Monday, February 15, 2010

The Un-Wisdom of Crowds

Polls demonstrating the stupidity of most people aren't anything new, but sometimes you see a poll that just makes you question whether this whole "democracy" thing is all it's cracked up to be. This British poll showing that a majority of women believe that women should take responsibility for being raped is one such poll.

Now there are huge issues with this poll. One, it's an online survey, so it's probably somewhat unscientific. Two, the BBC article didn't give full crosstabs, so we're left with their interpretation of the numbers and have little way of finding out the actual questions. But even accounting for those factors, it's still disturbing that a large percentage of women would believe that it's the rape victim's fault that they were raped. In other words, a significant portion of the online population believes that a woman loses her right to say no when she either a) gets into bed with someone or b) dresses provocatively.

It ought to go without saying that a woman has the right to say no whenever she wants to, whether she's (mostly) fully clothed or in bed with someone or making out with someone or whatever... but apparently it doesn't for some people.

In other news...

Via Yorkshire at CSPT, there's an interesting new study out questioning the accuracy of weather stations' temperature readings as they pertain to global warming. The idea is that the weather stations can be subject to urban heat island effects that would distort the numbers. (Or they could have just plain been moved in order to get more desirable data - I seem to recall that this was the case in San Francisco, which moved its weather station to the warm Mission District so as to minimize the number of days when SF was forced to report "60 and foggy" in the middle of summer. That's an extreme case that owes its existence to SF's bizarre geography, but you get the idea.)

The evidence for global warming goes well beyond temperature readings, of course - the ice caps are still melting, most glaciers are still retreating, and sea levels are still rising. Even this year's weird winter weather has been caused by an exceptionally warm Pacific Ocean surface temperatures that may even dwarf past El Ninos (El Nino, recall, is the term given the warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean every few years, which causes a shift in winter weather to the south - explaining why Mississippi is getting snowed on while Vancouver is not). The study merely points out that temperature records alone aren't a reliable indicator of global climate change. To me, it calls into question the projection of the severity of the warming effect, not necessarily the existence of the effect itself. Will the earth really warm by 5 degrees C in the next few decades?

None of this makes the pursuit of alternative energy sources a bad idea - the reasons for alternative energy go well beyond global warming.

1 comment:

Mike said...

"The reasons for alternative energy go well beyond global warming."

Clearly. I argue with my sister a lot about the "marketing" of global warming. I think the argument needs to be phrased more this way: suppose we take the recommended steps to curb global warming and then it turns out we were wrong about climate change. We will still have cleaned up our air, reduced our dependence on oil (particularly foreign oil), made our nation and world prettier, and created thousands of sustainable productive jobs. So seriously, people: what is the effing problem here?

As far as wondering about that whole "democracy" thing, I become increasingly wary that democracy may not be particularly conducive to maintaining human rights and freedoms. But I sure as hell can't think of a better alternative.