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Discussion > Children's Science books

GolfCharlie. So Radical Rodent was correct, at least in part: you were asking a quite different question and now with the last sentence of your last post you seem to be calling into question my credentials. Well, firstly the question you are now asking is not about sedimentation but instead one about rises in land as a cause of the Cinque Ports demise. If you had asked that directly I would have tried to answer that one. Secondly, Dung suggests Paul Dennis and I may be the only geoscientists currently posting on BH, so I feel incumbent to try to attempt to answer any geology oriented question, regardless of whether I am in my comfort zone or not. Thirdly I am at a disadvantage in that, since my retirement I gave away almost all my references and textbooks and so commonly have to rely on memory. Even though I can use the web I commonly I find it difficult to get to technical detail. So in answering what I thought your question was I was doing this with no specialist knowledge but to the best of my ability. Lastly you should be aware that almost everyone who might be called a scientist is now highly specialized. I for example specialized in the internal structure of speleothems, on evaporite sediments and carbonate rocks. I worked in the oil industry, so could give informed opinions on fracking. Anything else you get what you pay for.

So to address what I think you were asking are textbooks wrong to continue the message that the Cinque Ports were affected by silting up and should they be considering a scenario of rising land surface? You seem to believe this is because you think warmists want only to.consider sealevel rises caused by rising temperatures. My answer would be that I believe they not giving an unreasonable exposition.

1. The silting interpretation arose long before there was any consideration of the effects of climate change as was its incorporation into textbooks. I recall being taught this when I was a child in the 1950s.

2 Silting up (and other adverse sedimentary coastal changes) are demonstrably happening today. There is documentary evidence for the effects of devastating storms destroying harbours, so why question the accepted explanations? Many of the defunct ports are silted up today so why go seeking another explanation?

3 Geoscientists always refer to changes as being relative We commonly don't know if it is the sea level or the land surface that is rising or falling. However, what we do know is that sea level changes are relatively rapid compared to land level changes except in tectonically active regions or areas that have been glaciated. In the southern parts of the UK the land surface movement is downward as a response to glacial unloading in northern parts of the UK. Southern England is also not tectonically active. In this case thefore expectations are for falling land surfaces. So if you believe there is archaeological evidence for sea levels to have been higher in the past, it is more reasonable to expect geologically short term changes (up to several thousand years) to be the product of actual sea level changes. Why couldn't the evidence be interpreted thus? When the Cinque Ports were at their height sea levels were high and the ports were constructed relative to conditions then (Medieval warm period), sealevels then fell (beginning of Little Ice age) and sealevels have not yet regained their former high stands? This scenario fits interpretations elsewhere (The Netherlands, the Mediterranean).

4) you discuss dredging being able to offset silting. Today yes, but I have my doubts about being able to do this effectively before the industrial revolution. Many of the ports were poorly sited from the outset and dredging by hand would have been an enormous task. Even if this were possible, even a cessation for a few years (caused by economic, political or manpower problems perhaps caused by loss of available men removed by conscription or disease) might well tip the balance so that resumed dredging would not be effective. I don't know this to be a fact but to me it seems to be a reasonable speculation .

5) Raised beaches are evidence of higher sealevels, not land surface rises. Interpreted thus they provide valuable
evidence against stupid warmist statements such as today being the warmest for millions of years. High sea levels (5m or more higher) are in my view proxy evidence of warmer global climates (higher ocean temperatures, less continental ice). Thus raised beaches are irrefutable evidence for some interglacials being considerably warmer than today.

If you wish to discuss this further I suggest we do this by e-mail, rather than cluttering up this thread anymore than we have done already.

Mar 17, 2016 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

ALL syllabi should be sceptical! That should be the basic principle taught in school: be sceptical of everything you are taught!

You obviously do not understand the concept of scepticism, do you, Ruff? Sceptics are sceptical of each other – indeed, good sceptics should even be sceptical about themselves! You appear to be one who is only comfortable when the status quo is never questioned. You would have been a barrel of laughs in Victorian London, when Darwin had published his book.

Mr Kendall, hold your indignation: I have a feeling that GC was referring to me (hence the “R” preceding the penultimate paragraph). I decline to reveal my qualifications, expertise or experience as I do not like argumentum ad authoritae; I wish my arguments to stand on their own, rather than subdue the others with awe. Your arguments are sound, and expressed without rancour; please keep your discussions where we can all enjoy them.

Mar 17, 2016 at 7:24 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Alan Kendall & Radical Rodent, firstly apologies. My lengthy post at 2ish was started prior to Alan Kendalls response just before 2, so I typed in response to Radical Rodent and Alan Kendall earlier exchanges. Thank you for your responses.

I learned at school (late 70s early 80s) that it was colder in Victorian/Dickensian times, and it had been warmer in the medieval era, but I can't remember the context or subject, and terms such as MWP and LIA were NOT used. I also remember that it was known that London was always warmer.

I will respond further to Alan points later, most of which I agree with. It is the context of what I was taught, and text books then and now that really interests me. But the Cinque Port demise, is Tudor text book stuff. I fully appreciate Alan's points about geological v archaeological timescales ( and modern forensics) hence my original queries!

Mar 17, 2016 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


Thanks for what I would consider to be a proper response to vauge questions. Most of us can only pose vague questions. Much of politicised climate science is about vague questions.. Byt your considered answer suggests that there is no simple is NOT all about AGW. That is an important message. sometimes, we do not have enough data or information or knowledge. Your answer was superb. bTjhanks again

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Alan Kendall & Radical Rodent again apologies for earlier cross post confusion. I have had one of those days when things that could go wrong, went right, but complicated things a bit.

Alan Kendall, I am absolutely not doubting your credentials! It is good to have your views opinions and interpretation, particularly as you are not on a mission to prove/disprove AGW etc. You did express some 'concerns' as revealed in the Climategate emails. It is always good to hear from people who look at climate change from a different angle, as many who post here do. Those who quote climate science accepted knowledge, but ignore evidence from farmers, gardeners seafarers, history, archaeology, geography, geology etc are bound to upset people, and frequently, those people are right to be upset. This is why I became sceptical about many of the claims/predictions/projections of climate science, and why my scepticism drifts into cynicism at times!

Going back to your post, that I had not read at the time I posted at 2pm ish

1. I do think 'silting up' was enshrined in Tudor texts, and no one had any reason to question it. It is what I was told/taught in the 70s, and is still the explanation given.

2. I fully accept that silting is always a problem. Whether meandering rivers, oxbow lakes etc or estuaries, long shore drift, or the natural 'bars' that form and alter across estuary and harbour mouths. Chichester is a classic example. Orford Ness and the Humber Spit, Chesil Beach etc

3. Sea levels were higher in medieval times. Yes, I think they were. Evidence from history and the landscape suggests this. Portsdown Hill, that overlooks Portsmouth certainly looks like a sea cliff to me, and I am from the South Downs, so familiar with chalk formations. There is Thorney Island near Emsworth, that is not an Island, and Porchester Castle in Portsmouth Harbour, originating with the Romans (not medieval I know), I believe, but not quite where I would have built a castle now.

4. Historic dredging. Agreed, prior to mechanisation, not really an option. I could imagine a large labour force (slaves/captives) being forced to dig mud at low tide, but that is about it. Roman culture knew about slave labour, but from the Mediterranean, not much about tides. I can imagine individual boat owners wanting to maintain their home berth/harbour, simply by having horses trudge around in muddy channels as the tide was falling, so that mud and silt was taken away with the tide.

Langstone Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth etc plus Kent (Cinque Ports) London and upto East Anglia were and are harbours where the falling of the tide, allowing boats to dry out on mud was a useful feature for loading/unloading, hull maintenance etc. The ancient Greeks Romans and Egyptians etc, had to use slaves/oxen to drag their boats out of non tidal waters. I have seen this technique used for modern yachts with keels, but using electric winches! The ancient Meds also had more reason to construct masonry piers/jetties, with no tides, and lumpy rock things to bump and scrape into.

The Viking Long Boat (I have never sailed a modern replica) is a superb design as a seagoing boat, plus it could be dragged up and down sandy/muddy beaches, dried out at low tide, and probably dragged overland on log rollers. It was the ideal vessel for raiding the East and south east coast of the UK from the sea. The Bayeaux tapestry suggest the Normans used similar craft.

5 Raised Sea Beaches. I was taught in school that these were a product of post glacial rebound, leading to the land rising, and that this process also caused the south east of England to pivot down. I still believe RSBs are isostatic rebound, I don't believe SE England is pivoting down ( Cinque Ports) but I do accept that London is 'sinking/dropping' a bit, but more due to compaction

I do believe Harlech Castle was built with a 'Sea Gate' at Sea Level, next to the sea, and that isostatic bouncing can not explain it's upward thrust into the air. I do accept that people built castles on defendable geology features (Edinburgh, volcanic plug?) so I believe Harlech was built on a lump of something already going up (local faults?), and it has continued on its travels. But, a local fault does not explain the coastal plain between Castle and sea. I accept sand dunes can move with the wind, and that some silts when dry, will readily drift in the wind, better than sand due to smaller particle size.

I have sailed in UK waters, and in the Med, particularly areas with lots of earthquakes, and have experienced 'significant tremors' no idea about Richter Scale though! The Eastern Med has much visual evidence of historic earthquakes altering the level of sea to land.

Climate Science scare stories about rising sea level tend to concentrate on specific locations. It makes me sceptical, bordering on cynical. Harlech Castle, Cinque Ports, Scottish raised sea beaches etc, are all areas that climate scientists don't want to mention. Apart from 'Men of Harlech' being sung in the film Zulu, I don't remember Harlech Castle being mentioned much at school.

Apologies again for any confusion caused by my earlier post. This blog does attract many non-climate scientists, with a wealth of experience unconstrained by dogma. I tryped my 2pm ish post overlooking Langstone Harbour, and have just come back from Chichester

Mar 18, 2016 at 2:13 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ALL syllabi should be sceptical! That should be the basic principle taught in school: be sceptical of everything you are taught!

You are full of great ideas! Skeptical calculus, skeptical French, skeptical electrical wiring regulations, skeptical plumbing. Right! I think you are the one not understanding the nature, value and place of skepticism. If "skeptics" like you displayed any real skepticism, there would be no argument.

But come on, give us your ideas "skeptical" climate science syllabus.

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

As usual, you miss the point, Daft. You do understand what scepticism is, don’t you? To be sceptical of calculus is a good way of finding that it is the best system yet found (admittedly, you might find a better system, but, while the chances of that are highly unlikely, the chances become zero without scepticism). The same counts for most of your other examples. Your last sentence implies that there should be no scepticism in climate science. Ri-i-ight…

Mar 18, 2016 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Raff, I believe some of my previous DIY efforts (electrical, plumbing and the like) elicited sceptical responses from .my better half.

I'll start to take up your challenge. First in my ideal school textbook I would make a distinction between different types of science (and between different parts of the same science) particularly between those where experiments can be done and verified by repetition and those based primarily on observation or even speculation. A distinction between pure and messy science if you will. Thus much of the cutting edges of most sciences are messy. Climate science (if it can be so categorized) is clearly immature, based upon theory (much of it unproven) and products of models (simplistic and with a poor skill level). The fact that new elements that need to be incorporated into models are reported almost every month seems to me to be proof of the poverty of much of climate science and its predictive abilities.

I would suggest that most of the content in school textbooks should deal with uncontroversial matters such as the evidence for past climate changes and the natural causes of such changes. Personally I would relegate CAGW to an afterthought.

It would be an interesting exercise to look at.old textbooks to see how they covered then controversial science such as relativity, plate tectonics and the like.

I would recall any textbook that used the word pollution in connection with CO2, or showed pictures of "smoke"stacks belching water vapour in connection with CO2 emissions, swimming polar bears or glaciers carving icebergs. The graphic image of a smokestack morphing into hurricane (used as a cover for Al Gore's diatribe) is one of the most egregious bit of propaganda advertizing.

I was going to list topics that I would not include, unless accompanied with health warnings, but having looked at some recent textbooks I'm beginning to go google eyes and am losing the will to live. Perhaps others will contribute.

Mar 18, 2016 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall (10:23 AM), please consider doing reviews of some of those textbooks! This site would be a good place to publish them as they would be noticed quite widely. I would certainly be interested in republishing on my own blog, but with orders of magnitude more impact, so might Anthony at WUWT and others too. It seems to me that there will be many years of remedial, even pastoral, work to be done to help all those who are now in schools, as teachers or pupils, and those who have been through them over the last 20 years or so. The finding, or encouraging, of decent textbooks on climate would be surely be helpful for this.

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

John Shade, have pity please. You would consign me to the eternal darkness, to the long death march of textbook review. What have I ever done to you? I have found my new vocation: trying to upstage golf Charlie's zany outpoorings (so far batting zero).

In the past I have been asked to comment, before publication, on university level texts on geology and environmental science, but my comments on the.climate change content never achieved anything.

Thank you anyway. It is most pleasant to be considered worthy (even if I consider you misguided).

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

John Shade. What part of google eyes didn't you understand?

Mar 18, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Ratty, if you think you can teach calculus to children and expect the students to be "skeptical" you're completely detached from reality. As far as getting students to be skeptical of most subjects, the only skepticism most will manage is of whether there is any point in learning it at all.

Alan Kendall, you want to include a

distinction between different types of science... particularly between those where experiments can be done and verified by repetition and those based primarily on observation or even speculation

What would the nature of this distinction be? That the former are more reliable than the latter? Or what? Would you teach that plate tectonics is less reliable science than the absorption spectrum of CO2 because the latter can be determined by experiment but the former is just observation and speculation (surely not experimentation)?

In sticking to uncontroversial matters, you'd presumably have to include the greenhouse effect.

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

I have just updated my Page on books about climate aimed at children. This gives some more recent links to lists of such books, including some promoted for use in schools.

I hope this might prove useful to anyone coming this way who would be willing to get hold of one or two of them to review:

Mar 19, 2016 at 2:37 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Funny that nobody will say what they want taught. Alan Kendall seems to have gone off his own ideas now he sees where his own subject sits (one would think he'd have worked that out first though).

Mar 23, 2016 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

No Raff, I decided debating with you on this subject will get me precisely nowhere. I have looked at other "discussions" you have had and there has been little meeting of minds. You, and many others, seem to me to be too set in your ways, you don't concede an inch. I know why, any small concessions given are jumped upon and treated as full blown retreats. Potential or actual allies are met with outright rejection if they fail to fully support the anti-CAGW bandwagon. I detect outright anger out there. I do not understand you Raff, why do you put yourself at the eye of successive storms (even creating some of them)? Do you enjoy being the eye of those storms? Well I don't.

Specifically about this topic, I described what I meant by different types of science (or parts of science) but then you come back at me because, clever as you are, you can work out where this will lead to for climate science. Now you claim a sort of victory. Well no, I stopped because, as you noticed, no-one else wanted to play. I have decided in future not to continue posting when I find myself isolated (as I have been about the BBC over on unthreaded) just because doing that is actually rather unpleasant and I can do without that.

I fully expect a swarm of postings criticizing my stance here, but they will, I predict, achieve little, because I will not respond to them.

Mar 23, 2016 at 6:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Knowing a tiny, tiny amount about your past, Mr Kendall, I suspect that you may have encountered many like Raff, so convinced that they are right that there cannot be any other option – as the old adage to employers goes: “Hire a teenager, while they still know it all.” While Raff is most likely no longer a teenager, and may have finished at uni (Media Studies? Who knows? Possibly not even Raff), I suspect you could easily find her/him hanging out at places like the Wharfside, bragging about how they trounced so many clever people in argument, little understanding the difference between intelligent debate and obtuseness.

I doubt you will get much criticism from your stance, as most seem to accept, admire and respect it, your little differences over the BBC being irrelevant. We can all be stuck out on our own particular limb, but most of us are on the same scientific tree; there are some, though, who are not even in the same forest.

Mar 23, 2016 at 9:59 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Thank you RR, and congratulations on a beautifully crafted finale. Wit may disguise hurt, but often drives home the barb more deeply.

Mar 23, 2016 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

At the eye of a storm? Do you mean being one against many? That is the price of entry if you argue against the prevailing "wisdom". It can be unpleasant when the abuse flows, and it can be challenging when I find that what I think is certain turns out to be much more equivocal (which often happens). But that makes it interesting.

Debating the subject here (or any subject anywhere) can indeed have a benefit (as opposed to getting you "precisely nowhere") in that if you are honest about your biases, preconceptions and level of knowledge and you research what others say instead of just rejecting it, you might learn something.

So tell me the nature of the distinction you want between types of science and how your subject and climate science are on fundamentally different sides of some imaginary line - they don't seem to be according to what you write before, but you must have thought of that earlier, surely.

Mar 23, 2016 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Climate science still has money available to pay people to find fault with anybody that disagrees with the one true faith, no matter what their expertise.

Mar 23, 2016 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

O.K. Raff, one more time. There is no (imagery) line. My view of science is that much of it is completely accepted by all rational people. In large part this science is reproducible and verifiable by repeat experiments. Other science is less secure in that it is based largely on observation and/or is not susceptible to experiment. It may, however, be accepted by rational people as "settled" if observations are repeatable or are useful in making correct predictions. Much of physics and chemistry reside in the first category, whereas much of biology, geology, oceanography, and the like are in the second grouping. The second group also includes sciences where physics and chemistry are applied to real world situations such as geophysics, meteorology and observational climatology. A final group includes sciences like predictive climatology where rational (ie honest) people will acknowledge that they are far from settled (even if there is a majority position).

Note that all sciences have unsettled elements - string theory or multiverses in physics for example. Furthermore unsettled science may pass into the settled category with time - like much of particle physics.

Settled science must be learned before science can be practiced or competently commented upon, but commonly is inherently dull (or may be taught in this way). Much of the science I was taught in the 1950s was of this sort. What excites is the unsettled part, the cutting-edges. But if a science syllabus presents this in a biased manner, presenting only one side of the matters still being disputed, this does a great disservice. Firstly the excitement of being on the cutting-edge is lost (and students/pupils cannot join in); secondly this procedure is flagrantly dishonest and it runs the possibility of teaching what turns out to be falsehoods. When I read geology in the 1960s I was taught that continental drift was an impossibility.

The trick in writing a successful science text is to convey the excitement of the cutting-edges and almost sleight of hand introduce as much basic (=settled) science. What is (in my view) essential is that the different camps be given sufficient coverage that the reader is aware of the disputed nature of the evidence being used. I know its a at a different level but when I talked to students at UEA I was always at considerable pains to get them to research climate change for themselves. My task was merely to suggest there was other evidence or argument that they should be aware of before they reached firm conclusions. My argument was that, even if they ended up believing in CAGW, they at least knew about their opponent's strengths and weaknesses. This, I suspect, caused CRU faculty, who taught consensus climate change as settled science, no end of problems.

I do not know of a single school text that adequately conveys the unsettled nature of predictive climate science and, for me, that is a crying shame. Teachers, in my experience are happy with the status quo because "it is less confusing for the children" (and the teachers ?) thus completely missing the point. I am ignoring, for the time being, deliberate falsehoods in these texts.

I trust this gets balls rolling Raff.

Mar 23, 2016 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall 4:54

In the words of a late member of the Norfolk Community, "Bootiful!"

Mar 23, 2016 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Alan Kendall, I think part of the problem you describe could be attributed to what is today called science "outreach". In an attempt to make "dull" or "hard" science more palatable well meaning out-reachers often water it down too much. This happens to the extent that naive younger (and older!) people entering the field think they can go straight to the exciting cutting-edge stuff. Many of those people are more of the save-the-planet-now mentality than the traditional science "nerds". That is probably, IMO, responsible for the unflattering opinion that Richard Lindzen gave about climate scientists in his talk at the House of Commons.

To be fair, I've seen similar thing in different fields, "Nanotechnology" being my pet bugbear. Eric Drexler helped spawn a field with frequent outrageous claims that amount to little more than Science Novels, but with no sex or space travel. His PhD was later described by pre-eminent MIT scientist, Julius Rebek Jr., as showing "complete contempt for Chemistry". But that hasn't stopped a lot of people riding the funding bandwagon.

Mar 23, 2016 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

kernel of truth here michael hart, but clearly I was not promoting any dumbing down in school books to make them more palatable. No the interest must be generated without any loss of rigour. However, if you compare old style texts with the newer ones, there is enormous difference, with even basic science topics introduced in new, more accessible ways. Surely you don't wish to return to the past?

I consider this matter to be all the more important since the other way science can be both exciting and personal - hands-on experiementation - has almost disappeared due to H&S regulations.

Mar 23, 2016 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

At school in the 70s, I did find Physics the least interesting subject! Maybe it was the curriculum, school, teachers, or just me. I got the 'O' level, and was happy to give it up.

Since then, I have learnt far more physics, probably because I needed to, to make sense of something else, that did interest me.

In the film "Apollo 13", after their "Houston, we have a problem" moment, they are told to take the flight manual, tear off the cover, and keep the cover, as the material will be useful. That amused audiences. It amused me, as it reminded me of my memories of the usefulness of Physics textbooks.

Mar 23, 2016 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Alan Kendall, interesting reply but I still don't really know what you (or anyone else) wants written differently on climate science in text books except that the results from models are uncertain. I agree, uncertainty needs to be part of the story. The books could, for example, describe a range of possible outcomes, from the harmless to the catastrophic. How would that play with you?

Mar 23, 2016 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff