I should like you to read the article below of which I am the author. It is entitled: ‘Are women the cause of global warming?’ and the article is as follows:
“It is a proven fact that an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to global warming. There are many computer models of the atmosphere of the Earth and they all show this trait. It is also established through direct measurement that there has been a marked increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere in the last decades. It thus follows that one would expect to see some warming of the atmosphere and that is indeed what is observed, again by direct measurement.
Perhaps the most compelling expression of warming in the public mind is through such clearly observable phenomena as the loss of sea ice in polar regions and the contraction of glaciers. One may also look at photographs of the Matterhorn, in the Swiss Alps, in the past and today and see the difference in the snow cover. The mountain is almost bare nowadays whereas it was white and pretty in earlier times.
With these fundamental issues established, arguments today turn on the question of how many degrees warming will occur if, say, one doubles the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Here there is marked disagreement between computer models. However this disagreement should not be allowed to obscure the message that global warming is taking place and that it is caused by an unnatural injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The question is therefore how to leave a smaller carbon footprint. In order to make progress, it is first necessary to identifying the most important contributors to the budget of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In this article, attention is drawn to a major source which has hitherto been disregarded. The human population of the Earth was 6,766,587,411 at the moment that these words were written. Every minute each human breathes out about 0.4 litres of carbon dioxide (a little less than an American pint). For the entire world population, this is equivalent to 2706 million litres per minute or 27 with 8 zeros after it per year in metric tons of carbon dioxide. Since the financial crisis we have become accustomed to billions (units of one thousand million) and therefore some of you may be happy with the notion that we humans produce 2.7 billion metric tons per year of carbon dioxide. Industrial output is about ten times as great. Thus if we all stopped breathing, the budget of carbon dioxide expelled into the atmosphere would be reduced by 10 per cent. This is almost twice the amount by which (some) industrialized nations agreed to reduce emissions under the Kyoto protocol of 1997.
It is of course evident that making breathing an illegal activity would be political suicide, however anti-social this activity may be. It is nevertheless reasonable to ask whether there may be some legislation which might be contemplated which could alleviate the problem that we face. We return to this issue below. First, it is clear that half the population of the world is men and one half women. It may also be readily demonstrated that women exhale about two-thirds of all the breath exhaled by humans. This may at first seem a surprising statistic. However, on a little reflection, the cause is crystal clear. Women talk much more than men, especially those in the age range between thirteen and seventy. This incessant, continual chatter requires much more breath in terms of both inhalation and exhalation. Women in fact display a most extraordinary desire to communicate, very largely with one another. A good example was furnished just yesterday at the swimming pool. It was virtually impossible to enter the pool because of the throng of young ladies, in various states of undress, chattering, laughing and gesticulating along the side of the pool. They had not come to swim. They had come to talk. My wife tells me that women even chatter in the sauna. By contrast men never talk in the sauna. They look at the walls, the ceiling, the glowing embers of the fire, everywhere but at each other. Women – apparently – talk and talk and talk!
Moreover, in some more prosperous suburban areas there are gatherings called the ‘chattering classes’. These are often refereed to in newspapers in the Women’s Column. A recent article described how, in these classes, women learn the technique of circular breathing. This technique was previously limited to performers on the didgeridoo. The technique allows you to breathe in through your nose while exhaling through your mouth. It is a valuable adjunct to keeping up a continuous and completely uninterrupted stream of chatter without having to pause for breath. It is definitely used by my students in those of my mathematics classes which have a large proportion of women. It drives their fellow male students to despair as lessons in the differentiation of continuous functions are accompanied by a background of undifferentiated continuous chatter. These considerations show beyond doubt that the human global carbon footprint is one of high heels – the carbon footprint is of a high-heeled shoe.
We return now to the subject that was broached above. What can be done about this sorry situation that the female section of the world’s population is so heavily implicated in global climate change? What legislation could one contemplate? In 1729, Jonathan Swift, the famous creator of Gulliver’s Travels and Lilliput, wrote a ‘modest proposal’, as he called it, with a view to ‘Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public.’ The basis for his proposal was that there were too many children in Ireland, too many mouths to be fed. He noted further that ‘I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …’ Thus Swift suggested that one kill two birds with one stone, that is, solving both the problem of the creation of an unsustainable population and the problem of hunger. Could we not contemplate a similar solution in the present case, since so much is at stake? I would hesitate to suggest Swift’s solution because of modern attitudes towards cannibalism. Perhaps female infanticide might be a possibility, whilst leaving enough for procreation of course. However I think that here modern technology may come to our aid and allow us to avoid the more drastic measures of earlier times.
When the imperative of communication grips them, when the obsessive impulse to chatter can no longer be withstood, then women should be obliged not to open their mouths but to tap away at their mobile phones, sms-ing and so on. Combined with an ingenious and becoming style of muzzle, this may well be a humane and reasonable solution to one of the most urgent and overwhelming problems that the Earth has had to face in over four thousand million years of its history.”
End of ‘scientific’ article. Before we go on to expose this article as the fraud that it is, let’s first stand back a moment and survey the role that scientists can play in shaping the views of the public. Science can take many guises. In the hands of most it may reveal the truth while in other hands science writing and reporting can obscure, mislead or simply confuse. A few who are trained in the techniques, but not the ethics, of presenting a scientific argument can create an illusion of truth and of scientific proof in order purposely to obscure, mislead and confuse. These form a very small minority but they are noisy and sometimes remarkably effective. The motives of this scurrilous group are various – sometimes religious, sometimes political or financial or sometimes the motive is simply a personal vendetta against a fellow scientist. A good example of a financial motive was the extraordinary- and successful – rearguard action fought for many years by the tobacco industry, using scientists in their employ or enlisted by them, to discredit research showing the connection between smoking and lung cancer.
Very often some firmly held belief is the driving force for the scientists who take part in these campaigns. And of course a belief is only held because there is no scientific proof; for if there were proof, it would not be necessary to indulge in the luxury of a belief. Credo quia impossibile – I believe it because it is impossible – for if it were possible, then it could be proved and what need would there be for belief? Obviously such scientists, setting belief before reason, carry within them the seeds of the destruction of their own arguments. They are therefore vulnerable and are eventually exposed – but not before considerable harm may have been done, as in the case of the cigarette manufacturers.
Any scientist who could write this piece above about women being the cause of global warming must be one whose belief, or agenda if you like, centers on distaste, distrust or even hatred of women. He sees women as a threat and seeks to make them unequal, to set the clock back fifty or one hundred years. Thus the writer has a belief and he bends ideas and facts or rather ‘factoids’ to suit his agenda. He uses the ‘mafia technique’. The mafia operates through a combination of completely legal and completely illegal operations. These communicate, interact and blend to such an extent that it may become impossible to extricate the two and to tell them apart. In the same way, in the article set out above, legitimate science is mixed with illegitimate science, or, in other words, science that is right is mixed with science which is just plain wrong or unproven – and unlikely to be true.
The article quoted on the guilt of women in global warming is based on two arguments. The underlying argument is that the carbon dioxide budget of the atmosphere is increased by human breath. The second argument is that women produce more breath and therefore more carbon dioxide than men. What the writer is doing is trying to kidnap your brain and hold your intellectual powers to ransom, keeping you down using a sedative. The sedative is supplied by the mafia technique. The first three paragraphs, describing the global warming scenario and the activity of carbon dioxide, are the sedative. This is the legal part of the mafia operation. You are tranquilized at this stage and ready to accept what comes next since you recognize and agree with what is written so far. Your kidnapped mind is in the first throes of the Stockholm syndrome: you are coming to trust your tormentor.
It is at this point that the writer perpetrates a sleight of hand which is quite tricky for the non-scientist to perceive, especially as you have been lulled into a state of acceptance. The trick is well-timed, you might say. The assertion is made that the carbon dioxide budget of the atmosphere is increased by human breath. This is fundamental to the thesis of the article, but it is false. Humans – or any animals – cannot put out more carbon than they take in by eating and drinking. Humans are part of a closed biological cycle. All the creatures and plants that make up food, and indeed every other form of life, are of course themselves bound in myriads of interacting ecological cycles, but overall the carbon budget is conserved. No extra carbon, in whatever form, is introduced into the atmosphere through these natural cycles. No disturbance is caused to the natural steady state. Carbon is extracted and returned at equal rates. Note however that if we talk of coal and oil, then we are concerned with buried material which has been excluded from the natural cycle for many millions of years. This material, by contrast to food, adds to the atmospheric carbon dioxide budget if we dig it up and burn it. Of course it does not add to the total amount of carbon in the world, but it distributes what was quiescent carbon inside the earth into active material in the atmosphere.
The above comments of course totally invalidate the rest of the article proving that women cause global warming. However let us say that you did not detect this falsehood but plough on. Again the Mafia technique is used. The writer introduces a correct – legal – calculation of the quantity of carbon dioxide exhaled per year by the human population. An average person exhales a little more than one kilogram (two and one fifth pounds) of carbon dioxide per day. Hence one may derive the figure of a total amount of 2.7 billion metric tons per year, which is indeed of the order of ten per cent of industrial emissions.
Then we encounter ‘It may also be readily demonstrated that women exhale about two-thirds of all the breath exhaled by humans.’ This phrase ‘it may be demonstrated’ or ‘readily demonstrated’ accompanied by an absence of demonstration is always one to beware in any context and here is no exception. The assertion that women exhale about two-thirds of all breath has not been demonstrated for the simple reason that it is not true. In fact the lung capacity of women is a good deal smaller than that of men on average and women may therefore exhale a volume of carbon dioxide rather less than men. However the Stockholm syndrome is likely to be full blown by now and your kidnapped brain may tunnel through this barrier of nonsense and proceed. If so, you encounter an explanation for the nonsense which may be rather appealing, at least to some. Perhaps women do talk more than men. I leave that for the reader to judge. However there is no demonstration that this causes more breath to be exhaled. Of course we have the expression ‘a waste of breath’ which suggests that speech does require more exhalation. But at all events the writer offers no demonstration.
Thus at this stage we have a likely falsehood (women exhale more than men) based upon a falsehood (the carbon budget of the atmosphere is increased by breath) and an unproven assertion (speech requires more exhalation). Why have you not stopped reading? Why have you not applied the good green principle of recycling the article before you into the smallest room in your house? Why have you not put the article behind you, so to speak? The answer is that you are under very unfair pressure and the bamboozlement factor is very high indeed. Scientists are to be trusted. The very phrase ‘rocket scientist’ epitomizes the acme of intellectual achievement. The holy father of science is speaking to you ‘ex cathedra’. The words are infallible. Of course I exaggerate a little but it is difficult enough for scientists to judge the work of fellow scientists in other fields. Inevitably the lay public may be like so many cushions in the world of science. They bear the imprint of the last scientific backside that sat on them. You believe what you are told.
As we pass beyond this point in the article, it becomes a little zany. The author appeals to a great figure of literature and satire, Jonathan Swift. He senses that his own conclusion cannot be sustained by the rickety structure which he has put together. So he enlists the help of an unassailable great name. This is another tactic to beware. Look out for it in science articles and question it. We all know of the vicar who one Sunday addressed his congregation from the pulpit, ‘As the Almighty said in Deuteronomy, verse so-and-so, and I agree with him…’ Appeal to a higher authority can be effective!
The author now employs the technique of setting up a straw man, that is, the disgraceful suggestion ‘Perhaps female infanticide might also be a possibility’. He then knocks it down in the next sentence. You sigh with relief when you learn that modern technology will, as ever, come rushing to our aid in this our hour of need. Again your antennae should be on red alert. ‘But of course,’ you may say to yourself and you are lulled once more into acceptance, in the warm embrace of scientific reason as you make your escape from the awful Jonathan Swift reasoning.
So what have we learnt? When reading a science article which states that it is new and original, introducing something startling that others have passed by, look out for (i) repetition of what you already know and everyone trusts – to engender the Stockholm syndrome (ii) the ‘it is well-known’ or ‘it can be readily demonstrated’ phrase, without any further comment (iii) appeal to higher authority – Einstein, Swift, God etc. (iv) the frightful consequence, from which the world is saved by the great sagacity of the author – female infanticide avoided by a clever use of the mobile phone. A further consideration which does not come up above is the ‘cui bono’ test. Who does the best out of this? For example might the author of the above article be in the employ of a mobile phone manufacturer or does he personally have part of the franchise for sending sms’s?
Obviously the great majority of science articles in the press are good stuff but keep your eyes open for rubbish, especially where vested interests and deeply held beliefs are paramount. If you feel a prickling down the back of your neck, it is well-known and it can be readily demonstrated, as Einstein often reiterated, that you are going to be taken for a ride with frightful consequences that can only be avoided if…
David Field is a writer, musician and professor of Astrophysics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has published numerous articles in many Astronomy and Physics journals. His most recent novel, The Fairest Star, the third installment of his Friends and Enemies Trilogy, has just been published. For more information, please visit: http://www.davidfield.co.uk