Monday, May 08, 2006

Bioethics - the new phrenology?

Just got the new RS mailout and this bit is just plain bizzare. I'll quote a few of the choicest tidbits (emphasis mine):

The priorities and processes of the Inquiry expressed a fundamental cultural bias insofar as they systematically legitimated the subtle exclusion of 'minority' interests, selecting for rational expert opinion at the expense of intangible or 'subjective' concerns.
Excuse me?? What are we supposed to do when discussing science? This also paints a pretty bad impression of 'minority' interests - they're irrational and subjective??

It also alerts us to the risk of conceptualising consultation in ways that inadvertently select for the status quo [...] thus sustaining the social and economic disparities...
huh? it's a conspiricy?
By treating GM as a scientific and legalistic problem, the RCGM silenced significant
aspects of the debate [...] it had not an adequate means for hearing the
cultural, social, spiritual, or ethical aspects of these and subsequently
incorporating them into its strategic plan.
I would suggest that the RCGM was an input into the debate. Cultural, social, spiritual and ethical considerations should be discussed in the political arena. Where they belong.

If this is what passes for bioethics debate in nz no wonder GE isn't getting a fair hearing. This is an angels on pinheads attempt to restructure the debate into something entirely subjective and unprovable. As with any other politicised science debate, let the science speak for itself and let politics debate the touchy-feely stuff.

Dawkins has a great write up on this sort of hubris discussing the Sokal hoax. Go on, read it. This conference is/was obviously crap.

Greenpeace strikes back...

Cindy Baxter has her response to the climate coalition (still no website!! WTF! credibility rapidly approaching zero) here.
I don't think she hit the right note.
Most of the column sounds like a conspiricy theory. While it's informative to know who pays the bills, it's insulting to think that someone can't have a good point purely because of who they work for. In addition, one could say the same about cindy. G'peace is not known for it's consistency wrt science. Compare and contrast GE with global warming. she is perfectly happy to quote scientists that confirm her cliamte change dogma but refuses to acknowledge the same system that is trying to make better food (Golden Rice is better) for people that may actually want/need it.
I'm sticking to my original plan - show me some freakin' facts. Science informs, it doesn't state policy, that's for the politicians.
NB I wonder if it would be informative to review the history of the Montreal Accord and the phase out of CFC's and their impact on the Ozone Hole. I would expect strong parallels between Monsanto (?) claiming all sorts of uncertainty over the science and denying a causative link. Anyone know a good reference site?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The NZ climate debate

on DF's blog. Go on, read the comments. BTW he loves the climate coalition. This is what passes for debate in this arena. Science illiterates proclaiming on complex science. Kudos to the sciency types who were giving their time but basically: you can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into. Almost a definition of the scientific method and scientists as a group (i.e. they can reason themselves out of something).

I almost lost the will to live when one person started out with 'water is made of one hydrogen and 2 oxygens, and therefore is a lot like carbon dioxide'. Why the hell don't these people have rabid debates with their oncologists about price fixing from big-pharma? perhaps the immediacy of death by cancer has an impact on how much you trust an expert opinion?
stupid stupid debate. roll on to the next decade. oh, and worst case scenario, life on earth still goes on: it was, is and always will be the age of bacteria.
i understood this debate much more after reading jarod diamond's 'collapse'. go read it. now. substitute DF opinion of climate change with the guy on Easter Is chopping down the last bunch of trees. You can screw up your environment, we have the evidence...

The NZ climate coalition

the media releases begin.
Yet strangely, they spend half the time moaning about the media and how science is portrayed in it. And they still don't have a freakin' website. This is starting to look like a joke.
HEY GUYS! IF YOU WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, HOW ABOUT WRITING DOWN WHAT YOU THINK SO WE CAN HAVE A LOOK AT IT? or do you prefer to just fire off press releases to a gullible media?

Electricity crisis averted (?)

Great planning and bold decisive leadership came through on the day. And the rain. Don't forget the rain, that was a lucky bounce. I'm sure we had plenty of backup options though. Sitting on the bench as it were. It's a game of two halves after all and the best team came through with a win...
I just feel a classic shane warne pursing of the lips with that trademark 'ohh you were lucky' kind of vibe. Can't wait for next year! What an industry, all the fun of the fair!

New head of the RS

Tough job. I hope he actually tackles the real issues in NZ's parlous R&D environment.

Telecom loop unbundling in the near future?

$1 billion wiped off by disgruntled shareholders... on cue comes the business subsidy lobbyist Roger Kerr saying how awful it is.
Here's another take: investors who were quite happy to receive the dividends from a monopoly provider of infrastructure who was reaping it for all it's worth have now moved on to greener pastures. Good riddence.
As for market failures, that's a bit rich, Telecom has done SFA for 10 years. The broadband takeup in NZ is a complete joke and even what's on offer is barely adequate for the mid-90's let alone after 2010.

Monday, May 01, 2006

CSIRO chief to head up IRL

I suspect a lot CSIRO employees will be very happy...
Word has it that CSIRO hasn't been in the best shape of late and laying off loads of support staff, hiring new scientists on 1-3 year contracts and changing your long term strategy every 3 years or so is not a super duper recipe for success.
I'm sure it makes easily measured variables look great though. The bad news is that long term value doesn't show up so well on a balance sheet.
I'm sure he'll fit right in with R&D in NZ.

New Zealand Climate Science Coalition

announced in the Herald here.
Could be interesting, or could be a bunfight. How the hell is anyone that's not a climate scientist supposed to know the difference?
I would start by listing funding sources (hint: Exxon/Big Oil is not likely to provide balanced opinion) for the association's members.
Secondly, why are they targeting the media and public opinion? The majority of scientists agree that the best people to judge science is... other scientists. Majority opinion is not always right, i'll be the first to agree to that but the caveat is that it's right far more often than it's wrong.
As for the IPCC being a drum-banging hippie for the lefties, as far as i can tell, there's been a lot pressure to downgrade definitive statements in preference for more passive statements.

These guys are pulling together a website (here), i guess i'll have to have a look at it when it's up and running (although having your press release go out prior to your website being up and running seems a bit odd these days).

Good grief, i don't want to be pulled into this climate change maelstrom, i'm not qualified enough to have an informed opinion on the science and it just turns into a star-bellied-sneeches discussion anyway...