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dilluns, 12 d’octubre de 2015

En busca del genocidio perdido

A mi, tanto el Día de la Hispanidad como el 11 de Septiembre no me merecen la menor atención. No me producen ninguna emoción especial en tanto fechas oficiales y burocráticas de conmermoración o celebración de reales o supuestas señas de identidad. Pero una cosa es que me aburra celebrar cada año la misma cosa y otra muy distinta que tenga que tragarme la cantidad de sandeces que la gente encumbrada en los púlpitos de la política, la cátedra o el canal de televisión les venga en gana expeler.

Hoy, la palma se la lleva, como no podía ser de otra manera, esa banda de rancios indocumentados que parecen haberse enterado hace cuatro días, con la fe del recién converso, que el descubrimiento y colonización de América fue un genocidio. Pero si existió genocidio, o algo parecido, no es al que se refieren Ada Colau, 'Kichi', Carlos Bardem o Willy Toledo. Si existió un genocidio en América no fue el de los colonizadores españoles sino el que los indígenas estaban cometiendo contra otros nativos y el que desataron contra los extranjeros que habían llegado a sus costas, en una foribunda versión avant la lettre de la chenofobia. Esto es lo que se encontró Hernan Cortés:
“vimos que llevaban por fuerza las gradas arriba a nuestros compañeros (…) luego les ponían despaldas encima de unas piedras que tenían hechas para sacrificar, y con unos navajones de pedernal los aserraban por los pechos y les sacaban los corazones bullendo (…) y cortarles pies y brazos, y se los comieron a los sesenta y dos que he dicho (…) liberamos cuatro indios que tenían a engordar en unas jaulas de madera para, después de gordos, sacrificarlos y comérselos (…) hallamos en este pueblo de Tascala casas de madera hechas de redes y llenas de indios e indias que tenían dentro encarcelados y a cebo hasta que estuviesen gordos para comer y sacrificar (…) nos seguían tantos millares de indios (…) a causa de los despojos que habían de haber, y lo más cierto por hartarse de carne humana, si hubiese batallas”. Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (1568) Informe España by free analyst
Trescientos años de colonización dan para mucho y dan para todo. Y de todo hubo y mucho. De lo mejor y de lo peor, pero la gran mayoría de historiadores no hablan de genocidio. Parece que la explicación más cercana a la realidad y comúnmente aceptada es que fueron las enfermedades epidémicas que los españoles llevaron consigo al nuevo continente las responsables directas de que la población indígena disminuyese entre un 75 y un 95% en los primeros 130 años de conquista. El historiador francés de orígen búlgaro Tzvetan Todorov lo expresa de la siguiente manera:
Pero se podría decir que no tiene sentido buscar responsabilidades, o siquiera hablar de genocidio en vez de catástrofe natural. Los españoles no procedieron a un exterminio directo de esos millones de indios, y no podían hacerlo. Si examinamos las formas que adopta la disminución de la población, vemos que son tres, y que la responsabilidad de los españoles en ellas es inversamente proporcional al número de víctimas que produce cada una:

1) Por homicidio directo, durante las guerras o fuera de ellas: número elevado, aunque relativamente bajo; responsabilidad directa.

2) Como consecuencia de malos tratos: número más elevado; responsabilidad (apenas) menos directa.

3) Por enfermedades, debido al “choque microbiano”: la mayor parte de la población; responsabilidad difusa e indirecta

A perspective on uncertainty and climate science [Marcia Wyatt]

This past summer I was asked to give a presentation on science and ethics. The person who asked me was motivated by the Pope’s encyclical, the comments regarding climate change.

The group to which I was to present – its members most interested and well-informed about climate, yet also confused by the strong opinions of dignitaries and luminaries, such as the Pope – wanted a climate scientist’s perspective. I could not help them with their ethical outlook, but I realized what people really need is not the tit-for-tat, back-and-forth endless debate, with each side being “right”; they needed to understand that we scientists really don’t know what climate is doing or will do! No one does. We only have degrees of uncertainty. Thus, the presentation evolved, with the originally requested topic modified to discuss my perspective on the uncertainties in climate science. After giving the talk, I realized there could be many versions of such a presentation, with different levels of detail and scientific background. I would like this information to be communicated to the public, as well as to college and high-school students. In the past, I could ignore the dissemination of misleading information to the general public. No longer can I. The stakes are too high; the consequences too dire.

Uncertainty in Climate Science

The complete .ppt presentation can be downloaded here []


Word “around town” is that science is truth. Sorry to damp the zeal, but science is NOT truth. By definition, science equates to varying degrees of uncertainty, with hypotheses and theories bookending the uncertainty spectrum – to some, a rather boring outlook. Hypotheses – suggested explanations for how things work, and based upon observed evidence, offering potential prediction of phenomena whose correlative relationships may be causal – must be both testable and falsifiable. A hypothesis cannot be proven to be true; it can only be proved false. For a hypothesis to be elevated to theory – a rare and significant promotion – the hypothesis must survive multiple replications of results with a wide set of data, and it must be tested under a variety of circumstances. Even then, while uncertainty of a theory is minimized; it is never zero. Hence, science is the constant process of trying to figure out how things might work. To a scientist, this is exhilarating. To the non-scientist wanting a solid answer, not so much!

Well, this is all relatively bad news for those of us who study climate. Climate, by nature, does not lend itself well to being tested. We can’t isolate its parts and study them in a lab. We can’t condense decades and millennia into hours and days in order to extract multiple data points and long records. Intertwined and multiple “parts” of the climate system render its evaluation stymied by the endless unknown unknowns! So what do we do? We seek out proxy data – riddled with caveats. We invoke computer climate models – riddled with caveats. No matter which way we turn, we are faced with caveats, but it’s the best we’ve got. Sometimes “we” get so used to working within these constraints imposed upon us, we begin to lose sight of our assumptions, and the attendant biases, caveats, and uncertainties laced throughout our research format. In time, it is not difficult to see how we come to believe the little fantasy world we have made for ourselves in attempt to make sense of nature’s vast stomping grounds. And when it is demanded of us to stop equivocating, to make the discussion short and sweet, packaging into sound bites the complexities of 4.6 billion years’ perspective on climate and how its changing character of today differs from any time past and how we humans and other earthly creatures will survive an onslaught that, by human perception, appears unprecedented and unendurable; “What can we do”!!!! Politics enters the stage, followed closely by celebrities and media. Messages are surgically edited to be woven into stories far more captivating than those told by the equivocating egg-heads; and photographers, accompanied by narrators with scholarly accents and compelling rhetoric, come in to educate the public. And the public find no choice but to believe. Uncertainty is forgotten, actually no, it is abandoned. Uncertainty is not for the impatient. Good intentions pave the path forward. So where does that leave us? How does one make policy decisions based on science, with uncertainty’s role demoted to nuisance status?

It might be of interest to know that historically, skepticism has fueled forward movement of scientific discovery. Uncertainty has always motivated inquiry. Conversely, certainty has squelched it. Certainty entrenches paradigms. Examples dot history of paradigms kept on life support with increasingly complicated constructs to explain phenomena or occurrences inconsistent with hypothesized dynamics and behavior – the 1600-year-long geocentric model being a most vivid example. Upending of faulty paradigms often relies on evolution of technology. New evidence reveals surprises – those “unknown unknowns”. Ironically, those most educated in a field often are not the ones in history to have revolutionized thought. Lay persons and scientists of different specialties often were the ones who “saw” what was hidden from the hardened mental filters of those overly invested in a paradigm’s survival. Skepticism has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Instead, it should be embraced. It is skepticism – not conformity – that provides the checks and balances to humans’ tendency to see the expected.

How does one make good decisions in context of uncertainty? One must gather good evidence – not hearsay, not sound bites, nor “consensus”. Good evidence can be garnered only through understanding how conclusions are reached – the methodology and data used to construct them. This is not easy, but just accepting what others say – their filtered conclusions, even those of “respected” scientists or trusted dignitaries – not investigating the scientific process employed in generating a conclusion, and not exploring alternate possible explanations for observed phenomena, destines its victims to the unintended consequences.

Slide01Scientists do agree: Temperatures have increased since 1850; CO2 has too. CO2 is an infrared warmer. With no positive or negative feedback responses, a doubling of it will lead to an approximate 1.1ºC temperature increase. Disagreement erupts over just how much temperature has risen; what part is due to CO2; what part to land-use changes; what part due to natural or intrinsic influences. How well do models represent climate; what is climate’s sensitivity; are the data reliable? Is there really a problem? Is it a problem that can be solved with proposed solutions? And what are potential consequences of proposed solutions? It is said to be certain, to be “settled science”. Really!?!

1.Hypotheses overview:  More than one hypothesis can explain observed behavior.

Two general and contrasting views exist on climate behavior. One view is the “consensus” hypothesis, where external forcing – both natural and anthropogenic – dominates climate behavior (“climate change”) — a modification of the former anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis. The contrasting view allows a greater role for internally generated dynamics, especially on decadal-plus time scales.

According to the external-forcing view, parts of a system operate relatively independently; the system is prone to instability, is not resilient, and, with continued anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-emission increases, is projected to result in catastrophic climatic changes.

In contrast, the intrinsic-dynamics view envisions network-behavior dominating climate behavior, where parts of the ocean, ice, and atmosphere sub-systems self-organize over decadal-plus time scales, interacting with one another, and thereby initiating intra-network communication, conveying resilience and relative stability to the climate system.

The external forcing hypothesis is based on strong understanding of greenhouse-gas forcing, but low-to-very-low levels of understanding of other external forcings – clouds, aerosols, solar influence, for examples. Extreme increases in projected temperatures rely on incomplete understanding of reinforcing consequences of the original CO2-induced warming, i.e. positive feedbacks. Little is understood about potential damping mechanisms – e.g. clouds, aerosols, atmospheric convection, and precipitation. Likewise, little is fully understood about, or attributed to, intrinsic dynamics. None of these weaknesses guarantees this hypothesis is wrong, but the uncertainties involved are striking. More striking is that the hypothesis is not testable. It cannot be falsified. The alternate hypothesis, the network hypothesis, is rooted in observation, among a variety of indices. Mechanisms have been elucidated as possible dynamics underlying climate-signal evolution. Uncertainties underlie this hypothesis, as well. Yet, its strength lies on observations. They are consistent with the hypothesis, and in time – years to decades – this hypothesis is testable and falsifiable. Seguir leyendo...

La mitad de los votantes de Ciudadanos apoyó a Rajoy en 2011

EL MUNDO.- El descenso de la fidelidad de sus votantes es la principal amenaza para el Partido Popular de cara a las próximas elecciones generales. El análisis de los estudios poselectorales del Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) tras las autonómicas que se han celebrado este año en casi toda España revela que la composición del electorado de Ciudadanos en las comunidades autónomas provendría, en un 50 % de media, de antiguos votantes del PP.

El dato, calculado a partir del recuerdo de voto, corresponde al porcentaje de encuestados que habría elegido el pasado 24 de mayo a la formación liderada por Albert Rivera y que afirma haber votado a Mariano Rajoy en las generales de 2011, hace casi cuatro años. Las entrevistas del CIS se realizaron entre el 27 de mayo y el 23 de junio, pero los resultados no se conocieron hasta el pasado miércoles. Seguir leyendo...