Quiz Question

Number 240 of a series

As you have guessed, I get most of these from other sources. This is from a magazine I found lying about in the kitchen.

One or both of two letters appear in the names of 47 of the United States. One is a vowel, and one is a consonant. What are the two letters? Which three state names do not contain either of the two letters?

Solving this will be straight forward, so the test is how long it takes you to solve it. Post your answer in the comments section below.

Abusing Science

Number 53 of a series

The sequence number above indicates I have been posting these for slightly over a year. What I like to do most is to post some challenge that has the appearance of earnestness. Then there are those that are outright silly. Here is one:

Laura Ingraham dismisses climate change: Receding glaciers are “why we have the Rocky Mountains”

Ingraham: “I mean the glaciers, when they recede, they leave pointed peaks”

RAYMOND ARROYO: We almost did the story the other night, the Glacier National Park have signs up that says by 2020 these glaciers will have melted. They’re still there. So now they’re changing the signage because, apparently, the climate forecast were off. I’d say.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Let me say, north of Glacier in Jasper and the Canadian Rockies, I did walk on some of those glaciers and they are receding. But the glaciers in the Rocky Mountains receded which is why we have the Rocky Mountains. I mean the glaciers, when they recede, they leave pointed peaks.

ARROYO: It’s called nature. It happens.

Laura Ingraham, as you well know, is an ultra-conservative supporter of Donald Trump and also a regular commentator for Fox News. Given that, her views on anthropogenic global warming are to be expected. Denial of AGW is a theme that runs strongly in conservative thinking.And, yes, it is glaciers that produce those mountain peaks. Without the action of ice (glaciers) the Rocky Mountains would be hump-shaped. Ice (glaciers) forming on the high peaks leaves steep sides when it calves off. And that is nature.

What is also nature is that when people increase the CO2 content in the atmosphere the atmosphere retains more heat, and the climate gets warmer. And glaciers recede.

My amateur scientist view is the loss of some glaciers is aesthetic. Denuded mountains are not going to as picturesque. Other glaciers are critical. The Greenland ice cap is this kind of ice, and it is melting at ever faster rates. Not today and not tomorrow, but if the Greenland ice cap were to completely melt the world ocean level would rise about 20 feet. If the Antarctic ice cap melts the ocean level will rise 200 feet. That is not a matter of aesthetics. Major cities would have to relocate hundreds of years before their presumed shelf life has expired.

Laura Ingraham makes a baneful collection of thoughts on people of ethnicity and religion that does not match hers, and this is stupid, as well. We are not surprised she has wrong ideas about science.

Quiz Question

Number 239 of a series

An easy one this week. What is the country in yellow in the map above? Enter your answer in the comments section below. No fair searching through world maps.

Update and Solution

As expected, Nick provided the answer. He lived several years in Germany, and he married a woman from Denmark. That is Denmark jutting (no relation to “Jutland”) out between the North and Baltic seas, so that is Sweden in yellow.

As a side note, we were there last year, and I observed the Baltic is connected to the oceans of the world through two narrow waterways, one of which is spanned by a bridge. This is significant in the Battle of Jutland in WWI, since (although the Brits lost heavily) the result was the German navy was bottled up, except for North Sea ports, from further engagement. Much the same happened in WWII, except that early on Germany occupied Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and France.

Abusing Science

Number 52 of a series

This column is ordinarily devoted to matters of science and the abuse of same. Here an exception is being made. There is abuse of philosophy, as well, and of thinking, in general. I found this on the creationist Web site Evolution News.

C.S. Lewis and the Argument from Reason

For those who don’t know, Jay Richards is the co-author with Guillermo Gonzalez of The Privileged Planet. Here is more from the site:

Editor’s Note: In celebrating the release of the new documentary film “C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design” and commemorating Lewis’s life this month, the 50th year since his death, we have been publishing excerpts from CSC associate director Dr. John West’s book The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. The following is from Dr. Jay Richards’s chapter, “Mastering the Vernacular.”

To see Lewis’s genius, I’d like to focus on one of his best-known arguments — often called the “argument from reason.” The purpose of the argument is to show that naturalism and reason are incompatible, that believing in naturalism is self-defeating. That is, if naturalism is true, then we ought not to trust our capacity for reason, and so, ought not to trust arguments in favor of naturalism.

Philosopher Victor Reppert describes the argument (and several versions he develops from Lewis’s original) as “beginning with the insistence that certain things must be true of us as human beings in order to ensure the soundness of the kinds of claims we make on behalf of our reasoning.”1 This argument gained attention when Lewis proposed it in the first edition of Miracles. Philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe critiqued the original formulation of the argument, so Lewis corrected it in a subsequent edition of Miracles.2 It is this revised version of his argument that millions of readers have encountered. (He also discusses the argument in some lesser-known articles published in Christian Reflections and God in the Dock.)

So naturalism is the belief that nature is all there is, and the supernatural does not exist. The article makes numerous references to “reason” and “reasoning” but never gives an adequate definition of
“reason,” never adequately explaining what it is. I will, in this vacuum, state that reason is the employment of logical inference, doing, as we all do, defining one term by invoking other terms.

Here is a further excerpt:

It is in this context that Lewis takes up the so-called “cardinal difficulty of naturalism.” Naturalists in Lewis’s day were very much like naturalists in our day. They normally imagine that their philosophy is the result of sound reasoning and solid evidence, and assume non-naturalists are ignorant and irrational. Lewis argues quite the opposite: naturalism is not compatible with knowledge and the reliability of reason.

By “naturalists” we might think “scientists.” The crux of the argument appears to be that scientists rely almost exclusively on reason, to which argument I object. The outstanding feature of science is observation and the testing of theories (explanations). The matter of observation pretty much rules out the existence of miracles (the supernatural), leaving only the natural. Hence, naturalism.

Richards writes:

Naturalists, like everyone else, generally trust their reason to lead them to truth. We all take it for granted that we can learn about the world around us through our senses. We experience heat and sound and color and other people. We somehow synthesize and take account of these things with our mind. From these experiences we make inferences about the world: “We infer evolution from fossils: we infer the existence of our own brains from what we find inside the skulls of other creatures like ourselves in the dissecting room.”3

No. Richards misunderstands science profoundly. Evolution does not stand on inference alone. Evolution is proposed as an explanation (a theory) to explain observations. Science works to determine whether any parts of the theory contradict observed facts. Lacking disqualification, evolution continues to stand. In contrast, creationism (the supernatural), while explaining the facts, adds an unnecessary feature—a feature that cannot be verified except by using it to explain that which it proposes. C.S. Lewis notwithstanding, you cannot invoke the supernatural to justify the existence of the supernatural.

Readers are invited to read the complete Jay Richards article. Post your comments.

Abusing Science

Number 50 of a series

Rupert Sheldrake obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University and more recently gained fame for his support of pseudo science, publishing multiple titles. Here are a few:

It’s this last I want to feature here. In short, Sheldrake finds it reasonable to assert that certain, maybe not all, but certain dogs know when their master is leaving work and starting home. After exploring the history of the relationship between humans and domesticated animals, he gets around to the fundamental issue:

The most convincing evidence for telepathy between people and animals comes from the study of dogs that know when their owners are coming home. This anticipatory behavior is common. Many dog owners simply take it for granted without reflecting on its wider implications.

Sheldrake, Rupert. Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

This theme is one of the seven experiments that could change the world. It is featured as number one in a YouTube video about the seven experiments. Sheldrake illustrates with an example:

When Peter Edwards arrives home at his farm in Wickford, Essex, his Irish Setters are nearly always at the gate to greet him. Yvette, his wife, says they often wait for him for ten to twenty minutes before he arrives and well before he turns off the road into his drive. She had taken this behavior for granted for years, simply thinking, “Peter’s coming home, the dogs have gone to the gate.”

Sheldrake, Rupert. Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

The most likely assumption is, of course, Edwards comes home at a regular time each day, and the dogs include that in their routine. However, Yvette Edwards took notice of the dogs’ behavior after reading about Sheldrake’s research in the newspaper. She began to observe the dogs, and one thing she did notice was Peter’s schedule was not altogether regular. He would sometimes be delayed or would arrive home early. Readers will also note the “ten to twenty minutes” mentioned in the above. That shows some leeway, to be sure. Was this the amount of variation in Peter’s arrival? Did Peter ever come home before the dogs expected him? There is no such elaboration.

One way analyze this is the application of some real science, which we presume Sheldrake’s book, Seven Experiments, should be about. I obtained copies of Seven Experiments and The Presence of the Past years ago. Neither gave me an impression of rigorous science being applied. The seven experiments proposed are:

  1. Pets who know when their owners are returning
  2. How do pigeons Home?
  3. The organization of termites
  4. The sense of being stared at
  5. The reality of phantom limbs
  6. The variability of the “fundamental constants”
  7. The effects of experimenters’ expectations

Of these, number 4, “The sense of being stared at” seems most easy for the application of experimental testing. The North Texas Skeptics (follow the link above) has long offered a prize of $12,000 to any person who could demonstrate the paranormal. Such demonstration would include number 4. Here is a test I would propose:

  • First claim a subject A has such an ability.
  • Seat the person in a chair facing in a prescribed direction.
  • Some reasonable distance behind subject A place an opaque screen (a wall or such) with an opening.
  • Appoint somebody to stare at subject A through the opening. Or not.
  • The experimenter will draw up a schedule of staring or not staring.
  • Advise subject A when to decide whether he is being stared at.
  • Subject A will write down the episode number and his declaration that he was or was not being stared at.
  • Conduct as many trials as deemed necessary to demonstrate success or failure of subject A’s claim.

If subject A claims only partial ability (“I will be right at least 60% of the time.”), then employ as many trials as necessary to rule out success by chance.

This is the kind of test that should be performed, but to our knowledge nobody has ever demonstrated Sheldrake’s number 4 by such a method. We continue to invite claimants to step forward and pluck the $12,000.

In The Presence of the Past Sheldrake brings up the famous matter of the blue tits.

The Presence of the Past p. 178

Forget the 21st century. In a previous millennium people delivered milk in glass bottles to your doorstep. These little birds learned to tear away at the paper lids and get at the cream in the upper layer. According to Sheldrake, apparently one of the birds learned to do this, and then another. After a critical population had learned the process it spread throughout the British Isles and into other regions. It was not that the birds learned from other birds, but a thing he calls morphic resonance was at work. The idea is things of the same form (morph) are interconnected. A critical mass will cause a characteristic to activate within the entire population.

Morphic resonance is associated with the hundredth monkey syndrome. Ron Amundson wrote about this in his contribution to The Hundredth Monkey and other Paradigms of the Paranormal, edited by Kendrick Frazier [p. 171]. As Amundson told it, on a Japanese island a colony of monkeys under study ate food left for them by researchers. Presently the scientists noticed the monkeys had learned to wash the sand off the fruit. Then other monkeys were observed at the practice. The phenomenon spread to other islands. The only explanation was that a critical mass (e.g., 100) had been achieved.

Frazier’s book provides succinct lessons in scientific missteps, lessons that you can carry on when reading any number of Sheldrake’s many works.

All that done with, here is an point having nothing to do with bad science. In April 2008 somebody stabbed Rupert Sheldrake while he was giving a lecture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He survived.

Abusing Science

Number 49 of a series

My Facebook timeline gets pinged regularly by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. The organization is this country’s—perhaps the worlds’—premier promoter of Intelligent Design, a rejuvenation of biblical creationism. To make it clear, the CSC wants us to know there is a supernatural cause behind the origin of the universe and all life on this planet. I capitalize Intelligent Design, since it is standard English to capitalize the names of religions.

Michael Behe is “professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University.” Intelligent Design has a long history, and its resurgence is in response to the failure of biblical literalism to legitimize creationism. Intelligent Design advocates want to convince us nature in general and life in particular are too well configured to have natural origins. Some intelligent force must be at work. Hint: advocated make scant secret this intelligent force is the God of Abraham.

Lacking demonstrable evidence for an intelligent designer, proponents scratched about for arguments to boost their assertions. In 1996 Professor Behe published Darwin’s Black Box. The book seeks to convince readers that step-wise mutations in a genome, a key component of Darwinian evolution, cannot produce ever more elaborate organisms. Behe has since published The Edge of Evolution and more recently Darwin Devolves. I have the Kindle edition and started reading it a few days ago. By page 39 it became apparent Behe had yet to make an argument based solely on fact. What I have seen so far is, at the base, a plea for the reader to believe. Some excerpts will illustrate. In his Introduction Behe lays out his premise:

Yet despite the long and varied history of discourse, discourse, all particular positions on the topic can be considered to be elaborations on either of just two general mutually exclusive views: (1) contemporary nature, including people, is an accident; and (2) contemporary nature, especially people, is largely intended—the product of a preexisting reasoning mind.

I will argue in this book that recent progress in our understanding of the molecular foundation of life decisively supports the latter view. To help frame the issues we’ll consider later, let’s first briefly recall a few highlights of what earlier writers thought about nature and purpose.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (pp. 1-2). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Talking about Anaxagoras, he explains:

His student Diogenes of Apollonia was even more explicit: “Without an intelligence it would not be possible that the substance of things should be so distributed as to keep all [nature] within due measure.”

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 2). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Reference to ancient Greek philosophers is enlightening, but ultimately a scientific argument will need to come down to some hard science. Before there is any science, we will hear more from ancient philosophers:

Galen concluded that the human body is the result of a “supremely intelligent and powerful divine Craftsman,” that is, “the result of intelligent design.”2

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (pp. 2-3). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

William Paley, writing over 200 years ago, brought Intelligent Design into modern society.

Several decades later, the Anglican clergyman William Paley, ignoring Hume and drawing on sophisticated work in biology, presented the watchmaker argument (discussed in Chapter 3)—widely considered to be the strongest, most detailed case for design up until his day.

About sixty years later Charles Darwin parried Paley’s argument. He proposed that there was a hitherto unrecognized natural process that, over a very long time, could imitate the results of purposeful design—namely, natural selection acting on random variation.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 4). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Behe, as do proponents of today, pits Charles Darwin against the concept of Intelligent Design. If you study the modern creationist through a few of their writings you will conclude a principle aim is to associate natural causes with Darwin and to refer back to his thinking in arguing against them. What a careful reader should recognize in considering these arguments is a simple observation. The evidence for evolution by natural causes does not hang on Charles Darwin. Darwin, working in a time when evidence was scant, produced some naive concepts. Modern studies have overridden many of Darwin’s ideas and have at the same time reinforced the conclusion that natural processes are sufficient to explain biological evolution. A key factor of real science is that you can toss out all previous research and start fresh, ultimately coming to the same conclusions. Religious concepts are not like that. If you toss out the Bible you cannot reproduce the God of Abraham. Jehovah is the creation of ancient minds and no real evidence will ever reproduce the concept.

Behe argues advances in the human intellect further enable the argument for Intelligent Design.

Recall, however, that the state of the design argument depends on our understanding of science and logic, which has accelerated explosively since Darwin’s day. The development of analytical philosophy in the early twentieth century encouraged much more rigorous arguments; advances in formal logic and probability theory, such as Bayes’ theorem, made that easier.3

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 4). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

For those not familiar with it, Bayes’ theorem relates to conditional probabilities. What is the probability this is true given that is true. Hopefully we will see Bayes’ theorem invoked later in the book.

Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the idea of natural selection about the same time as Darwin, and they coordinated their publications in 1858. Behe remarks:

Wallace thought that much of nature showed strong evidence of purpose, as he forcefully conveyed in The World of Life: A Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose.4

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 5). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

A key argument for Intelligent Design consists of the assertion things had to be just in order for us to be here talking about it.

desolate. Subsequent progress concluded that it’s not just our world—the physics and chemistry of the whole universe is astonishingly fine-tuned for intelligent life on earth.6

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 5). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Behe explains the origins of his thinking about irreducible complexity by recounting a conversation with a fellow academic.

Talk turned to the origin of life. Although she and I were both happy to think life started by natural laws, we kept bumping up against problems. I pointed out that to get the first cell, you’d first need a membrane. “And proteins,” she added. “And metabolism,” said I. “And a genetic code,” said she. After a short time we both looked wide-eyed at each other and simultaneously shouted, “Naaaahh!” Then we laughed and went back to work, as if it didn’t really matter to our views. I suppose we both thought that, even if we didn’t know how undirected nature could begin life, somebody must know. That’s the impressive power of groupthink.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 7). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

With the beginnings of Behe’s thinking on the matter we also see the beginnings of his misdirection. Life we see today is founded on cells, as Behe describes. His mistake is in concluding the chain of life must have always involved cells. Or perhaps not. Behe may agree life chemistry at one time was not based on cells, but he exposes the lack of an explanation of how early life chemistry produced the first cells. Here he exposes a great hole in human knowledge, and into this void he drops the notion of an intelligent designer, specifically the God of Abraham.

Behe pursued Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. He recalls his reaction.

I got mad. Over the following months I spent much time in the science library trying to find papers or books that explained in real detail how random mutation and selection could produce the exceedingly intricate systems routinely studied by biochemistry.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 8). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Pause for a moment. Michael Behe has written a book seeking to debunk natural causes behind evolution and to reinforce belief in an intelligent designer. We would hope to see logic and reason employed. Even evidence. What we see are arguments from emotion. He got mad. That is neither a scientific nor a logical argument. It is meant to tug at the reader’s inner beliefs.

Behe begins his assault on the science community’s acceptance of natural causes.

At that point I concluded that I had been led to believe in Darwin’s theory not because of strong evidence for it. Rather, it was for sociological reasons—that simply was the way educated people were expected to think these days. My professors hadn’t been intentionally misleading—that was the framework in which they thought about life too. But from then on I resolved to decide for myself what the evidence showed.

When one starts to treat Darwinism as a hypothesis about the biochemical level of life rather than as an assumption, it takes about ten minutes to conclude it’s radically inadequate. It takes perhaps another ten minutes to realize that the molecular foundation of life was designed, and for effectively the same reason that Anaxagoras, Galen, and Paley reached the same conclusion for visible levels of biology (although, because of progress in science and philosophy, the argument is now necessarily much more detailed and nuanced than their versions): the signature of intelligent activity is the arrangement of disparate parts to fulfill some purpose. The molecular parts of the cell are elegantly arranged to fulfill many subsidiary purposes that must blend together in service of the large overall purpose of forming life. As we’ll see in this book, no unintelligent, undirected process—neither Darwin’s mechanism nor any other—can account for that.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (pp. 8-9). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Please forgive the extended excerpt, but it is necessary to lay out in some detail Behe’s chain of thinking.

We begin to get some insight into the other than rational motivations behind the Intelligent Design movement. As additional information channels opened he exchanged thoughts with like-minded academics.

Like me, most had religious convictions, which freed them from the crippling assumption that—no matter what the evidence showed—unintelligent forces simply must be responsible for the elegance of life. Some of us banded together under the auspices of the Seattle-based think tank Discovery Institute, the better to defend and advance the topic of intelligent design (ID), to which we had become dedicated.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 9). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Key here—religious convictions freed these people from a crippling assumption—that assumption being the reliance on natural explanations. If you are of another mind you are beginning to see Behe and others have entered the world of superstition and magic. This is a world apart from any definition of real science.

Behe foresees and heads off a critical counter move of the rationalists.

(One common confusion of critics is to think that ID argues everything is planned. That’s not the case. Chance is an important, if superficial, feature of biology.)

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 9). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Yes, proponents are careful to not lay everything onto supernatural causes. At this point I will caution rationalists who seek to debate Intelligent Design. Do not fall into the trap that “intelligent” ad employed  by the creationists, means “smart.” Do not point toward all the dumb things found in the design of living organisms. The creationists use “intelligence” to mean “information,” particularly information from a supernatural source. This information is not guaranteed to produce joyful results.

Not all of what Behe writes is strictly factual.

After DNA and proteins were discovered in the late twentieth century…

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 10). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Proteins began to be studied in the 18th century.

 

As science rapidly advanced in the early twenty-first century, large studies showed only surprisingly minor changes in genes under severe selective pressure. And as we’ll see in this book, now several decades into the twenty-first century, ever more sophisticated studies demonstrate that, ironically, random mutation and natural selection are in fact fiercely devolutionary. It turns out that mutation easily breaks or degrades genes, which, counterintuitively, can sometimes help an organism to survive, so the damaged genes are hastily spread by natural selection. Strangely, in the space of a century and a half Darwinism has gone from the chief candidate for the explanation of life to a known threat to life’s long-term integrity.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 10). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Here is going to be a principal argument in the book. Behe agrees evolution does take place. He will not agree with the principle that natural processes can produce “improvement.” He will argue natural processes, “Darwinism,” can only eliminate improvement. I put “improvement” in quotes, because much of Behe’s argument consists of his claiming what is and what is not “improvement.”

He initiates discussion of improvement with the example of polar bears. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores, and some examination has revealed they are closely related to the North American brown bear, the grizzly bear, and the Kodiak bear. It is considered the polar bear derived from an ancestral brown bear, giving up its brown color for a coat of white fur. The white fur is obviously a benefit to a bear living almost entirely on white ice and snow. We like to think this is Darwinian evolution in action.

Not so, according to Michael Behe.

Although Charles Darwin didn’t mention them in his 1859 masterwork, On the Origin of Species, the polar bear is a wonderful illustration of his theory of evolution by random variation and natural selection. Like other examples Darwin did cite, the giant predator is clearly related to a species that occupies an adjacent geographical area, while just as clearly differing from it in a number of inherited traits. It is easy to envision how the polar bear’s ancestors might gradually have colonized and adapted to a new environment. Over many generations the lineage could have become lighter in color (making the bears less and less visible to their prey in snowy environments), more resistant to the cold, and more adapted to the sources of food in the Arctic, a process in which each step offered a survival advantage over the previous one.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 16). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Only several years ago—only after laboratory techniques were invented that could reliably track changes in species at the level of genes and DNA—was the genetic heritage of the Arctic predator laid bare. The results have turned the idea of evolution topsy-turvy.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 16). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

There are two significant genetic differences between polar bears and brown bears, the other being accommodation for a fat-rich diet. Polar bears eat a lot of seals. But I will illustrate with Behe’s comments on pigmentation (or lack of) of polar bears.

A second highly selected gene, LYST, is associated with pigmentation, and changes in it are probably responsible for the blanching of the ancestors’ brown fur. Computer analysis of the multiple mutations of the gene showed that they too were almost certainly damaging to its function. In fact, of all the mutations in the seventeen genes that were most highly selected, about half were predicted to damage the function of the respective coded proteins. Furthermore, since most altered genes bore several mutations, only three to six (depending on the method of estimation) out of seventeen genes were free of degrading changes.2 Put differently, 65 to 83 percent of helpful, positively selected genes are estimated to have suffered at least one damaging mutation.

It seems, then, that the magnificent Ursus maritimus has adjusted to its harsh environment mainly by degrading genes that its ancestors already possessed. Despite its impressive abilities, rather than evolving, it has adapted predominantly by devolving. What that portends for our conception of evolution is the principal topic of this book.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 17). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

And that is it. Behe, throughout much of his work at refuting natural causes, points to mutations which turn out to be beneficial to an organism are in reality the destruction of a genetic trait that was likely hard-gained, supposedly by supernatural processes.

And I will rest discussion of this point until such time I review the entire book, and I will turn to a minor point the modern creationists continually ignore. What is the evidence of a supernatural intelligence at work? By what means does a transcendental entity that exists outside time and space effect changes in a genome? If natural causes are insufficient to produce beneficial mutations, mutations that will stick? Does this transcendental entity develop material fingers, which fingers need to exist within time and space, that reach into natural chemical processes and produce just the required mutation that will be beneficial to an organism?

Take special note. Michael Behe believes in evolution. He concedes populations have evolved and that modern species have origins stretching back millions of years.

For example, the ideas that life has changed over time and that organisms are related by common descent (both of which were controversial in Darwin’s time) are supported by evidence from geology, paleontology, and comparative anatomy. Those parts of his theory have withstood the test of time very well.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 19). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Seeming without justification, Behe makes a bold claim.

Darwin’s proposed mechanism of evolution is more widely questioned today than at any time since the role of DNA in life was discovered.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 19). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

At one point he lays bare a critical drive of the creationists.

Building a solid foundation for understanding that data does require some work. But it brings the substantial reward of a much better appreciation for the place of humanity, and indeed of all life, in the universe. At a minimum, we need a grasp of the outlines of the history of biology, the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory and modern extensions of it, the latest pertinent research results, and crucial philosophical topics. All of that this book will provide in a way that aims to be accessible to the general reading public. The book’s goal is to give readers the scientific and other information needed to confidently conclude for themselves that life was purposely designed.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 20). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

I have put in bold a phrase pushed by those who want to challenge purely natural causes in public education. Creationists have (for the moment) given up on teaching creationism or even eliminating the teaching of Darwinian evolution. We see introduced in state legislatures laws that promote teaching the controversy and teaching the strengths and weaknesses. Behe indicates his alignment with these maneuvers.

The book’s goal is to give readers the scientific and other information needed to confidently conclude for themselves that life was purposely designed.

Behe, Michael J.. Darwin Devolves (p. 20). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

And I will close it down with that. I promise to finish reading the book, and a review will come within a few weeks.

Abusing Science

Number 47 of a series

This week in Abusing Science I want to clue you to an amazing video. Follow the YouTube link.

MUST WATCH!!! THE EVIDENCE FOR GOD FOUND IN MATHEMATICS!!!

Nov 15, 2019Supernatural By Design

Do mathematical patterns in nature prove the existence of God? In this video, we will discover that a unique number pattern centering around the number 11, proves the existence for God. A MUST WATCH TO THE END TO SEE THE FULL SCOPE OF THE EVIDENCE!

Watch it. The graphics are outstanding.

Of course, the way these things are done is the company in charge of production goes to stock image sources and pays to use the images and the video sequences. Even so…

Yes, this one is all about how numbers demonstrate the proof of God. Isn’t that amazing? And the number 11 (eleven) is special. How special? You will see.

Stunning images.

Look. When you increment by 11, starting at 0, you (after 0) get numbers with repeating digits. Up to 99, that is. After that, well that’s something apparently not in the Bible.

In the image of God. Numbers explain everything.

And here it is. You will be struck dumb at this amazing property of the number 11. When you put up a mirror image of 11, it’s still 11!

Oh, Jesus. That is truly amazing.

Amazing unless you know a small bit of mathematics, and you know that this only works for numbers to the base 10. Then it becomes apparent this is not merely an abuse of science. It is an insult to the human intellect.

But this is religion, not reality, which makes it clear what we are doing here is peering into the Heart of Dumbness.

Quiz Question

Number 233 of a series

The image is a portion of a state map. Names have been blanked. What state is to the north of the state line shown on the map? Post your answer in the comments section below.

Update and Answer

Yes, Keith got it right. He must have driven all 50 states. Here is the map zoomed out. The formation of Kentucky dictated that portion on the east side of the Mississippi River would be in Kentucky. See, it’s on the east side of the river.

Abusing Science

Number 46 of a series

Abuse of science is not limited to the unwashed, and political abuse is not a modern invention. In 1897 a proposed Indiana bill would have set the value for π (pi) to three (3). Presumably that would make engineering computations easier in those days without hand-held calculators. It would likely, if put to use, have also resulted in a number of engineering disasters. But we don’t do that crazy shit anymore.

Wrong, Daddy-o:

The Ohio state House of Representatives has passed the Student Religious Liberties Act, which prevents teachers from penalizing students for giving incorrect answers on tests or other schoolwork if those facts would conflict with their religious beliefs.

The relevant section reads “No school district board of education (…) shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”

Ordinarily I would have confronted such inanity head-on and screamed my objections from the roof-tops. But then I had a second thought. This would have come in handy 55 years ago when I was taking a course in differential equations. Disregard that I aced DE, this stuff absolutely ruined my life for several miserable weeks. What if…

What if the Texas legislature, just down the street, had been aware of my misery and decided to come to my aid? I still recall Professor Walston reminding us: “Sometimes a differential equation is solved by staring at it until a solution comes to mind.” Yeah, I would liked to have been able to say, “Professor, you can take this differential equation and put it where the sun don’t shine, because my personal god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, says the answer is always y = 5x + 3.”

You can see there are times a friendly bit of legislation can be a life saver. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Abusing Science

Number 45 of a series

Abuse of science is also manifests in arguments for religion as a way of knowing. An instance of this is an item from the Magis Center:

Physics, Philosophy, and Free Will

by  | Aug 2, 2019

“But today it is very hard for a scientific man to say where the supernatural ends and the natural begins, or what name should be given to either.”  -G. K. Chesterton, “The New Jerusalem”

Well, no. G.K. Chesterton notwithstanding, it is in no way difficult. For those not acquainted, Chesterton was an excellent writer, penning the Father Brown series and also The Man Who Knew Too Much, which title was the inspiration for [the title of] two Alfred Hitchcock films. Chesterton was wrong, and Maggie Ciskanik is wrong. She further writes:

We are standing at the edge of physics, the cliffside dwelling of quantum mechanics. From this height it appears that science gives us a limitless view and understanding of the natural world. For many, the amazing achievements of science mean there is no mystery, no “supernatural” realm, nothing beyond what we can see and measure.

There is no God. There is no one but us.

Regardless of what Ciskanik says, science does not purport to give us limitless views. Some more from Ciskanik:

But this limitless quality of science is also the source of its limitedness.

Current scientific theories reflect only what we know about matter in the universe at this time. Really, there are no “final” or complete physical theories. This opinion was expressed recently by Templeton prize winning physicist Marcelo Gleiser, but it was obvious after the astounding revelations of the 20th century concerning time and space.

If you are not familiar with the Templeton Foundation, you might want to read up on its founder, John Templeton. The foundation awards grants to credible scientists who work to reconcile science and religion. For example:

Some organizations funded by the Foundation in the 1990s gave book-writing grants to Guillermo Gonzalez and to William Dembski, proponents of intelligent design who later joined the Discovery Institute. The Foundation also gave money directly to the Discovery Institute which in turn passed it through to Baylor University, which used the funds to support Dembski’s salary at its short-lived Michael Polanyi Center. The Foundation funded projects by Bruce L. Gordon, associate director of the center, after the center was dissolved. Some media outlets described the Foundation as a supporter of intelligent design during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District litigation in the mid-2000s, a charge which the Foundation denied. The Foundation “explicitly warns intelligent-design researchers not to bother submitting proposals: they will not be considered.”

There is a quote from Martin Heisenberg. Martin is the son of Werner Heisenberg, who first made us aware that physics operates absent determinism at the base level.

“Although we do not credit animals with anything like the consciousness in humans, researchers have found that animal behaviour is not as involuntary as it may appear. The idea that animals act only in response to external stimuli has long been abandoned, and it is well established that they initiate behaviour on the basis of their internal states, as we do.” –Martin Heisenberg (Nature, vol. 459, 2009, p.164)

She makes a number of valid observations on the value of philosophy but begins to wrap up with this odd reference.

We might do well to keep in mind William Henry Bragg’s observation“From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it.”

No, again. We do not get purpose from religion. Religion is an outgrowth of aspects of human purpose. To obtain purpose from religion the religion much have existed prior to the purpose. Observation and rigorous analysis indicates the purpose is there, and people contrive a religious basis to justify the purpose.

Getting back to the initial point of this discussion, there is a clear demarcation between the natural (the domain of science) and the supernatural. If something can be studied by science, then it is no longer among the supernatural. From all appearances and experience, the supernatural exists only in the thinking of people—a human invention.

The Magis Center piece provides some background on the writer, giving a hint at her underlying thinking:

Armed with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in science, Ciskanik landed in a graduate nursing program. With the support of her enthusiastic husband, an interesting career unfolded while the family grew: a seven year stint mostly as a neurology nurse, 15 years as a homeschooling mom of six, and a six year sojourn as curriculum developer and HS science teacher (which included teaching students with cognitive differences). These experiences added fuel to her lifelong interest in all things related to God’s creation and the flourishing of the human spirit—which has found a new home on the Magis.

[Emphasis added]

Abusing Science

Number 44 of a series

Abuse of science comes in multiple ways, one being distortion of science education in public schools. Pennsylvania is in the process of overhauling the science standards for ts schools, and politicization of science is making its coming to the fore. From the Pennsylvania Capital-Star comes this:

The climate for change

Educators expect that climate change education will be a major sticking point in the overhaul of Pennsylvania’s science standards, which currently lack any mention of human-caused global warming.

The scientific community agrees that climate change will lead to catastrophic sea-level rise and ecological disruption if humans don’t drastically curb their carbon emissions. But since it’s not mentioned in Pennsylvania’s science standards, some students may never learn about it in school.

“Right now in the state, it is a total random act of teaching climate change,” Remington said. “There’s no consistency. There’s no formal training.”

Teachers know they’ll have a hard time passing climate change education standards through Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, where committees still hear testimony from researchers who reject mainstream climate science.

The same goes for topics related to evolution, which was a point of contention during the last revamp of science standards in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, according to Kathy Blouch, a professor at Lebanon Valley College who was on the committee that promulgated the current science standards.

“I think that’s why the state didn’t want to open the science standards again, because it was so contentious,” Blouch said. “But it’s been so long, and our current standards haven’t held up.”

In an attempt to avoid a political fight, educators like Remington are making workforce development a cornerstone in their campaign to adopt new science standards for the state. At a time when workers from across the world are vying for jobs and autonomous technology threatens to upend entire industries, Pennsylvania isn’t preparing its students to compete, they say.

The National Center for Science Education is the premier organization combating the anti-science attacks on public education. They are a rallying point for the protection of science education, frequently involved in critical issues. When the Dover [Pennsylvania] Area School District attempted to introduce a book advocating for Intelligent Design into the science curriculum, several parents sued. Research assisted by the NCSE revealed the book, Of Pandas and People, is in reality a revamped young-Earth creationism screed. Their quarterly journal, Reports of the NCSE, is available to supporters. One of their online bulletins pointed me to the Pennsylvania story above. The NCSE is a non-political, non-profit entity, and they depend on your donations. I give annually, and you should, as well.

Nondeterministic Reasoning

Deep Knowledge, Broken Logic

I don’t remember what got me onto this book. Likely something posted on Facebook. Anyhow, I was on a long flight and got around to finishing the Kindle edition. It’s Does the Atom Have a Designer, and it’s by a knowledgeable physicist by the name of Lakhi Goenka. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. Full disclosure: I attended that place of learning, but I only obtained a B.S. in engineering. Anyhow, Goenka’s degree field is fluid dynamics, not necessarily related to the subject of the book. That said, before anybody can get a Ph.D. in physics from UT Austin they have to learn a lot of advanced stuff, and the author exhibits deep knowledge of atomic physics.

The problem with the book is not so much the science, which to my mind seems solid. What should concern the serious reader are the logical conclusions the authors draws from the science. I speak of his understanding of the science from the viewpoint of a person who took a graduate course in quantum mechanics and obtained a grade of B for my effort.

This is a short book—88 pages, including an appendix with references. I highlighted interesting passages, and I will print a few excerpts and post some comment. Start with this.

The Why Questions related to the Atom are discussed in depth using Aristotle’s four causes.  The question: “Does your kitchen table have a Designer?” does not require a scientific or a mathematical explanation.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 9). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

This is from a synopsis at the beginning, and yes, Geonka will invoke Aristotle’s four causes:

  1. Material cause: “that out of which a thing comes-to-be and which persists is said to be a cause, for example, the bronze is a cause of a statue, the silver is a cause of a bowl, and the genera of these [is also a cause].”
  2. Formal cause: “the form or paradigm, and this is the formula of the essence … and the parts that are in the formula.”
  3. Efficient cause: “the primary starting point from which change or rest originates; for example, someone who has given advice is a cause, the father [is a cause] of a child, and in general what does [is a cause] of what is done and what alters something [is a cause] of what is altered.”
  4. Final cause: “[something may be called a cause] in the sense of an end (telos), namely, what something is for; for example, health [is a cause] of walking.”

The author first gives us a lesson in some fundamental principles. The atom is the basic material entity apparent to people. All the material stuff in our lives is made from atoms, and some very basic physics determines the relationships involving the very lowest physical entities. Nobody knows why. These things just act this way. All physicists can do is to figure out how these entities interact and then explain it to others. Quite often the way the basic particles work together can provide us with ideas as to how to exploit these interactions to make science work wonders for us. For example, the so-called Bose quantum principle gave us the idea we could use the effect to build electrical switches operating on Bose statistics, and the result was solid state physics and the transistor and miniature computers and also smart phones.

There are also photons, which are Bose (named after Satyendra Nath Bose) particles. Bose-Einstein statistics is a quantum mechanical concept developed by Bose and Albert Einstein. Photons are unlike fermions, particles that exhibit Fermi statistics and named after Enrico Fermi, who developed the concept and headed up the team that produced the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. The difference between bosons (Bose particles) and fermions is that fermions cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Fermi statistics is the principle that prevents all matter from collapsing into a single point in space. Bosons can pass through each other with ease, typically without interacting, and bosons can pass through matter.

Anyhow, the foregoing discussion is not included in the book, but I added it because it will be good to know when reading the remainder of this review.

The author quickly gets to the point of the book, that point being the existence of God.

The commonly cited objection “Then who designed the Designer?” is also addressed in the book.  The controversial and unverified Multiverse Hypothesis, often used against a Design argument, is also discussed.

And yes, your kitchen table does have a Designer.

(Note that this is an argument based on Design, and not on fine tuning.)

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 10). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Goenka adds this last bit to assure us his is not a recap of a book titled The Privileged Planet, by creationists Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. That book has been previously reviewed. The Gonzalez-Richards book is all about fine tuning as evidence for a creator.But this book is one long argument for the existence of a creator, and Goenka is not shy on this point. He starts this way:

Even the simplest of atoms, Hydrogen and Helium, consist of numerous subatomic particles such as quarks, gluons, and leptons that interact together in complex ways.  These subatomic particles represent a fine balance of forces, have special quantum properties, interact together in complex ways, follow complex laws, and obey multiple rules of order, all to ultimately provide function.  Atoms don’t simply follow laws—they provide function.  Atoms are a fundamental system of parts (subatomic particles) that dynamically interact together to provide multiple levels of functionality.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 15). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

And gets around to this:

And while many things may be unfathomable to us in this world, including in Physics, we can at least show that our Universe does have a Designer.  This would perhaps be the case even in the unlikely event that the controversial Multiverse Hypothesis was someday experimentally validated.

So what do theologians mean by God?  The belief in a Creator God is well supported by the Big Bang Theory, which postulates that Space, Time and Matter all came into being temporally out of nothing right at the Big Bang.  God, who always existed outside of our Space and Time, created the Universe.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (pp. 78-79). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

He hangs his argument on the ex nihilo concept of the origin of the universe. Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss deals extensively with this in his book A Universe from Nothing, previously reviewed. As I understand the concept, there was nothing. No matter. No space. No time. Then there was something. First explain how that came to be. Worse still, explain why.

To explain how, you have to stipulate conditions prior to the origin of the universe. Cosmologists make a go at that. No scientist attempts the why. Goenka wants to explain why. Or possibly he does not. His explanation is God. He ultimately gets around to making this disclaimer:

Note that while the Atom points to a Creator, it does not necessarily point to any particular religious belief (such as the belief in a Personal God).  However, it does serve to reinforce the concept of God.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 82). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

There is little doubt Goenka is a creationist. You do not have to invoke Genesis to be a creationist. The term applies to anybody who stipulates non-natural causes—especially a sentient being—behind the creation. From his background we can sleep securely believing Goenka is a creationist of the first kind—a creationist who believes all this is the work of the God of Abraham.

Taking that into account, where does Goenka’s argument take him? It does not take him to the divinity of Christ (Jesus). Winning the argument that a sentient being created the universe does not logically lead to that entity being the God of Abraham. That concept will always remain in the realm of mythology. The goal of creationists on this point is to convince others of the existence of a creator, for from that point it is easier to move the uninitiated to belief in the divinity.

I will not recap Goenka’s reasoning, but he argues the intricacy of the relationship between fundamental particles is such that no accident of nature can account for their all this. One way to look at this reasoning is to realize it is founded on thinking which arises in the universe under discussion. The argument is an attempt to take everyday observations and even deeply technical observations, and work them into a basis for explaining something that does not exist within our ability to observe. My analogy is clumsy to the extreme, but I liken this to an attempt to peel an apple using a ball peen hammer. We can explain, for example, fire, by invoking chemical and physical principles we have discovered by clever means, but we reach a point where we will be unable to make explanations which are compatible with things we observe.

The concept of a god creator is the god is an transcendental entity that exists outside time and space. Since time and space are what scientists have to work with, they are not going to make much headway explaining transcendental entities. Such things have to be imagined, or not even that. They may have to be supposed and nothing more.

Science failing to explain everything, the theologians feel free to jump in. The problem with theological explanations is that they generally boil down to speculation and nothing more. At the upper end of theological explanations are some argued philosophically. Philosophy is a powerful tool, giving us the means by which we move from observation to unforeseen conclusions. When philosophy is employed to move from supposition to conclusion it serves only to provide a smokescreen to an abuse of the intellect.

Goenka addresses the question concerning who or what created the creator:

In order to answer such questions, we first need to clarify what we mean by “God.” If God is just another one of the causes within the system of causes that science explains, then we would need to search for a cause for God as well. But if God is something fundamentally different from the created order (what theologians call “transcendent”), then our demand for a cause of God’s being is confused and misapplied.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 67). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

A popular notion, held by the unsophisticated faithful, is that the God of Abraham, having nothing better to do, decided to create the universe and people, as well. I don’t hold to this God business, so it is difficult for me to imagine the thinking of such people. I have supposed they imagine God doing the creation as a hobby, such as somebody building a model ship. When much thought is applied, this becomes a difficult sell. Logically I would not suppose a being that exists outside time and space would have much interest in hobbies or even serious construction projects. Those are human activities (beavers, as well). The argument that a sentient, transcendental entity decided to create the universe does not have a sound philosophical basis.

At a higher lever, consider that God is not a sentient entity. God could then be a set of basic principles, unknown and possibly unknowable to us. The universe is a consequence of these principles. This answers the question put by the creationists: “From whence came the intelligence (information) to construct the universe as we know it?”

This interpretation takes investigation of the origin of the universe out of the hands of the theologians, and it is not going to get much support among that crowd.

In order to answer such questions, we first need to clarify what we mean by “God.” If God is just another one of the causes within the system of causes that science explains, then we would need to search for a cause for God as well. But if God is something fundamentally different from the created order (what theologians call “transcendent”), then our demand for a cause of God’s being is confused and misapplied.

God is not just the explanation for the beginning of the universe, but for the existence of anything at all—whether past, present, or future.  These things are contingent; that is to say, they don’t have to exist, and so because they do exist, we are right to ask for the causes of their existence. But theologians have understood God to be a necessary being. Asking for a cause of a necessary being is like asking how much the color blue weighs — it is a category mistake.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 67). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I’m not buying much of that, and you should not either.

Abusing Science

Number 43 of a series

Here’s the way it works. The science is not breaking your way. Scientists doing research into the planet’s atmosphere are coming to ominous conclusions, and an apparent consequence is this. Unless corrective action is taken there are going to be bad consequences.

And that’s the problem. People will need to do something. In a democratic society that means the government will need to do something. Actually, in an authoritarian society it will still be required for the government to do something.

But having the government do something is what you do not want. There are two flavors of this:

  • You’re the kind of person who wants government to do as little as possible to satisfy your personal needs.
  • What the government will need to do has a detrimental impact on your personal fortunes.

You have two choices.

  • You can go along and take your lumps.
  • You can demonstrate the science is invalid, therefore it will not be necessary for the government to do anything.

I forgot. There is a third alternative.

  • You can invest heavily in persuading people the science is invalid, so nothing needs to be done, and you get back your investment multiple times over.

And that’s what’s being done. The Heritage Foundation is a politically conservative think tank mounting a vigorous challenge to the science behind global warming. I get one of their newsletters, titled The Daily Signal. Here is a recent offering:

The Daily Signal <morningbell@heritage.org>

To: Jf_blanton@yahoo.comOct 10 at 4:01 PM

Instead of anti-science doomsday predictions, this is what children should know about the environment.

It comes with a video. Watch the video. It opens with Greta Thunberg making her impassioned plea for adults to take action. From there it launches into an impassioned plea against taking action. The video is short, and I watched it through, capturing screen shots of each scene carrying the Heritage message. Here is what you will see.

People taking action to mold public opinion are termed “activists,” and they are recruiting naive children to man the front lines. This is obviously done to elicit undue sympathy for their mistaken cause.

Greta is like so many other young people, innocent of the real world. She does not have her facts straight. Interestingly the video dwells very little on the facts related to global warming.

It is true. Many global warming activists make claims unsupported by the data, and that undermines the entire case for global warming.

No, it does not. What would undermine the case for global warming would be facts that demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not cause warming by absorbing infra red radiation.
  • The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not increasing, or else is not increasing dangerously.
  • The oceans and the atmosphere are not warming, or at least they are not warming sufficiently to produce harmful results.
  • Human activity is not increasing the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, or at least it is not a significant cause of the increase.

Disproving any one of these five points would refute the science behind global warming concerns. None of these has ever been successfully disputed, and by no means has the Heritage Foundation done so, nor has it made a serious effort to.

Heritage will like for us to examine some recent history, not any history of the science, but history of the controversy.

Gloriosky, Zero! They bring up predictions of global cooling. Flash news. There will be a new ice age. It’s coming, providing this planet repeats the cycle it has experience the past few million years. But the onset is at least 1000 years in the future, and the consequences of anthropogenic global warming will impact us well before then.

“That didn’t happen.” No shit, Sherlock. The next ice age is not due anytime soon. “Mass flooding?” The video depicts a raging river. The mass flooding, expected to be a consequence of global warming, will be due to a rise of several feet by the planet’s oceans. This rise will be principally due to the melting of land ice, and a consequential rise is already being charted. Increased melting of glacier ice and the Greenland and Antarctic ice is being observed.

Heritage is likely correct on this point. What is more probably true is the time has past for us to forestall onerous consequences of global warming. In the past decades the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has nearly doubled, and the rise in atmospheric temperature is being charted. There is no action we can take to prevent dire consequences coming 50 to 100 years from now.

Heritage is going to warn us the proposed solutions will not be to our liking.

Yes! Free enterprise is going in the toilet. In this case, the term “free enterprise” is not defined, but for sure it’s not going to be so easy in the future to make money selling fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels as a means for producing electric power will feel an enormous pinch.

Yes, that dreadful ogre, the government, is going to take over your life. Here is a point where Heritage goes completely off the deep end. These guys are going to need to explain what they mean by “Washington would control everything from energy to food production.”

“And the type of cars we can drive.” To be sure, that is already happening. To decrease reliance on fossil fuels the government has mandated better fuel efficiency for automobiles. First hand knowledge. I spent a few weeks this summer touring Europe, and gasoline prices there are out of sight. A quick check shows the lowest price for unleaded in Germany is 1.189 euros per liter, which I work out to be $4.24 a gallon. As a consequence I notice most everybody who drives, drives a small and fuel efficient car, for those who drive. Trains and other forms of public transportation are a big part of life in Europe.

“But even if we believed their catastrophic predictions… Would their proposals work?” I don’t think so either. We are decades too late to forestall some serious damage, but that has nothing to do with whether AGW is real. The science is the science, and the consequences be damned.

“Not according to climate scientists own models.” Likely true. Again, no attempt to refute the science.

“They predict that even if the United States cut its carbon dioxide emissions to zero it would stall global warming by less than a degree Celsius… Over 80 years.” True again. The United States alone cannot fix the problem. Besides, if carbon dioxide emissions due to human activity were to cease completely by the end of this day, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will take in the order of 200 years to return to pre-industrial levels. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will continue to keep temperatures high enough during that time to have catastrophic results.

“So does that men we’re doomed? Not according to experts.” Heritage is going to need more than a slick video to get this message out. Unfortunately, in their posting no explanation is provided.

“Their [the experts] research shows economic freedom strongly correlates with clean environments.” Again, no explanation given, but two points.

  • It is not clean environments we are talking back. Other than its warming effects, the rise in carbon dioxide levels we have seen so far are not a serious pollutant.
  • My own observation is that when industries operate without environmental controls they bolster their profits by caring less about releasing harmful byproducts of their industrial processes.

“And the best way to create sustainable environment policies is to increase economic growth.” I would dearly like to see Heritage’s number on this.

Heritage announces we are “leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions.” Again no numbers given.

“So while climate activists spread doomsday predictions the only meltdown on our hands appears to be an emotional one.”

That last statement from the video is soaked in irony. All through Heritage has made mostly emotional appeals. Washington will run everything. You will not be able to drive the car of your choice. Dismantle our free enterprise system.

Guys, give it a rest. Come back when you are ready to argue real science.

Quiz Question

Number 229 of a series

See the map outline above. Three states come together here. Which state is the blue one?

Post your answer in the comments section below. You are required to answer this without looking at a map.

Update and Solution

Nobody, but no body, took a swing at this. At least those familiar with the region will recognize the state at the top of the image is Tennessee. The state to the right is South Carolina, and the state in blue is Alabama.

Abusing Science

Number 42 of a series

Discovery Institute to the rescue again. Here is something recent from their Evolution News site:

Walnuts: Intelligent Design in a Nutshell — Literally

Evolution News @DiscoveryCSC

September 19, 2019, 4:46 AM

Thank you to Paul Nelson who points out a paper in Advanced Science that is both nutty and not nutty at the same time — nutty, because it concerns walnuts; not nutty, because there is nothing silly or unintelligent about the way walnut shells are designed.

“The outer protective shells of nuts can have remarkable toughness and strength,” say Sebastian Antreich and six others in the paper. Considering that walnuts are widespread and commercially important, they decided to look at the nuts in detail. They found a unique architecture in the shell called “interlocked packing” that resembles a 3-D puzzle.

Follow the link. Read the entire post, which concludes with:

The stately English walnut trees with their thick, white trunks provide another unusual benefit to man: furniture and fine art. Some walnut trees respond to mold or insect infestations at ground level by growing thick, dark “burls” around the site of injury, surrounded by tough bark. Walnut burl wood, with its deep red color and complex swirled grain, is highly prized for making coffee tables, guitar inlays, gun stocks, jewelry and other artistic creations. Some burl items can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Walnut trees are good for the economy!

So what’s not to love about walnut trees? They provide nutrition, art, exercise, shade, lumber, and now another benefit: a biomimetic model for materials science. Like the Moringa tree discussed in an earlier post, some plants seem to give much more than they take to for mere survival. It fits with the ID view that a designer had the Foresight to equip the world with good resources that would be needed and appreciated by the most exceptional beings of all: humans. A friend of Evolution News grew up on a ranch with a walnut grove and supplied the wonderful accompanying photos. Enjoy!

I may be wrong, but I suspect the conclusion the writer wishes to leave is there is a benevolent, transcendental being who loves us and wants us to be happy. For some people, this is science.

Abusing Science

Number 41 of a series

Once again I have the Discovery Institute to thank. They are a source that never falters. Here is the latest from their Evolution News site:

Physics Nobel Prize Invites Snark from the Anti-ID Peanut Gallery

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

October 9, 2019, 5:00 AM

Congratulations to Princeton cosmologist James Peebles, who shares the Nobel Prize this year for physics. His work, as the Wall Street Journal summarizes, “developed precise models of cosmic creation, transforming cosmology ‘from speculation to science,’ the [Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences] said.” A frequent if not obsessive ID antagonist, Kevin Williamson, seizes upon this as an occasion for a swipe at intelligent design and a put-down directed at all those rubes (presumably including subscribers and readers of the magazine where he writes, National Review) who would seriously entertain the idea.

I will leave it to readers to decipher that passage, and I will get to the meat.

The Irony, Please?

Yet, insofar as Peebles’s work helped to strengthen the evidence for a cosmic beginning, it is actually part of the argument for intelligent design made by, among others, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer in his next book, The Return of the God Hypothesis. As Meyer and fellow ID proponents have shown, a starting point to physical existence, which is what the Big Bang represents, is among the most persuasive evidences against a materialist perspective on reality. Taken together with the remarkable fine-tuning data, it suggests a purposeful cause operating intelligently outside nature, responsible for creation. That is why materialists resisted it until the gathering evidence, developed in Peebles’s field, made it impossible for them to do so any longer.

I have no idea what view Professor Peebles takes on these grander ramifications. But as another Nobel Prize-winning physicist, the late Charles Townes, put it, “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real.” Nor is he alone. Physicist Brian Josephson, another Nobelist, says he is “80 percent” confident that intelligent design is correct. As the odds go, that’s not bad. How about giving the snark a little rest, Williamson?

For more on intelligent design and the arguments from cosmology, see Episode 4 of Science Uprising:

What I find most stunning is this snippet of text: “Yet, insofar as Peebles’s work helped to strengthen the evidence for a cosmic beginning, it is actually part of the argument for intelligent design made by, among others, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer in his next book, The Return of the God Hypothesis.” The awful truth is any notion that the output of Stephen Meyer is in the same league with that of James Peebles is pure fantasy. While Peebles spent decades observing the cosmos and applying mathematical analysis and reasoned insight, Meyer has dedicated the past two decades to convincing others the universe and all life resulted from the musings of a transcendental being. The ultimate insult is having somebody such as Stephen Meyer attempt to hitchhike on the work of real scientists.

If the term “peanut gallery” puzzles you, then Google is your answer.

Abusing Science

Number 40 of a series

The way science works is there are conclusions and there is dissent. Workers in a field of study come up with explanations for observed fact, and those who disagree with the explanations (theories) publish their own studies to contradict the theory.

There is another way to push back against an unfavorable theory, and that is to not discuss the science but to focus on the consequences of the proposed theory or to focus on the people who support the theory, or both. In either case, the counter argument does not involve any science. That is what Greg Gutfeld does on Fox News Channel’s The Greg Gutfeld Show.

Climate freaks shut down traffic in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

As this idiocy rolls on, we should note that people trying to go to work and put food on their tables don’t hurt the environment. Creating endless blocks of idling cars and trucks does. Which is what that tantrum did.

I’m guessing this Internet page will remain up for several years, allowing readers to read it in its entirety, but I will paste here some pertinent excerpts. I read the piece through, and it makes no mention of the science.

Gutfeld opens by naming the protesters “climate freaks,” making it clear up front there will be no argument of fact. He relates, “As this idiocy rolls on…,” not making it clear whether the idiocy is the science or the actions of the protesters. Let’s assume Gutfeld is referring to the actions of the protesters and not to the science. Else he would not have much of an argument. His talking points hit all the sensitive zones:

The media elevates these idiots.

Because rather than interfering with their lives, activism gives the media an easy assignment.

Just walk outside and shove a microphone at a pathetic attention-seeker. It beats real work.

Worse, we have adults advocating for handing life-changing over decisions to children.

An obvious target is the collection of news outlets, collectively termed “the media.” The media bear responsibility for the actions of the activists, because these people would not be protesting if not to get their message out, and the news outlets cover these protests rather than serious news. That’s because the news people are lazy. Gutfeld is hitting major sore points of his conservative audience. And we are allowing children to decide whether to take action against climate change.

The charge of handing decision making over to children requires some response. The children—teenagers, to be sure—are saying what adults should be saying, but it will be the adults making the decisions, possibly the adults who were once these children.

Gutfeld invokes hyperbole:

Here’s a question. What would happen if parents in a cult maniacally and falsely informed their children that the world will end in a decade?

This is a rhetorical device that has experienced considerable shelf life.

Never mind that kids know nothing about nuclear energy or the costs of solar or wind power.

Surprise, surprise! It is likely these children know more about nuclear energy than does Greg Gutfeld. Regarding the cost of solar and wind power, he wants us to know it will cost more to run home and industry off renewable sources than fossil fuel. To which I exclaim, “No shit, Sherlock!” Dude, if at the offset renewable sources involved less cost than fossil fuel, then there would be no climate crisis. We never would have mined the coal and pumped the petroleum. We would have been using renewable energy from the get-go. The reason we have a climate crisis is fossil fuels were the first available sources of energy in great quantity, making them essential in getting the Industrial Revolution off the ground. However, at this stage in the game the pet we invited into our house has started to eat us, and we need to cast about for alternatives, even at greater cost. And it is not necessary for the children to know that in order for it to be true.

Gutfeld concludes:

The media won’t see it that way.

They’re too busy showing how much they care before packing their gear back into their gas-guzzling, idling vans and heading to the airport for the next climate summit.

Adapted from Greg Gutfeld’s monologue on “The Five” on Sept. 23, 2019.

And that is how you argue against science when science is not your friend.

Abusing Science

Number 39 of a series

The National Center for Science Education is the premier organization in this country working to counter science disinformation in public education. They publish a quarterly journal Reports of the National Center for Science Education. A prominent section in each issue is titled “Updates,” and it details legislative action and activities in public schools. Here are some excerpts of note:

CONNECTICUT
Connecticut’s House Bill 5955 would have
“eliminate[d] climate change materials” from the
Next Generation Science Standards as used in
Connecticut, describing climate change as “a
controversial area of information,” while House Bill
5922 would have rescinded Connecticut’s adoption of the NGSS altogether. Both bills were sponsored by John E. Piscopo (R–District 76), who has a
record of introducing legislation and working with
organizations, including the Heartland Institute, that
dispute anthropogenic climate change; both died in
committee in March 2019.

FLORIDA
Florida’s Senate Bill 330 would have
required “[c]ontroversial theories and concepts”
discussed in science standards “[to] be taught in
a factual, objective, and balanced manner.” Although
there was no indication in the bill about which “theories
and concepts” are deemed to be “controversial,” much
less any guidance about adjudicating disputes about
which are and which are not, the bill’s sole sponsor,
Dennis Baxley (R–District 12), has a history of antievolution
advocacy. SB 330 died in committee in May 2019.

IOWA
Iowa’s House File 61 would have required the state department of education not to “adopt, approve, or require implementation of the [N]ext [G]eneration [S]cience [S]tandards
by school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.” Iowa
adopted the NGSS in 2015. In a 2016 interview, the bill’s
sponsor, Skyler Wheeler (R–District 4), declared, “I also
oppose NGSS as it pushes climate change … NGSS also
pushes evolution even more.” The bill died in committee in
March 2019.

LOUISIANA, BOSSIER PARISH
A settlement was reached on January 22, 2019, in Does
v. Bossier Parish School Board, a case before the United
States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
The school system was accused of promoting religious
beliefs, including by tolerating teachers “reportedly …
praising creationism in class and attempting to discredit
the scientific theory of evolution.” Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, representing the anonymous plaintiffs, described the settlement as “a huge win.”

There are additional items reported in the article, and the phrase, “would have” appears frequently. Legislation detrimental to the teaching of valid science has been killed in committee or by vote in the full chamber. That is not always the case. From local news reporting:

Board retains Moses in Texas social studies curriculum

The State Board of Education on Wednesday tentatively approved keeping a reference to Moses in the state’s social studies curriculum despite recommendations from one of its working groups to remove the biblical prophet.

High school students will continue to learn in government class that Moses, along with William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu, were among those who influenced the U.S. founding documents. The Republican-led board voted along party lines to keep Moses in the curriculum, with board Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, abstaining although she has indicated her support of retaining Moses in the past.

Yes, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu will be listed as those who inspired the writing of the United States Constitution. And so will Moses. There is a problem here. Blackstone, Locke, and de Montesquieu were real people. Moses was not. The most benevolent historical assessment of Moses is that he is a figure concocted by tribal leaders in the Eastern Mediterranean region about 3000 years ago. Introducing a mythical figure into the serious study of history appears on the first hand to be an act of high idiocy. A more reliable historical figure would be Popeye the Sailor, of whose origins we know much more.

In addition to being a product of somebody’s imagination, Moses would be a poor inspiration for a democratic society. Significant wording stands out:

20 And God spake all these words, saying,

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

Item 2 above is definitely problematic in that it runs counter to actual history. Moses did not bring anybody out of Egypt. Particularly Moses did not bring the Hebrews out of Egypt, since the Hebrews never were in Egypt to be brought out. Students being taught otherwise are being indoctrinated in some bad science.

Item 3 requires only the god of Abraham be appreciated. The Constitution in its original form contained, and still does, a clause prohibiting a religious oath as a requirement for holding public office. That was a starter. In 1791 the First Amendment was added, ensuring free expression of religion. That should have meant Moses needed to take his place in line with all other mythical figures of religious origin, and Moses should definitely not be given a place alongside Blackstone, Locke, and de Montesquieu—real people.

Number 4 definitely has problems with a free society. This, from Moses, would prohibit most forms of personal expression. Freedom of speech would be in a lot of trouble.

Number 5 indicates the United States government, also known as the citizens of the United States of America, should not be the supreme law. Were we to follow this musing of Moses, courts would need to check a copy of the King James version before handing down sentences.

Skipping over number 6, number 7 has serious issues. Freedom of speech is definitely at odds with number 7.

A lot of people are going to be in serious trouble if item 8 begins to be taken seriously by our government. In fact, it was taken seriously for a time. Sunday closing laws, then known as “blue laws,” had the intent of enforcing this command from Moses.

Items 9 and 10 are again an affront to a free society. If you want to see government oppression in its baldest form, witness a government that tells people when they can work and when they must not.

If history is to be taught as a rigorous study, then the Texas Legislature is an affront to serious science.

Abusing Science

Number 38 of a series

So here’s what happens. You disagree with published results of scientific studies, and you feel you need to refute the conclusions. So what you do is conduct your own research and publish your results, solidly refuting the false reporting.

No, that’s not what you do. What you do if you don’t agree with published science is you find something to mock, and if there is not much to mock you make up something. You produce a ludicrous cartoon depiction of your opponents argument, and you publish that in a scientific journal. Actually, not in a scientific journal, but on Facebook, where peer review is much more rigorous.

And that’s what’s been done. A Facebook friend has long put forward his opposition to peer-reviewed science dealing with anthropogenic global warming (AGW). See some of my prior comments. More recently Dan Kuttner posted a link with a cartoon depicting child advocate Greta Thunberg. See the above. Was flattery ever so thoroughly turned sideways!

Anyhow, here are some comments that attached to Dan’s posting:

Paul Snover

To think I LIVED through and SURVIVED ALL of these catastrophes listed…
But then I thought there would be a second American Revolution via The Declaration of Independence by now, so I had bad predictions too…
Funny though how gullible folks are!

Compiled by Dan Asmussen
* Best Recap In History:
1966: Oil Gone in Ten Years
1967: Dire Famine Forecast By 1975
1968: Overpopulation Will Spread Worldwide
1969: Everyone Will Disappear In a Cloud Of Blue Steam By 1989
1970: World Will Use Up All its Natural Resources by 2000
1970: Urban Citizens Will Require Gas Masks by 1985
1970: Nitrogen buildup Will Make All Land Unusable
1970: Decaying Pollution Will Kill all the Fish
1970s: Killer Bees!
1970: Ice Age By 2000
1970: America Subject to Water Rationing by 1974 and Food Rationing By 1980
1971: New Ice Age Coming By 2020 or 2030
1972: New Ice Age By 2070
1972: Oil Depleted in 20 Years
1974: Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast
1974: Another Ice Age?
1974: Ozone Depletion a ‘Great Peril to Life
1976: Scientific Consensus Planet Cooling, Famines imminent
1977: Department of Energy Says Oil will Peak in 90s
1978: No End in Sight to 30-Year Cooling Trend
1980: Acid Rain Kills Life In Lakes
1980: Peak Oil In 2000
1988: Regional Droughts (that never happened) in 1990s
1988: Temperatures in DC Will Hit Record Highs
1988: Maldive Islands will Be Underwater by 2018 (they’re not)
1989: Rising Sea Levels will Obliterate Nations if Nothing Done by 2000
1989: New York City’s West Side Highway Underwater by 2019 (it’s not)
1996: Peak Oil in 2020
2000: Children Won’t Know what Snow Is
2002: Famine In 10 Years If We Don’t Give Up Eating Fish, Meat, and Dairy
2002: Peak Oil in 2010
2004: Britain will Be Siberia by 2024
2005: Manhattan Underwater by 2015
2006: Super Hurricanes!
2008: Arctic will Be Ice Free by 2018
2008: Climate Genius Al Gore Predicts Ice-Free Arctic by 2013
2009: Climate Genius Prince Charles Says we Have 96 Months to Save World
2009: UK Prime Minister Says 50 Days to ‘Save The Planet From Catastrophe’
2009: Climate Genius Al Gore Moves 2013 Prediction of Ice-Free Arctic to 2014
2013: Arctic Ice-Free by 2015
2014: Only 500 Days Before ‘Climate Chaos
2019: Hey Greta, we need you to convince them it’s really going to happen this time

Thanks –Dan Asmussen

…and great funny cartoon by Tina Toon—

The cartoon appears on the Grrrgraphics.com site, which seems to host a collection of graphics by Ben Garrison.

Ben Garrison is an American right-wing (also identified as alt-right) political cartoonist.[5] He is a self-described libertarian whose cartoons have been widely promoted among the alt-right. He has produced cartoons that showcase anti-feminist, anti-semitic and racist content. His cartoons often lionize conservative figures and right wing politicians such as President Donald Trump.

In a 2015 interview with Breitbart News, he said he did not support any presidential candidate in the 2016 election, but said he admires Trump for “shaking up the neocon-controlled Republican Party.”

If by now you are guessing that AGW denial is a conservative thing, then you are up to speed on the trend. For some reason political conservatives have issues with a number of conclusions from modern science. Those issues would include biological evolution (favoring creationism instead) and of course AGW.

I have no solid background on Dan Asmussen, but a Google search links the name to multiple alt-right sites. Anyhow, Dan lists a bunch of things that never happened. He concludes by taunting, “2019: Hey Greta, we need you to convince them it’s really going to happen this time.”

So that is the proper way to refute science you do not agree with. No, it is not the proper way. The proper way is to produce counter evidence. At this point I did not present any evidence, but I did submit a snide remark to get the pot boiling.

John Blanton When your argument against scientific resesrch is a cartoon, you are obviously on the wrong side of the issue.

So, let’s see what followed from that.

Skot Norton John Blanton a sixteen year old girl can be pretty scary!
Eric Boylan How about core samples show that the planet has had numerous instances of heating and cooling in faster periods of time. Before man. What about that research?
John Blanton Eric Boylan Scientific research discloses that a rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing average global temperatures (atmospheric and oceanic) to rise. Furthermore, human activity is the predominate cause of this increase in carbon dioxide. This is the argument you need to address. You need to demonstrate one or more of the following:
1. CO2 levels are not increasing.
2. Increased CO2 levels are not causing the increase in temperatures.
3. Global aversge temperatures are not rising.
4. Human activity is not causing the increase in CO2 levels.
Present any one of those arguments successfully, and you are done. You will have won the argument.
Are you on?
Eric Boylan Number 1…I do not need to address or demonstrate anything. But you need to keep your pompous ass in check old man.
But anyway. I’ll play your game a little bit.
In 2010 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study of the earth’s climate 460-445 million years ago which found that an intense period of glaciation, not warming, occurred when CO2 levels were 5 times higher than they are today. How did humans create all that CO2? And why glaciers?
I win.
John Blanton Eric Boylan I like your attitude.
Actually you do need to demonstrate one of those four points, because that is what the discussion is about. The question is whether human activity today is causing global warming. If you can’t address any of these points, then you are only flailing at the wind. Your inability to respond hints at ignorance of the facts.
Game on.
Eric Boylan I did. I win.
Eric Boylan Ignorance? Says the guy who obviously has some dementia setting in. Maybe in your pathetic attempt of patronizing me you missed the glaciers and CO2 at five times the level of today. Again. You set the rules to your game. And I win.
Daniel G. Kuttner Eric: You have good points. I’d prefer on my posts you don’t take John‘s bait and go ad-hominem. You don’t need them and it lowers your argument.

PS I am also Chronologically Challenged, but wear the label “Old Man” with pride… for both words.

John Blanton Daniel G. Kuttner No, no. Eric, don’t listen to Dan. Take the bait. It’s going to be fun. I guarantee. Have I ever lied to you before. Kidded you a little maybe, but lied to you?
John Blanton Eric Boylan I really like your style. Will you be my Facebook friend? I will send you a friend request. Please accept me as your Facebook friend.
Daniel G. Kuttner John: Maybe you two WERE meant for each other!
Eric Boylan I don’t take bait. It’s me. Bait or not, it’s what you get.
Eric Boylan And since I have been dealing with this sarcoma my fuse is shorter
James Finkelstein Eric Boylan you. Lose. Unless you can demonstrate those changes took place in dozens of years and not hundreds of thousands or millions. Get it now?

As you can see, discussions with AGW deniers often involve a lot of heat and not much light. The concluding comment by James indicates there is some sanity remaining.

To be sure, Eric’s argument is a non-starter. You can talk all you want about what is said and what was said and what was promised and what was not. Discussions regarding prior ice ages and prior warming trends are interesting but not pertinent to today’s problem.

Well-grounded studies show carbon dioxide concentrations are rising and have been for decades. This increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is producing a rise in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, and this has been going on for decades. Further, human activity is the predominate cause for the rise in carbon dioxide levels. Finally, a principal and observable result is polar ice is melting, and sea levels are rising as a result. Catastrophically, the complete loss of the Greenland ice will produce a 20-foot rise in ocean levels. Loss of the Antarctic ice cap will produce a sea level rise of 200 feet.

None of this is producing daily catastrophe—the ice caps are not melting that fast. Whether you should be alarmed depends on how far you are willing to look into the future, but the way to address the issue is not to ridicule the science but to work toward solutions.

Abusing Science

Number 37 of a series

If the truth be known, I was unaware of C.S. Lewis prior to watching his portrayal by Anthony Hopkins in the movie. I have learned little since. However, the Discovery Institute is now promoting a book by Michael D. Aeschliman titled The Restoration of Man. The subtitle is  C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism. From the D.I. site:

C. S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia tales and Christian apologetics, works that have sold more than 100 million copies. But Lewis was also a trained philosopher and a professor at Cambridge and Oxford. An intellectual giant, he fiercely and extensively critiqued the fashionable dogma known as scientism—the idea that science is the only path to knowledge, and matter the fundamental reality. Michael Aeschliman’s The Restoration of Man ably surveys Lewis’s eloquent case against this dogma, and situates him among the many other notable thinkers who have entered the fray over this crucial issue. Aeschliman shows why Lewis’s case for the human person as more than matter—as a creature with inherent rationality and worth—is a precious resource for restoring and preserving our culture’s sanity, wisdom, and moral order. This newly revised and expanded edition of Aeschliman’s celebrated study includes forewords by three distinguished writers—James Le Fanu, George Gilder, and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Reading this I now know C.S. Lewis fiercely and extensively critiqued the fashionable dogma known as scientism. I had a prior concept, that scientism was some sort of worship of the scientific method, but now I learn it is really “… the idea that science is the only path to knowledge, and matter the fundamental reality.” I already knew science is defined as the search for knowledge, generally knowledge about the natural world, but since extended to knowledge about other things. We call the study of how to perform tasks using computers “computer science,”  and I have one of those degrees.So if science is not the only way to knowledge, then there must be others or at least one other. We might demand to know what other.

A look at Lewis’s thinking on scientism indicates the D.I. interpretation is less than strict.

Some critics have incorrectly regarded That Hideous Strength as an attack on science. In this regard Faye Ann Crowell correctly draws attention to Lewis’s unpublished (in his own lifetime) reply to Professor J.B.S. Haldane’s highly critical review. Lewis answered Haldane’s criticism by explaining just what he was attacking: “Firstly, a certain view about values: the attack will be found, undisguised, in The Abolition of Man,” Lewis’s 100-page work of nonfiction on the same subject. The latter essay addresses the dangers Lewis saw in the twentieth century abandonment of traditional, objective values. Lewis’s second aim in That Hideous Strength was to illustrate the folly of devoting one’s life to gaining the power and prestige of belonging to a ruling clique or inner circle. Finally, Lewis continued, he was attacking not scientific planning, as Professor Haldane had thought, but the kind of planned society which first Adolf Hitler and then European Marxists had instituted: “the disciplined cruelty of some ideological oligarchy.”

Lewis aside, consider the practice of science is a method. Then by what other means are we to gain knowledge? We can go to our imaginations, and we can gain wondrous things—music, poetry, flights of fiction. However, these are not strictly new knowledge. Knowing the Discovery Institute, I would expect they want us to explore ancient philosophy to probe matters such as the origins of life. There is more.

How should governments government, and how should people conduct personal relationships. We see groups, the D.I. included, advocating for philosophies extracted from ancient texts. Marriage is defined, lifestyles need to conform to tradition, and prescribed rituals are to be followed. The source of this thinking is not reason and pragmatism but the ancient texts. But not, in fact, the ancient texts. The ancient texts are to be interpreted by those very ones who perceive reliance on science a threat. We suspect this reasoning is driven by personal preference. It is rule by edict in bald disguise, and it is definitely an abuse of science.