Does it sometimes seem like research in genetics is a lot of talk without much action?
Well, here’s something that bears paying much better attention to.
Demonstrating what CRISPR does is only a few years old: it identifies bits of DNA. The usefulness of Cas9 is somewhat older: it snips DNA. Combine them together and you get a pretty cool new technique.
This combination allows geneticists to attach a bit of genetic code, basically a crib note, to an enzyme(s) that cuts and splice DNA. And they can potentially include a fix with that too. So they can send out these molecules, have them identify problem DNA, snip it out, and replace it with better DNA.
This may be the tool they’ve been talking about for decades: the one that allows them to generally treat genetic diseases. Here’s a video:
Clifford Asness and Aaron Brown — non-experimental data guys (like me) — point out that the data on global warming doesn’t show what people say it does.
Their position is much the same as mine. I’m not a climate scientist. But I work with non-experimental data all the time … and it’s been readily apparent since the late 1980’s that the global climate data does not support the idea that global warming is a big deal.
I think they’re more than even-handed:
… The real but rather small trend doesn’t prove that global warming is a minor issue, far from it. We’re just saying the graph taken on its own is actually pretty reassuring …
Instead, they point out that global warming alarmists aren’t using the actual data much at all:
Those predicting that we face a big problem much sooner aren’t arguing this from these data, instead they have to be arguing that historical warming trends will change drastically in the near future…
Then they make a very cool and very reasonable argument: if you’ve seen some symptom occur, and you think the cause is because some other variable changing … that’s fair enough … but you can’t use that same symptom to them argue that the changing variable is getting worse faster. You simply don’t know, and shouldn’t assume either, that the change you’ve seen wasn’t sufficient to produce the symptom.
So things like ice melt must be evidence of the warming that has occurred, i.e. the rather modest warming we and others graph, not evidence for or against a model forecasting the future. It is certainly not new evidence independent of the 0.67° Celsius per century warming trend, but rather the same evidence repeated. Other consequences of warming, like ice melt, can be reported as confirmation of warming, perhaps to convince those who doubt the direct temperature data, but not as evidence that the problem is bigger than the amount of warming we’ve seen.
That’s actually something every parent understands. If you suspect your kid is sick, and you take their temperature, this confirms your diagnosis … but it doesn’t make sense to then argue that this means the fever will get worse.
What is our conclusion from all of this? If you believe in a significant probability of catastrophic global warming in the next 50 years, you cannot base this belief on the last 135 years of global mean temperature data …
The evidence just isn’t there for that conclusion. And yet this is precisely the conclusion being foisted on the public. Instead:
You can believe the models if you like, or you can look at the data and assume the most likely future is an extrapolation of the past. What you cannot do is both.
And in the end, the position of alarmists is even more tenuous:
How much we should worry about future warming, and the answer may indeed be a lot, is entirely about how much one believes in the models’ forecasts that the future will look very different from the data.
That’s a tall order folks, but not uncommon. It’s akin to what sports’ fans hope when all the data points to their team being the weaker one, and yet they hope against hope that they are David setting out against Goliath.
BTW: Asness and Brown use the sort of deterministic trend regressions common in casual analysis of global temperatures to make their point that this isn’t a very serious issue. They do not discuss at all that this method is biased towards finding global warming is a problem in the first place.
Download a copy of Asness and Brown’s It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Tepidity here.
It’s a given that we worry about the wrong thing in contemporary society.
My previous post highlighted the ultimate cause of death. This is the wrong thing to worry about: dying of cancer in 2014 is sad, but it also indicates that you missed out on dying from something like typhoid fever as you would have done a century ago. There’s an aphorism that I heard years ago that’s relevant here: “Most men die with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer”.
Basically, we ought to be focusing on days of potential life lost, rather than cause of death. That we’d focus on more important stuff, like car crashes, suicides, and AIDS.
Anyway, an improved version of the previous post focuses on this diagram (via bookofjoe). This shows life-years lost (that’s good). But, it shows them worldwide (which doesn’t do much for America’s weird proclivities). And it uses a misleading 3-D perspective (which distorts our senses).
There also isn’t a before and after: cancer is as big a pink area as it is because the yellow and green areas have gotten smaller through time.
What can we learn from this?
Malaria is huge. Bill and Melinda Gates, or Bjorn Lomborg, are right to be focusing on this.
War is tragic, but is hugely overrated as a problem.
AIDS is a much bigger problem than most of the stuff we spend money on in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Road accidents are tragically large. I wonder how much of this could be completely eliminated by stronger enforcement of road rules. Given how little of the rest of the chart is related to crime, perhaps it’s time we recognize that bad driving is the biggest crime of all.
Huge chunks of the yellow block are essentially macroeconomic: starvation, diarrhea, pre-term birth, lower respiratory infections, neo-natal conditions and neo-natal infections. It is a tragedy of contemporary developed economy politics that we don’t hold accountable leaders of developed countries who’s policies lead to untimely deaths. These people are mass-murderers before they even get out the guns.
Just to make sure the search engine bots catch that text, it's: "I vaccinate my kids because I'm not crazy".
The majority of the arguments I've heard against vaccinations come from questionable sources and tend to be ill-informed and/or seeping in logical fallacies. For example, "I don't vaccinate my children because they put chemicals in those vaccines."
I'm not sure what else a vaccine should consist of? Perhaps some kind of fantastic concoction? Elf tears? Unicorn urine? Are those chemicals?
I really enjoy it when an anti-vaccine proponent throws in a dash of dystopian conspiracy.
"I don't vaccinate because the government is putting microchips in the chemicals that they use."
This is something I have actually heard someone say. They said it with a straight face. It was great.
Read the whole thing (with the title changed in the online version ... to protect the innocent or something).
Fermi proposed his paradox: if the universe is so big that life must be common, where is everyone?
Robin Hanson answers that directly: there’s something filtering out civilizations across the universe.
There’s a pretty chilling two-way conclusion to all this: either 1) the filter is behind us, we’ve already passed it, and we’re a lot more alone than we think, or 2) there’s actually lots of places like Earth, the filter is in front of us, and we’re in a lot more danger than we know.
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