attracted much of the attention of the press, the enterprise will be the first serious consumer of 4G services. Cellular networks and other service providers are preparing services that will arrive at offices with the potential to destroy the last vestiges of wired infrastructure such as desk phones and wired Internet links.

Amnesty International tries to defend helping a former terrorist sell his book

Amnesty International tries to explain to me why it’s helped a convicted terrorism supporter to profit from his crime by helping to flog his white-washing book for Christmas. The answer in part is apparently that most of its members wouldn’t mind:
Amnesty International decided to sell the David Hicks book via the organisation’s online shop because he was a focus of our campaigning to close Guantanamo Bay and end illegal US detentions for a number of years. He was held without charge or trial for almost six years at Guantánamo Bay.  He was the first person to be sentenced by a U.S. military commission – a tribunal which Amnesty International has long stated could not and did not meet international standards for fair trials.

These US Military Commissions violated international law in a number of ways, such as permitting the use of hearsay evidence and evidence gained using torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

We knew that many of our supporters would be interested in the David Hicks book, in order to gain another perspective on his personal story and his case.

We have a large range of books available, some of which contain views and opinions that are not necessarily those of Amnesty International.  We select a range of books that we feel will help in human rights debate, knowledge and discourse. Selling the David Hicks book does not mean that Amnesty International is promoting his views or actions. We have in the past defended his human rights and we now believe that his account of what happened to him would be of interest to readers.

This is only one of many books we have sold on Guantánamo Bay and the “war on terror”.  We make a very modest profit from the sale of all our books, profit which is put to good use in our work protecting and saving lives.  We receive no funding from governments or political parties.

Amnesty International works to protect the rights of all people. The stories of individuals who have been oppressed or treated unjustly are important to the overall understanding of human rights - no matter who they are, or how controversial their actions may have been.

Peter Thomas,
Director of Fundraising,
Amnesty International Australia

I suspect Amnesty International is now an institution focused more on it's own survival and which has possibly outlived its usefulness.

Stubborn Antarctic ozone hole refuses to change. Maybe it wasn't CFCs causing it after all?

Another scientific consensus bites the dust?
Maybe it is because the major catalyst isn’t CFC’s after all? See this story:

Galactic Cosmic Rays May Be Responsible For The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In the conclusions of the paper here (PDF) there is this:

Thus, the above facts (1)–(5) force one to conclude that the CR[Cosmic Ray]-driven electron-induced reaction is the dominant mechanism for causing the polar O3 hole.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taxpayers to pay $24 million for a "Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions"

Um, this is a joke right?

The Federal Government is promoting the massive humanities grant, which will focus on historical events such as the Black Death, as a solution to the nation's dire mental health problems.

But Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry has criticised the lack of direct funding for mental health research.


Oh, dear God, apparently it isn't!

Federal Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Senator Kim Carr linked the project to statistics showing almost half of Australians aged 16 to 85 years had suffered a mental disorder.

"That is why it is critical that we fund research into the way we deal with everyday problems," Senator Carr said in a press release last month.


Riiiight. So, the Black Death was an "everyday" kind of problem. But it gets worse people. Part of this "research" will involve the performance of an opera!

A related Shakespearean drama production, a Baroque opera and an art exhibition will be produced as part of the research grant.


I'm sorry, but if the government and the universities have money to waste on projects that are so clearly useless and pointless, then it is also just as clear that our universities are not under funded. Quite the opposite by the looks of it. But the fact that it's Senator Kim Carr who has put his name to yet another outrageous wasting of taxpayers' money should come as no surprise to anybody.

Also, time to abolish the Australian Research Council by the looks of it.

Bush explaining why he’ll treat Obama as he’d liked former presidents to have treated him. (He's a class act.)

From Mr Bolt

Thank you Mr Obama - US gets lectured by Iran on violence against women etc at the UN

How the United Nations elevates tyrannies to the status of democracies - this time with the active help of Barack Obama:

The Obama administration got a new “shellacking” this morning, this one entirely voluntary. In the name of improving America’s image abroad, it sent three top officials from the State Department to Geneva’s U.N. Human Rights Council to be questioned about America’s human rights record by the likes of Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

This was the first so-called “universal periodic review” of human rights in the U.S. by the Council, which the Obama administration decided to join in 2009.

The move represents a striking departure from prior American foreign policy, which has been to ratify selected human rights treaties after due consideration and submit American policy-makers to recommendations based on well-conceived standards accepted by the United States…

This morning fifty-six countries lined-up for the opportunity to have at the U.S. representatives, many standing in line overnight a day ago in order to be near the top of the list. Making it to the head of the line were Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and North Korea.

Recommendations to improve the U.S. human rights record included Cuba’s advice to end “violations against migrants and mentally ill persons” and “ensure the right to food and health.”

Iran – currently poised to stone an Iranian woman for adultery – told the U.S. “effectively to combat violence against women.”

North Korea – which systematically starves a captive population – told the U.S. “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education” and “prohibit brutality…by law enforcement officials.”

Libya complained about U.S. “racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.”

The U.S. delegation was at pains to impress the international crowd. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organizations, told the assembled: “it is an honor to be in this chamber.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

A cutural and political disaster in the making - two-thirds born here, but only a third call themselves Australian

Multiculturalism and high immigration is succeeding in dividing us into a nation of tribes, and all that the mulculturalists can now say is “don’t panic”:
ABDUL SKAF loves the beach, camping and the Canterbury Bulldogs, and he wants to be a police officer...But like many young people from immigrant backgrounds he finds it hard to call himself Australian…

“If someone asks me my nationality, I’m Lebanese,” he said…

A study of 339 young people aged 14 to 17 who live in Sydney’s west and south-west suburbs found only one-third of them called themselves Australian even though two-thirds were born here.

Instead they identified themselves by their ethnic background as Tongan, Chinese, Lebanese, and so on, and 16 of the indigenous young people identified themselves as Koori or Aboriginal.

Less than half of them also felt ‘’Australian’’ all the time and one-fifth did not feel ‘’Australian’’ at all.

Jock Collins, a professor of economics at the University of Technology, Sydney, who presented findings from the study at a conference in Europe, said the unwillingness of these “cosmopolitan” youth to identify as Australian should not be seen as a problem…

Australian-born Laryn Zabakly, 17, said: “When other people ask my nationality, I tell them the full thing - Syrian-Jordanian-Armenian. But when my parents tell me I’m Arabic, I tell them ‘Nup, I’m Australian.’’..’

For Cansu Sevinc, 14, who came from Turkey when she was five, there is no hesitation: “Turkish,” she said. “I’m proud to be a Turk."…

Yet none have close friends from Anglo backgrounds.

When they move out of familiar territory they sometimes feel uneasy. “I’m more comfortable here than in, say, North Sydney,” Laryn said. Cansu said she might feel more Australian if people from “outside suburbs were more open and friendly”.

Organic vegetables 'no better for health' than conventionally grown ones

Really, no surprises here in my opinion.

Organic vegetables are no healthier than those grown conventionally, according to a university study. Agricultural scientists grew potatoes, carrots and onions under both organic and traditional conditions then tested the health-giving properties of each.

They found there was little difference in the amount of polyphenols, the chemical compound in vegetables that helps fight cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Organic crops are more expensive and are often perceived as being healthier, though consumers also cite environmental concerns, taste and texture and animal welfare as other reasons for spending more.

The researchers reported: ‘The demand for organic food products is steadily increasing, partly due to the expected health benefits of organic food consumption. ‘On the basis of the study carried out under well-controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites (polyphenols) in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones.’

In their two-year study, Danish researchers cultivated 72 plots of land. On half they used traditional farming methods including treatment with pesticides, non-organic fertilisers and nutrients. The other plots were farmed organically, which meant using only natural aids such as manure instead of fertiliser.

Crops were grown at different times of year and in different parts of the country to get a balanced result. This is because the kind of soil, the difference in climate and attacks by pests are major factors in the amount of polyphenols produced by plants.

The study, undertaken by environmental scientists at the University of Copenhagen, was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The "evidence" alcohol is more harmful than heroin? A one day workshop!

I don't believe it. The media around the world have yet again been played for suckers by an attention seeking activist "researcher."

And, completely predictably, this highly dubious and simplistic claim has been simply regurgitated without question or a moment's thought by the press and the television stations.

Alright, no surprise here really, but one does wish that just for once these people would actually do their jobs properly.

Thankfully, we have "new media" outfits like Spiked Online who aren't prepared to take any press release they receive on face value and aren't afraid to ask some inconvenient questions.
Nor does the methodology of the current paper - drug ranking by committee - inspire a great deal of confidence. Nutt’s views on the dangers of alcohol are well known and this method of comparing harms seems to open up plenty of potential for subjective interpretation of the evidence.

Moreover, there are problems with the criteria used, which are often not really intrinsic to the drug itself. For example, the individual harm of drugs will include HIV acquired from shared needles. But needle-sharing is as much a consequence of the criminalisation of heroin as the drug itself. If heroin was consumed in the same kind of civilised surroundings as wine, HIV would not be a problem. Road traffic accidents are caused by alcohol and other drugs, it is true, but measuring that effect is difficult; for example, just because one driver involved in an accident was over the drink-drive limit at the time does not mean alcohol caused the accident.