Baby chimps reunited

It’s been a while since I have consulted the Twitter feed of Steve Stewart-Williams. Of his recent tweets, this is my favourite.

Plus see also Dog retrieves tennis ball from pool without getting wet, and the human animal in 2020.

Lomborg on climate catastrophe

It became clear from the very first paragraphs of False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg that I was going to have to start revising my prejudices about its author. If, later in this book, Lomborg ever tries to downplay the centrality to the climate argument of the claim that our planet is heading for a climate catastrophe, as opposed merely for a dose of mere climate change, and to deny the centrality of climate science to the climate debate, instead banging only entirely about mere economics, he certainly doesn’t start his book by doing anything like that. Quite the opposite (pp. 3-4):

WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF FEAR – particularly a fear of climate change. One picture summarizes this age for me. It is of a girl holding a sign saying:

YOU’LL DIE OF OLD AGE
I’LL DIE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

This is the message that the media is drilling into our heads: climate change is destroying our planet and threatens to kill us all. The language is of apocalypse. News outlets refer to the “planet’s imminent incineration” and analysts suggest that global warming could make humanity extinct in a few decades. Recently, the media has informed us that humanity has just a decade left to rescue the planet, making 2030 the deadline to save civilization. And therefore we must radically transform every major economy to end fossil fuel use, reduce carbon emissions to zero and establish a totally renewable basis for all economic activity.

Children live in fear and line the streets in protest. Activists are cordoning off cities and airports to raise awareness that the entire population of the planet is facing “slaughter, death, and starvation”.

Influential books reinforce this understanding. In 2017, journalist David Wallace-Wells wrote a lengthy and terrifying description of global warming impacts for New York magazine. Although the article was generally panned by scientists as exaggerated and misleading, he went on to publish the same argument in book form in The Uninhabitable Earth, which became a bestseller. The book revels in unabashed alarmism: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” Likewise, in his 2019 book, Falter, naturalist Bill McKibben warned that global warming is the greatest threat to human civilization, worse even than nuclear war. It could finish off humanity not with an explosion but “with the burble of a rising ocean.” A bookshelf would groan under the weight of recent books with deliberately terrifying titles and messages: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change; Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity; The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable; and This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America.

Media outlets reinforce the extreme language by giving ample space to environmental campaigners, and by engaging in their own activism. The New York Times warns that “across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.” The cover of Time magazine tells us: “Be worried. Be very worried.” The British newspaper the Guardian has gone further, updating its style guidelines so reporters must now use the terms “climate emergency,” “climate crisis,” or “climate breakdown.” Global warming should be “global heating.” The newspaper’s editor believes “climate change” just isn’t scary enough, arguing that it “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

Unsurprisingly, the result is that most of us are very worried. A 2016 poll found that across countries as diverse as the United Arab Emirates and Denmark, a majority of people believe that the world is getting worse, not better. In the United Kingdom and the United States, two of the most prosperous countries on the planet, an astonishing 65 percent of people are pessimistic about the future. A 2019 poll found that almost half of the world’s population believes climate change likely will end the human race. In the United States, four of ten people believe global warming will lead to mankind’s extinction.”

You can read the first twenty five pages of this book, including the above quote, here.

I am now about to test my Bjorn Lomborg prejudices

I recently got lent a copy of this book by Bjorn Lomborg:

But before getting stuck into it, I wanted to describe my prejudice concerning Bjorn Lomborg, based on such things as reading short articles by him and pieces by others about him. But then, when looking for something else in my old blog, I came across this posting from 2012 that already described my Lomborg prejudices, which started life as a comment on a Samizdata posting:

My prejudice about Lomborg (which is why I have not studied his thoughts in much depth) is that he doesn’t understand the argument he says he is in.

In particular, he doesn’t grasp that the essence of the Climate argument concerns whether or not there is going to be a Climate Catastrophe. If there is, then all Lomborg’s chat about merely improving the lives of the poor is just fiddling while Rome awaits incineration.

But if the evidence for a forthcoming catastrophe is no better now than at any other time during human history, then Lomborg’s arguments make sense, as do all other arguments about merely improving things. Economics, business, capitalism, etc. all make sense, and there is no excuse for global collectivism, because it only makes things worse. The only excuse for global collectivism is in preventing a global catastrophe that is otherwise unpreventable.

The climate argument is about climate science, not economics. But Lomborg, being an economist, can’t make himself accept that. He’s the bloke with a hammer to whom every problem must involve banging in a nail. But the whole reason they fabricated the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming was that they could then stop talking about economics, and switch to something else. They wanted to stop losing their argument to people like Lomborg, and instead to win it, in a field where, to start with, they had the advantage of being early adopters, and where their opponents literally did not know what they were talking about.

To be clear: these are just my prejudices, and they haven’t changed since 2012. But because of them I’ve basically ignored Lomborg, and that will now change. I hope now to discover if my prejudices have any solid basis or if they will have to be dumped.

Trumpism and the future of the world (and why I hope Trump wins)

Tucker Carlson is one of my favourite political orators just now. Go here, to see and hear him in typically fluent form. Carlson asks and answers the question: Why do Trump’s meetings attract Trump supporters in such vast numbers?

To put it another way: If – if – Trump wins re-election, how will that have happened?

Trump loves America, and all the actually existing Americans who also love American. (If he doesn’t love America, he does a hugely impressive job of pretending to.) Millions of Americans understandably agree with Trump’s American nationalism.

But there is more at stake than merely the future of America. There’s a whole world out here to be considering.

Since the late eighteenth century, the world has been progressing in a spectacular way, despite all the bad stuff we all know about. Around 1780, there was this kink in all the graphs measuring human creature comforts, and things started getting rapidly better, and this fine trend in human affairs has continued ever since, with many interruptions in such places as Russia and China, but nevertheless unmistakeably. Everyday life, for everyone, even and especially for the very poorest people in the world, continues to get better and better. But will that continue? Might this excellent trend even go into reverse?

The best book I have recently read that grapples with those sorts of questions is The Wealth Explosion by Stephen Davies. Davies argues that what kicked off this spectacular explosion was that, when and where it happened, in Europe in the late 1700s, Europe was not politically unified. That meant that when the materials that went into the explosion began to be assembled – progressive technology and all the thinking that went into it, basically – there was nobody in Europe willing and able to stop this. On the contrary, because the various rulers of Europe were all quarrelling with one another, they all had a powerful incentive to stay ahead of one another in this race. In the world’s other civilisations, that didn’t happen, and technological stagnation ruled.

But Davies’s book is not only about the past. In it, he also ruminates upon the future. The big question for him is: What is modernity? Because if we know what it is, we may know better how to keep it in being.

He identifies several processes that might bring modernity to a halt and turn the last two hundred and more years of technological progress into a mere passing phase, like an earlier progressive episode that had happened in China. That episode was ended by a combination of military disaster and a subsequent Chinese ruling class decision to end it. Technological progress was quite consciously and deliberately stopped in its tracks.

One threat to modernity might, Davies speculates, be nationalism, and its associated fixed sum economic fallacies. By reversing international economic cooperation, such nationalism might throw progress into reverse, in the same kind of way that it did when the Great Depression got started, only more so. Trade war, and then perhaps even consequent actual war. That kind of thing. For Davies, good libertarian globalist that he is, Trump and all he stands for looms like a menace to everything good in the world and in its future.

But another threat to progress that Davies mentions seems to me at least as plausible, which is that globalisation will intensify, and create a global ruling class that will then, in the manner of the rulers of Imperial China, all agree that progress, because it is unsettling for the world and in particular for them, is bad and must be stopped. This ruling class might, in contrast, continue to pay lip service to the idea of progress, but will end up stopping it by mistake, in their efforts merely to improve and domesticate it.

I regard the second of these scenarios as a far greater threat to the world than the first. After all, does not Davies himself tell us that it was European “nationalism” that allowed all of this progress to get started in such a big way, back in the 1780s? If the world were now to unify, might that not prevent progress from happening, just as it prevented it everywhere else in the world outside of Europe (with the exception of Japan (which instead became a sort of honorary European country)), at the time when Europe itself was bursting forth into modernity? Ask questions like that, and Trump ceases to be a menace and becomes instead a protector and provoker of continuing global economic dynamism. He is now keeping the world un-unified, by refusing to let America become an outpost of a globalism dominated by quite different impulses centred around places like China and Russia, impulses that could switch off modernity far more thoroughly than continuing national rivalry ever could.

Trump, it seems to me, is a force for continuing global economic dynamism.

Meanwhile I sure hope Trump wins his election. I have no idea what the result of this election will be. I wish I could tell you this beforehand, but I cannot. I can only tell you what I hope, which is that Trump wins it by a stonking majority, so stonking that all those idiot left wing rioters are reduced to a state of spified shock and immobilised immiseration, sitting in their parental homes gibbering with incomprehension, and not a few of them obliging us all by committing suicide, and so stonking that the more civilised Democrats, the sort who prefer indoor corruption to outdoor looting, all decide that they must become Trumpists themselves.

If Trump wins like this, he will also speed up Britain’s escape from Lockdown, because a stonking Trump victory will, among other things, be a victory for anti-Lockdownism.

Like I said, not a prediction, merely a hope.

Michael Yeadon: “SAGE is hugely mistaken”

SAGE being the committee of “experts” who are currently ill-advising the British Government.

Concerning the policy that this advice is now unleashing upon us, Michael Yeadon tweets:

Please spread far & wide.
I’m more certain than ever SAGE is hugely mistaken.
The PCR test has replaced the virus itself as the threat sweeping the country. Completely unreliable.
The number of people dying of respiratory illness Sep-Oct is LOWER than same period last 5y.

And there’s a brief video of Yeadon saying this, that’s more than worth the minute of your time that it will take you to watch.

If you have more time for this guy, and I have a lot of time for him, have a listen also to this interview with Delingpole. Early on, Yeadon asks people to look also at his piece for Lockdown Sceptics about What SAGE Has Got Wrong.

This interview includes, right at its start (in fact before it really starts at all), an amusing way-off-topic anecdote about the WW2 Avro Lancaster factory in Yorkshire, which was at a place called Yeadon.

The greatest show on earth (but not always nice)

So, what creatures does SteveStuWill have for us today?

Mother bird refuses to abandon her eggs. || The amazing diversity of caterpillars. || Sarcasm alert: Nature is so delightful. || Some baby owls sleep face down. || Like humans, wild chimpanzees focus on fewer yet more meaningful friendships as they grow older – that’s me. || Things aren’t always what they seem – butterfly faking it. || This bizarre-looking creature is a long-wattled umbrellabird. || A hognose snake faking its own death. || Who hurt the little sea toad? || A great-backed gull swallowing a rabbit whole. || Cat’s tongue under a microscope. || Scary octopus. || Baby gorilla. || Feline civil disobedience.

Or, to sum it up, Evolution Is the Greatest Show on Earth.

LATER: This. Eat your heart out Peter Bonetti. Not one of SS-W’s, but worthy of being added to them.

LATER STILL: Albino squirrel, demonstrating white supremacy by the looks of it.

How politics and sport are spreading the truth about Covid

I still think that this earlier posting here was right about the direction that British public opinion is moving on the subject of lockdown, but I was clearly wrong about how far it had already changed and how much further it has to change before lockdown is done away with. Mea culpa. Bubble thinking.

The problem is that a majority has been scared into thinking that Covid, which is a bit harmful and sometimes very harmful to those whom it harms, and deadly to those whom it kills, is much more harmful and deadly than it really is, statistically speaking. Almost everyone who “gets” Covid – almost every Covid “case” – is going to recover.

One of the means by which public opinion will come to its senses is when it notices that many people are testing positive for Covid, but that not many of these are dying. This is why celebrity Covid cases are so important.

Trump “got” Covid, yet is now, apparently, thriving. A piece of anecdotal evidence goes … tick. Then a bunch of other people close to the White House “got” Covid. The Democrat media rejoiced, but failed to think ahead. None of these apparently stricken Republicans has died, which I know because if any of them had died, the Democrat Media and their offshoots in Britain would have yelled it from the rooftops. Tick tick. Next, we learned, some prominent Democrats “got” Covid. Excellent. The more the merrier. I hope and expect that none of them will die either. The immense sway that American politics has in Britain ensures that many here Britain will notice these anecdotes and learn the lesson of them. Tick tick tick. Covid is much more widespread than the lockdown fanatics have been saying, and much less deadly. Lockdown has done nothing to stop the spread. But humans have proved much more resistant to the Covid virus than had at first been assumed.

Particularly important is the number of well-known sportsmen who have tested positive for Covid. I follow rugby union. An important Premier League play-off game was won by one side, simply because members of the other team tested positive for Covid. Now, it is being reported that if a winning semi-finalist team contains some players who test positive again, the team they defeated in that semi-final may now, despite having lost, may now play in the final. So, if Covid was as deadly or harmful as had been feared, there should be deaths and retirements in some numbers happening quite soon. There will not be. Tick tick tick tick.

The importance of politics and sport is that politicians and sportsmen don’t seem to have the option of being tested positive, but then keeping quiet about it. This is because, in their world, they have to keep going, unless there’s a public reason not to. Other celebrities, notably actors, can conceal having tested positive. They can just be “resting”, and keep it to themselves. Thus, when they don’t die either, it will not be very noticeable, so actors are contributing less to public enlightenment than you might suppose, given how celebrated the most celebrated of them are. Tom Hanks, also not now dead, chose to reveal that he had tested positive, but did he have to? Surely not. But politicians and sports celebs, the sports people especially, are, with their very public medical histories, telling the Covid story like it is. There’s a lot of it about. But, we should all just take our chances and be allowed get on with our lives. A few old and frail ones will lose this anti-lottery. Most will not.

All this is bound to have consequences for public opinion, given how seriously lots of people follow sport, sport especially.

Has anyone said that they opposed Lockdown at first, but now favour it? If they have, I missed it. The movement in public opinion is all one way. Politicians who fail to get out in front of how things are moving will suffer electorally.

Butterfly on wall

Via the latest clutch of David Thompson ephemera, my favourite of these:

A somewhat nicer way to apply colourful decoration than what’s in this photo, I think. Besides which, applied colour need only be temporary, so all tastes can take it in turns. If you want to make it permanent, photo it. Photos like that one of the painted butterfly will last longer and better than the painted butterfly will.

I like how they’ve added a shadow under it.

Ivor Cummins speaks to Niall Boylan

Yesterday. As an (I hope) intelligent layman, I am finding this radio interview to be at a very helpful level, so to speak, of scientific complexity. There’s plenty of science, but it is well explained.

Ivor Cummins’s work experience, so his Twitter feed tells us, has been as a “team leader” and as a “complex problem solving specialist”, which I take it means that he has experience of leading people with very varied types of expertise. So, he has lots of practice in talking clearly, in plain English, to enable such teams to work together effectively. With regard to each particular type of expertise being deployed, all the other experts in other areas are also “intelligent laymen”, so the man in charge has to be good an explaining complicated stuff clearly, to people not expert in it. So, I believe Cummins’s background has prepared him for the historically huge role he is now performing. The world now needs people to pull all the expertise of others together and to explain it convincingly, and from where I’m sitting, Cummins, more than anyone else, seems to be the man who is doing this.

Boris Johnson thinks he’s now Churchill in 1940, or at least he did a couple of months ago. Cummins isn’t Churchill either, but he’s a hell of a lot closer to being Churchill than Johnson is. Johnson thought that the “Nazi hoards” equivalent now was Covid itself, and he probably still does. But the real Nazi hoard equivalent is the crazy, panic-stricken and politically driven over-reactions to Covid. That’s what’s now doing the serious damage. And Boris Johnson is more like Lord Haw-Haw.

Blue mountains in the far distance

Here is a panoramic photo by 6k, of a striking local (to him) scene. Panoramic presumably means that he photoed a big spread of photos and then some cunning computer programme stitched them together into what you now see:

Like 6k says, wow. That’s my 1000 thingies across version, but the original is massively bigger. From it I picked out these very distant mountains, and even they had to be shrunk to fit here properly:

Thereby making the already horizontalised even more horizontalised. And in this case I’m horizontalising with an actual horizon.

I assume that these very distant mountains are blue for the same sort of reason that the sky is blue, which is that between us and it there is lots of space for blue light to wander into the picture, because blue light does that, more than other sorts of light. It must also help that in the foreground of the picture there is lots of yellow and orange, like one of those photos of an indoor scene at night, artificially lit, which turns the grey outdoors that you see through the window into bright blue, which it really isn’t when you look at it.

I sense also that this illusion is relevant. It shows how our eyes adjust when scanning the same thing but in a setting that changes, in a way we just can’t stop ourselves doing. Which cameras don’t do. It takes software to do that.

So, we don’t see those mountains as blue when we home in them, but when a camera doesn’t home in on them, but is being very hi-res and we merely crop out the distant mountains, they’re blue.