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« Revenge Against the Experts on Climate Change | Main | “There is no news at the moment.” »

Comments

Bruce Paramore

Jeff,

Is it willful ignorance or a simple misunderstanding that causes you to state that the scientific meaning of theory is different than the conventional meaning. In scientific terms, even the definition of theory that you present does not mean "unchallengeable truth" in any sense of the word. Nor is the concept of a challenged theory a bad thing that rejects science.

Evolution IS a theory. Actually, it is a class of similar theories, because there are many theories of evolution. And far from being an unchallengeable truth, from the first time evolution was known to be proposed a couple thousand years ago, through Darwin's theory of the origin of species, through today, these theories have been questioned and found to leave unanswered questions. Look up the word "symbiogenesis", and you will find an alternative evolutionary theory that you may not be familiar with, but which explains some phenomenon that classical evolution did not.

Questioning and poking holes in the classical wisdom of the time is the very basis of scientific advance.

An apt definition of religion is "any systematic approach to living that involves beliefs about one's origins, one's place in the world, or a responsibility to live and act in the world in particular ways". It is clear that evolution, global warming, and other forms of environmentalism have become religions to many (even those who practice the more classic religions). Pointing out the obvious holes in these newer religions is as pointless to their believers as asking which son of Abraham was designated by God to represent him.

Global warming is another set of theories. They SHOULD be questioned, because that is the scientific method. There is a theory that the temperature of the atmosphere has increased 1 degree over the span of the last 100 years, and will continue rising because of man-caused increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and continues to state that the increase is a bad thing. This theory has many holes in it. Far from a "consensus of scientists", there are a wide range of theories about whether there is a trend that ensures higher temperatures, or whether temperature varies in cycles, about whether the current temperature trends are unusual or not, about whether carbon-dioxide or other activities by man are causing the hypothetical changes. Personally I would have more confidence in the theory of global warming if it wasn't promoted as unquestionable by various political factions.

But don't confuse "climate change" with "global warming". Climate change has always existed. Almost every contemporary desert area once had a much different climate, and most accept the theory that Indiana was under miles thick glaciers in relatively recent times (last 20,000 years). Did global warming cause the glaciers over Carmel to melt?

Back to your basic thrust - that religion "interferes" with science. Somehow you seem to associate religion with ignorance, which is unfortunate. Science and religion often exist harmoniously, and many very intelligent and educated scientists have a deeper belief in religion than many of us can understand.

Jeff Weintraub

Bruce, there's a lot of what you said that I'm afraid I just can't agree with. But I'll focus on one point: that my "basic thrust" is that "religion 'interferes' with science' and that I "associate religion with ignorance." I think you're putting words in my mouth. I can't find any place in this post or think of anything else I've written that even implies this -- because it's not what I believe.

As for global climate change being a contrivance of "various political factions," I don't think the vast majority of scientists who have conducted rigorous research in this area would agree. It's about fact not ideology.

Maybe I should have backed off the word "unchallengeable," because of course even evolution and the laws of, say, gravity can be challenged with other research. I probably should have stuck with the word "settled" science.

I have questions for you: knowing that there is a preponderance of evidence showing that the earth is warming and it correlates highly with the rise in carbon emissions, why not assume that it's right? Isn't there a danger of assuming it's not? What good comes out of ignoring this evidence? Wouldn't we be better off finding cleaner, renewable sources of energy, even if the world were not warming?

Jeff Weintraub

Bruce, let me come at this one more way. Your father was a veterinarian - a pretty good one, I happen to know, because he treated some of my pets when I was growing up. If he ran a bunch of tests on a sick dog, and those tests pointed to, say, kidney failure, what would he do? He would treat the dog as if he had kidney failure, wouldn't he?

Or would he say, "Well, even though nearly all the evidence shows that this dog has kidney failure, I'm not going to treat him because there's a remote chance I'm wrong?

I doubt it.

Anon

Great post. Great ending. Bruce should get his own blog and not write such long postings on your blog.
anonymous

Jonathan Epstein

Jeff, as you may know the South Dakota bill is even more entertaining because they include "astrology" in the list of items that should be taught alongside theories of global warming. See this blog for more details:

http://genome.fieldofscience.com/2010/02/south-dakota-legislature-declares-that.html

Cheers,

Jonathan

KayO

Great post, and even greater IMO because of Bruce's comments. Jeff, I agree with your dismay over semantic misdirection and willful ignorance. I also agree with Bruce's assertions that to challenge is the essence of science. I think the association of religion with ignorance may center on the evolution argument, and is probably inferred rather than deliberately implied. Really important discussion here.

Bruce Paramore

I apologize for putting words in your mouth about the two issues of religion. Bringing up the issue of evolution is usually done by those who either promote or mock those people who believe God may have something to do with the creation of life and how we got here. The definition of religion that I found definitely fits those who think that evolution is unquestionably the answer, just as those who freely admit theirs is a religious view.

I did not state that global warming is a "contrivance" of political factions. I said the statement that it "settled science" and that it is unquestionable are being made by political entitites, not by the majority of scientists. There are VERY serious questions that have been asked, with no satisfactory answer. The political entities have been the ones promoting specific answers that will benefit themselves.

There is strong correlation between carbon dioxide and global temperature. Unfortunately for the scare mongers, carbon dioxide goes up as a result of warming if you look at the charts.

Far from the consensus that you portray, there are over 30,000 scientists in relevent fields with degrees and work experience in relevent subjects who signed a petition that in their opinion there is no manmade danger of global warming.

You asked me some questions, so I will answer.
1) knowing that there is a preponderance of evidence showing that the earth is warming and it correlates highly with the rise in carbon emissions, why not assume that it's right?

Ans: there is evidence of a cyclical rise in global temperature, instead of a "hockey stick" rise. We don't have a reliable global record of temperatures for more than 50 years, but it appears this cycle has happened three times in the last 130 years.

2) Isn't there a danger of assuming it's not?
Ans: There is strong evidence that there have been long periods of time when the temperature has been warmer, and that this has been some of the best times for humans and the diversity of species.
Most people have gotten scared of global warming from "An Inconvenient Truth" or the headlines of the IPCC report. Both have been proven to exagerate or misrepresent the work of scientists. Most of the scary things you think will happen just won't.

3) What good comes out of ignoring this evidence?
Ans: I am not suggesting ignoring evidence, but there is no crisis.

4)Wouldn't we be better off finding cleaner, renewable sources of energy, even if the world were not warming?

Ans: Our sources in the United States now are remarkably clean. Surely you know how much progress we have made in our lifetimes in that regard. Yes, I would hope that we continue along that path, and I am sure we will. But the planned economy model has proven to be a disaster. We are currently wasting many billions of dollars on ineffective "solutions", money that the free market could be using to do the actual science needed to develop new energy sources and reduce the need for the current levels of use. And threats of carbon-taxes or cap-and-trade are surefire ways to destroy the economy without any measureable benefit to the ecology.

I am not claiming that all the evidence I have is infallable. I am not claiming everything you have heard is false. But I wanted to point out that I, an intelligent, scientifically thinking individual, do disagree with many of the claims of global warming and its effects, and that my opinions were not formed out of "willful ignorance", but out of considerable evaluation of facts.

Mirele Goldsmith

Jeff:

Thank you for taking on the naysayers. We need to take action now for the sake of human health and safety, as well as the rest of life on earth. How can any one argue that our current way of life is not dangerous. We can see with our own eyes that we are rapidly undermining the ecosystems on which we depend. Whether or not it all adds up to climate change - of course I'm convinced that it does - we need to change. And the great thing is that changing can be great for our economy and our way of life. We just need to get going.

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