Quiz Question

Time for another geography Quiz Question. Central America has been in the news a lot lately, what with stories of rapists and murderers from there streaming across our open borders. But seriously, how well do you know this region?

Excluding Mexico:

  • Name the Central America countries.
  • Which countries border on the Pacific Ocean and also on the Caribbean?

No fair looking at a map. Enter your answers in the comments section below.

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People Unclear

This is number 40 of a long series

If you’re like me, you wonder where people like this come from:

GOP congressman asks if rocks are causing sea levels to rise

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I found it impossible to omit Representative Brooks’ affiliation with the Republican party. It’s not as though when you decide to run for office as a Republican you have to check the “global warming is a hoax” box. But it helps.

But let’s get serious for a moment. Representative Brooks may have a point there. The truth is that the world’s rivers daily deposit tons of soil, scourged from the continents, into the oceans. That has got to account for some sea level rise. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. Take the Mississippi River as an example. All the stuff that gets washed down from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains eventually makes its way to the Mississippi Delta. A similar thing is going on with the Nile. This has been going on for millions of years. We should all be under water by now.

Not quite. Look at Florida. The state is bare inches (many inches) above water. It has an interesting geological history:

Sea levels have had a profound effect on both Florida’s geology and ecology. The fossil record indicates a mass migration of plants and animals occurred between North and South America approximately 2 million years ago, when sea levels were much lower and a land bridge connected North America. During the last ice age, Florida was as much as three times the current land area (red line on Figure 1).

Here is Figure 1:

The map shows what is now Florida and the shape of the coast line 5 million years ago (smaller) and during the previous ice age, when a bunch of the planet’s water was stacked up as ice on the continents (much larger). Melting of the continental ice shrunk Florida to its present day size.

And Florida is much the same shape as it was 500 years ago when Europeans began to explore it. All this while the Mississippi, the Nile, the Amazon, the Indus—all  these great rivers—have been dumping silt into the oceans. Only recently, the past 100 years, has human activity started to make serious changes to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And Florida is finally beginning to experience the result:

Map Shows Which Miami Condo Buildings Are Most Threatened by Rising Sea Levels

Even as scientists continue reminding us that Miami is one of the most susceptible cities to the potential damages of sea-level rise, developers continue erecting shiny luxury tower after shiny luxury tower in the areas most threatened by rising tides. So EMiami Condos, a website that tracks condo development in the city, put two and two together to figure out which buildings are at the highest risk. 

The site gathered information from the FIU School of Journalism’s Eyes on the Rise app. The app allows you to key in your address and find out how many feet of sea-level rise it would take for your home to be underwater.

Another source provides additional history:

Although all the details are not well understood, the driving force behind these glacial/interglacial cycles are slow variations in Earth’s orbit as it circles the sun, which slightly decreased/increased the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. For the current interglacial, the orbitally-driven warming eventually came to an end after the Holocene Climatic Optimum (HCO), and by 4-5000 years ago all the vulnerable land-based ice had disappeared. The volume of the global ocean was static until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, and by the 19th Century global sea level had begun to rise again. Despite undergoing short-term accelerations, and decelerations, globally-averaged sea level has undergone long-term acceleration up to the present day (Church & White [2006]Merrifield [2009]).

With some 60-70 metres worth of global sea level equivalent locked up in the vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, and with global warming well underway, it raises the question of how much sea level rise we are likely to see this century (and beyond), and just how fast this might happen. Because the dynamics of ice sheet disintegration are only very crudely known, and ice sheet modelling is in its infancy, there is a large range of estimates of future sea level rise. Many now seem to converge on 1-2 metres of sea level rise by 2100 – much higher than current rates. But is this realistic? A recent paper, examining past ice sheet disintegrations, lends credence to these estimates.

Here is the pertinent graph:

Figure 2 – Global mean sea level from 1870 to 2006 with one standard deviation error estimates (Church 2008).

All records I have seen show the sea level rising since 1870, about the time the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear, and we started burning fossil fuels in earnest. The rate of increase has, itself, been increasing during the time we have increased the burn rate. Here is what the current activity looks like:

Those measurements are millimeters.

Anyhow, Congressman Brooks lives in Alabama’s 5th District, approximately 600 feet above sea level. He has nothing to worry about regarding sea level rise, which is expected to be as much as 200 feet if all the polar ice melts. In fact, if he could stay around long enough he might be able to cash in on some of Alabama’s beach front property boom.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 18 in a series

This story has some history, so I need to go back forty years and more. I had moved to Dallas, and I needed medical attention, so I found a doctor. And I was there in the waiting room, and there was a bunch of really interesting stuff to read, as there is in all doctor’s waiting rooms. Just kidding. There was this health journal, and I did not keep records, and it has been too long, so I don’t know the name of the journal, really a magazine full of ads, sort of like Ladies’ Home Journal. And here is what I read.

There was an article about the place of sugar in the diet, and the general gist seemed to be in favor of sugar. Sugar is a great thing, and there is nothing wrong about eating sugar. For example, the writer told of people who cut sugar cane by hand, and these guys burn a bunch of calories in a day. To keep up their energy they eat as much as nine pounds of granulated sugar a day, and they do not suffer ill effects from it. After reading somewhat more than a page something occurred to me. This was not the product of independent investigation, it was an item sponsored by people who make sugar. Just about everything in the article was in contradiction to what I had learned about sugar in more than 30 years on this planet at the time, including that eating sugar contributes to the development of dental cavities.

From childhood I knew about a life-threatening affliction popularly known as “sugar diabetes.” Some of my relatives had experience with it, and the proper name is just “diabetes,” without the sugar prefix. I later figured the reason the people I ran with used the sugar prefix is because it was popularly considered that diabetes onset was commonly associated with consumption of too much sugar. A whole bunch of sugar in your diet for a long (years) period of time, and you could develop diabetes. And diabetes was bad stuff.

So we still ate a bunch of sugar in our family when I was growing up, and I never developed diabetes, but I’m figuring that is because after about 30 years I made the conscious decision to vastly reduce my sugar consumption. So, then in Dallas, I was wondering why this writer was denying not only that sugar consumption can result in the onset of diabetes, but also that eating a bunch of it will not make you fat, provided you do sufficient exercise to work off the extra calories.

The whole episode set me on the road toward doubting unsubstantiated claims made in newspapers and in popular journals regarding the safety or the non-safety of various products. And that’s what leads me to this posting. The following caught my attention some time ago:

The Mounting Evidence Against Diet Sodas

Studies suggest possible links between low-calorie beverages and health risks, though more research is needed

That was startling news to me, because in my quest to reduce my sugar intake, all my soda consumption has been sugar-free for decades. This is only the headline for the complete item from Consumer Reports, but there are a couple of  things of interest in this small segment. Start with this wording: “Studies suggest possible links between low-calorie beverages and health risks, though more research is needed.” Now let me repeat parts of the quote. “Studies suggest possible links…” What strikes me first is the use of the weasel words “suggest possible.” Where is the glaring declarative statement that should occupy this space? Now this part: “more research is needed.” More research is needed. Again there is the avoidance of certainty. I am glad that other important things like gravity do not require a bunch of extra study, although I once studied under a college professor who was continuing to study gravity.

Now here is the second thing so disturbing about this: it’s not the first time I’ve seen this wording. Fact of the matter is, I have been seeing it for years. Story after story carries the cautionaries “Studies suggest possible links…” and “more research is needed.” Jesus save us all, but how many years is it necessary to keep saying more research is needed before somebody actually performs more research and settles the issue?

A conclusion I draw is that somebody in the sugar industry has set out to harpoon sugar substitutes, and they (possibly a number of sources) are sponsoring writers to publish unfavorable items. It’s worth reading more from the Consumer Reports article. Here are some excerpts:

Many people think of diet sodas as healthy, low-calorie alternatives to sugary drinks. Yet a small but growing body of evidence suggests that diet sodas may have health downsides and may not even provide the benefits some people turn to them for, such as weight loss.

That’s the opening paragraph. Nowhere is there a link to the “growing body of evidence.” Fact is nowhere in the entire article is there a citation to a specific study readily accessible to the reader. The closest approach is this:

The strongest evidence so far links regular diet soda intake with cardiovascular conditions, such as stroke and heart attack, as well as type 2 diabetes and obesity (which are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease), says Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. For example, in April, a widely reported study of about 4,400 people age 45 and older found that those who drank one or more diet sodas every day were three times more likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t, says Pase, who led the study. The research was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

4,400 is a healthy sample, one that should produce statistically significant results. It’s worth tracking down the Stroke paper, and I did that, using the information above. I found two related items published in April 2017, and both are available as PDFs.

The journal has published other papers on the subject, but these will get interested readers started on the search path. Without completely digesting these items, I will hit some highlights. To begin, the first is an editorial, which is not expected to undergo the kind of rigorous vetting as the second, which is a research paper the editorial references. Concentrating on the research paper, from the abstract:

Results—After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), caloric intake, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia. When comparing daily
cumulative intake to 0 per week (reference), the hazard ratios were 2.96 (95% confidence interval, 1.26–6.97) for ischemic stroke and 2.89 (95% confidence interval, 1.18–7.07) for Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar-sweetened beverages were not associated with stroke or dementia.
Conclusions—Artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia. (Stroke. 2017;48:1139-1146. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.016027.)

Further on, the paper contains the following language.

In our study, prevalent hypertension, the single most important stroke risk factor, attenuated the association between artificially sweetened beverage intake and incident all-stroke,
although not ischemic stroke. Prospective cohort studies, such as the Nurses Health Study, have demonstrated associations between higher intake of artificially sweetened beverages
and an increased risk of incident hypertension. However, it remains unclear whether artificial sweeteners cause hypertension or whether diet beverages are favored by those most at risk. Given that clinical trials involving stroke end points are large and costly, clinical trials should investigate whether artificially sweetened beverages are associated with important stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure.

[Emphasis added]

What the authors are saying in the highlighted text is their study demonstrates correlation, not causation. An example of the disconnect between correlation and causation is illustrated by the case of the bishops. Bishops (men) live longer than the average man. No surprise, since by the time you become a bishop you are already advanced in years, and you have beat out all those who died in their teens. This section also notes that expensive clinical trials will be needed to determine causation, indicating that clinical trials have not been conducted.

Whatever the intent of this kind of discussion, the results are apparent. A large part of the population is averse to consuming aspartame, which matter I included in  a recent Quiz Question posting.

The image at the top of this post is from a Facebook posting, which points to an illustrated discussion titled Will Aspartame Kill You? I can’t vouch for any of the article’s assertions, but it is worth a read.

Quiz Question

Number 148 of a continuing series

This is an essay question.

Years ago I worked with Harold. Harold is a Jew, and he explained kosher living to the rest of us. One rule went something like this. It’s been 40 years, so I may have the details wrong, but if you serve meat in  a pot, then the pot must be cleansed before it can be used for dairy. Harold explained the three required methods for cleansing the pot:

  • Heat it in fire until it is red hot.
  • Bury in in the ground for three years.
  • Run it through the dishwasher three times.

Then Harold was not my ideal picture of a Jew. He sometimes brought a ham sandwich for lunch.

The movie Erin Brockovich stars Julia Roberts as the real-life Erin Brockovich, based on the lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric Company. That concern had allowed hexavalent chromium to contaminate ground water near one of its plants, and in an iconic scene from the movie Erin Brockovich challenges representatives from the company to drink some of the water. The truth is that hexavalent chromium is only detrimental when inhaled, but these people declined to  drink. The thought was too repugnant. PG&E lost the suit to the tune of millions of dollars.

So this week’s question asks what would it take for you to feel safe? How rational, how pragmatic are you, a citizen of the 21st century? Answer each of the following. Some may require an explanation of sorts.

  1. Chamber pots were used before there were indoor toilets. You know what they were used for. Explain what you would require before you ate from a previously used chamber pot.
  2. If you saw the cook spit in the soup while it was cooking, would you eat the soup? Assume the cook was not chewing tobacco.
  3. Cyanide compounds such as sodium cyanide and potassium cyanide are extremely poisonous, and they are quick acting. Heinrich Himmler chomped down on a concealed cyanide capsule when he was captured. Likewise Hermann Goering took cyanide just before he was scheduled to swing. If a water glass contains potassium cyanide solution, and you want to drink water from it. what would it take to satisfy you the glass was safe to drink from?
  4. While I was stationed at Naval Air Station Dallas, an instructor reminded us that the man who operated the NAS Dallas sewage plant would gladly dip a glass of water from the plant’s discharge and drink it. Would you?
  5. Suppose some water has become contaminated with radioactive potassium. Next suppose a chemist applied a process to remove all  potassium from the water, and an analysis of the water determined the water contained no potassium. Would you drink the water?
  6. The consumption of sugar is known to produce the following health risks: tooth decay, obesity, diabetes. No study has ever demonstrated harmful effects from consuming (normal) amounts of aspartame. Would you use only sugar instead of aspartame as a sweetener?

Post your answers in the comments section below.

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 7 in a series

The way I got around to this book was another book I was reviewing by writer Stephen Moore and would-be political appointee Kathleen Hartnett White, titled Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. That book makes a couple of references to another book: The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe by Sebastian Luning and Fritz Vahrenholt, and I purchased the Kindle edition to follow up. My original intent was to read the book and post a thorough diagnosis. After some reading I decided, “No way.” I will explain why.

Published by The Heartland Institute 3939 North Wilke Road Arlington Heights, Illinois 60004 phone 312/ 377-4000 fax 312/ 377-5000 www.heartland.org [link added]

That shows up on page 2, and it’s drop-dead indication this is not going to be a scientific treatment of the subject.

I forgot all about Heartland Institute. Yes I did. The last time I paid them any attention was back in 2012. What I stated then was that Heartland Institute appears to use money rather than actual science to counter inconvenient facts of science.

Yes, we have been down that road before. However, it is worth some examination to determine whether Luning and Vahrenholt (Heartland) have anything new to add to the discussion. Here’s what I was able to glean. Despite the title, the book does not appear to be about the neglected sun and why the sun precludes climate catastrophe. The book appears to be more an argument for avoiding “carbon-neutral” energy sources, a prime Heartland agenda. Before getting into several chapters discussing the sun, the book reveals its heart with a few paragraphs in the preface.

In 2011 Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would implement the Energiewende (energy turnaround) in an attempt to replace nuclear and fossil fuel power plants with renewable sources. At the same time, she promised that Germany would no longer need to import electricit y and that electricit y prices would not go up. Within less than a year this grand declaration proved to be little more than wishful thinking. 1 Today electricit y prices in Germany are soaring out of control due to unlimited subsidies given to renewable power, and the German power supply can be secured only through emergency decrees. Power companies also have to keep unprofitable power plants on standby and large power consumers may find their supply cut off in the event of unexpected supply bottlenecks. Within less than a year, Germany has gone from having a power supply that was one of the world’s most stable to one that is on the brink of collapse.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 43-49). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Yes, carbon-neutral sources are a bane on modern society, and the book is going to explain why anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is of no concern, even a hoax. The arguments are many, and after much reading you may begin to wonder: if these arguments are of any worth, why are there so many of them crowded into this book? If the the sun precludes climate catastrophe, then a single scientific finding should suffice, and the argument could have been put to  death in a few pages. From all appearances—I’m pulling from several excerpts—there is not a lot of sound science behind the sun argument, and those remaining arguments the authors do push are off-base and generally are not relevant to the case. Before I get into some of the arguments laid to the sun, let’s examine a few that make absolutely no sense in this discussion. Here’s one.

Scientists find themselves in a quandary. How are they to deal with the politically incorrect scientific results? Two American researchers, Jackson Davis and Peter Taylor, recently came across something astonishing. While studying an Antarctic ice core covering the past 12,000 years, they identified a total of forty-six strong natural warming events throughout the pre-industrial era. The mean warming rate of these events was approximately 1.2 ° C per century, more than the 0.7 ° C warming we have seen since 1900.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 101-105). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Assuming the above is correct, what does it have to do with the issue hand? Maybe a restatement of the issue at hand will be helpful. Here is mine:

Human activities are raising atmospheric levels of CO2 to levels not seen in thousands of years, and the expected, also observed, result is a rise in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures at a rate the world economy cannot accommodate.

If the authors want to talk about past disasters, they could bring up catastrophic asteroid impacts classified as extinction-level events. None of these arguments have relevance to the issue at hand. Besides that, the authors’ statement appears to be false.

This plot is labeled “Annual surface temperature compared to the 1981-2010 average from multiple, independent research groups. NOAA Climate.gov graph adapted from Figure 2.1a in State of the Climate in 2016,” and it appears to show about a 1.0° C rise since 1900. To be sure, the authors are citing the work of others, but this does not excuse the inaccuracy. Rather, their choice of references indicates they are picking sources that please them. There is more. The authors criticize what they contend is bias reporting by mainstream media.

Similar problems occur with the media coverage of new scientific climate studies. Interestingly, while new results inconvenient to the IPCC are often ignored, the latest climate scare stories – some paid for by insurance companies with a vested interest – are widely carried by the mainstream media. For example, how many of us have heard that winter temperatures at the Antarctic Ross Sea have significantly cooled over the past 30 years? [7].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 111-114). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

The footnote is to “Sinclair, K. E., N. A. N. Bertler and T. D. van Ommen (2012) Twentieth-century surface temperature trends in the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica: evidence from a high-resolution ice core. Journal of Climate 25 (10), 3629– 36.”

First I will congratulate the authors on missing the irony of this statement. “[P]aid for by insurance companies with a vested interest.” From all appearances, their own reporting has been paid for by an organization with a vested interest in denying AGW. Considering this section’s topic, of what significance is the matter of winter temperatures at the Antarctic Ross Sea to the global temperature average? I am not sure the authors think this is significant, but it is clear they think it will be significant to their readers, the ones they were paid to impress. Here is a bit more along this line.

One might think that a study documenting that temperatures in southern Italy during the Roman Warm Period were slightly higher than they are today would be a worth reporting [9].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 115-116). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

The reference is given in the footnote indicated. Again, a local or regional event is called upon to  put the lie to an observed global trend. Where have we encountered this before? How about here?

Yes, somebody expanded a piece in The Washington Post from nearly 100 years ago to throw as evidence against AGW. Good for them, the authors of this book did not include this as part of their argument.

Turn now to the book’s main theme, the impact of solar activity on global temperatures. The authors saturate the remainder of the book with the solar argument. Here are a few samples:

Geological climate reconstructions exhaustively show that temperatures on earth have followed solar activit y for thousands of years. That is not surprising when we consider that 99.98 per cent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun. Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 577-580). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

I am especially fond of the appeal to logical deduction: “Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?”

Similar irradiation maximums occurred 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period) and 2000 years ago (the Roman Warm Period). In both periods, pronounced climate warming took place. The Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period and today’s Modern Optimum (since 1850) are well documented. Between those warm periods the sun’s activit y decreased and this led to distinct cold phases – the Vandal Cold Period and the Little Ice Age.

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 583-586). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Solar magnetic field strength increased enormously, parallel to the increase in solar irradiation over the last 100 years, having more than doubled [133– 134] (Figure 3.8). The solar magnetic field protects the earth from cosmic rays because it forms a protective shield around it. As a result cosmic rays have decreased 9 per cent over 150 years up to 2000, when cosmic ray levels started to increase once again [135].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 1047-1050). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

I find this last bit most interesting. The magnetic field? Cosmic ray flux? Relevance, please. The authors need only a single scientific finding to make their case. If they have it, then they are holding it back and showering their readers with case studies. Figure 3.8 mentioned in the above has the following title:

Figure 3.8 Synchronicity of solar activity, temperature, sea level and Arctic Sea ice cover during the last 400 years. Sources: sunspots [136]; total solar irradiance [39]; visible light [39]; UV [39]; solar magnetic field, [134]; CO2 [51]; temperature (extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere) [109]; sea level [137]; Arctic sea ice cover [138].

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 1050-1053). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

Here is a screen shot from the Kindle edition, computer-enhanced to clarify details:

Here is another plot, not from the book.

This plot shows global warming with respect to solar flux. While solar flux has been more or less constant from 1880 to 2005, the planet’s warming has shown a persistent rise. Where is this graph presented, even in an effort at repudiation? Here is another interesting graphic.

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Yes, this is what The Heartland Institute is all about, and it bears no resemblance to real science. Juxtaposed to Luning and Vahrenholt’s inferences of media bias and tilted research is the picture of two writers funded at least in part by The Heartland Institute to propagandize against anthropogenic global warming. This is the nature of the case being made against AWG, and it does not get any better than this.

The Hartnett Delusion

Continuing a review of the Kathleen Hartnett White book

I previously reviewed chapter 1, Energy at a Crossroads, subtitled Doomslayers vs. Doomsayers. That chapter, with a number of failings noted, is a determined argument, largely successful, that fossil fuels are a boon to modern civilization. Here I am going to cover chapters 2, 3, and 4 in a single posting, which about measures the limits of my endurance. I will post a some pertinent excerpts along with assessments.

Start with

Chapter 2, How the Shale Revolution is Changing Everything.

In fact, the shale revolution is changing everything. Forty years ago we were forecasting petroleum production to peak in the 21st century. We always knew there were vast stores of oil locked in stone—shale—impractical to extract. Advancing technology has turned that around. With liquid crude oil pumping at $40 per barrel and higher, oil from shale is now competitive.

Strangely enough, the energy bonanza has coincided with the presidency of a man hell-bent on eliminating fossil fuels to avert alleged global warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 602-603). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The writers (Moore and White) are, of course, speaking of liberal President Barack Obama, in office at the time the book was published. As I advance through the book, I recognize more and more the pen of writer Stephen Moore, his style and agenda coming to the surface. Here we see the calculated implementation of loaded phrasing with terms like “hell-bent” and “alleged” appearing close by in the same sentence. “Hell-bent” nods to mindless intent on the part of Mr. Obama, and “alleged” reminds us that the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is faulty, even devious. A stroll through the book will disclose that Moore and White string out a slew of true statements, which soon become undercut by a number of scientific misconceptions and blatant falsehoods. For the remainder of the book I will attribute the content to Moore for the sake of simplicity.

Yet after more than eighteen years without warming global temperatures, the president seeks to increase our dependence on these thuggish regimes and declares that global warming is a greater threat than ISIS.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 606-607). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Here Moore displays a couple of miscues:

  • His statement about global temperatures is wrong.
  • He published too early, his reference regarding ISIS now overcome by events.

This chart is “Global mean surface temperature change since 1880. Source: NASA GISS” Contrary to what Moore states, we do not seem to have experienced “more than eighteen years without warming global temperatures.” In the meantime, opposing forces, including the United States military, have driven ISIS from its world headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and ISIS has ceased to  exist as a territorial entity. Also, contrary to Moore’s proclamations, ISIS will cease to  be an issue long before the effects of AGW have dissipated, if ever.

We know that ISIS terrorist networks are funded to the tune of $ 1 million a day through oil dollars.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 638-639). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I’m still trying to  figure out how that fact supports the intent of this book.

The oil and gas extracted in the shale fields began as small aquatic organisms in an ancient inland sea covering the central region of North America from the Great Plains to what we now call Pennsylvania. And by an ancient inland sea, we mean ancient— formed sixty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 738-740). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

While I am prepared to concede that the vast body of oil being pumped today comes from the geological Cenozoic Period, I will not agree that 60 million years ago represents the Cretaceous Period, which ended about 66 million years ago. While this technical gaff does not bely Moore’s tale about the origin of these deposits, it does reflect on sloppy writing and a lack of deep understanding.

One presidential signature can deprive Americans of critical natural resources. In 1996, for example, President Bill Clinton designated 1.7 million acres of land in Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante as a national monument, putting the largest store of low-sulfur coal in the country off limits. This is the least polluting form of coal and in the highest demand.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 854-856). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Obviously this signals a disconnect of priorities. The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is a national treasure, which was given protection by President  Clinton. When George W. Bush became president he revoked that protection as one of his first actions. That action produced a backlash, especially from people in  the region, and President  Bush quickly rescinded his revocation. While I concur with Moore and White that our natural resources need to be exploited for the good of all, there is bound to be something that is too valuable to put on the block.

Bringing the narrative up to the present, President Trump was elected on the strength of his commitment to put business interests first, and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is proposing to again  reverse government protection of the area.

Over the last four decades, American industries have dramatically reduced air and water pollution.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Location 866). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, that is true. I hope Moore and White do not seek to convince us these reductions are being made voluntarily. The hard truth is that government regulations account for these reductions, which regulations, by the way, are now being lifted by the industry-friendly Trump administration.

Some of the book’s language is curious, even puzzling. Take this from the previous chapter:

Yet a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of this magnitude would mean curtailing the use of the carbon-rich fertilizers that have fed the world since the 1950s, putting the developing world at risk of famine.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 499-500). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I hope everybody agrees that fertilizers do not contain carbon or its compounds as active ingredients. Paging through the chapter I come to  this:

Eliminating fertilizer made from natural gas would reduce the food supply— increasing the chronic hunger now suffered by five hundred million human beings.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 897-899). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, natural gas is used in the production of nitrogen fertilizers, but what the authors possibly do not realize is that the process uses hydrogen from natural gas. In the production of ammonia, NH3, the hydrogen from natural gas, CH4, combines with nitrogen in the air. There are many examples like this, indicating the need for some technical assistance in writing the book.

In 2015, the ethanol mandate absorbed 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop. Multiple studies now conclude the production of ethanol is a net energy loss and increases genuine pollution and carbon dioxide. Ethanol policy is a prime example of counterproductive, outdated, and ethically offensive federal energy policy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 932-935). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I’m tossing this bit out to illustrate the number of valid points made in the book. I’m not bothering to check the facts on this one, because, if the stated numbers are not completely accurate, they are closely enough accurate. Anybody having better information is invited to challenge me here. I look for someone to dig into this more deeply.

Any good points in the book are quickly blunted by statements such as the following:

However disappointing to some who have pledged their careers to politicized climate science, carbon dioxide is not a genuine pollutant capable of harming human health. Fossil fuels— abundant, affordable, concentrated and versatile— are superior to other energy sources at this time.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 944-946). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I am going to take that as saying that all the scientists concluding that AGW is a problem are politicizing climate science. Moore and White want us to know that AGW is not a problem and also that these scientists are lying.

Chapter 3: Saudi America, How Energy is remaking the U.S. Economy

Lots of numbers get thrown around here.

The oil wells of Williston seem to be bottomless. In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated there were one hundred fifty million “technically recoverable barrels of oil” in the Bakken shale. By 2013, geologists were estimating twenty-four billion barrels. Current technology allows for the extraction of only about 6 percent of the oil trapped one to two miles beneath the earth’s surface, so as the technology advances, recoverable oil could eventually exceed five hundred billion barrels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1003-1007). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

And I  don’t know where Moore and White get these numbers.

In April 2008, a USGS report estimated the amount of recoverable oil using technology readily available at the end of 2007 within the Bakken Formation at 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels (680,000,000 m3), with a mean of 3.65 billion. Simultaneously the state of North Dakota released a report with a lower estimate of 2.1 billion barrels (330,000,000 m3) of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken. Various other estimates place the total reserves, recoverable and non-recoverable with today’s technology, at up to 24 billion barrels. A recent estimate places the figure at 18 billion barrels. In April 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey released a new figure for expected ultimate recovery of 7.4 billion barrels of oil.

Chapter 4: The Light of the World

Let’s start with this:

Steve Moore was once quoted in the New York Times as saying that “our oil supply is infinite. We will never run out,” a statement that provoked outrage. One high school science teacher wrote, “Mr. Moore: Even my fourteen-year-olds know that oil is finite.” That teacher probably became a top science advisor to President Obama.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1272-1275). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good. The author quotes himself—which quote I was unable to locate—and steps outside his area of expertise. Moore’s NYT statement is technically untrue, as no material thing in this universe seems to be infinite. Whether we will ever run out of oil is another question. A number of things can make this true, including we could all die first. Another possibility is we could reduce our consumption rate to the point we are using oil at the rate the planet is producing it.

To become more prosperous over time, we don’t want to conserve energy, we want to use it.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1288-1289). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again a bit of over-inflated rhetoric, and I am sure Moore and White did not intend this to come across the way it did. However, I am not inclined to give them a break. Yes, we want to conserve energy. Energy consumption costs money, and if you want more money in your pocket at the end of the day you will use energy wisely. I reviewed this topic a few years back.

Yeah, a conservative site posted this, presumably to poke fun at the foolishness of energy-saving electric lamps. Here’s a recap:

If only there were any substance to it. Let’s take a look at some reality. A quick visit to Home Depot reveals the following:

$6.97 / package:
$8.97 / case:

What happened to the $6.34 each for CFLs? Where did that price come from? How long did it take the person composing the little ditty above to come up with such a number? It could have taken a while. Writing fiction can be tedious. How about the $0.42 each for incandescents? Let me know where I can get them. Home Depot has its own price:

Model # 60A/RVL-6PK
$8.77 / package

Which brings us back to “I love using liberal clichés to illustrate the absurdity of liberal policies.” By now you are beginning to think what I’m thinking. This is a joke, right? I mean, nothing goes this far off the rails without a little nudge from somebody. I’m guessing this particular somebody was thinking, “I’m bored, so what I’m going to do is have some fun with dim-witted libruls.”

All right. I concede. It was fun. If this was somebody’s idea of a joke, the joke was well and truly joined. If it was not a joke, then… Then oops! Somebody’s got a problem, and it’s not the kind of problem I’m prepared to help with. Let’s all hope this was just a wall-laid spoof and let it go at that.

Whatever it was, let me describe a bit of the real world.

  • 2600 square foot all-electric residence in San Antonio, Texas
  • Compact fluorescents installed throughout
  • Lamps purchased at Home Depot as shown
  • April last year $61 electric bill
  • July last year $105 electric bill

Since then I have replaced maybe 26 CFLs with LED lamps equivalent to 60W incandescents but consuming only 9.5 Watts.

Stephen Moore, you are going to  have to start getting serious if you want people to take you seriously.

What do we use our energy resources for? That seems like a question with a patently obvious answer, but it’s shocking how few people know where energy comes from and how it is used. When we speak to high school and college kids, we ask, “Where does your electricity come from?” And most of the kids point to the outlet in the wall. Ah, the millennials. They know everything, don’t they? For those who are wiser and know what they don’t know, here are some energy basics.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1294-1297). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To which I respond, “In your dreams, Stephen Moore.” Public school students are connected to the same sources of information Stephen Moore is, and his humorous characterization is a bit over-played. Reading through this book leaves the impression it is Stephen Moore who could benefit from technical education.

Compounds derived from fossil fuels are the raw materials for thousands of synthetic materials. How would a zero-carbon economy replace these goods and the services they provide?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1323-1324). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Wait. Wait! Moore is being deliberately deceptive here. Scientists say “zero-carbon,” and they are talking about zero introducing carbon (dioxide) from fossil fuels into the atmosphere. They are not talking about uses of carbon from petroleum to produce consumer products. Unless these synthetic materials are burned, their carbon (dioxide) hardly makes it into the atmosphere. True, the stuff might bloat our landfills, and it often ends up floating somewhere in the ocean, but that is not the same impact as burning fuel oil.

Moore and White venture into the world of physical science and beyond their area of expertise. Some results are amusing.

Damming the flow of rivers in order to generate hydroelectric power is an example of converting gravitational energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1391-1392). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The truth be known, hydro-electric power is ultimately solar power.

The muscles of human beings and animals act as a kind of heat engine to generate mechanical energy for movement and work.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1399-1400). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

No. Just no. Muscle power is not an example of heat conversion to mechanical energy. Muscle action is direct chemical to mechanical conversion.

Chemical energy is the most pervasive form of energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Location 1407). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I recognize this book is not intended as a technical treatise, but additional exactitude would be beneficial if sprinkled throughout. On this planet, chemical energy is not an ultimate source. The ultimate source of practically all chemical energy is the sun.

The egg stores almost as much energy as the barrel of oil!

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1433-1434). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Is there a proof reader in the house. Somewhere along the chain Moore has slipped a link. This brash statement is coupled to an external reference:

Vaclav Smil, Energy and Nature in Society (2007), Table A. 8 Energy Flows and Stores at 393.

I don’t have a copy of the book. It’s $38 for the Kindle edition, and I most recently spent my last thousand dollars on a vacation to the tropics. In any event, missteps such as this bolster the impression that precision is not Moore’s strong suite.

Throughout, Moore spells BTU as Btu. It’s BTU.

Moore takes great lengths to emphasize “power density.” For example:

Hydrogen has an energy density by weight far higher than that of any other fuel at 143 MJ/ kg,

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1465-1466). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

For the record, about ten years ago I had this discussion with another engineer, and I went so far as to write on paper, sign the paper, and hand over, my statement that the future of powered transportation, particularly automobiles, is hydro-carbon fuel. The high energy density of these fuels makes automobile transportation practical. If petroleum becomes problematic, we will need to manufacture something like gasoline from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Keep in mind that modern air transport relies 100% on hydrocarbon fuel. Since 100 years ago large military operations have been impossible without high-density fuels such as hydrocarbons. Destroy the enemy’s fuel supplies, and you win the war.

Moore gets around to attacking climate science directly.

The theories of man-made global warming and predictions of catastrophic climate change are based on assumptions about the earth’s climate system that are not confirmed by observational evidence. The empirical sciences have long understood that measurement, observation, and experiment are the essential means of validating a scientific hypothesis. Claims of consensus cannot trump physical evidence. As the renowned paleogeologist Ian Plimer, of the University of Adelaide, argues, “The theory of human induced global warming is not science because research is based on a pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored, and the analytical procedures [climate models] are treated as evidence.”

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1496-1501). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I found this interesting, because I have prior (indirect) experience with Ian Plimer. From the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics:

Of course, the creationists have their embarrassments, as well, and this little pamphlet has been one of them. As reported by Chris Stassen in the talk.origins archive (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/gish-exposed.html) Ian Plimer debated Gish in Australia in 1988, and the topic of Brainwashed came up. Stassen quotes from a video tape of the debate. His transcript has Plimer talking about the pamphlet:

    There is a diagram there that says, “precambrian: void of fossils.” That is a lie. The Precambrian is not void of fossils; the Precambrian is extremely rich in fossils. He [Gish] has come to the country where there are many Precambrian fossils going back to 3 thousand 3 hundred million years ago.

Plimer has long been known as a champion of real science as opposed to creationism. Moore has quoted Plimer and has provided a footnote:

Alan Moran, Ed., Climate Change: The Facts, “Chapter 1: The Science and Politics of Climate Change,” Ian Plimer (Stockade Books, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne, 2015).

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4637-4638). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The book is available in Kindle, and this morning I clicked a link and had it delivered to my computer. Plimer’s section in the book is succinct, and a quick analysis is in  order. His statement, “The theory of human induced global warming is not science because research is based on a pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored, and the analytical procedures [climate models] are treated as evidence,” is worth some analysis.

I interpret the first clause as saying that research into AGW is aimed at confirming a conclusion. That statement hangs out there with no visible means of support. None is given here by Plimer, and evidence does not support the conclusion.

It would be helpful if Plimer  would cite some of the huge bodies of evidence that are being ignored.

And finally, no. Climate models are not treated as evidence. Climate models are matched against the evidence and corrected to better conform. Furthermore, when the evidence is examined we find the planet (oceans, atmosphere) is getting warmer year after year. See the above graph.

Plimer has more to say, part of which I will excerpt:

Point (ii) has shown to be invalid on all time scales. There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. However, the main greenhouse gas is water vapour. The first 100 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 have a significant effect on atmospheric temperature, whereas any increase from the current 400 ppm will have an insignificant effect. Furthermore, because CO2 has a short residence time in the atmosphere, it is naturally sequestered into the oceans, life, or rocks in less than a decade. In fact, only one molecule of every 85,000 in the atmosphere is CO2 of human origin, and yet we are asked to believe that this one molecule drives hugely complex climate change systems. We are also asked to believe that the 32 molecules of CO2 of natural origin in every 85,000 molecules play no part in driving climate change.

Abbot, Dr John; James Delingpole, Dr Robert M. Carter ~ Rupert Darwall ~; Donna Laframboise, Dr Christopher Essex ~ Dr Stewart W. Franks ~ Dr Kesten C. Green ~; Dr Richard S. Lindzen, Nigel Lawson ~ Bernard Lewin ~; Dr Patrick J. Michaels ~ Dr Alan Moran, Dr Jennifer Marohasy ~ Dr Ross McKitrick ~; Nova, Jo; Dr Willie Soon, Dr Garth W. Paltridge ~ Dr Ian Plimer ~; Steyn, Mark; Watts, Anthony; Andrew Bolt; Dr J. Scott Armstrong. Climate Change: The Facts (Kindle Locations 201-208). Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

“However, the main greenhouse gas is water vapour.” Yes! What of it?  Water vapor in the atmosphere contributes immensely to keeping the planet warm. The effect of carbon-dioxide is an add-on.

“The first 100 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 have a significant effect on atmospheric temperature, whereas any increase from the current 400 ppm will have an insignificant effect.” This statement would be helped if some substantiation were provided.

“Furthermore, because CO2 has a short residence time in the atmosphere, it is naturally sequestered into the oceans, life, or rocks in less than a decade.” [Emphasis added] This is contrary to known facts. The life span of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is in the order of 200 years.

“In fact, only one molecule of every 85,000 in the atmosphere is CO2 of human origin.” I don’t get the same number that Plimer does. Starting with 280 ppm CO2 we are now at 400 ppm, due to human activity. That’s a 120 ppm human contribution, or one molecule for every 8333 in the atmosphere. Where did the 85,000 come from?

The remainder of Plimer’s statement is an argument from incredulity, something Plimer must have seen a lot in his debates with creationists. You don’t believe something, so it must be false.

Anyhow, Moore and White choose citations from sources that fit their purpose, apparently with little regard for fact.

To oversimplify, it is said that the relatively small increment of man-made carbon dioxide added to the natural atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution disrupts the natural dynamics of climate. Adding more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere could lead to some warming, but could the relatively small additional increment of man-made carbon dioxide overpower the natural variables of climate, leading to planetary catastrophe?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1502-1505). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the rise in temperature due to  AGW is small, something in the order of 1 – 3 C. People, that’s  the problem we are talking about. That is only through the end of  the 21st century, and it assumes additional concentrations of CO2. Take another look at the graph above. I see a rise of 1 C since I was born. The effects are already noticeable. Please let me know if you do not think this is a problem.

In a 2009 scandal popularly known as “Climategate,” e-mails between key authors of the IPCC’s 2008 assessment report revealed an even darker side of the IPCC: active efforts to suppress, destroy, and manipulate data, to exaggerate temperature records and to prevent the publication of works by dissenting scientists in academic journals. 32 Several investigations followed, and some leading scientists called for a dissolution of the IPCC, but the UN-driven process limped on.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1520-1524). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Really? A deeper look at the supposed scandal is worthwhile.

Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid any such allegations in the future by taking steps to regain public confidence in their work, for example by opening up access to their supporting data, processing methods and software, and by promptly honouring freedom of information requests. The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged throughout the investigations.

AGW skeptics continue to cite this story, indicating this is one of their best arguments going. My take: a good argument must be made of stronger stuff.

For instance, the way the human body burns the chemical energy contained in food is similar to the way the internal combustion engine of an automobile burns the chemical energy in gasoline.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1544-1546). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again, no.

This makes the concentration of carbon dioxide in human expiration about forty thousand parts per million (ppm)! The current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is now about four hundred ppm, including man-made contributions from the combustion of fossil fuels. 39 Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide in 1850 are thought to have been about 280 ppm.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1562-1565). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is a strange argument. I wish somebody would explain what Moore is getting at.

The earth’s location in our solar system is also essential to its ability to support life.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1565-1566). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Really, again. And this has what to do with the discussion?

“That the sun influences our climate should not be surprising . . . when we consider that 99.98 percent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun.”

Oddly, the UN’s IPCC, whose “science” is the authoritative support for climate policy to supplant fossil fuels, largely dismisses the sun’s effect on climate. The IPCC assumes that the increased man-made emissions of carbon dioxide over the previous two centuries overpower the influence of the sun— and of all other natural climactic variables, such as water vapor, clouds, and aerosols— on climate.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1574-1579). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The reference is to a book by Luning and Vahrenholt, and this seems to be the quote of interest.

What makes us so sure that the sun, which is dismissed by the IPCC, plays a central role in climate events? That is relatively easy to answer. Geological climate reconstructions exhaustively show that temperatures on earth have followed solar activit y for thousands of years. That is not surprising when we consider that 99.98 per cent of the total energy of the world’s climate comes from the sun. Would it not make sense to suspect that even small changes in solar energy could have huge impacts?

Luning, Sebastian; Vahrenholt, Fritz. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (Kindle Locations 576-580). The Heartland Institute. Kindle Edition.

What is odd is that Moore is telling us the IPCC discounts the sun’s effects on global warming. Actually, all of AGW is due to the sun. Somewhere it has gotten lost that AGW results from the action of additional CO2 trapping additional heat from the sun.

What is not odd is the publisher of the Luning and Vahrenholt book is the Heartland Institute.

Human Activity Trumps the Power of the Sun?

To get a sense of the power of the sun, consider that it burns over six hundred million metric tons of hydrogen every second.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1592-1593). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Moore and White continue to impress us with the power of the sun, deliberately missing the irrelevance of this argument.

Major advances in the scientific understanding of energy and its engineering applications have occurred only within the past two centuries. Although we know more about how energy operates in the natural world and how it can be harnessed for human purposes, we still lack a clear understanding of what energy is. Is it a particle or a wave?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1603-1605). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yikes! Is there a physicist in the house? Energy is a particle or a wave? Does Moore want to take another cut at that statement? Reading through the book, I get an indication of why the Kansas City Star no longer prints Moore’s contributions.

And the agent is the most fundamental natural energy conversion on the earth, commonly known as photosynthesis catalyzed by atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1617-1618). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Now we need help from a chemistry major. Strictly speaking, carbon dioxide does not catalyze photosynthesis. It is consumed in the process.

Many machines, or “prime movers” as engineers call them, that convert energy from one form to another, like the turbines used by modern thermal power plants, can convert 99 percent of the turbine’s mechanical energy into electricity.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

While likely true, also irrelevant. The conversion of mechanical energy to electrical energy is a notably efficient process. The turbine turns a generator rotor, driving an electric current through the coils. What is critical to the operation of a turbine generating system is the efficiency of converting available energy from the coal (oil, natural gas) into mechanical energy. This is much less than 98%. And none of it matters to the topic under discussion.

Many senior scientists in the field conclude that it is time to declare the IPCC’s methodology and computer models a failure. A portion of the federal research funds should be allocated to those highly credentialed scientists— now marginalized as skeptics— to assess the IPCC’s work over the last several decades and to offer alternative theories and evidence.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1657-1660). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, get rid of the scientists who are coming up with conclusions you disagree with and get in  some of your own people. Changing the researcher is the best way to change the facts. Except, it does not work that way. The facts are going to remain the same.

Natural carbon dioxide accounts for a minuscule 0.039 percent of the atmospheric gasses we actually breathe at the tropospheric level.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1668-1669). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I know. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” However, is it too much to ask Moore not to state the concentration of CO2 is 400 ppm and then a few pages later state it’s 399? And wait! He’s calling the 399 ppm “natural CO2,” when 120 ppm of that is due to human activity. Forget about consistency.

Governments and the private sector have already directed hundreds of billions of dollars to ridding the world of carbon. Betting on the success of this effort would be a highly risky investment. Carbon, after all, is defined as “the chemical basis of all known life.” 55 Have people forgotten this fact?

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1686-1688). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I know of one household where this is not forgotten. What seems to be forgotten by Moore is that the conversation is supposed to be about carbon in the atmosphere in the form of CO2 produced by human activity.

The global warming alarmists and many educated elites have lost their faith in man’s ability to adapt and to tame his natural surroundings. Making carbon the enemy of the planet means that mankind is the enemy of the planet. Our bones, blood, and flesh are made of carbon.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 1710-1712). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

My impression: this is the level of thinking that went into  the writing of this book.

Am I allowed to take a small victory lap and then head off for a nap? No, I still have to read chapters 5 through 11. It promises to be fun. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

People Unclear

This is number 39 of a long series

Sunday morning, and I was catching a video on YouTube, and all I can say is, “Holy shit!” Somebody is totally unclear, and that person would be Kathleen Hartnett White:

Kathleen Hartnett White is a Republican American government official and environmental policy advisor. Currently serving as a senior fellow at the free-market think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. She was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the Council on Environmental Quality; the nomination was later withdrawn.

I watched the clip—you should, as well—and was astounded. I know it’s a favorite pastime of liberals to paint all Republicans as scientifically illiterate and environmentally backward, but I need to remind readers this is most unfair. There are many in the ranks who see what is for what it is and might deserve your vote. Others, whether real or not, may be pretending to be illiterate and backward. White appears to be neither of these. She scorches the Earth to establish an absence of clarity.

Another in the video, which depicts a Senate confirmation hearing, is Andrew Wheeler:

Andrew R. Wheeler is an American lawyer and lobbyist who specializes in energy and environmental policy. Since 2009, he has been a co-leader of the energy practice at the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels. Wheeler was previously an aide to U.S. Senator James Inhofe and a staffer on the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Wheeler is a critic of nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions and has supported the continued use of fossil fuels.

In October 2017, Wheeler was nominated by President Donald Trump to become Deputy Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His nomination was returned to the White House on January 3, 2018 under Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6.

Passing over Wheeler for the moment, White’s performance before the Senate committee led me to purchase her book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. I obtained the Kindle edition, deciding not to wait for a price drop, and took a few minutes to read through the introduction. The book is co-authored with Stephen Moore, a writer credited with a famous body of nonsense:

Stephen Moore (born February 16, 1960) is an American writer and economic policy analyst. He founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. Moore is a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. In 2014, The Heritage Foundation announced that Moore would become its chief economist. In 2015, Moore’s title at The Heritage Foundation changed from Chief Economist to his current title, Distinguished Visiting Fellow. Moore is known for advocating free-market policies and supply-side economics. In 2017, he left Fox News Channel to join CNN as an economics analyst.

His Wikipedia entry also notes a lack of candor, leading to The Kansas City Star to quit using stuff he writes.

Whether White or Moore wrote the book’s intro, I am going to lay it all on White. A few passages are worth some Skeptical Analysis and some comment. Start with this. She kicks off the intro with the tale of a liberal family beset by a black out, a loss of electrical power, for several days. For a while they enjoy the experience, knowing their carbon footprint has been reduced. The situation soon becomes tiresome as electric power in modern day life is not only a convenience but a necessity. She warns of dire consequences coming out of renewal energy.

But we are convinced that rolling brownouts are coming— especially in states like California, which are trying to rely on unreliable green energy sources— thanks to the radical environmentalists who have achieved a choke-hold on our politics.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 88-90). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

White is alluding to times when the sun does not shine, and the wind does not blow. It turns out (my analysis) that such outages will become vanishingly small with the scaling up of the renewable energy industry. Dark days in one region will be offset by sunny days elsewhere, and guess what, wind turbines work on as little as three mph wind, besides which, wind is a given and is constant all over.

White discusses the “war on coal.”

Technological progress is making this cheap and domestically abundant energy source cleaner all the time. Yet the global-warming alarmist James Hansen, a scientist at NASA, has compared the railroad cars carrying coal across our country to the “death trains” that transported Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 92-94). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Actually, no. Coal is not becoming less clean. Early environmental pressures required (some) coal fired plants to reduce particulate emissions, and that progress has since bottomed out. No improvement is currently being experienced. What White does not let on is that burning coal, a fossil fuel, continues, unrelenting, to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Appearances are that the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump will be relaxing emissions regulations for coal-fired plants. Whatever scientist James Hansen said about “death trains,” assuming he did say such, has no relevance to the argument against eliminating the use of coal.

White writes unknowingly about greenhouse emissions.

Natural gas is our second major source of electrical energy. The technological miracle of hydraulic fracturing—“ fracking”— has given us hundreds of years’ worth of this clean-burning fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 94-96). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To be clear, natural gas is a fossil fuel, and burning natural gas puts extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. White seems to take the point that, when burned, natural  gas produces less carbon dioxide than does coal for the same amount of usable energy, and then she runs with it, much too far.

Watch the video. White concedes at her (non-) confirmation hearing that she is not a scientist. She reassures us of that fact in the following statement.

If global warming is a threat, we will be saved not by building windmills or riding our bicycles to work, but by applying advanced technology and electrical power to find ways to keep the planet cool.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 103-104). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! Advanced technology and electrical power to keep the planet cool. Lady, the way to keep the planet cool is to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Please do not laugh. Here is this.

Almost all other inventions— the steam engine, the printing press, life-saving medicines, the microchip, the iPhone, you name it— are derivatives of electric power. Where electricity is in wide use, there is prosperity. Where electricity is lacking, poverty and deprivation are the norm.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 115-117). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Technically, no. In most cases, absolutely no.

  • The invention of the steam engine came many decades prior to the development of electric power.
  • The printing press was developed in the 15th century, perhaps 300 years prior to the advent of electric power.
  • Life-saving medicines, e.g., the small pox vaccine, were developed independently and often in advance of the advent of electric power.
  • The microchip and the iPhone typically run off 5-volt supplies, obtainable from chemical batteries, and not really part of the electric power grid. True, you will not have a cell phone grid without an electric power grid to support it.

White is correct on one point. I will not cite the source, but I will simply state that quality of life roughly tracks energy consumption. Energy consumption moves goods to market, performs the heavy work in factories, and keeps us warm and safe in our homes. The electrical power grid has turned out to be the best way to support most of this activity. We need electrical power, and the cheaper and the more reliable the better for all concerned.

White makes this point.

And the data recently gathered by economic historians surveyed in this book show that wind and water wheels never provided much power. It wasn’t until man harnessed fossil fuels— predominantly oil, gas, and coal— that industrialization achieved unprecedented productivity.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 119-121). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Duh, yes. She is talking about the pre-industrial days, and there was not much in the way of available power, wind, water, anything back then. The advent of the steam engine, burning wood or coal, made the industrial revolution. White wants to impute that we cannot go back to wind and water as a source of power. Actually, hydro-electric power is about maxed out in this country. We may have tapped all the available rivers for that purpose. However, the Dutch windmill has been replaced by giant wind turbines that produce mega watts.

Every now and then she gets something right.

Energy, in short, is the wellspring of mankind’s greatest advances.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 125-126). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

What she fails to acknowledge is that proponents of renewable energy are not against energy production. They are against energy production that produces damage to the environment. Coal, for instance.

Barely correct:

Today, hundreds of years after the Industrial Revolution began, most of the human population is dependent on fossil fuels for 80 to 90 percent of its energy supply.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 130-131). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The industrial revolution started in England a little over two hundred years ago, so technically it is hundreds of years since the advent of the industrial revolution.

She appeals to the masses, supposedly her working-class base.

Throughout history, elites, of course, have enjoyed comfortable wealth. They were rich; they could afford expensive energy. They weren’t the ones who did without light or heat or transportation or enough food and leisure time. Someone else did the back-breaking and time-consuming work for them.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 133-135). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So, it’s the elites who want renewable energy at whatever price. Actually, you might want to review Senator Cory Booker’s comments made in the video. He discusses the particulate pollution that plagues those in his state, New Jersey. They are poor and also working class constituents, who often have to endure the lower quality of life and the health damage wrought by industrial pollution. These people are definitely not “elites,” and they would appreciate having cleaner sources of energy.

As the close of the intro approaches, White prepares to escalate the rhetoric.

The inherent limitations of wind and solar are physically intractable.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 140-141). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

No. Simply no.

She closes with a flourish.

Green energy policies assume centralized control of the sources, production, and consumption of energy, and that means centralized control over all economic activity and consumer choice. Name a product that doesn’t depend on affordable and reliable energy. United Nations bureaucrats talk about “wisely planned [energy] austerity,” guided by apparently omniscient “planetary managers.” Not only is our material prosperity in peril; freedom itself is at stake.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 145-148). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Actually, a following paragraph urges us to read the book to get the full story, but those are her closing remarks, laced with fabrication and hyperbole. She seems to agree that if you say it often enough and loudly enough, then it will become true.

No it does not, and I am hoping this sets the stage for the remainder of the book, because I will be reading it and applying some analysis.

It is difficult to reconcile the flamboyant and straight-forward language in the book with White’s performance before the Senate committee. Watch the video. Asked a straight question, she seems unable to find the answer, any answer. For example, when asked whether she believes scientists are lying about global warming, all she needed to do before the committee was to  repeat the language from the book. Yes, those scientists are a bunch of self-serving liars, and maybe they should be put in jail. At every point she pivots and equivocates, leading senators to wonder what they are doing wasting their time watching this spectacle. The only thing I found recently more painful to watch was Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos floundering through her (barely) confirmation hearing. From Wikipedia again:

At White’s Senate confirmation hearing in November 2017, she stated that her top three environmental concerns are air quality, the potential failure of waste water and drinking water systems, and climate change. During her hearing she said: “I am not a scientist, but in my personal capacity I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy. We need to have a more precise explanation of the human role and the natural role.”

In February 2018, the White House confirmed their intention to withdraw their nomination of Hartnett White as a senior advisor on environmental policy.

Yes, we could stand more clarity from the people we hire to work at the highest levels in our government.

Deeper and Deeper

A Reading Of High Delusion—Part 2

I previously reviewed The Language of God, by Francis Collins. This is Adam and the Genome, by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight. I obtained the Kindle editions of both after a short dive into a posting to Evolution News, the blog site of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. No author is listed for that post, but it centered on this book and the one by Collins:

In Adam and the Genome, Trinity Western University biologist Dennis Venema covers many other subjects besides what you might expect from the book’s title. We have been reviewing this material by the prominent theistic evolutionist and BioLogos author; find the series so far here.

Thus, Venema cites the high degree of genetic similarities between insulin genes in humans and other mammals as evidence for our common ancestry. He writes:

[W]e can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past … What we observe for this short segment is that the gorilla sequence is identical to that of the human except for one letter; the chimpanzee is identical except for three; and the orangutan is identical except for five. As before, this level of identity far exceeds what is needed for functional insulin, and strongly supports the hypothesis that humans share a common ancestral population with great apes. Indeed, the similarities between these sequences make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison.

(Adam and the Genome, p. 30)

Yes, Venema does dig deeply into revelations from the human genome, and Evolution News does make a big deal about that. But Venema goes far deeper, a depth not plumbed by the posting. All this you can marvel at by plugging through the remainder of the book—which I did.

From the back cover of the book:

Dennis R. Venema (Ph.D., University of British Colombia) is professor of biology at Trinity Western University and Fellow of Biology for the BioLogos Foundation. He writes and speaks regularly about the biological evidence for evolution.

In the book Venema does lay out the evidence for evolution in grand detail, and it is this part that has caught the attention of the Intelligent Design pitch men. Some excerpts from the book elaborate:

Like many evangelicals, I (Dennis) grew up in an environment that was suspicious of science in general, and openly hostile to evolution in particular. Yet I had a deep longing to be a scientist, even as a child. For a long time, I reconciled my two worlds by rejecting evolution— after all, evolution was “just a theory” pushed by atheists and supported by “evidence” so flimsy that even a child could see through it. Moreover, Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life, and “what the Bible said about creation” was good enough for me.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science . Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to say that conflicts with his faith almost kept him from pursuing his dream of becoming a scientist. Fortunately for science and for his students at Trinity Western, reason won out.

My family explored the possibility of my attending a Christian university, but it was more than we could afford. So a secular university it was, and I braced myself for what would surely be a trial for my faith.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 2). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Interestingly, I would remain an antievolutionist through the course of my PhD and on into my career as a professor, now teaching at the very same Christian university I was unable to afford as a student. What would come as something of a shock to me as a young professor is that, contrary to the claims of my Christian grade-school workbooks, evolution is a theory in the scientific sense.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 11). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What those creationists of the second kind found worth challenging is Venema’s erudite exposition of the evidence for common descent. For example:

In looking at the sequences above, we can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past, just as “butter, bread, and green cheese” and “bûter, brea, en griene tsiis” do. The principle is the same: they are far more similar to each other than they are functionally required to be. In principle, any words could stand for these concepts in either English or West Frisian; similarly, any matched pair of hormone and receptor could function to regulate blood sugar levels in humans or dogs. Yet what we observe strongly suggests, in both cases, that the present-day sequences are the modified descendants of what was once a common sequence.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 30). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Besides giving the creationists something to chew on, Venema does a great job of taking them down.

In the late 1990s I was a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studying genetics and development. I had weathered my bachelor’s degree with my faith and antievolutionary views intact, and my area of study did not require me to think about evolution much at all. 3 Evolution was not completely avoidable, however: one very proevolution professor down the hall from my lab maintained a bulletin board called “Crackpot’s Corner,” where antievolutionary views were held up as objects of ridicule. It was here, on this bulletin board, that I first became aware of biochemist Michael Behe, a leader in the intelligent-design (ID) movement. 4 A little digging indicated that he had recently published a book, Darwin’s Black Box. In that book, which I eagerly devoured, Behe makes the case for what he calls “irreducible complexity”:

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (pp. 67-68). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Venema explores Behe’s irreducible complexity conjecture and finds it bare of support.

Behe argues, we can infer when we see protein complexes composed of several proteins that bind to one another that they are the product not of evolution but rather of design.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 69). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The irreducible complexity argument goes like this:

  • A living organism, even the simplest cell, is a complex assembly. Darwinian evolution stipulates that life forms were not always that complex.
  • Evolution from less complex to more complex life forms has taken place.
  • We now know that evolution proceeds by random mutation of genes, coupled with selective pressure that produces organisms more likely to predominate in the gene pool.
  • Random mutation of genes must occur in small steps, slight changes in a DNA chain—the genome.
  • Each slight change in the genome must be beneficial to the organism, else that change will not be preserved.
  • Existing organisms cannot operate competitively with the loss of a single function coded in the genome.
  • Modern organisms are irreducibly complex. There is no way to proceed from one viable organism to a new and more viable form by means of single mutations.

Behe stakes his argument against Darwinian evolution on his contention that many biological functions are irreducibly complex. What Venema does, and what others do, is to expose Behe’s supposed irreducibly, showing how current forms can be obtained by means of Darwinian evolution.

Interestingly, the virus did evolve to use a second host protein, one called OmpF. Not only did this happen once, but it happened repeatedly in the experiment. Sequencing the DNA of the viruses able to use OmpF instead of LamB revealed that one of the virus proteins— the one that normally binds to LamB, called “protein J”— had accumulated four amino acid changes. By looking at the preserved samples, the researchers showed that the new binding requires all four mutations to be present. They also showed that these mutations did not happen simultaneously, but rather sequentially. As it turns out, these single mutations allowed the protein J to bind more tightly to LamB, which was a significant advantage since hosts with LamB were so scarce in the experiment. Once three single mutations were in place, the virus was only one mutation away from the ability to bind and use OmpF. Interestingly, viruses capable of using OmpF retained  their ability to bind LamB— the virus could now use either host protein.

Two key aspects of this experiment are problematic for Behe’s thesis. First and foremost, this experiment documents the addition of a protein to an irreducibly complex system. The original system was composed of virus protein J binding to LamB, plus numerous other protein-binding events. The modified system lacks LamB and has a modified virus protein J that binds to OmpF instead. The intermediate system has the modified virus protein J and LamB, as well as OmpF, but now only one of LamB or OmpF is required. The transition from one irreducibly complex system to another has an intermediate state between them that acts as a scaffold, or to use Behe’s term, a stepping-stone.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (pp. 79-80). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Is it any wonder those creationists of the second kind, writing for Evolution News, feel the need to take Dennis Venema down.

Venema is beginning to look like a secular camp hero of the first kind. Where this discourse starts to come apart is the latter half contributed by Scot McKnight.

Scot McKnight (born November 9, 1953) is an American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian, and author who has written widely on the historical Jesusearly Christianity and Christian living. He is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL. McKnight is an ordained Anglican with anabaptist leanings, and has also written frequently on issues in modern anabaptism.

From Chapter 5 through Chapter 8, McKnight lays out a devilishly detailed analysis, some would say apologetic, on the place of Adam, both as a character in Genesis and as an ideal in Judeo-Christian faith. I apologize for having little comprehension of what he is attempting to get across, but I will have a go at my interpretation.

What happens when the church or, in my case, a Bible professor, encounters the kind of science found in the first part of this book? What happens, not to put too fine a point on it, when evolutionary theory and the Human Genome Project encounter the Bible’s creation narratives? What happens then when we are told that the best of science today teaches that the DNA characteristic of modern humans could not have come from less than approximately 10,000 hominins? What happens when we are told there were pre-Adamite humans? What about those two humans in Genesis 1– 3? And what about the eight that survived Noah’s flood? Which are we to believe, some ask: the Bible or science?

That last question leads some of us to dig in our heels while others shift with the latest conclusions of science. Some relish the countercultural stance of digging in their heels, and, to switch imagery, the second group at times refers to their counterparts as hiding their heads in the sand of the past or even of religious superstition. What the first thinks is faithfulness to the Bible, the second thinks is intellectual compromise. The accusations go both ways. You’ve probably heard them as often as I have. To illustrate I pose the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, who dug in against scientists, with Galileo from the generation following Luther, who permitted science to reshape his thinking. Luther said this of the facts in the Bible that seem to conflict with the external realities: “The more it seems to conflict with all experience and reason, the more carefully it must be noted and the more surely believed.” When Luther turns to Eve being formed from a rib, he says, “This is extravagant fiction and the silliest kind of nonsense if you set aside the authority of Scripture and follow the judgment of reason.” But perhaps this illustrates his heel digging the most: “Although it sounds like a fairy tale to reason, it is the most certain truth.” Here Luther contrasts “reason” (or scientific thinking) and faith or Scripture. One might call Luther’s approach the dominating approach to science and faith because he chooses— against reason, he admits— for the Bible to dominate the evidence. Galileo mirrors Luther with another kind of domination: “A natural phenomenon which is placed before our eyes by sense experience or proved by necessary demonstration should not be called into question, let alone condemned, on account of scriptural passages whose words appear to have a different meaning.” The choice to let either the Bible or science dominate the other is common enough, but there is a better way, one that permits each of the disciplines to speak its own language but also requires each of the voices to speak to one another. Science, after all, can help the interpreter of the Bible just as the Bible can provide horizons and vistas for the scientist. Three Old Testament scholars are modeling how this dialogue between the Bible and science can be fruitful— John Walton, Tremper Longman, and Peter Enns. They don’t agree with one another always, nor do I always agree with them in the pages that follow, but they have opened up new pathways for this kind of dialogue to occur.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 93-94). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That’s a massive chunk of text carved out of a book for review, but it’s worth doing on two counts:

  • McKnight has a knack for the longest trains of thought I have encountered in writing, making it difficult to find a good point to insert a break.
  • This piece pretty much summarizes my impression of where McKnight is going with the last four chapters.

He seems to accept that Adam and his faithful companion Eve are not the origin of the human race. Then he spends the remainder of his alloted space attempting to justify the story of Adam (and Eve) by invoking context.

I have to admit that the encounter with science made me wonder at times about what I had been taught, about what the Bible said, about whether or not the Bible was wrong, and— this was for me a defining intellectual moment— about whether traditional interpretations of Genesis 1– 2 were perhaps well intended but misguided and in need of rethinking. In other words, my encounters with trustworthy scientists and their works taught me to go back to the Bible with other questions and other possible interpretations and to ask what Genesis meant in its world. In this I believe I was motivated by a quest to know the truth. I went back to the Bible to read Genesis in context and to ask if what many thought the Bible was saying (that is, its interpreted meaning) was not in fact what the Bible was actually saying (its original meaning). But there’s more: my encounter with science that prompted renewed study of Genesis also led me to challenge science about some of its assumptions. Modernity, expressed in extreme form in the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, presses into our minds that the only reality is the empirical. If only what studies the empirical world (science) ascertains reality, then only science tells us the truth about reality. However, this common assumption in modernity is a case of concluding what one already assumes. How so? This approach restricts discoveries to empirically testable realities. Nothing else is real. But what if there is more? What if some kind of nonempirical reality exists? This is the sort of question the Bible presses on the scientist. I am convinced that there is more than the empirical, or perhaps I should say the more is hyperreality or suprareality. If so, there is a reality not knowable exclusively by the empirical methods of science. Theology, which is designed to investigate that nonempirical reality in some ways, can provide a map onto which we can locate science and which can challenge science.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 95). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Use of “context” occurs four times prior to this point, including once in an introduction and once in the Table of Contents. It appears an additional 85 times from this point forward. My take: context is everything.

Where have I seen this before? It was in the matter of tattoos. A Facebook friend, a devout Christian and one who from time to time posts pronouncements of faith, called attention to her tattoos. Gentleman that I am, I reminded her that the Bible forbids tattoos, much as it forbids homosexuality. A relative chimed in with the reassurance that it is a matter of “context.”

My take (again): “context” is a cop-out. When context is invoked to justify the Bible, then what you are getting from the Bible is the interpretation being pushed by the speaker. You are not getting the word of God. You are getting the word of the interpreter. You are not placing you faith in a 3000-year-old set of laws. You are placing your faith in whoever happens to be professing faith, an extreme case being the sordid collapse of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple.

Previously mentioned, McKnight’s parsing of theological history largely passes over my head. Therefore I will post a few excerpts that caught my attention, and  I will let the reader get back to me. Advice requested.

I went back to the Bible to read Genesis in context and to ask if what many thought the Bible was saying (that is, its interpreted meaning) was not in fact what the Bible was actually saying (its original meaning).

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 95). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Every statement about Adam and Eve in the Old Testament, in Jewish literature, and in the New Testament is made from a context and into a context. Furthermore, some of the statements about Adam and Eve in all this literature are designed to speak against that context. That is, those statements are polemics and apologetics. Learning about those contexts and polemics often brings fresh understanding of the intention of the Bible and hence of what God wants his people to hear. In addition, this contextual approach to Adam and Eve provides a model for how Christians today can think about Adam and Eve in the context of the faith-and-science debate. If the Human Genome Project provides brilliant discoveries about the origin of life and the development of humans into who we are today, we will all gain clarity if Christians learn how to speak about Adam and Eve in a context that both affirms conclusions about the genome and challenges some conclusions drawn from the Human Genome Project. Contexts, both ancient and modern, shape what we see, what we hear, and how we respond.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 97). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Winding down with:

Interpreting the Bible is not easy. As Scot demonstrates, taking into account the languages, contexts, and presumed intents from centuries ago is a lot like, well, paleontology. Again, when explaining the challenges science presents to Christian faith, I stress the important distinction between scientific findings (e.g., DNA in a Siberian cave) and the philosophical or theological interpretations of those findings (Homo sapiens therefore emerged by sheer luck of the genome, or God operates on a circuitous route not unlike wandering in the wilderness to get to the promised land).

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 197). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Summarizing the book, we have two obviously intelligent people still clinging to the notion there is a magical person who created us and the universe and who cares for us personally. That this can be so is not an indication that there is no problem at hand. It is an indication that the problem is both wide and deep-seated.

May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Crazy From On High

A Reading Of High Delusion

A few weeks ago I reviewed a posting on Evolution News. It’s a site sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and the posting was by somebody not readily identified. Whoever they are, the topic was Dennis Venema’s book Adam and the Genome, and the matter of Francis Collins came up regarding his book The Language of God.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts.

As promised, I obtained copies of both books and have finished reading the Collins book. Considering the author’s obvious deep intellect, I can only remark, “What a load of warmed over drivel!” Thank you, Dr. Collins. Now for a brief dissection.

First the book is well written. If Francis Collins ever comes to the point he can no longer find work saving the human race through science and medicine, he has a future as a writer. There are very few unintentional mistakes of fact. This one caught my attention.

William Paley’s parable of finding a watch on the moor—which would cause any of us to deduce the existence of a watchmaker—resonated with many readers in the seventeenth century, and continues to resonate with many people today. Life appears designed, so there must be a designer.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 148). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It is unclear where the reference to the 17th century comes from, but earlier in the book Collins mentions the Blind Watchmaker theme was published in 1802.

THE “ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN” dates back at least to Cicero. It was put forward with particular effectiveness by William Paley in 1802 in a highly influential book, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 86). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beyond all that, this is an argument for God by a person who grew to maturity absent any push in that direction, becoming committed to non-belief well into adulthood. His rise to greatness in human endeavors left him unfulfilled, but he could not reconcile the richness of the human spirit and the beauty of natural wonders with strictly natural explanations. There must be more. He became convinced of the existence of God:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 30). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

That should have been satisfactory, and that  should have been the end of the book. Unfortunately Collins feels the need to rationalize, and it is in this effort he stumbles badly. Some citations are in order. Consider what he accepts as true in an effort to shore up his faith. Here is an example:

All religions include a belief in certain miracles. The crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, led by Moses and accompanied by the drowning of Pharaoh’s men, is a powerful story, told in the book of Exodus, of God’s providence in preventing the imminent destruction of His people. Similarly, when Joshua asked God to prolong the daylight in order for a particular battle to be successfully carried out, the sun was said to stand still in a way that could only be described as miraculous.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 48). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It would be generous to allow that these are put up to illustrate what is deemed to be miraculous and no more. The problem is there is little doubt left by the context that he believes these miracles occurred. Elsewhere, his interpretation of reality goes askew, as with his reference to “Mother Teresa.”

Mother Teresa has consistently ranked as one of the most admired individuals of the current age, though her self-imposed poverty and selfless giving to the sick and dying of Calcutta is in drastic contrast to the materialistic lifestyle that dominates our current culture.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 25-26). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The cold fact is that Mother Teresa never seemed to have given physical aid and comfort to the “sick and dying.” Collins seeks to illustrate the benefit of religion by pointing to the good works done by famous religious leaders.

As just one example, consider how religious leaders have worked to relieve people from oppression, from Moses’ leading the Israelites out of bondage to William Wilberforce’s ultimate victory in convincing the English Parliament to oppose the practice of slavery…

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to include the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. The obvious problem with this line of argument is that Moses is a fictional character. No such person ever led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Religion (and by this I assume his favored blend) Collins asserts is essential to answer the matter of Moral Law. An actual scientist, he believes we came about by biological evolution, but that does not explain the existence of Moral Law, an innate morality, traces of which are found in all Earth’s people, regardless of region, culture, or religious environment. God must be the answer, and religion must be the vehicle. How then does Collins explain the evil committed by religious people. No problem for Collins. Here’s how:

But the second answer brings us back to the Moral Law, and to the fact that all of us as human beings have fallen short of it. The church is made up of fallen people. The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings of the church down through the centuries should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He invokes the “rusty container” at multiple points in the book, and that, in itself, is a crock of poop. In various instances the origin of the universe is attributed to God, and people are the special creation of a caring and loving God, one for whom human well-being is held dear. How then does one explain how an omniscient, all-caring God fails to show himself (itself) in times of great human suffering? May I never eat another chocolate ice cream bar, but Collins invokes the principle of “stress makes strength.”

This notion that God can work through adversity is not an easy concept, and can find firm anchor only in a worldview that embraces a spiritual perspective. The principle of growth through suffering is, in fact, nearly universal in the world’s great faiths.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 46-47). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! I’ve seen that before.

It is also told to me the following was found scratched into a cell wall in some Nazi death camp: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I also note an incident recounted by Richard Dawkins:

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Atkins splendidly growled, “May you rot in hell.”

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (p. 64). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dawkins is one of Collins’ least favored atheists. Collins considers Dawkins to be doing harm to the atheist cause due to the stridency of his attacks on religion (see above).

Even stronger words have emanated from Richard Dawkins. In a series of books beginning with The Selfish Gene and extending through The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and A Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins outlines with compelling analogies and rhetorical flourishes the consequences of variation and natural selection. Standing on this Darwinian foundation, Dawkins then extends his conclusions to religion in highly aggressive terms: “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”3

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 163). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

If you can get past Collins’ inexplicable acceptance of the supernatural, you will find a scientist unwilling to accept the absurdities of religious apologetics. His debunking of creationists of the first and second kind is just short of scathing. Particularly the young Earth creationists (YEC) are called out as a disgrace to the Christian faith.

Assisted by Henry Morris and colleagues, Young Earth Creationism has in the last half century attempted to provide alternative explanations for the wealth of observations about the natural world that seem to contradict the YEC position. But the fundamentals of so-called scientific Creationism are hopelessly flawed.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 176). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Collins’ diagnosis of the Intelligent Design movement is practically complete.  Collins properly characterizes ID as a God-in-the-gaps argument, all the while laying out the history and the substance.

ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 183). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The exception I take to the foregoing is the reference to Dembski as being trained in information theory. No evidence of that appears in his c.v. Also, not mentioned is Dembski’s severance from Intelligent Design, which came about recently.

Besides all that, this book provides a first rate read of how studies of genetics point to the common ancestry of life on Earth. Particularly explored is the close relationship between humans and chimpanzees and the relationship between those and the other apes. There is an appendix, which I did not read, but the book’s closing lines come off as a special pleading for giving religion a place at the table.

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 233-234). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

A truce? Never. We continue to lie in witness to The Years of Living Stupidly.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 88

Prevailing medical quackery breeds false belief, leading often to unnecessary death:

Doctor blames Andrew Wakefield and anti-vaxxers for her baby son catching measles

Disgraced former doctor’s discredited 1998 research paper claiming to show a link between the MMR jab and autism led to a heavy fall in uptake among parents

Katie Forster @katieforster

A doctor has said public reaction to Andrew Wakefield’s discredited study linking the MMR vaccine to autism was to blame when her baby son caught measles.

Dr Eleanor Draeger told medics at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting in Bournemouth that her 10-month-old was not yet old enough to receive the vaccination when he developed the disease – which should now be confined to history, she said.

“The reason he had measles is because of the fall-out from Wakefield’s paper,” said Dr Draeger at a debate on parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, sometimes known as “anti-vaxxers”.

Who needs Jesus when you have people like Wakefield, and those who believe.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Here’s an elementary problem in orbital mechanics. You are supposed to do this one in your head. Take ten seconds if you like.

Your spacecraft is at the arrow, in orbit around the green planet Zelda. As indicated, your orbital velocity is 10,000 kph. You want to barely attain escape velocity and leave the lovely green planet Zelda forever. Fire your thrusters in  the direction you are going. How much velocity must you add to escape planet Zelda?

Post your answer as a comment below.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 87

Putting faith in traditional remedies continues to be deadly:

Ricin poisoning causing death after ingestion of herbal medicine.

Ann Saudi Med. 2012 May-Jun;32(3):315-7. doi: 10.5144/0256-4947.2012.315.

Abstract

Ricin intoxication is a fatal and an uncommon medical condition. We report a case of ricin poisoning in a 42-year-old Saudi male patient who ingested a herbal medicine mixture containing ricin bean powder, after which he presented with gastrointestinal symptoms followed by gastrointestinal bleeding and hypotension. The patient then passed into a state of shock with respiratory failure followed by cardiac arrest and death. Public health awareness of self-prescribed herbal medications is necessary.

People sometimes get the idea that modern science is aversion to nature, but it is not It’s a reliance on demonstrated fact, disregarding intuition, no matter how compelling. Faith in tradition and reliance on personal preference to the exclusion of rational analysis continues to kill, this the 19th year into the 21st century.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 86

Supposedly natural stuff is safe because… Because it’s natural. Of course, so is purple nightshade. There are others:

Realgar, a commonly used traditional Chinese medicine, has – according to the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – acrid, bitter, warm, and toxic characteristics and is affiliated with the Heart, Liver and Stomach meridians. It is used internally against intestinal parasites and treat sore throats, and is applied externally to treat swelling, abscesses, itching, rashes, and other skin disorders.

Chemically, it is nothing other than arsenic sulphide. Despite its very well-known toxicity, is thought by TCM-practitioners to be safe, and it has been used in TCM under the name ‘Xiong Huang’ for many centuries. TCM-practitioners advise that the typical internal dose of realgar is between 0.2 and 0.4 grams, decocted in water and taken up to two times per day. Some practitioners may recommend slightly higher doses (0.3-0.9 grams). Larger doses of realgar may be used if it is being applied topically.

Toxicologists from Taiwan report a case of fatal realgar poisoning after short-term use of a topical realgar-containing herbal medicine.

A 24-year-old man with atopic dermatitis had received 18 days of oral herbal medicine and realgar-containing herbal ointments over whole body from a TCM-practitioner. Seven days later, he started to develop loss of appetite, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, an itching rash and skin scaling. Subsequently he suffered generalized oedema, nausea, vomiting, decreased urine amount, diarrhoea, vesico-oedematous exanthemas, malodorous perspiration, fever, and shortness of breath.

He was taken to hospital on day 19 when the dyspnoea became worse. Toxic epidermal necrolysis complicated with soft tissue infection and sepsis were then diagnosed. The patient died shortly afterwards of septic shock and multiple organ failure. Post-mortem blood arsenic levels were elevated at 1225 μg/L. The analysis of the patient’s herbal remedies yielded a very high concentration of arsenic in three unlabelled realgar-containing ointments (45427, 5512, and 4229 ppm).

Jesus, take the rest of the week off.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

A break from geometry problems on this, the first day of 2018. Here is a short geography quiz. Following is a list of American cities, in pairs. Your job is to, for each pair, pick the city with the largest population. Some of these are easy, others not so much so. After you finish picking, post your answers in the comments section and then grade yourself by going to Wikipedia. Use the population figures from the city’s Wikipedia entry. Some cities have the same name as others in other states. Assume the most prominent in case of conflict.

  1. Dallas – San Diego
  2. Austin – San Francisco
  3. Philadelphia – Chicago
  4. Houston – Boston
  5. Muleshoe – Lipan (both in Texas)
  6. Santa Fe – Denver
  7. Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri)
  8. Topeka – Memphis
  9. Minneapolis – Fort Worth
  10. Miami – Phoenix
  11. Oklahoma City – Baltimore

Update and answers:

  1. Yes, San Diego is more populous than Dallas. Just barely. That’s one I missed.
  2. In the rankings, Austin is number 11, San Francisco is number 14.
  3. Chicago 3, Philadelphia 5.
  4. Houston 4, Boston 21.
  5. This is an easy one. Muleshoe, Texas is much larger than Lipan.
  6. Denver is number 23, Santa Fe does not make the top 100.
  7. Kansas City, Missouri, ranks number 37. Kansas City, Kansas, does not make the list.
  8. Memphis is number 20, larger than Boston. Topeka does not make the list.
  9. Fort Worth, 17, is way ahead of Minneapolis
  10. Phoenix, at number 6, far out-ranks Miami.
  11. Baltimore 26, Oklahoma City 29.

People Unclear

This is number 31

Yes, sometimes you just have to scratch your head and say, “What was he thinking?”

 Let’s take the case of the Woodland, North Carolina, solar farm:

WOODLAND – The Woodland Town Council rejected a proposal to rezone a section of land north of town to M2 (manufacturing) from RA (residential/agricultural), essentially denying approval of a solar farm.

Newly sworn in councilman Cecil Harkey voted against the motion to reject rezoning the land, while council members David Cooper, Ron Lane, and Pat Liverman voted to approve it following public comments against the rezoning.

The Planning Board had recommended the property be rezoned to allow Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off U.S. highway 258.

Three other solar farms were previously accepted by the town council, with one now in the process of installing solar panels.

Wait. Wait! That’s not the story. Here’s the story:

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, N.C. — Leaders in the small North Carolina town of Woodland rejected a new solar farm after residents expressed concerns that it would “suck up all the energy from the sun.”
The Roanoke-Chowan News Herald reports the Woodland Town Council denied approval of the solar farm and put a moratorium on others after citizens expressed distrust and fear of the solar panels.
One resident, a retired Northampton County science teacher, reportedly said she was concerned that photosynthesis would not happen after she said she observed areas near solar panels where plants were brown and dead because they did not get enough sunlight.
Another resident reportedly questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer.

All right! I believe I can clear up some of these concerns First of all, solar panels to not cause cancer. I don’t have my research studies close at hand right now, but I can tell you this. Just trust me.

Second, the matter of solar panels sucking up all the sun is a real concern. My several decades of research has demonstrated with close to 100% certainty that solar panels do block the sun and prevent precious sunlight from reaching crops planted underneath. Here is a warning to all you soybean and hemp growers in North Carolina; do not, I repeat, do not plant your crops in the shade of a solar panel. The stuff is going to die. Trust me.

I hope that clears things up for now. If you have additional questions, then chuck me an email. Or you can just go soak your head. Results will be the same.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

A

B

Two photos of the moon, taken from my house in San Antonio, Texas, two nights apart. Which photo was taken first?

No fair running to an astronomy book. No fair going outside to look at the moon. Post your answer as a comment below.

Update and answer

Anybody who’s spent a lot of time outdoors knows this. In the northern hemisphere, especially as far as 30° north looks up at the moon from the north. That means the terminator, the significant aspect of moon phases, moves from right to left day after day. That means that photo B was taken before photo A. In this case two days before.

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 5 in a Series

If there remains any doubt regarding the underpinnings of Intelligent Design, one only has to review the day-to-day endeavors of its key proponents. Stephen C. Meyer founded and currently heads up the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is the principal organization supporting this attempt to cloak religious creationism and disguise it as cutting-edge science. The above image is a screen shot from  Does God Exist, a video series hosted by Stephen C. Meyer and produced by Focus on the Family, an organization whose purpose is the promotion of a conservative Christian viewpoint.

This is a continuation of my review of  Stephen C. Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. It draws on a an item posted to the Evolution News blog. That posting excerpts a number of passages from the book. I previously reviewed three of these excerpts. Here are the remaining two:

Intelligent agents can generate new structural (epigenetic) information and construct functionally integrated and hierarchically organized layers of information as we see in animal body plans:

The cited text being:

The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce. Indeed, based on our experience, we know that intelligent human agents have the capacity to generate complex and functionally specified arrangements of matter— that is, to generate specified complexity or specified information. Further, human agents often design information-rich hierarchies, in which both individual modules and the arrangement of those modules exhibit complexity and specificity— specified information as defined in Chapter 8. Individual transistors, resistors, and capacitors in an integrated circuit exhibit considerable complexity and specificity of design. Yet at a higher level of organization, the specific arrangement and connection of these components within an integrated circuit requires additional information and reflects further design (see Fig. 14.2).

Conscious and rational agents have, as part of their powers of purposive intelligence, the capacity to design information-rich parts and to organize those parts into functional information-rich systems and hierarchies.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 366). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Some analysis will be helpful. Take the first two sentences: “The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce.” Meyer insists that examination of the lowest level of structure of living organisms suggests the work of an outside living agent. Here he is appealing to intuition without providing a factual basis. He compares the functional organization of living organisms to the construction of intricate systems devised by people. By implication, he wants the reader to consider that an entity with human-like qualities is behind the development of living organisms.

Finally:

Meyer concludes that “both the Cambrian animal forms themselves and their pattern of appearance in the fossil record exhibit precisely those features that we should expect to see if an intelligent cause had acted to produce them” (p. 379) He summarizes his argument as follows:

Here is the text from the book:

When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin. Thus, when we encounter these same features in the Cambrian event, we may infer— based upon established cause-and-effect relationships and uniformitarian principles— that the same kind of cause operated in the history of life. In other words, intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of information and circuitry necessary to build the Cambrian animals. It also provides the best explanation for the top-down, explosive, and discontinuous pattern of appearance of the Cambrian animals in the fossil record.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 381). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Again some analysis. Take the initial sentence: “When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” Standing alone in the book this would seem to be a bald proclamation of fact. It will be interesting to peruse the remainder of the book and see whether Meyer has, indeed, demonstrated that “invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” I suspect this phrasing represents considerable overreach on the part of the author. In following posts I will examine the arguments Meyer makes in the book, and I will keep coming back to this matter of conclusions well-jumped. Keep reading.

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 4 in a Series

This is a continuation of my review of creationist Stephen C. Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. I was recently reminded by a post on the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News site. That posting excerpts a number of passages from the book. I previously reviewed two of those. Here is another citation:

Intelligent agents can construct and modify complex integrated circuits that are necessary for animal development:

Here is the cited text. The post omits some of the text, as noted by the strike-through section:

Integrated circuits in electronics are systems of individually functional components such as transistors, resistors, and capacitors that are connected together to perform an overarching function. Likewise, the functional components of dGRNs— the DNA-binding proteins, their DNA target sequences, and the other molecules that the binding proteins and target molecules produce and regulate— also form an integrated circuit, one that contributes to accomplishing the overall function of producing an adult animal form.

Yet, as explained in Chapter 13, Davidson himself has made clear that the tight functional constraints under which these systems of molecules (the dGRNs) operate preclude their gradual alteration by the mutation and selection mechanism. For this reason, neo-Darwinism has failed to explain the origin of these systems of molecules and their functional integration. Like advocates of evolutionary developmental biology, Davidson himself favors a model of evolutionary change that envisions mutations generating large-scale developmental effects, thus perhaps bypassing nonfunctional intermediate circuits or systems. Nevertheless, neither proponents of “evo-devo,” nor proponents of other recently proposed materialistic theories of evolution, have identified a mutational mechanism capable of generating a dGRN or anything even remotely resembling a complex integrated circuit. Yet, in our experience, complex integrated circuits— and the functional integration of parts in complex systems generally— are known to be produced by intelligent agents— specifically, by engineers. Moreover, intelligence is the only known cause of such effects. Since developing animals employ a form of integrated circuitry, and certainly one manifesting a tightly and functionally integrated system of parts and subsystems, and since intelligence is the only known cause of these features, the necessary presence of these features in developing Cambrian animals would seem to indicate that intelligent agency played a role in their origin.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 364). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Meyer makes two significant assertions. Here I will quote, with slight editing:

  • In our experience, complex integrated circuits — and the functional integration of parts in complex systems generally — are known to be produced by intelligent agents — specifically, by engineers.
  • Moreover, intelligence is the only known cause of such effects.

Meyer is correct in the first instance. Engineers and other people are known to do such things. In the second instance Meyer is stating as fact what he aims to demonstrate. The counter to that second part is that scientists have observed complex systems that have not been engineered by an outside brain, mind, intelligent agent—whatever you choose to call it. We see these complex systems, and we do not see outside intelligence creating them.

What Meyer is doing here is what he does throughout his arguments for Intelligent Design. He is saying that he cannot understand how else such systems came to be absent the working of an outside agency, and further he is convinced others do not understand. Therefore, there must have been an outside agent of some intelligence at work. Although Meyer and other followers of the Intelligent Design refuse to admit they have the God of Abraham in mind, there is little doubt from their other works and statements that this is the only thing they will consider. Additionally these people, when they are not hyping Intelligent Design or disparaging the legitimate work of real scientists, spend much of their waking time promoting the God of Abraham and the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. For example:

Historians Mentioning Jesus

  • Titus Flavius Josephus, Yosef Ben Matityahu (ca. 37-100 A.D.)
  • Publius Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56-117 A.D.)
  • Mara Bar-Serapion (late 1st century A.D.)
  • Flavius Lustinus, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.)
  • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 9230 A.D.)
  • Pliny the Younger, ca 61-113 A.D.)

Despite how much they deny, Meyer and his cohorts are engaged in a relentless pursuit to promote the God of Abraham and the divinity of Jesus.

There will be more. Keep reading.

Fool’s Argument

Eighth of a series

This is the eighth in my review of the video production Does God Exist, brought to you by Focus on the Family, an agency for conservative Christian advocacy. The video is available on DVD from Amazon, and it is currently streaming on Amazon, free with Amazon Prime.

The previous episode continued with creationist Stephen C. Meyer, discussing the concept he featured in his book, Signature in the Cell, previously reviewed. This time around Meyer argues for the return of the God hypothesis. That is, we should accept the hypothesis that a supernatural being, with thought processes much like human thought, is behind the wonders of the Universe and of life, itself. Above we see host David Stotts, camping out in the mountains at night, taking in the wonders of the Universe.

Meyer kicks off his discussion. Illustrations are screen shots from Episode 8, and viewers should take note. Once I copy an image on my computer screen I use Corel PaintShop Pro to massage it. I enhance brightness and contrast to make key features easier to pick out from the small images I post with the story. Apologies for anybody whose picture comes off a bit weird.

Meyer talks of “Those who have gone before us.” These are great scientists of olden days who accepted the God hypothesis a priori and even employed it as a motivation for their study of nature.

He recalls his days at Cambridge University. Over the Great Cavendish Door (at the Cavendish Laboratory), was this slogan.

Here it is so search engines can  find it.

The Great Cavendish Door

“Magna opera Domini exquista in omnes voluntates ejus.”

“Great are the works of the Lord, sought out by all who take pleasure in them.”

Meyer mentions Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and James Clerk Maxwell, supposedly as those who took pleasure in the works of the Lord.

Meyer launches into the thesis of this episode.

Thesis

Theism—with its affirmation of a transcendent, powerful and intelligent Creator—provides the best explanation of the key evidences concerning the origin of the universe and life.

I could let this pass and get onto my analysis of Meyer’s talk, but I have to take issue with the foregoing. What is actually true is that Theism is a made-up hypothesis that can explain anything and everything, making it a fairly useless basis for scientific inquiry.

That said, here is a chart that recapitulates from previous episodes. The title is “Multiple Competing Hypotheses.”

The competing hypotheses are Deism, Naturalism, Theism, and Pantheism. Meyer is going to eventually cross off all of these except theism, which is going to rule the day. I am going to start by crossing off pantheism, because I have no understanding of it, and my intellectual depth does not plumb Meyer’s discussion of it.

Meyer crosses off naturalism, due to arguments he has made previously. Nature cannot explain the miraculous origin of the universe and the wonders of the world around us. That leaves the competing deism and theism.

Deism Meyer throws out immediately, as would all thinking people. Deism is the idea that God—or whatever—started things off and then went on vacation, having nothing more to do with us. Meyer knows this is not the case, because the Universe was around for billions of years before there were plants and animals—and people. And God, or whatever, is needed to explain these late developments.

Biology

What runs the show in biology is information.

Strictly speaking, this is correct. What runs the show in a mechanistic world is information. Information is a the medium of cause and effect. The Earth goes around the sun because of gravity. Gravity transmits to the Earth the information that the sun is there. A bullet leaves the barrel of a gun at high velocity. This is a manifestation of the bullet receiving information about the burning powder in the cartridge. You cry because your receive an email from your girlfriend saying she has dumped you. And so on. This is cause and effect. This is the transfer of information. Meyer wants to make more of it.

And that is unfortunate for Meyer.

Best Explanation

Information is the product of intelligent activity.

Obviously not. See the preceding examples.

Meyer cites examples in the history of the Universe where information was introduced.

Loci of Design

Fine-Tuning of the Laws of Physics … Origin of First Life … Cambrian Information Explosion

These relate to:

Big Bang 13 bya … 3.85 bya (first life) … 530 mya [Cambrian Explosion]

13 Billion Years of Cosmic History

As a side note, this will not go over well with the Young Earth Creationists, e.g., the folks at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), now located in Dallas, Texas. Most interesting is the way people like Meyer and those of the ICR team up, discarding principal talking points, to push their central theme, “God did it.”

Now Meyer launches into the manufactured controversy of the Cambrian Explosion. This video is by now eight years old, so we have to wonder whether the Discovery Institute still pushes it. And the answer is yes, they do. Here is an item by the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News site:

The Cambrian explosion remains one of the severest evidential challenges to Darwinian evolution. Recent fossil finds adduced to support evolution deserve a closer look.

Ediacaran Fossils

Since our recent posts about the “Ediacaran Explosion” and the enigmatic Dicksonia fossils, a couple of news items have appeared about Ediacaran organisms.

Rangeomorphs. At New Scientist, Andy Coghlan invites readers to “See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands” – the rangeomorphs that resemble large petals or leaves. Most fossils of these creatures appear as flattened impressions in the rock, showing only their outer surfaces. Now, for the first time, University College London scientists performed CT scans of rangeomorphs found in their original 3-D condition in Namibia. This is the first look “inside” these organisms. What was found?

[Alana] Sharp and her colleagues think all six fronds may have been inflated like long balloons. They may even have touched one another – meaning that a horizontal section through Rangea would have looked more like a slice through an orange rather than one through a starfruit.

“Our work supports a lifestyle of absorption of nutrients through membranes inflated to the maximum, increasing the surface area across which these organisms seemed to feed,” says Sharp. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, these creatures had no organs, no systems, and no body cavities. The researchers found a central stalk filled with sediment that may have helped “support the creature like a primitive skeleton.” But it isn’t a skeleton; it’s just a “cone-shaped channel.” More importantly, rangeomorphs looked nothing like the true animals that appeared later in the Cambrian explosion. Sharp added, “they are the first of the truly large, multicellular organisms that radiated broadly before the first true animals evolved.”

Yes, Intelligent Design is going to flog this argument for as long as they can mine any perceived absence of data.

It’s interesting to note that in his talk Meyer gives the Cambrian Explosion a geologically narrow window,  “between two and ten million years.” This is at variance to the 20 to 25 million years typically ascribed to the period. I can only guess that Meyer does this in order to intensify the compression of any evolutionary development attributed to the Cambrian Explosion. I recall that creationist Jonathan Wells does something similar:

Wells also plays fast and loose with definitions. The Cambrian explosion is not synonymous with the entire Cambrian period. Even though Wells gives a length for the explosion of 5-10 million years, he also considers groups to have originated in the explosion if they appeared at any time during the Cambrian, a period of over 50 million years.

In invoking the supposed miracles of the Cambrian Explosion, creationists employ this and other devices to exaggerate the apparent rate of evolutionary development and also the lack of complete fossil evidence.

Meyer’s illustration summarizes.

In “older rocks,” prior to 600 million years ago, we see no evidence of fossils representing the multiple phyla in the modern world. In “younger rocks” we see fossils of arthropods and other creatures with body plans we would recognize today. Meyer’s deduction: something miraculous happened. God intervened (my wording).

He illustrates with a cladogram. These modern body plans originated from a “Common Ancestor.” Next we can presume he is going to ask, “What was that common ancestor, and where are the intermediate fossils?”

Meyer cites examples (to him) of unexplained “Sudden Appearance” of species.

Examples of Geologically Sudden Appearance

Mammalian radiation (shows bear, horse, gorilla)

“Big bloom” of flowering plants (shows blossoms)

Marine Mesozoic revolution (shows a drawing of a marine dinosaur)

Cambrian explosion

The fossil record shows a radiation from as few as “two lineages of Eutherian mammals” at the end of  the Cretaceous period. Twenty million years later we find that “most of the twenty or so present-day mammalian orders are identifiable.” I’m getting the idea Meyer thinks this is unbelievably fast for evolutionary development to work. We must come to think Meyer has equal heartburn with flowering plants and marine dinosaurs.

Next, Meyer launches into a foray into Michael Behe‘s “high-tech in low life.”

Behe began to pop up in the anti-evolution scene at the 1992 conference “Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference” at Southern Methodist University. Other heavy hitters of the Intelligent Design movement were there, including Phillip Johnson, the so-called godfather of modern Intelligent Design. However, I failed to notice Behe until 1996, when he came out with his book, Darwin’s Black Box. You can catch Behe’s appearance in the 1997 Firing Line debate on YouTube.

Anyhow, take a look at the computer screen Meyer is using in his talk. It shows an illustration of a favorite Behe talking point. It is the bacterial flagellum and its driving mechanism. Don’t look for me to go into  detail here. YouTube has a video of Behe giving his pitch.

A problem with this argument, proposed by Behe and now pushed by Meyer, is that scientists working in the field have real issues with Behe’s argument:

Evolution myths: The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex

Actually, flagella vary widely from one species to another, and some of the components can perform useful functions by themselves. They are anything but irreducibly complex

It is a highly complex molecular machine. Protruding from many bacteria are long spiral propellers attached to motors that drive their rotation. The only way the flagellum could have arisen, some claim, is by design.

Each flagellum is made of around 40 different protein components. The proponents of an offshoot of creationism known as intelligent design argue that a flagellum is useless without every single one of these components, so such a structure could not have emerged gradually via mutation and selection. It must have been created instead.

In reality, the term “the bacterial flagellum” is misleading. While much remains to be discovered, we now know there are thousands of different flagella in bacteria, which vary considerably in form and even function.

Please note, this was published prior to Meyer’s presentation (2009). In a setting such as this, a dramatized argument for Intelligent Design, Meyer might not be required to take note of valid and counter arguments. In a presentation at a professional conference what Meyer is doing would be considered fraud.

Meyer states what he thinks he has demonstrated.

Evidence for intelligent design:

is beyond reasonable doubt.

To which I will add, “In your wildest dreams.”

Meyer reinforces his argument by citing famous thinkers, in this case Anthony Flew:

Antony Garrard Newton Flew (11 February 1923 – 8 April 2010) was an English philosopher. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, Flew was most notable for his work related to the philosophy of religion. During the course of his career he taught at the universities of OxfordAberdeenKeele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto.

For much of his career Flew was known as a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death, the free will defence to the problem of evil, and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. In 2003 he was one of the signatories of the Humanist Manifesto III. However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism, more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God. He stated that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believed in the existence of a God.

What is doubly interesting, regarding the reference to Anthony Flew, is:

  • Flew moved from atheism to deism, not to theism.
  • The news item pictured appears in the Washington Times. This newspaper was “Founded on May 17, 1982, by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon.” It reflects religious and politically conservative views and is an unabashed supporter of Intelligent Design, in opposition to Darwinian evolution. Jonathan Wells is a prominent proponent of Intelligent Design. He is a follower of Moon and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

That latter part would rightly not bother Meyer’s reference to Anthony Flew. I am sure a similar item appeared in other publications at the time.

And Meyer concludes with the slogan of today.

The return of the God hypothesis

Good to see it’s back. I was afraid these creationists would sashay into science and mess things up. We might be required to start teaching Intelligent Design in public science classes.

Coming up is Episode 9, “The Moral Necessity of Theism.” This is going to be interesting. People who insist that science recognize the supernatural in the study of nature are now going to convince us that human morality derives from this supernatural force. Here’s what Amazon has to say about the next episode:

It is impossible to live as a moral relativist. Everyone believes in some standard of right and wrong. But what is that standard and where did it come from?

This should be interesting. I’m almost finished. Episode 10 is the final one, and there is also a “bonus extra.” I don’t know what that is about, but I will have a look and do a review if one is warranted. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.