Abusing Science

Number 23 of a series

On Sunday, 19 May, Liam Feldman will host a reading/review of Why Intelligent Design Fails by Matt Young and Taner Edis. The meeting will be at Barnes & Noble 321 NW Loop 410 #104 in San Antonio, starting at 3 p.m. Feel free to come out and join the discussion.

With that in mind, the topic of this post is a book by the Discovery Institute, the leading promoter of Intelligent Design. It’s Science and Human Origins, compiled by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. They are all associated with the Discovery Institute. From Amazon:

Evidence for a purely Darwinian account of human origins is supposed to be overwhelming. But is it? In this provocative book, three scientists challenge the claim that undirected natural selection is capable of building a human being, critically assess fossil and genetic evidence that human beings share a common ancestor with apes, and debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.

This is an interesting stance for Intelligent Design, because the philosophy was resurrected 30 years ago to pull the creationist movement away from biblical  origins and to disguise it as a science-based endeavor. Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture were supposed to acknowledge inescapable science and get people to thinking an unknown creator is behind this science. UC Berkeley law professor (now  retired) Phillip E. Johnson is credited with giving Intelligent Design new life and is considered the godfather of the modern movement. Jon Buell is president of the Richardson, Texas, based Foundation for Thought and Ethics. FTE is publisher of the creationist book Of Pandas and People, made famous in the Kitzmiller court case. Both attended a symposium titled ” Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference?” at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, March 26-28, 1992.

It was an opportunity to ask the pivotal question, and I did. Did these two educated men agree the earth is billions of years old and that humans share a common ancestry with other life forms? Both agreed. The ground may have shifted since then, because outpourings from the DI seem to have dropped the facade of scientific literacy. The book that is today’s topic bears that out.

Reviewing books such as this and picking them apart on inconsistencies and obvious wrong facts is a bunch of fun, but I have no experience in the related science, so it’s best if I fall back on others who do. Someone who seems to have given this book a close look is Paul McBride. From a post by Richard P. Hoppe on the Panda’s Thumb site:

Fortunately for me, I’m spared the chore of reading and critiquing the book. Paul McBride, a Ph.D. candidate in vertebrate macroecology/evolution in New Zealand who writes Still Monkeys, bit the bullet and did a chapter by chapter (all five chapters) review of the book. The book doesn’t come out looking good (is anyone surprised?). I’m going to shamelessly piggyback on McBride’s review. I’ll link to his individual chapter reviews, adding some commentary, below the fold.

The book has five chapters, and the one I appear to have found most interesting is chapter 5, “The Science of Adam and Eve.” I am guessing by he title that all pretense of scientific rigor has been discarded. We are back to Genesis with a bang.

My copy of the book is a Kindle edition, and one thing you can do with these is highlight sections of text. I notice I highlighted entire paragraphs when I first went through the book. Here is one section.

Using population genetics, some scientists have argued that there is too much genetic diversity to have passed through a bottleneck of just two individuals. But that turns out not to be true.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Here is another.

Now, I am a scientist, and not a theologian, but I feel obligated to speak. The challenge being posed to two first parents is a scientific one, so it deserves a scientific response. My purpose in this chapter is not to engage in Biblical interpretation or to pass judgment on the various views Christians hold about Adam and Eve. Instead, I propose to focus on the scientific argument and its validity.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

And there it is. Genesis is true, and Adam and Eve were real people, and we all sprang from this single pair.

But wait! Real scientists hold a similar view. Richard Dawkins, no friend of the Bible, agrees that today’s human population sprang from one woman, exact identity unknown.

The second conclusion of the Berkeley group is less controversial. No matter where Mitochondrial Eve lived, they were able to estimate when. It is known how fast mitochondrial DNA evolves; you can therefore put an approximate date on each of the branch points on the tree of divergence of mitochondrial DNA. And the branch point that unites all womankind—the birth date of Mitochondrial Eve—is between a hundred fifty thousand and a quarter of a million years ago.

Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden (Science Masters Series) (pp. 52-53). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The difference is Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman. Some elementary mathematical analysis will demonstrate to you that, given the branching inherent in sexual reproduction, any two people alive today should be able to trace their lineage back to a point the paths intersect. Dawkins goes further. He uses the rate of mitochondrial mutation to compute an approximate date of our common ancestry, in the female line of descent.

On the matter of common descent, I first noticed a divergence in thinking among the new creationists at a conference in Dallas in November 2003. Ray Bohlin was there, along with creationist Ide Trotter. Bohlin holds a  Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and he is also a key person at Probe Ministries in Richardson, Texas:.

Raymond G. Bohlin is Vice President of Vision Outreach with Probe Ministries.

A plenum session gave participants the opportunity to ask questions and to make statements. Ray Bohlin announced to those present he believed all life forms on this planets have a common ancestry. Except humans. People have a different line of descent.

Creationists Ide Trotter and Ray Bohlin in 2003

I yield the remainder of your time to reading Paul McBride’s more thorough examination of this creationist book. Get a copy for yourself if you are interested. It’s a grand exemplar of the abuse of science.

Quiz Question

Number 203 of a series

Here is something for those who paid attention in high school physics class. See the diagram below.

This is a metal (wood, plastic, glass) tube. The end on the left is closed, while the end on the right is open. If you blow across the open end sound waves travel back and forth within the tube. The lowest frequency at which the air column in the tube vibrates is call the fundamental frequency of the tube. In this case the fundamental frequency is 420 Hz.

The tube below is the same length as the tube above, but the left end is open. Again when you blow across the open end on the right you get the air column vibrating.

What is the fundamental frequency of the open tube? Why? Hint: wind musical instruments operate off this principle.

Post your responses in the comments section below.

Abusing Science

Number 22 of a series

The Acámbaro dinosaurs

This is being reposted from the North Texas Skeptics newsletter.

Dinosaurs went missing about 65 million year ago. Or did they?

What if they really didn’t. What if dinosaurs were still around as late as 6500 years ago. And if people and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously? That would shoot holes in a lot of modern science. Paleontology would be badly wounded. Evolution would be DOA. So the thinking goes.

If you could find a human fossil in the same stone with a dinosaur fossil you would have some nice ammunition to shoot down evolution. Even better if the fossil showed a dinosaur eating a human. If all you had were something that looked like human footprint alongside dinosaur footprints you might be inclined to shop further. Enter the Acámbaro dinosaurs.

A paper titled “Archeological cover-ups” by David Hatcher Childress describes the discovery of the Acámbaro dinosaur figurines.1

In 1944 an accidental discovery of an even more controversial nature was made by Waldemar Julsrud at Acámbaro, Mexico. Acámbaro is in the state of Guanajuato, 175 miles northwest of Mexico City. The strange archaeological site there yielded over 33,500 objects of ceramic, stone, including jade, and knives of obsidian (sharper than steel and still used today in heart surgery). Julsrud, a prominent local German merchant, also found statues ranging from less than an inch to six feet in length depicting great reptiles, some of them in ACTIVE ASSOCIATION with humans, generally eating them, but in some bizarre statuettes an erotic association was indicated. To observers, many of these creatures resembled dinosaurs.

Childress further mentions that radio-carbon dating in the laboratories of the University of Pennsylvania and additional tests using thermoluminescence indicated the objects were made 6500 years ago.

In “Atlantis Rising,” David Lewis has explained the implications for modern science.2

The Acámbaro figurines, discovered in the 1940s in Acámbaro, Mexico, depict fantastic creatures that resemble dinosaurs, as well as African and European men. If verified as authentic and dated to a time before modern science’s discovery of the dinosaurs, the existence of the figurines would dismantle the major presumptions of modern evolutionary theory, and, in fact, much of the scientific and academic establishment.

Young-Earth creationist Don Patton discussed the subject of the Acámbaro dinosaurs at September’s meeting of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS). He has journeyed to Acámbaro to view and photograph some of the artifacts, and he agrees with Lewis that this spells doom for evolution. Most of those attending the meeting concurred.

Don was gracious enough to provide me with copies of some of his photos, which we reproduce here. His printed brochure compares one of the figurines with a drawing from Robert Bakker’s book Dinosaur Heresies (1986). The figurine so resembles the dinosaurs in Bakker’s illustration that the ancient artist must have seen one in the flesh.

Figure 1.
Photo courtesy of Don Patton

Figure 2.
Dinosaur drawing from Robert Bakker’s book Dinosaur Heresies

Of course, modern science is not going to take this lying down, as both Patton and Childress have pointed out. Childress explains the situation in his report:3

A team of experts at another university, shown Julsrud’s half-dozen samples but unaware of their origin, ruled out the possibility that they could have been modern reproductions.

However, they fell silent when told of their controversial source. In 1952, in an effort to debunk this weird collection which was gaining a certain amount of fame, American archaeologist Charles C. DiPeso claimed to have minutely examined the then 32,000 pieces within not more than four hours spent at the home of Julsrud. In a forthcoming book, long delayed by continuing developments in his investigation, archaeological investigator John H. Tierney, who has lectured on the case for decades, points out that to have done that DiPeso would have had to have inspected 133 pieces per minute steadily for four hours, whereas in actuality, it would have required weeks merely to have separated the massive jumble of exhibits and arranged them properly for a valid evaluation.

Tierney, who collaborated with the later Professor Hapgood, the late William N. Russell, and others in the investigation, charges that the Smithsonian Institution and other archaeological authorities conducted a campaign of disinformation against the discoveries. The Smithsonian had, early in the controversy, dismissed the entire Acámbaro collection as an elaborate hoax. Also, utilising the freedom of Information Act, Tierney discovered that practically the entirety of the Smithsonian’s Julsrud case files are missing.

After two expeditions to the site in 1955 and 1968, Professor Charles Hapgood, a professor of history and anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, recorded the results of his 18-year investigation of Acámbaro in a privately printed book entitled MYSTERY IN ACÁMBARO. Hapgood was initially an open-minded skeptic concerning the collection but became a believer after his first visit in 1955, at which time he witnessed some of the figures being excavated and even dictated to the diggers where he wanted them to dig.

Adding to the mind-boggling aspects of this controversy is the fact that the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, through the late Director of PreHispanic Monuments, Dr. Eduardo Noguera, (who, as head of an official investigating team at the site, issued a report which Tierney will be publishing), admitted  “[T]he apparent scientific legality with which these objects were found.” Despite evidence of their own eyes, however, officials declared that because of the objects  “fantastic” nature, they had to have been a hoax played on Julsrud!

Whether Julsrud was hoaxed is something Patton intends to pursue, although he thinks not. He says he plans to excavate under the kitchen floor of the former Julsrud home in Acámbaro. This floor is original from before the time Julsrud move in, and finding similar figurines there will rule out their being recent forgeries.

Answering questions following his MIOS talk, Don explained that the figurines in question appeared to have been deliberately buried. They were found in collections of twenty to thirty and packed in sand, and they are made from local clay, which is decayed feldspar. Only ten percent of the figurines resemble dinosaurs.

So, what does all of this have to do with Albert Einstein, Perry Mason, and The Mysterious Origins of Man? Glad you asked.

Patton notes4

In the forward to the book, Earth’s Shifting Crust, Albert Einstein said Hapgood’s concept could be of a “great importance to everything that is related to the Earth’s surface.”

Earth’s Shifting Crust was the original title of Hapgood’s book, which is now The Path of the Pole. His idea was that all the ice at the poles represented a spinning mass that exerted a horizontal force on the Earth’s crust. In the mid 1950s, before the modern idea of plate tectonics was developed, but while Wegener’s ideas of continental drift were being floated around, Hapgood proposed that this off-center force occasionally shifted the crust, putting the poles at the equator and causing other nasty results. Hapgood corresponded with Einstein on this topic and received encouragement. Einstein recommended that Hapgood obtain “geological and paleontological facts.”

NBC first broadcast The Mysterious Origins of Man (MOM) in February 1996. Host Charlton Heston explained to the audience how a lot of standard science, such as evolution, paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology got it all wrong. Young-Earth creationist Carl Baugh helped out by explaining the Paluxy River “man tracks.”

Hapgood was there to explain the evidence of sudden Earth crustal displacement. The “fact” that thousands of animals were frozen in short order (in geologic time) and that ancient maps showed an ice-free Antarctica (which was then frozen over very quickly) was given as evidence for this crustal shift. Paul Heinrich has posted a review of these claims at

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mom/atlantis.html.

The creator of MOM, Bill Cote, has since produced a third program along similar lines. This latest is Jurassic Art, which deals with two topics, the Acámbaro figurines and the Ica stones.

So now we are back to where we started, as James Burke would say. A great fan of the Ica stones is Don Patton, who has presented talks on them at MIOS meetings. The deal about the Ica (not Inca) stones is that they are black stones with serpentine figures carved into them. Don Patton contends these are depictions of real dinosaurs done from life. David Lewis had this to say about them:5

The Ica stones are a collection of thousands of inscribed stones found near the mysterious Nasca Lines in Peru. Many of the stones depict Pterodactyls, T-Rexes, and humans cavorting with Stegosaurs. Who carved these mysterious stones? Some ancient artist who somehow knew about dinosaurs, or a modern prankster? The answer to those questions remains a mystery. Except to you, of course. Dating both the Acámbaro figurines and Ica stones has proved inconclusive. Unfortunately, both the stones and figurines have been removed from their original settings, making reliable dating difficult, if not impossible. In the Peruvian case, the curator and discoverer of the artifacts, Javier Cabrera, a medical doctor, refuses to reveal the location of a cave where he allegedly found the stones, leading archeologist Neil Steede, who investigates both cases on Cote’s Jurassic Art, to question the doctor’s story.

So, we come to the end of the tale, and we still don’t know what’s behind the Acámbaro dinosaurs.

Are the figurines really 6500 years old? Don Patton, who appears to finally accept radio-carbon dating, would only give the “dinosaurs” 1500 years in his talk. A human figure he allowed 4000 years.

Are they even authentic? If they are 1500 years old and more, then it’s likely they are. That was way before people found sport in fooling archaeologists.

If they are authentic, do they represent dinosaurs? Some of the ones exhibited are dead ringers for dinosaurs, but they were culled from a reported cache of over 30,000 items. Many of the figurines presented as dinosaurs required a bit of a stretch to make the resemblance. It’s possible we are just seeing some selective sampling. Given the amount of variation apparent in the collection there was bound to be a dinosaur in there somewhere.

Figure 3.
While there were many figurines that resembled four-legged dinosaurs, a number of them resembled dinosaurs no better than this.
Photo courtesy of Don Patton

Research into the mystery of the figurines since the MIOS lecture has not provided further explanation, so for the time being we will have to leave it at that. Some stories just don’t have neat endings.

Oh wait. I forgot to tell about Perry Mason, although it has absolutely no significance to the story. Accompanying Hapgood in his 1955 investigation of the figurines was prolific detective fiction writer Earl Stanley Gardner. The Acámbaro dinosaurs, it would seem, had something for everybody.

Refrences

  1. Childress, David Hatcher. “Archeological Coverups” Posted by the World Explorers Club at http://www.keelynet.com/unclass/canyon.txt. In the quoted excerpt I have fixed some of the inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation. The capitalization has been left intact.
  2. Lewis, David. “Jurassic Art” At http://atlantisrising.com/issue11/ar11jurassic.html
  3. Childress
  4. From Don Patton’s untitled brochure on the Acámbaro figurines.
  5. Lewis

Abusing Science

Number 20 of a series

This series is dedicated to stories related to abuse of science. Abuse can take a number of forms, including outright fraud. Sometimes the approach is to talk it to death. This appears to be the approach in a video from Fox News. It’s the Mark Levin Show from last year. I see no indication of when this aired, but it was posted to YouTube on 21 October 2018.

Here we see host Mark Levin interviewing Patrick Michaels, a real scientist involved in climate research. Put it all together, Fox News, Mark Levin, Patrick Michaels—it’s going to be some kind of global warming denial. From Wikipedia:

Patrick J. (“Pat“) Michaels (born February 15, 1950) is an American climatologist. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. Until 2007 he was research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, where he had worked from 1980.[2][3]

A self-described skeptic on the issue of global warming, he is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He has written a number of books and papers on climate change, including Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (1992), The Satanic Gases (2000), and Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media (2004). He’s also the co-author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know (2009).[2] Michaels’ viewpoint, as argued in a 2002 article in the journal Climate Research, is that the planet will see “a warming range of 1.3–3.0°C, with a central value of 1.9°C” for the 1990 to 2100 period (a value far smaller than the IPCC’s average predictions).

Yes, I forgot to mention the Cato Institute:

The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed CraneMurray Rothbard, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries. In July 1976, the name was changed to the Cato Institute. Cato was established to have a focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.[8]According to the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies ProgramUniversity of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 15 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 10 in the “Top Think Tanks in the United States”.

The Cato Institute is libertarian in its political philosophy, and advocates a limited role for government in domestic and foreign affairs. This includes support for abolishing minimum wage laws; opposition to universal health care; the privatization of many government agencies including Social Security, NASA, and the United States Postal Service as well as public schooling; abolishing child labor laws; and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

I have encountered the Cato Institute before and have noted they often come down against scientific studies that go against their philosophical leaning. With all that said about Michaels and Cato, what really counts is what is true and what they have to say about it. You can see what Michaels has to say by watching the video, and there appears to be a transcript on line dated 21 October 2018. I will post a few excerpts. Start with this.

LEVIN: It’s a great honor to see you, Patrick Michaels, doctor. Expert on all things climate and environment, as far as I’m concerned. A little bit of your background. You’re the Director of the Center for Study of Science at the Cato Institute. You hold an AB and SM, you hold those degrees in Biology, Sciences and Plant Ecology from the University of Chicago – pretty good school. PhD in Ecological Climatology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, 1979. You’re past President of the American Association of State Climatologists. You were Program Chairman for the Committee on Applied Climatology at the American Meteorological Society. Say that fast five times.

That is some build-up, and I recall seeing this kind of thing before. When creationists introduced an authority to debunk evolution, they would go to great lengths to lay out  his credentials to make sure I knew this was not some blowhard come to dish the dirt. I must declare my suspicions get tickled when I see this kind of thing.

With that, it will be interesting to see what Patrick Michaels has to say. To start, he does not deny global warming, and he does not deny an element of human contribution. His assessment is that we are behind about half the observed rise, and the rest is natural.

MICHAELS: Well, surface temperature of the planet is warmer than it was a hundred years ago about 9/10th of a degree Celsius.

LEVIN: Nine-tenth degree of a degree Celsius.

MICHAELS: That’s all.

LEVIN: Is that a lot?

MICHAELS: No. It’s not a lot. There are two periods of warning, one in the early 20th Century that could not have been caused by human beings because we hadn’t put enough CO2 in the air, and one in the later part of the 20th Century that either slows down or ends depending upon whose data you use somewhere in the late 1990s, only to resume with the big El Nino that covered the news the last couple of years.

So that means that probably about half, maybe half of that nine-tenths of the degree might be caused by greenhouse gases because when the planet warmed beginning in 1976, the temperature of the stratosphere started to drop and that’s the prediction of greenhouse theory that’s not intuitive. The great philosopher of science Karl Popper said, if you can meet a difficult prediction with your theory, you can continue to entertain your theory.

Stop here for a moment. “[O]nly to resume with the big El Nino that covered the news the last couple of years.” Professor Michaels, an El Niño  event is a weather phenomenon, confined to a locality (large in this case) of the planet. Stuff like that gets ironed out in the averages. For perspective, the most recent temperature plots I have—representing global averages—show a continued rise to the present day. Here is one from Berkeley Earth, and I have preserved the largest available size to enable you to examine it up close. Click on the image to get the large view.

He also talks about atmospheric modeling, which figures greatly in predicting the effects of adding CO2 to the atmosphere. He wants us to know the bulk of models being used are worthless and he lays this at the feet of the practice of parameterizing the models.

But we just don’t really have a good explanation for that, but because we forced the computer models to say, “Aha, human influence, CO2 and other stuff.” We made the models too sensitive, and so that’s why when you get to the late 20th Century, all of a sudden they’re warming up like crazy and the reality is down here. It was guaranteed to happen.

This was revealed in “Science” magazine in late 2016, and there was a paper that was published by a French climate modeler called “The Art and Science of Climate Model Tuning,” and in it, he speaks of parameterizing — we could say fudging — the models to give, his words, an anticipated acceptable range of results. [emphasis added]

Being what I am, I felt the need to track down this particular reference. In truth, I could find no such article appearing in Science magazine in the weeks (October) preceding the 2016 election. I did find this: “Using climate models to estimate the quality of global observational data sets.” Science, 28 October 2016, Vol. 354 Issue 6311, p. 452. There is an item with a similar name: “The Art and Science of Climate Model Tuning,” which Michaels may have been thinking about, but this was not published in Science, and it came out in 2017, not 2016. You can pull it up to read for yourself, but here is the abstract:

We survey the rationale and diversity of approaches for tuning, a fundamental aspect of
climate modeling, which should be more systematically documented and taken into account in multimodel analysis.

An introductory paragraph:

As is often the case in sciences that address complex systems, numerical models have become central in climate science (Edwards 2001). General circulation models of the atmosphere were originally developed for numerical weather forecasting (e.g., Phillips 1956). The coupling of global atmospheric and oceanic models began with Manabe and Bryan (1969) and came of age in the 1980s and 1990s. Global climate models or Earth system models (ESMs) are nowadays used extensively to study climate changes caused by anthropogenic and natural perturbations (Lynch 2008; Edwards 2010). The evaluation and improvement of these global models is the driver of much theoretical and observational research. Publications that analyze the simulations coordinated at an international level in the frame of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) constitute a large part of the material synthesized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports. Beyond their use for prediction and
projection at meteorological to climatic time scales, global models play a key role in climate science. They are used to understand and assess the mechanisms at work, while accounting for the complexity of the climate system and for the spatial and temporal scales involved (Dalmedico 2001; Held 2005).

Michaels decries the climate models being used by various governments, except, he says, the one used by the Russians is accurate. Additionally he displays a plot that purports to show the divergence between the parameterized models and actual measurements. Here it is. Click on the image to get the full size:

Sum of the story, Michaels is jawboning the issue. He agrees that humans are contributing to global warming, but he excuses this by noting there are other contributions. He points to outrageous predictions and shows how they failed. He notes the increase in property damage by weather correlates to the increase in property to be damaged (in terms of the GDP). But he never denies the existence of the human contribution, which he cannot. I urge readers to watch the video and get back to me. There is more I would be able to add, given more time and space.

Next up: a YouTube video pushing some weird science.

Abusing Science

Number 20 of a series

This is a continuation of the dissection of Dan Kuttner’s 11 points regarding the science behind AGW, anthropogenic global warming. Dan posted these on Facebook a few months ago, and he reposted them again this year. He challenges readers to answer his 11 points, and he has agreed to allow me to use his name. He says in a separate communication that this is not a prank and he considers these to be serious matters. Here are Dan’s remaining seven points:

5. Since “Climate Change” is the new mantra, how and where is the climate changing?

The ocean and atmosphere temperatures are rising.

6. Since [fill in name of crisis] is bad, what is the “proper” temperature of the world without the influence of man-made CO2?

There is no proper temperature. What is desired is that the average global temperature not change radically. We built cities, populated land areas, created industries based on temperatures of the past few hundred years. A rise in average temperatures of more than a few degrees will result in enormous economic impact.

7. How has the correlation of an alleged increase in man-made CO2 and global temperatures been used to prove >> causation << by man?

The rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere corresponds with the amount of CO2 from fossil fuels introduced into the atmosphere by human activity.

8. How will paying a tax to a mandated monopoly headed by Al Gore’s British company fix the world’s emission of greenhouse gases?

It probably does not, so it does not make sense for me to respond to this non-existent event.

9. Since so far none of the climate-alarmists’ predictions have come true, why should we believe them today?

If by “alarmist” is meant grossly exaggerated claims, then you should not believe them. What is to be believed are the claims made by serious scientists. You should also believe the observed changes in the climate and the observed effects.

10. Since the claimed increase in temperatures and rise in sea levels are less than the statistical margin of error for even an excellent sample, how can any claim of an increase be made?

The premise of the question is incorrect. This is an instance of the logical fallacy called “begging the question.” First, the increase in temperature measured is within the statistical margin of error. Second, given a sufficient number of samples, accurate measurements can be obtained, even if individual measurements are imprecise.

11. If Global Warming is real, why have the main proponents of it been caught at least THREE times faking, fudging or redefining the figures to make it come out that way?(e.g. East Anglia’s “climate-gate” emails).

This is another example of begging the question. The person who presented this question must demonstrate the premise is true if a serious response is required.

This set of 11 points is representative of many of the attacks on legitimate climate science. When the opponents of an idea are unable to present cogent opposition, then the impression grows that there is no valid opposition. That is the case with the matter of anthropogenic global warming. The science is based on valid principles, it is being carried out by responsible and capable people, and results are in agreement with observed conditions. My own observation is that opposition to this science is mostly politically motivated, without any valid arguments being presented. In short, the opposition is a hoax of the worst kind.

Quiz Question

Number 200 of a series

Here is a nice problem, not too difficult, pertinent to a current hot topic.

Hypothetical scenario: Nothing is adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has a 100-year half life in the atmosphere. We crank up a contraption that pumps 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. How much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere when  a steady state is obtained?

Post your answer as a comment below. Extra points for describing the calculation.

 

 

Abusing Science

Number 19 of a series

This is a continuation of the dissection of Dan Kuttner’s 11 points regarding the science behind AGW, anthropogenic global warming. Dan posted these on Facebook a few months ago, and he reposted them again this year. He challenges readers to answer his 11 points, and he has agreed to allow me to use his name. He says in a separate communication that this is not a prank and he considers these to be serious matters. Here is Dan’s point number 4:

If global warming is happening, why did they change the name of the crisis to “Climate Change?”

Once again, Dan has assured me he is serious about his 11 points, and this is not some kind of come-on. Respecting that, this is an easy question to answer. And here is mine.

Global warming is still the problem. To be sure, global warming is logically a subset of climate change. If the air and oceans get warmer, the climate is going to change. There is going to be a shift in weather patterns. Predicting what the shift will be is a keener problem than predicting temperatures will rise. So far we have seen temperatures rise in our life times, and we are witness to some of the consequences: melting land and sea ice, rising sea levels, flooding of low-lying coastal regions. Other consequences, less rain here, more rain there, stronger and more frequent storms, some of this can be attributed to rising global temperatures. It is difficult to determine which event is one of the consequences of global warming.

This is your president speaking.

Number 206 in a series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Wind turbines are not only killing millions of birds, they are killing the finances & environment of many countries & communities.

The image above is President Trump at a political rally, speaking to his supporters. What is amazing is not that the United States President would make such a statement, but that supposedly intelligent people—people who can read, people who handle sharp objects, operate heavy machinery and vote—are not laughing. Takes my breath away.

Abusing Science

Number 18 of a series

This is a continuation of the dissection of Dan Kuttner’s 11 points regarding the science behind AGW, anthropogenic global warming. Dan posted these on Facebook a few months ago, and he reposted them again this year. He challenges readers to answer his 11 points, and he has agreed to allow me to use his name. He says in a separate communication that this is not a prank and he considers these to be serious matters. Here is Dan’s point number 3:

How have other climate variables, such as the sunspot cycle and naturally produced gases including, but not limited to, CO2 been subtracted from the IECC climate model?

The first thing I had to do was to figure out what is the IECC climate model. “The IECC® is a model energy building code produced by the International Code Council® (ICC®). It is referred to as a “model” code because it was developed through a public hearing process by national experts under the direction of the ICC.

Dan may be confused here, since the IECC climate model is not a main driving force behind AGW science. But his question deserves some kind of answer, and here is mine.

Start with the data plot above. That shows global temperature changes compared to sun activity. The thing to note is that temperature change does not track solar activity, which is comparatively flat. Compare the solar activity plot to the CO2 plot from the Keeling measurements below. These measurements show a dramatic increase in CO2 levels since 1958, when the study began.

The final answer to Dan’s question is the effects of other factors are effectively subtracted out due to their being relatively constant during the study period. The only other greenhouse gas that has changed notably is methane, and it is recognized that methane introduced by human activity is contributing to global warming.

Abusing Science

Number 17 of a series

Continuing from last week (see the above link), here is Dan Kuttner’s point number 2:

Since Mercury, Venus and Mars’ temperatures have been rising, how does the CO2 count on Earth affect those planets?

My initial response is, “Do I really have to answer this question?” When I engaged Dan Kuttner a few days ago about his Facebook posting I asked him if these were serious questions. He assured me he considers them to be serious, and I agreed to take him at his word. So here goes.

Duh!

There is no relation between carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere and the temperatures on Mercury, Venus, and Mars. May I be allowed to stop right now?

Next week’s post will address Dan’s point number 3. See the list.

Abusing Science

Number 16 of a series

Last week I posted Dan Kuttner’s 11 points titled “Some questions on the science behind Global Warming.” The idea being these 11 points seriously bring into question the validity of the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Dan is of a conservative bent, and a theme running through American conservative politics is that AGW is hoax science. I will not rehash any motivations conservatives may have for leaning in that direction; that is for another day. I will address Dan’s point number 1:

How does CO2, which is 1.4x heavier than air at sea level, get above the troposphere to cause a greenhouse effect?

I am one of those who contend there is no such thing as a stupid question. There are exceptions. This question is worded in the worst possible way. First off, whoever composed it confuses “heavier” and “denser.” Carbon dioxide does, itself, not have a weight, but it is denser than air. If air has a density of 1.00 on some scale, then carbon dioxide has a density of 1.53 (my first-order calculation). So even if point 1 meant to say “denser” it would have still been wrong. This is an example of the logical fallacy called “begging the question.” A question is posed with a premise pre-loaded.

And while I am being pedantic, 1.4 times heavier is not the same as 1.4 times as heavy as. 1.4 times heavier is 2.4 times as heavy as. It’s the English language, folks.

Now for the second part. Granted that carbon dioxide is denser than air, how does it get above the troposphere? Dan is a qualified airplane pilot, and one the things taught in pilot training is atmospheric science. From that he should have learned that gases in the troposphere are fairly well-mixed by atmospheric turbulence. The concentration remains abut 400 parts per billion by volume throughout. In truth, I found no figures for carbon dioxide in the stratosphere, but there is no reason to believe the gas does not propagate to that region.

But here is the sticker. Dan’s question is again loaded. The premise is that carbon dioxide needs to get into the stratosphere to have an effect on global warming. The fact is that the vast bulk of the atmosphere is in the troposphere, and also it matters little at what altitude carbon dioxide is encountered. It absorbs infra red radiation at any altitude, and it is particularly effective in the lower regions, close to the ground. Energy absorption by carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere close to the ground, keeping the surface warm and causing the surface to absorb the trapped energy. The oceans particularly become warmer by this process.

And that should answer Dan’s spurious question regarding carbon dioxide in the troposphere and the stratosphere. The next post in this series will address Dan’s point number 2. Keep reading.

Abusing Science

Number 15 of a series

 

The title of this series comes from a book of that name by Philip Kitcher. Abuse comes in numerous manifestations, some appearing to spring from deep-seated ignorance of basic science. That’s what’s going on here.

Dan Kuttner is a person I knew when I lived in Austin 50 years ago. After serving in the military and working in communications, he now hosts the Radio Free Mind site, giving him the opportunity to express his varied views. I highly recommend you visit the site and tune into his thought processes. Let me know what you think. It is definitely something.

That aside, Dan also posts on Facebook, and he agreed to allow me to repost from his feed. It is a repeat (and he emphasizes that) of something he posted before. When this was originally posted I had a go at it, and there are a number of Skeptical Analysis posts that draw from Dan’s, what I call, “11 points.” Here they are, copied and pasted from Dan’s timeline:

Some questions on the science behind Global Warming:

Radio Free Mind

Questions:

  1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x heavier than air at sea level, get above the troposphere to cause a greenhouse effect?

  2. Since Mercury, Venus and Mars’ temperatures have been rising, how does the CO2 count on Earth affect those planets?

  3. How have other climate variables, such as the sunspot cycle and naturally produced gases including, but not limited to, CO2 been subtracted from the IECC climate model?

  4. If global warming is happening, why did they change the name of the crisis to “Climate Change?”

  5. Since “Climate Change” is the new mantra, how and where is the climate changing?

  6. Since [fill in name of crisis] is bad, what is the “proper” temperature of the world without the influence of man-made CO2?

  7. How has the correlation of an alleged increase in man-made CO2 and global temperatures been used to prove >> causation << by man?

  8. How will paying a tax to a mandated monopoly headed by Al Gore’s British company fix the world’s emission of greenhouse gases?

  9. Since so far none of the climate-alarmists’ predictions have come true, why should we believe them today?

  10. Since the claimed increase in temperatures and rise in sea levels are less than the statistical margin of error for even an excellent sample, how can any claim of an increase be made?

  11. If Global Warming is real, why have the main proponents of it been caught at least THREE times faking, fudging or redefining the figures to make it come out that way?(e.g. East Anglia’s “climate-gate” emails)

Full disclosure: before I determined to react publicly, I communicated with him, and he convinced me the 11 points are not meant to be a joke, and, yes, I could attribute these to him. These are his 11 points.

In another world there should be no need for me to comment further, as the above language speaks for itself. However, this blog site is all about commentary, so I will spend the following 11 posts of this series addressing each of the 11 points in turn. Keep reading. It is an interesting world out there.

Abusing Science

Number 14 of a series

The above is called the Keeling Curve:

The Keeling Curve is a graph of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the island of Hawaii from 1958 to the present day. The curve is named for the scientist Charles David Keeling, who started the monitoring program and supervised it until his death in 2005.

Keeling’s measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.[1] According to Dr Naomi Oreskes, Professor of History of Science at Harvard University, the Keeling curve is one of the most important scientific works of the 20th century. Many scientists credit the Keeling curve with first bringing the world’s attention to the current increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Obviously these measurements did not stop with the death of Charles David Keeling. His work inspired others to conduct similar measurements at points around the globe. Ralph Keeling, son of Charles David Keeling, continues the measurements at Mauna Loa, and this work will likely continue through the remaining history of the human species.

But there are other measurements, and Steven J. Allen of the Capital Research Center  wants you to know about them. He holds a Ph.D, in Biodefense from George Mason University, and in 2012 he had this to say:

Scales over our eyes: Using graphs to frighten people about global warming

We’ve been led to believe that the earth faces a global warming catastrophe that will flood coastal cities, turn farmland into desert, and unleash the forces of nature to punish mankind for its use of carbon-based fuels.  But, in fact, the opposite is true: Current projections show that temperatures will plummet in just the next few days.

Here’s the chart, based on data from the online edition of The Washington Post, that proves I am right.  It shows how the temperature in Washington, D.C. fell by half in just 15 hours between yesterday afternoon and this morning.  By half!

Yes, Dr. Allen is going to demonstrate for you that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a hoax, and scientists are using propped-up graphs to trick us. Read the article. He shows a plot of the temperature in Washington, D.C., from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following morning. We see what we expect to see. We see the temperature drop, because the sun has gone down in the interim. Now he advises us to extrapolate from this graph, and we see that in the past it was intolerable hot, and in the future it will be intolerably cold. Unlivable. He next explains to us this is what scientist are doing with the temperature history of the earth. He shows this plot:

It looks remarkably like this one, which I previously presented:

And Dr. Allen has more to say, including this (from the same posting):

At least I didn’t use one trick often used by scientist-activists: I didn’t just make up the numbers.  At least I used actual temperature numbers from actual meteorologists.  (News media meteorologists, unlike scientist-activists, tend to be trustworthy because they are held accountable for the accuracy of their predictions. They make mistakes, but they don’t lie.)

Trustworthy journalist (Dr. Allen is one such) may make mistakes, but they do not lie. Scientist-activists do make up numbers and they do lie. Please get that point.

He goes further. He links to other sources, which links have since gone stale, so I cannot vouch for the sources. He points out the numbers are from NASA, a government agency that “was supposed to run the U.S. manned spaceflight program,” ending with a sarcastic comment about the demise of that program. Again, this was in 2012. He pointedly informs us of NASA’s :outreach to the Muslim world,” providing another link that has gone stale. Here is a related link I could find. As a scientist, I have to wonder how “the Muslim world” fits into Dr. Allen’s message. He also mentions NASA has outsourced its work to people with political connections, again providing a stale link. The implication is that these political connections have contravened real science, rendering the results suspect. And NASA promotes belief in AGW.

At this point it becomes difficult to summarize, so I will post an entire paragraph from the original:

For purposes of this post, let’s accept that these numbers are real.  Let’s assume, for the moment, that NASA personnel and their cohorts at organizations like the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change possess the ability to calculate mean surface temperatures worldwide, down to one-hundredth of a degree as they claim, all the way back to 1880.  (Perhaps they use an infinite number of thermometers, plus a time machine.)  Given those assumptions, let’s look at how the numbers are presented in the famous chart.

Journalists “may make mistakes, but they do not lie.” Apparently they do exaggerate to make a point. “[A]n infinite number of thermometers, plus a time machine?” He wants you to know that global average temperatures are being measured to a hundredth of a degree. Here he plays on the readers innocence regarding how data are summarized. Suppose thermometers measure only to 1/10 degree—good ones do. So, how do you report averages to 1/100 degree? That’s what happens when you compute averages? A short lesson in laboratory practice.

I have a thermometer that measures to 1/10 degree. This is not difficult to obtain. Not only do laboratory grade thermometers measure to that precision, they measure to that accuracy. You bring in another thermometer made by a different company from a different country, and both will measure the same beaker full of water to the same 1/10 degree.

Now suppose you are only concerned with temperature changes. Accuracy is no longer a consideration, because any inaccuracy of a measurement by something like a thermometer is most likely in the form of an offset with respect to the correct measurement. When you measure a temperature difference the offset is subtracted out, and the difference will not reflect the inaccuracy. The difference will be accurate.

Now you take a large number of measurements all over the planet, and you average them. The averages will be the sum of a large number of measurements divided by a large number, resulting in an average that has several positions to the right of the decimal point. You may not be measuring to 1/100 degree (although it would be possible), but you are computing averages to that precision. Note the difference between precision and accuracy. Precision does not account for an offset to the correct value, but when you measure the temperature change from one year to the next the accuracy of the difference will be close to solid gold.

Dr. Allen wants to know why the previous plot starts in 1880 and not some other year. He thinks he knows the answer, and that answer is the scientists want to ignore times when the planet experienced other temperature anomalies. He mentions the Little Ice Age of several centuries ago. Let’s have a look at past times:

I advise readers to peruse the Wikipedia entry for a more complete story, but above plot is enlightening. Whatever the cause of the Little Ice Age, the current state of global temperatures cannot be explained by a rebound from that time.

He wants to make a point about the scale of the plot. The vertical axis has been restricted to barely cover the range of temperatures. He says that is to impress upon viewers the enormity of the change. Actually, that is to allow people to see the change with their eyes. If the vertical range were increased to, say, 100 degrees, then it would be difficult to discern any variation. The plot would have the appearance of a straight line. And he presents such a plot:

Not very impressive. This is science? I’m guessing Dr. Allen wants you to believe it is. The truth is, the small variations matter, and without knowing it, Dr. Allen has revealed a terrible truth. Go back to his first plot, a daily temperature variation. The sun is down. It’s cold. The sun come up. Within minutes the temperature is up several degrees. After the sun comes up the temperature will typically climb twenty or more degrees F. And this is not due to a warm wind coming in from the south. It is not due to a nearby forest fire or a volcano. It is the sun. The daily rise in atmospheric temperature illustrates the tremendous driving force of solar radiation. And then the sun goes down, and the temperature drops, and the cycle repeats the following morning.

Now imagine that something tweaked the driving force of the sun, ever so slightly. Suppose it increased a fraction of a percent. There would be a noticeable increase in average temperatures over the entire planet. And that is what is happening. There are many factors affecting the driving force of solar radiation, and carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is one of these. Look at the Keeling Curve. Carbon dioxide levels are going up relentlessly, and there is no indication they will be going down soon. The temperature will rise due to the human contribution to carbon dioxide loading, and the effects of this rise are largely predictable. And nothing that Dr. Allen has written in his posting contradicts this fact.

Dr. Allen writes about political influence, this while propagandizing for an organization with an known political agenda. He uses his platform to disparage the work of real scientists. This is what abuse of science looks like.

Abusing Science

Number 13 of a series

This is not about Kathleen Hartnett White. That’s another story, but I needed an image for this post, and somebody loaded this onto my Facebook feed. This story is not about a government employee working to subvert science but about a government employee with an earnest regard for the truth. It’s an illustration of how the government, in particular the current administration, abuses science:

A Scientist Who Resisted Trump Administration Censorship of Climate Report Just Lost Her Job

The Trump administration has demonstrated every intent to overthrow the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and the signals were early and unambiguous:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

In case you doubted his intent, once gaining access to the nation’s highest office, Donald Trump proceeded to make his fantasies come true:

In October 2017, President Donald Trump nominated White for the position of White House senior advisor on environmental policy. Had she been confirmed by the United States Senate, she would have led the Council on Environmental Quality. On December 21, 2017, the United States Senate sent her nomination back to the White House. Trump resubmitted his nomination of White in January 2018.

Her nomination drew controversy due to her history of advocacy for fringe theories and pseudoscience. Hartnett questions the scientific opinion on climate change and has criticized the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She has called for increased use of fossil fuels, and criticized the Endangered Species Act. She said carbon dioxide was not a pollutant but “a necessary nutrient for plant life” and that there were “really beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere”. She has expressed skepticism that there has been “unprecedented warming of the climate, extreme weather events, declining Arctic ice, and rising sea levels”. She has complained about “Apocalyptic Anthropogenic Global Warming” being “the Left’s secular religion”, and that “grand schemes to decarbonize human societies” are part of the “unabashedly totalitarian policy of the Left.”

White has compared the work of mainstream climate scientists to “the dogmatic claims of ideologues and clerics.” During her November 2017 Senate confirmation hearing, she defended past statements that “particulate pollution released by burning fuels is not harmful unless one were to suck on a car’s tailpipe.”

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.

In case you failed to notice the ground moving under your feet, the Republican Party held the majority in the Senate at the time and had the ability to confirm Hartnett White without regard to protests from the Democrats. The Republicans have of late been the party that favored ideology over science whenever push came to shove, and that Hartnett White triggered their gag reflex speaks volumes. Apparently abuse of science does have limits.

Abusing Science

Number 12 of a series

To this list you might add the Institute of Public Affairs. Based in Australia, they are the sponsors of the book shown above. The book has a number of contributors, and I have been reviewing contributions by geologist Ian Plimer, long known as a defender of biological evolution against the claims by creationists. On the matter of AGW he has cast his lot with those who deny some valid science. In Climate Change The Facts he has contributed a chapter titled “The Science and Politics of Climate Change.” He concludes his section with:

Conclusion Climate change catastrophism is the biggest scientific fraud that has ever occurred. Much climate ‘science’ is political ideology dressed up as science. There are times in history when the popular consensus is demonstrably wrong and we live in such a time. Cheap energy is fundamental for employment, living in the modern world, and for bringing the Third World out of poverty.

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

His concluding argument is interesting in the way it plays off requirements versus reality. Presently the use of fossil fuels is what is keeping a large segment of the human population afloat. I sometimes make the unsubstantiated claim that if everybody stopped pumping petroleum today, upwards of one billion people will die as a result within the first year. There is no doubt the dependency exists.

However, bad news does not counter sober fact. Arguing that drastic reduction of carbon dioxide emissions today will have bad consequences is not the same as arguing that carbon dioxide emissions will lead us to a catastrophe in the future.

In his section Ian Plimer addresses five points:

Many Western governments have a politically popular ideology that argues that:

i. There is an increase in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by human activities;

ii. The increased CO2, a greenhouse gas, will lead to ever increasing global warming;

iii. There will be tipping points, sea level rises, extinctions and ocean acidification;

iv. Climate change will be irreversible and that human emissions of CO2 must be reduced or stopped as soon as possible; and

v. In order to stop climate change, energy sources need to be shifted from coal, gas and oil to wind, solar, tidal and biomass.

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition. [emphasis added]

Governments and their agencies claim that science supports their ideology, but while research grants are given to support this ideology, naysayers are denied grants, ignored, or—more commonly—pilloried. This doesn’t happen in many other branches of science, where competing theories are supported with research funds, ideas are energetically discussed, and theories are changed based on new validated evidence. Matters of climate change have been politicised, everyone has an opinion (despite commonly not having the knowledge to underpin an opinion), scientifically illiterate journalists become champions of a cause rather than impartial journalists, and various media networks have taken a partisan political position.

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

It is interesting that Plimer should take this tact in light of the sponsor’s name on the cover of the book. The following is from the Wikipedia entry for the Institute for Public Affairs:

The IPA adopts a position of doubt about climate change and finances several Australian climate change science doubters.

In 2008, the institute facilitated a donation of $350,000 by Dr G. Bryant Macfie, a climate change sceptic, to the University of Queensland for environmental research. The money is to fund three environmental doctoral projects, with the IPA suggesting two of the three agreed topics.

In 2010, the IPA published a compilation of essays by prominent climate change skeptics titled Climate Change: The Facts and edited by John Roskam and Alan Moran. An expanded version with 22 essays was published in 2015 through Stockade Books and a follow-up edited by Jennifer Marohasy was published in 2017, both in Kindle format.

In 2017, Marohasy and IPA colleague John Abbot publisher a paper on climate change in the journal GeoResJ, also discussing the work on the IPA website,in The Spectator Australia, and in Marohasy’s blog. The research concludes that much of recent warming could be attributable to natural variations, and that the “world was about as warm in 1980 as it was during the Middle Ages.” This conclusion was welcomed by conservative media outlets but heavily criticised by climate scientists who pointed to methodological flaws in the research and declared it unworthy of publication. Gavin Schmidt, the Director of NASA‘s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has pointed out that some data were shifted in time by approximately 35 years, leading to the omission of warming that has occurred since 1965. Schmidt described the research as “worthless” and an example of “what happens when people have their conclusions fixed before they start the work.”

Despite Plimer’s saying, “…naysayers are denied grants, ignored, or—more commonly—pilloried,” it would appear there is ample funding to support opposing views in climate science. Ample funding to support opposing views comes appears to be ample funding not so much for research as for propaganda.

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

I am yet to find a scientist or read a paper which claims that the climate is not changing.

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

He has yet to find a scientist who claims the climate is not changing. That means one of two things. Either a bunch of scientists are lying, or else the climate is changing. And the climate is changing.
According to a study led by Eric Rignot from the University of California at Irvine, which looked at details of ice and snow from the entire continent of Antarctica since 1979, Antarctica’s crucial ice sheet has been melting for the entire 39 year period, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Talk about politics and scientific malfeasance if you want, but you need to counter the evidence that the ice is melting. Good luck with that.

Stupidity on Stilts

Number 6 of a continuing series

The above meme showed up on my Facebook feed, and I grabbed it up.

I call this series “Stupidity on Stilts,” because first there is stupidity, but when you want to elevate it even more you need to put it on stilts. There are people who do just this, some even get paid to do it. One Ben Shapiro, “an American conservative political commentator, writer, and lawyer.” His Wikipedia entry continues:

He has written seven books, the first being 2004’s Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth; Shapiro began writing this book at age 17. Also at age 17, he became the youngest nationally syndicated columnist in the United States. He writes columns for Creators Syndicate and Newsweek, serves as editor-in-chief for The Daily Wire, which he founded, and hosts The Ben Shapiro Show, a daily political podcast and radio show. He was an editor-at-large of Breitbart News between 2012 and 2016.

That should explain a bunch. “conservative political commentator,” “Creators Syndicate,” and “Breitbart News” provide a clear heads up about what is coming next:

From there, he winds up to deliver the made-for-virality part of his outline: Even if global warming happens, Shapiro asks dramatically, and even if its effects as as disastrous as predicted, aren’t rational, free-market actors already equipped with the tools to deal with it?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of the water levels around the world rise by, let’s say, five feet over the next 100 years. Say 10 feet over the next 100 years. And it puts all of the low-lying areas on the coast underwater. Let’s say all of that happens.

Now get ready for the TRUTH BOMB…

You think people aren’t just going to sell their homes and move?

I will give readers about a second and a half to digest that.

Finished? Good! In the interest of pandering to the obvious, let me spell it out.

  • Sea levels are rising. Shapiro acknowledges that.
  • The cause is global warming. Shapiro acknowledges that.
  • Human activity is contributing enormously to global warming. Shapiro acknowledges that (I think).
  • Homes near the coast are going to be under water. Shapiro acknowledges that.
  • No big deal. What!!!!
  • Shapiro says it’s no problem because people whose houses are going to be under water will just sell them and move to higher ground. Really?

Ben. Ben! Who’s going to buy a home that’s going to be under water in a few years? People living in a soon-to-be-flooded area are screwed. Nobody is going to buy their houses. Let me dig deeper.

Suppose your house is going to be flooded, but not for about 50 years. You’re going to be dead by then, even if you may have already relocated for other reasons. But you sell your home anyhow. Somebody purchases your home, and this person knows that in 50 years it’s going to be flooded. He figures like you, that he will be out of there before it’s under water. He’s going to die or sell first.

Sooner or later somebody is going to have to buy a home that’s already threatened by high water. Yeah, this train of events will eventually break down.

Ben, forget about what you learned from studying economics in school. Here is what is going to happen. Property that’s going to be unusable in 50 years will decrease in value over time and reach zero about the time waves start to breach the property line.

Hopefully we are done with that line of reasoning, so we can now take a look at the bigger picture. With rising sea levels the land area of the North American continent will decrease perceptibly. Places where we have, in ignorance or in defiance of climate predictions, built infrastructure and personal and commercial development are going to be under water. They will either be under water, or they are going to be protected by dikes to stave off the sea level rise.

More specifically, roads will need to be elevated, power stations will need to be protected by dikes, electric, water, and sewer facilities are going to have to be drastically restructured. A pile of money will need to be poured into regions near the waterline. This expense will be borne by those directly affected, citizens and businesses in the region, or else the entire country will be called upon to pitch in through their tax dollars.

So, that’s the bad news. And now for the bad news. There is nothing we can do today to stave off catastrophic sea level rise. We waited about a century too long to get started. It is too late to turn the world’s economy around and shed its dependency on fossil fuels. Existing CO2 levels in the atmosphere are sufficient to cause catastrophic sea level rise, and CO2 levels will continue to rise for the next 50 years, despite the best measures we can take now.

In the meantime you might plan ahead and start shopping for some of that prime Orlando beach front property. Ben, are you listening?

Abusing Science

Number 9 of a series

Creationist David Shormann testifies at the textbook hearings, Austin 17 September 2018

This has some history. Years ago, before Facebook, I was having a discussion on an Internet group. The matter of John Templeton came up, and I responded that he was a creationist. Why did I say that, I was asked. Because his foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, contributed money to the Discovery Institute (DI), the primary group supporting creationism, particularly Intelligent Design (ID), in this country. And that was that.

Except Templeton has since died, but his foundation continues to fund efforts to reconcile science with religion. Another regression: I am auditing a college course on philosophy of atheism, and some of the assigned reading is related:

As the Templeton-prize-winning physicist Paul Davies points out at the end of his book The Goldilocks Enigma, even putting aside all the other difficulties:

The other main problem with intelligent design is that identity of the designer need bear no relation at all to the God of traditional monotheism. The ‘designing agency’ can be a committee of gods, for example. The designer can be a natural being or beings, such as an evolved super-mind or super-civilization existing in a previous universe, or in another section of our universe, which made our universe using super-technology. The designer can also be some sort of superdupercomputer simulating this universe. So invoking a super-intellect… is fraught with problems.

Law, Stephen. Humanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. 47). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Yeah, Templeton continues to haunt me from the grave. What the Templeton Foundation does, in part, is to fund research into whether religious faith can be reconciled with modern science.

On that we pause again:

Is the Government Buying Science or Support? A Framework Analysis of Federal Funding-induced Biases

The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for doing research on the problem of bias in science, especially bias induced by Federal funding of research. In recent years the issue of bias in science has come under increasing scrutiny, including within the scientific community. Much of this scrutiny is focused on the potential for bias induced by the commercial funding of research. However, relatively little attention has been given to the potential role of Federal funding in fostering bias. The research question is clear: does biased funding skew research in a preferred direction, one that supports an agency mission, policy or paradigm?

That’s from the Cato Institute, a libertarian entity that opposed to scientific findings that would lead to the need for corrective government action. Libertarians want less government, but biological science is not one of their prime targets.

So, there is this accusation that scientists do research and produce fundings that favor their sponsors—particularly government sponsors. Take another look. If you want to see publication bias, consider funding that asks researchers to search for (confirm?) a religious-based interpretation of evolution, particularly human evolution. Anything that leaves room for a biblical narrative.

Re-enter the Discovery Institute. From their Evolution News site:

Intelligent Design Aside, from Templeton Foundation to the Royal Society, Darwinism Is Under Siege

Don’t let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn’t in serious turmoil. Science Magazine announces an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink.” I’m trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a “gravity rethink,” or a “heliocentrism rethink.” The gist of it:

For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture — for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can’t fully explain it — play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.

It took some searching. The email from Discovery Institute showed up on my Facebook feed a day or two ago, but the link is to an item published on Evolution News 22 April 2016. Full disclosure: I belong to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (AAAS), which publishes Science Magazine, and I dug into their on-line back issues to find the referenced article. It’s on pages 394-395 of the 22 April 2016 issue. Obviously David Klinghoffer was quick off the mark to post his response. Here is somebody who doesn’t allow grass to grow under his feet.

I blinked hard a few times, but I was never able to figure out why Klinghoffer did not provide a complete citation to the Science article, but I consider the possibility he wanted to give me a workout to keep me occupied during my retirement. Anyhow, I snapshotted the article and saved the text, which I am posting along with a link. Read for yourself to get the complete story.

Significant in the Science article are references to research into ways traits are acquired by organisms. The lead photo above shows creationist David Shormann testifying at the school book hearings in Austin six years ago. Shormann markets a line of educational materials for home-schooling, and he operates a religious school in the Houston area. The desire to protect children from secular influences is a prime motivator for home-schooling in this country.

Anyhow, in his testimony before the board, Shormann emphasized the matter of epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”) in epigenetics implies features that are “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. Epigenetics most often denotes changes that affect gene activity and expression, but can also be used to describe any heritable phenotypic change. Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmental factors, or be part of normal developmental program. The standard definition of epigenetics requires these alterations to be heritable, either in the progeny of cells or of organisms.

He contended that his school curriculum includes epigenetics, while the text books being proposed for adoption at the time did not. For this reason he recommended that none of the proposed biology books be adopted. From the Science article:

Advocates stress that animals, plants, and even microbes modify their environments, exhibit plasticity in their physical traits, and behave differently depending on the conditions they face. Chemical modifications of the DNA that affect gene activity—so-called epigenetic changes—seem to explain some of this flexibility. These and other factors suggest to some biologists that an organism’s development is not simply programmed by the genetic sequences it inherits. For them, such plasticity implies that parents can influence offspring not just through their DNA but by passing on the microorganisms they host or by transmitting epigenetic marks to subsequent generations. “Innovation may be a developmental response that becomes stabilized through genetic changes;’ explains Armin Moczek, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Indiana University, Bloomington. [emphasis added]

Obviously Charles Darwin knew nothing about epigenetics, nor even genetics, but creationists of all stripes continue to attack the Darwinian construct with the idea that bringing down modern science will leave the religiously-inclined gazing more toward the God of Abraham. It’s classic abuse of science. Please read the entire Klinghoffer post. I will allow him to have the last word, since it reinforces my view of what is going on here:

ID, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it’s only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution’s smug cultists are in denial about that, but it’s true.

Abusing Science

Number 8 of a series

Where mistrust of science can be used for political advantage, it will be employed. Such is the case with the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The 18 January issue of Science has the story of how fear and mistrust are employed in an area of strife following a disputed election:

The Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is providing a natural experiment in fighting fake news. Occurring in a conflict zone, amid a controversial presidential election, the epidemic has proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories and political manipulation, which can hamper efforts to treat patients and fight the virus’s spread. Public health workers have mounted an unprecedented effort to counter misinformation, saying the success or failure of the Ebola response may pivot on who controls the narrative.

I can’t say it is heartening to learn the United States has no lock on the “fake news” offense. This scurrilous approach can be effective and deadly:

That’s even more true in the DRC now. In September 2018, an opposition politician, Crispin Mbindule Mitono, claimed on local radio that a government lab had manufactured the Ebola virus “to exterminate the population of Beni,” a city that was one of the earliest foci of the outbreak. Another rumor has it that the Merck vaccine renders its recipients sterile. On 26 December, the national election commission decided to exclude Beni and Butembo from the polls because of the epidemic; the following day, an Ebola evaluation center was attacked during protests.

The European-American axis has its parallel with the anti vaccination campaign and in the workings of people such as Andrew Wakefield.

Abusing Science

Number 4 of a series

I’m sure the source of the above cartoon will not mind my re-using it without permission. I am guessing Glenn McCoy came up with this to demonstrate to all who will pay attention that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a hoax. And that is what this post is all about. It’s about people who abuse science to make that claim.

For a major part of the 20th century the principal abusers of science were the creationists, some of whom sported phony college degrees and asserted that creationism is a fact and that evolution is an evil scheme to undermine religious faith. By the end of the century it became apparent that others were denying basic science for political and personal reasons. First came those who denied the problem with stratospheric ozone depletion, but that notion was dispelled decisively when the people who did the scientific studies came away with Nobel Prizes. Now denial of AGW has taken its place alongside creationism as a motivation for abuse of science.

If you have the idea that creationism and denial of AGW fit comfortably within political conservatism, you will be on solid ground. It you think conservatives have a lock on anti-science, then you are on quicksand. But more on that in future posts.

A powerful force against creationism has been Australian geologist Ian Plimer.

Plimer is an outspoken critic of creationism and is famous for a 1988 debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was ‘only a theory’. Gish accused him of being theatrical, abusive and slanderous.

In 1990 Plimer’s anti-creationist behaviour were criticised in Creation/Evolution journal, in an article titled “How Not to Argue with Creationists” by skeptic and anti-creationist Jim Lippard for (among other things) including false claims and errors, and “behaving poorly” in the 1988 Gish debate.

Once again, you should not conclude that supporters of science are of one mind. Plimer is noted for his rejection of AGW, to a degree. His objections to the scientific consensus incorporate a belief that the drive to obtain funding motivates researchers to cough up the preferred conclusions.

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 are treated as evidence. Furthermore, climate ‘science’ is sustained by government research grants. Funds are not available to investigate theories that are not in accord with government ideology.

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

It is rational to question scientific conclusions when a motive for bias is apparent, but the possibility of bias is not sufficient. It is also necessary for the conclusions to be incorrect, and it is here Plimer’s arguments edge into abuse of science.

ii. The increased carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, will lead to ever increasing global warming

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. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

At this point Plimer ignores the evidence, and he also dabbles in abuse of science. First of all the abuse. He states correctly that the prime greenhouse gas is water. To be sure, without water vapor in the air our planet would chill out quickly. But he follows this accurate statement with one that has no basis in fact. The additional 120+ ppm added by the use of fossil fuels contributes an addition to the existing greenhouse effect, and it is that addition that is causing the observed global warming.

Next, examine the statement, “In fact, only one molecule of every 85,000 in the atmosphere is CO2 of human origin,…” Some math: At 400 ppm, one molecule of CO2 is in every 2500 molecules of the atmosphere. Human activity is credited with adding about 1/3 of that 400 ppm. That is one molecule of anthropogenic CO2 for every 8300 molecule of air, not one for every 85,000. Since Plimer is a serious scientist, I am guessing this is an error in math and not deliberate on his part.

Next: “Furthermore, because CO2 has a short residence time in the atmosphere,…” Actually, it takes 200 years for an influx of CO2 to exit the atmosphere. Plimer may be thinking of the persistence of methane, which has a life in the order of 15 years. Readers need to keep in mind that CO2 introduced into the atmosphere never completely vanishes. The effects of an influx diminish with time, and eventually the effect is subsumed by other factors. I will contend that CO2 exits the atmosphere at an exponential rate. The rate of decrease is proportional to the concentration.

Now for Plimer’s disregard for the evidence, particularly:

The above is from Temperature Change and Carbon Dioxide Change on the NOAA site.

Temperature change (light blue) and carbon dioxide change (dark blue) measured from the EPICA Dome C ice core in Antarctica (Jouzel et al. 2007Lüthi et al. 2008).

I have no explanation why they did not use contrasting colors.

A final point on Plimer before I close. A major concern with AGW is the resulting rise is sea levels. As land ice melts and flows into the oceans, the sea level will rise. There is also a rise associated with warming and expansion of ocean water. The consequence is flooding of coastal areas. Plimer has this to say:

Land level changes

There can be no understanding of sea level rise and fall without an understanding of local land level rises and falls. Scandinavia, Scotland and Canada are rising because, during the last glaciation, ice sheets covered these areas and pushed down the land. Now that the ice has melted, there is rebound and the land is rising. If land rises, other areas of land may sink, such as Holland. Land rises in mountains as a result of compression (e.g. Himalayas) whereas, when there is extension or pulling apart, land sinks (e.g. Lake Eyre). The world’s oceans formed by extension and, because the oceans are still growing at the mid-ocean ridges, the land masses at the edges of oceans are uplifted into hills or mountain chains (e.g. Great Dividing Range).

Abbot, Dr John. Climate Change: The Facts . Stockade Books. Kindle Edition.

He is obfuscating the fact of sea level rise with this discussion of the rise and fall of land masses. While this process is real and observed, it does not change that coastal regions not affected by the sinking of land are now experiencing increased flooding due to sea level rise, and this sea level rise is due to global warming.

There is a lot more of abuse of science related to global warming, and future posts will touch on these cases.

Abusing Science

Number 2 of a series

This series is inspired by Philip Kitcher’s book of the same name.

Back when Kitcher published this book, creationists were of the worst kind. They wanted to convince people that the story of Genesis was true, the universe and all life forms were created by the God of Abraham in the course of six days about 6000 years ago. Furthermore, the story of Noah and a worldwide flood was for them a part of world history. It was tough sledding.

Modern science, starting around 200 years ago, began to undercut these fables. The science of geology pointed to an ancient Earth. Darwin’s explanation of biological evolution abolished the human species’ special place among living things, and studies of radioactive elements in the earth’s crust pointed to a planet over four billion years old. Finally modern cosmology accounted for the formation of the universe over 13 billion years ago—and by natural causes.

In a landmark court case, Federal Judge William Overton ruled in an Arkansas case in 1982 that “creation science,” as creationists then called their theories, is not science. Rather, it is religious-based conjecture. Subsequent attempts to get around this finding terminated in a subsequent loss in Louisiana in a case termed Edwards v. Aguilard. A proposal to require teaching alternatives to the theory of evolution was found to be religiously motivated and in violation of the Constitution.

The response from the fundamentalist religious community was to usurp the Young Earth Creationists with a new breed of ecclesiastical scientists and a fresh approach. These creationists were, and still are, real scientists with valid Ph.D. degrees in related fields, and they largely avoided mention of biblical stories about the age of the earth and the God of Abraham. They revived William Paley‘s concept of Intelligent Design. They insist that the complexity of modern life forms is evidence of a higher intellect behind the world we see today. In future installments I will touch on the activities and the writings of the various individuals involved, but to get things going I will delve into something recent.

The organization in this country that most prominently advocates for Intelligent Design is the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle. More specifically, the DI’s Center for Science and Culture is the focus for ID, and they host a blog site titled Evolution News.

A principal talking point used to support ID is the source of novel information. The contention is that for novel life forms to develop, some additional information must be supplied. For illustration purposes, imagine an animal like a fish. It is generally agreed that the ancestors of present day land animals, lizards, for example, were fish. The proponents of ID will point out that fish have no legs, and for land animals to walk around, given that lizards evolved from fish, then new information about legs had to be supplied from somewhere. Or from somebody. Novel information cannot come out of thin air. There must be a supreme intellect behind the development of land animals with legs.

Novel information, and information in general, is a large part of ongoing arguments for Intelligent Design. The CSC person charged with developing and supporting this connection between is mathematician William Dembski. To illustrate how far the modern creationists buy into the relevance of Dembski’s work, he has been dubbed to be the “Isaac Newton of information theory.”

William Dembski is the Isaac Newton of information theory, and since this is the Age of Information, that makes Dembski one of the most important thinkers of our time. His “law of conservation of information” represents a revolutionary breakthrough. In Intelligent Design Dembski explains the meaning and the significance of his discoveries with such clarity that the general public can readily grasp them.He convincingly diagnoses our present confusions about the relationship between science and theology and offers a promising alternative.

[Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin—from the dust jacket of Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1999.]

Being compared to Isaac Newton is a dab of adulation that Dembski has never disavowed.

So we have it. Information theory continues to crop up in items aimed at supporting Intelligent Design, and that brings us to this:

Bacteriophages, Budding Yeast, and Behe’s Vindication

Ann Gauger is a senior research scientist at Biologic Institute. Her work uses molecular genetics and genomic engineering to study the origin, organization and operation of metabolic pathways. She received a BS in biology from MIT, and a PhD in developmental biology from the University of Washington, where she studied cell adhesion molecules involved in Drosophila embryogenesis. As a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard she cloned and characterized the Drosophila kinesin light chain. Her research has been published in NatureDevelopment, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.”

Specified complexity is an argument proposed by Dembski and used by him in his works promoting intelligent design. According to Dembski, the concept is intended to formalize a property that singles out patterns that are both specified and complex. Dembski states that specified complexity is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent, a central tenet to intelligent design and which Dembski argues for in opposition to modern evolutionary theory. The concept of specified complexity is widely regarded as mathematically unsound and has not been the basis for further independent work in information theory, complexity theory, or biology. Specified complexity is one of the two main arguments used by intelligent design proponents, the other being irreducible complexity.
Abuse of science did not end with demise of the Young Earth Creationists. This series will continue to turn over such cases until I run out of ink.