Science Heresy


October 2012

Bad science is bad news for both people and the environment.

  This issue is concerned with dysfunctional technocracy.

See the new Science Heresy Blog for further ideas and comments


The Devilcat renamed the Cat Ferry en route from Nova Scotia to Portland in 2007. Photo: Jeffrey Ferland.

How a computer model put a ferry service out of business

On Christmas Eve, 2001, 400 angry people and their vehicles were left stranded on the wharf at Georgetown, Tasmania. They had been waiting to board the ferry to Melbourne, Victoria on the other side of Bass Straight, a 6 hour voyage on the new wave-piercing catamaran, Devilcat, designed and built in Tasmania, and one of the world’s fastest and most economical vehicular ferries.

Devilcat had arrived from Victoria and discharged its passengers and cargo but could not make the return trip. Why not? There were no mechanical or personnel problems and the sea was “like a millpond” according to one eye-witness who had just arrived on the vessel.

According to Australian Marine Safety Authority (AMSA) regulations, the ferry was not permitted to sail if the significant wave height in Bass Strait were greater than 2 metres. Since there was no wave measuring equipment deployed in Bass Strait at the time, the significant wave height was estimated by means of a numerical wave model in which the wind velocities from meteorological data were fed into a computer and the wave height calculated. The world wave model in question was run by NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado. According to the NOAA model the significant wave height in Bass Strait on 24 December 2001 was greater than the AMSA threshold value of 2 metres and so Devilcat was not allowed to sail.

It is likely that the model was so badly wrong due to its low spatial resolution of 3 degrees of latitude. The island of Tasmania is only about this size and so was presumably not resolved in the model and the sheltered waters of Bass Strait were treated like the open sea. Direct observations by several hundred passengers and crew were irrelevant. They were not qualified observers. A computer on the other side of the world knew better. Not long after this, the Devilcat service was discontinued and the vessel sold to Bay Ferries of Canada.


Radiation and Reason - by Wade Allison

This book is a scientific challenge to the traditional view that nuclear radiation represents an extreme hazard. Using modern scientific and medical evidence it shows in accessible language why that view is mistaken. The question is How dangerous is ionising radiation? Thanks to evolution, biology protects life to the extent that radiation is about a thousand times less hazardous than suggested by currently accepted safety standards.

A little nuclear radiation is quite harmless and in a world of other dangers -- social and economic stability, population growth, shortages of power, food and water -- the pursuit of the lowest possible radiation levels is in nobody's best interest. Levels should be permitted as high as is relatively safe (AHARS), rather than kept as low as is reasonably achievable (ALARA).

Without justification great damage has been inflicted on public health and economic life in Japan as a result of the accident at Fukushima. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to desert their homes and farms for no good reason. The intention of authorities to abandon the use of nuclear power or load it with ever greater safety regulation and cost is unnecessary.

Wade Allison is a Fellow of Keble College and Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford where he has studied and taught for over 40 years.

The Environmental Mismanagement of Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island is a Subantarctic Island lying SE of Tasmania. Because it is the only land for thousands of kilometres it provides a breeding place for many species of sea birds and marine mammals. In the 19th century seals were harvested for their oil and fur and the sealers introduced rabbits and Stewart Island wekas as a food source. They also inadvertently introduced cats, rats and mice.

The introduction of new predators meant that some species of birds were unable to continue to breed on the island although some continued to do so on nearby islands and rock stacks. Meanwhile on the main island, new ecological relationships were established among the newcomers and between them and the original inhabitants.

In the 1990s a misguided program was undertaken to manage the "pests" starting with the cats and wekas which were effectively all gone by 2001. This was a disaster! Once their sole predator had been removed, the rabbits bred up to become so numerous that they destroyed much of the island's vegetation and, with it, nesting sites for ten species of birds which are now threatened. Since then $24 million has been spent attempting to eliminate the rabbits and hundreds of tonnes of poison have been spread over the entire island.

This is a classic case of dysfunctional science, of science corrupted by Green ideology. It is a case of people who call themselves "scientists" playing God while ignoring scientific methods and principles.

An expose of this environmental disaster was recently published in Quadrant Online.

An edited version appears here.

Jeremy Smith, an apologist for the MI Pest Eradication Program, has contacted us and we have published his views here.

We are grateful to Jeremy for his contribution because it nicely describes the process by which Green zealots hijack science as described here.