Abusing Science

Number 53 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

ARROYO: It’s called nature. It happens.

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

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

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

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

Abusing Science

Number 39 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board retains Moses in Texas social studies curriculum

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

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

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

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

20 And God spake all these words, saying,

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

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

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

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

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

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

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathtaking Inanity

Number 21 of a continuing series

People, I definitely need help. Ether I have lost my mind or else the whole world is going wacko. The depth of inanity, from where I view it, is becoming unfathomable. Don’t believe me? Then view a recent exchange with some global warming (AGW) deniers. Pardon me, but I have decided not to redact the names of the correspondents.

It started out when a Facebook friend posted something from Fox News. The headline is “Kimberley Strassel: 2020 Dems vowing to ‘kill every coal job, every oil and gas job’ with climate goals.” I responded, letting on the world can survive without the coal industry, and things went downhill from there. The thread has multiple exchanges, and I am only keeping the pertinent ones. Here goes:

Edward Stansell All of the fuels we currently use can by present technology be made to burn clean. The real problem lies in the bogus designation of CO2 as a pollutant. Without CO2 there would be no plant life. Without plant life there’d be no animal life.

Edward Stansell Kevin Burris What do you expect out of mental defectives? We use canvas bags. They can ne used over and over. They don’t require cutting trees and they are better than those crappy plastic bags the handles or bottoms rip out of before we get them home.

Some cutting of trees is necessary. everything manufactured doesn’t have to have a container, paper or plastic. Most landfills consist mainly of used containers.

[Note: I included this bit because I so love the reference (which I highlighted) to “mental defectives.”]

John Blanton Edward Stansell Green plants depend on CO2. We need CO2 in the atmosphere. However, in my lifetime the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone from about 300 parts per million to over 400 ppm.

A basic physical principle is that CO2 absorbs infra red radiation. Atmospheric temperatures are driven by solar energy (light, infra red, etc.) and by heat sources within the earth (nuclear decay). A steady state is maintained when the heat lost to outer space (radiation) equals heat supplied by solar and nuclear. When things warm up, they radiate more, achieving a balance–steady state.

Increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere raises the steady state temperature. We are experiencing a rise in average temperatures (steady state).

As always, details are on request.

Edward Stansell John Blanton According to what you say about CO2 absorbing infra-red radiation, the atmosphere and therefore the biosphere should be cooling. Please explain.

John Blanton Edward Stansell I’m glad you asked. When something absorbs infra-red it gets warmer. Let me know if you have any more questions.

After that last, I am at a loss for words. Quite obviously, humanity is lost. Is it time for me to check into the Neptune Society?

Update

Since posting the above there have been additions to the conversation. See the following:

Edward Stansell John Blanton Yes, but it didn’t adsorb the UV rays, they would still reach the earth’s surface and heat it, particularly the oceans.

John Blanton And your point being?

Edward Stansell John Blanton The point is that CO2 is not the cause of climate change. It would happen with or without it. Therefore there is no need to control the emissions of CO2.

I will not respond further on this Facebook thread. Comments posted by Edward Stansell and others speak for themselves.

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 202 in a series

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

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace: “The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science. There is no climate crisis, there’s weather and climate all around the world, and in fact carbon dioxide is the main building block of all life.” Wow!

The president is quoting Patrick Moore.

Patrick Albert Moore (born 1947) is a former environmentalist and member of Greenpeace.

After leaving Greenpeace and becoming a paid advocate for the oil & gas industry, Moore has criticized the environmental movement for what he calls scare tactics and disinformation, saying that the environmental movement “abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism”.

Moore apparently was being featured on Fox & Friends when he made the remarks. President Trump, delighted to find a claimed environmentalist chiming agreement with one of his pet narratives, happily repeated the good news on Twitter.

Take note: despite claims to the contrary, Moore was not the founder of Greenpeace. Read the entry from Wikipedia linked above.

Our president continues to demonstrate what a “very intelligent person” he is. Take joy.

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.

People Unclear

This is number 24

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was kind of cute, so I stole a copy.

These come at me at such a rate, it’s getting hard to keep up. To avoid papering over this site with the stuff, I’m spreading them out at one a day, at the most. I may get behind if this keeps up.

So who is it who’s unclear today? How about we go with Kathleen Hartnett White, previous chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under Governor Rick Perry and now President Trump’s pick for senior adviser on environmental policy? And an interesting selection this appears to be. The President’s choice to advise on the environment is, from all appearances, a person with great disregard for the environment:

Like other members of the Trump administration, she has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change and has criticized the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a volunteer group of climate scientists whose findings are considered the gold standard of climate science. And she has described efforts to combat global warming as little more than an attack on the fossil fuel industry.

I will get back to White’s disdain for the environment shortly, but first I need to address her unclear concept regarding how the universe works. Here is more from the Washington Post item:

She has displayed similar contempt for international climate efforts, calling scientific conclusions from United Nations panels “not validated and politically corrupt.” Hartnett-White has also questioned the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant at all, calling it “an odorless, invisible, beneficial, and natural gas.”

The last part illustrates how to say a bunch of true stuff while pushing a false notion. Specifically:

  • Carbon dioxide is odorless.
  • Carbon dioxide is colorless, virtually invisible when viewed using certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Carbon dioxide is what feeds all the green plants, providing them the carbon they need to make sugar to power their processes.
  • Although people produce a bunch of carbon dioxide on purpose for industrial use, most of it occurs naturally.

What White wants readers to think is that putting a bunch more COinto the atmosphere is harmless. All related science has demonstrated this is not harmless. I have covered this in prior postings. You can follow the link, or you can search this site for “age of embarrassment” to locate a collection of associated postings.

About “scientific conclusions from United Nations panels” being “not validated and politically corrupt,” there is more to be said. Let’s start saying:

While working at TPPF, Hartnett-White also directs the Fueling Freedom project, which seeks to “Explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” while “building a multi-state coalition to push back against the EPA’s unconstitutional efforts to take over the electric power sector by regulating CO2 via the Clean Power Plan” as well as “End the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.”

Most interesting is the nature of the TPPF, the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a conservative think tank based in Austin, Texas, and a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). The think tank’s funders from 2010 were inadvertently made public a few years ago. According to Al Jazeera America, “A 2010 donor list from the IRS shows the Texas Public Policy Foundation receives funding from groups long associated with big oil, gas, and coal, such as Koch Industries, the electric utility Luminant, and the oil and gas investment company the Permian Basin Acquisition Fund.”

A 2013 report by Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) found that TPPF received over 3 million dollars from the Koch brothers or organizations they fund. For example, the Koch family foundations and Koch Industries sent $733,333 to TPPF, and $2,581,258 has been donated from the dark money groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. In 2015, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute contributed a total of $199,697.

Another interesting entity is The Heartland Institute. From their Web site:

Kathleen Hartnett-White is a distinguished senior fellow and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Honorable Kathleen Hartnett White joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation in January 2008. She is a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment.

I have discussed The Heartland Institute in previous posts, starting over five years ago:

So, what do people do? They do what people always do. They shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. It’s as though if the message goes away then the problem will go away. As with all problems there is a profit to be made solving the problem. Which brings us to the matter of Heartland Institute.

A quick trip to their home page reveals their message in a circulating marquee:

HEARTLAND FIGHTS BACK

Left-wing groups commit fraud, but we’re fighting back! Join our legal defense fund and remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals.

The site also mentions a number of these “left-wing” groups:

NCSE (National Center for Science Education)
Greenpeace
Desmogblog
Huffington Post
Thinkprogress
Pacific Institute

There is much to read, but there is no escaping Heartland’s political investment. Nor White’s. Some additional fun:

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

And this:

Anyhow, White’s assertions regarding the political nature of the NATO science panel pale with some insight.

As an open advocate for fossil fuels, White has taken some bizarre stands:

Fossil fuels dissolved the economic justification for slavery. When the concentrated and versatile energy stored in fossil fuels was converted to mechanical energy, the economic limits under which all societies had formerly existed were blown apart. A life of back-breaking drudgery was no longer the inescapable condition of the overwhelming majority of mankind.  The productivity made possible by fossil fuels led to the institutionalization of compassion and respect for the inalienable rights of each human individual.

So, fossil fuels provided a means to replace human muscle power with mechanical power. I  think not. Looking back, when industrialists wanted raw power they did not turn to human sources, paid or enslaved. They turned to (surprise) wind power, water power, and—lower down—animal power. On very rare occasions was human power ever sufficient to supplant those other sources. In this country’s prior slave industry slaves were used where human dexterity and intellect were required. On this matter, White is decidedly unclear.

Twisting the knife, suppose slaves had been used as an industrial power source. Eradicating slavery in this country was accomplished by changing laws and fighting a civil war. Where did fossil fuel enter into the picture?

But what this is about, from all appearances, is a desire on the part of major industries to unfetter themselves of government regulation. Regulations so cramp industrialist’s style, it’s hard to get anything done. Regulations—prod me if I am wrong—make industrial concerns uncompetitive. This can be true in the case where a company that complies with the regulations is forced to compete with one that does not. Where have we seen this before?

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, eighteen miles (29 km) north of Waco, while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Investigators have confirmed that ammonium nitrate was the material that exploded. On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stated that the fire had been deliberately set.

Passing over whether the fire was deliberate, what is at issue is a facility such as this being allowed near human habitation. Among the facilities heavily damaged was a school building. In this case it was not so much of there not being a regulation, it was a case of the regulation not being enforced. Also, people were too stupid to notice a dangerous situation developing.

And there is this:

The Elk River chemical spill occurred on January 9, 2014 when crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River, a tributary of the Kanawha River, in Charleston in the U.S. state of West Virginia.

The chemical spill occurred upstream from the principal West Virginia American Water intake and treatment and distribution center. Following the spill, up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water. The areas affected were portions of Boone, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties and the Culloden area of Cabell County.

Crude MCHM is a chemical foam used to wash coal and remove impurities that contribute to pollution during combustion. The “do-not-use” advisory for drinking water from West Virginia American Water’s system began to be gradually lifted by West Virginia state officials on January 13 based upon “priority zones.”

On Tuesday, January 14, the company revealed that the tank, which leaked about 7,500 gallons into the ground by the Elk River, had also contained a mixture of glycol ethers known as PPH, with a similar function as MCHM.

The chemical spill was the third chemical accident to occur in the Kanawha River Valley within the last five years. On June 12, 2014 another spill of containment water occurred at the same site.

I have had conservative friends tell me that these matters can be handled through direct action, without resorting to job-killing regulations. Somebody does something bad, then you sue them, and that serves as a lesson to others who might be considering to indulge. No, it does not. In this case the culprits slipped neatly out of reach of any consequences of their actions. More from the Wikipedia entry:

By January 13, a Kanawha County judge had granted a temporary restraining order against Freedom Industries, and the number of lawsuits filed in the Kanawha County Circuit Court had risen to 19. On January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, requiring a court–appointed trustee to run the company.

However, according to the Charleston Gazette, a company “whose characteristics are strikingly similar to Freedom Industries,” Lexycon LLC, registered as a business with the West Virginia secretary of state about two months after Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy. The company is registered at the same addresses and phone numbers as the former Freedom Industries, and is founded by a former Freedom executive.

And that appears to be the order of drill for the Trump administration. Take on as chief executives for the various agencies the very people determined to undo the purposes of these agencies:

  • Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary
  • Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Ben Carson has Housing and Urban Development Secretary
  • Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
  • Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury
  • Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary
  • And finally Kathleen Hartnett White as the President’s senior adviser on environmental policy

Looks like a dream team in some perverse sense. We are going to experience consequences.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Third in a series

As with the previous post in this series, this came up in a Facebook post that devolved into a discussion of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) controversy. I will begin by pasting pertinent parts of the dialogue so far:

Jim Medding shared History‘s post.

When ever I hear the term “settled science” I think of Galileo

On ‪#‎ThisDayInHistory 1633, Italian philosopher and astronomer Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy after he advocated the Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

GalileoInquisition

Galileo in Rome for Inquisition – Feb 13, 1633 – HISTORY.com

On this day in History, Galileo in Rome for Inquisition on Feb 13, 1633. Learn more about what happened today on History.

Luis De La Cruz a la “climate change” and the settled science

John Blanton “Settled science” is a term that gets thrown around, but in the final analysis it’s not what counts. What counts is what can be demonstrated. Right now what is being demonstrated is the case for AGW. I have some facts plus a bit of comedy for your reading enjoyment. Comments are welcome. I have more facts.
https://skeptic78240.wordpress.com/…/the-age-of…/

Jim Medding You, John, prove my point.

John Blanton Jim, I’m glad I prove your point. How? Please explain.

Jim Medding You couldn’t resist the temptation to jump all over this post. Shouldn’t there be some room for skepticism? You’re skeptical about the existence of God without having to prove your skepticism, which is OK. But if anyone says “I don’t know” about AGW, oh my let’s set ’em straight. Put your ego aside and coexist. You’re not going to convince anyone.

John Blanton Jim, thanks for responding on this. On a side note: The moment after I responded that I was glad to prove your point, I asked myself what was your point? You did not actually say. This would be a good time to state your position.

It was interesting that you brought up the existence of God, because I had no idea on how you stood on the matter. From the conversation you and I had with Don Hay 30 years ago I assumed you shared my rejection of Don’s views on creationism, the age of the Earth, and religion in general. If you have particular views on God, put them forward for discussion. My own position is that the God of Abraham (to distinguish from the number of other popular gods) is a made up story with no basis in fact. I say that in case there may be some confusion on the point.

You mention my ego, as though I had some emotional attachment to the science behind AGW. Putting that matter to rest, I have no such attachment. I do have a great fondness for the truth, and I do enjoy chiding people who sorely abuse the truth.

I am heading into a trip out of town, and I will be able to address your points in detail when I get back. In the mean time it will be helpful if you will state your position on the matters under discussion (God, AGW, creationism maybe). That way I will not have to bore you with some lengthy discussion when all the while we are in agreement on a point.

And that’s the extent of the conversation up to the present writing. I had hoped that after 48 hours I would have seen an additional response from Jim, but I will post this today rather than wait. If Jim responds later I will update this post. Here is a diagnosis of the exchange.

Jim posted a link to the History Channel concerning Galileo’s hearing before The Inquisition on 13 February 1633. Galileo had published that, contrary to prevailing doctrine, the Earth revolves around the sun. Jim’s comment was that use of the term “settled science” always reminded him of Galileo. Galileo was going against what had been “settled” by higher authority.

Of course, Galileo was not going against settled science, because the Ptolemaic conjecture, which was supported by the Church, did not involve any actual science. Ptolemy, and others, had observed that the sun appeared to go around and around the Earth on a daily basis. No scientific study had ever been invoked to refute the conjecture. It just became accepted and incorporated into church doctrine. But I was OK with Jim’s remark. Galileo did challenge a concept supported by authority and not by science.

Then Luis De La Cruz added a comment linking the science behind AGW to “settled science” supported only by authority. Since I know this to be incorrect, I added my comment to that effect and included a link to my previous post on the matter. Please note, my comment was not in response to Jim’s post, It was in response to Luis de la Cruz’s comment.

Jim commented that I had proved his point.

Without thorough preparation, I responded to Jim, telling him I was glad to be of assistance. Then I inquired as to how I had helped him prove his point, and I asked for additional details.

Jim’s response to this was more involved. To exhibit, I here repeat Jim’s response:

You couldn’t resist the temptation to jump all over this post. Shouldn’t there be some room for skepticism? You’re skeptical about the existence of God without having to prove your skepticism, which is OK. But if anyone says “I don’t know” about AGW, oh my let’s set ’em straight. Put your ego aside and coexist. You’re not going to convince anyone.

Jim’s comment that I could not resist is correct, but he may have missed the point that I was not responding to his post, but to the comment by Luis. Regardless, Jim inquired whether there should not be room for skepticism. That is a serious consideration and requires serious treatment. Since, by now, the subject matter had become too deep for Facebook, I am reverting to a blog post with more detail. First, the issue of room for skepticism.

Yes, there should be room for skepticism. Whenever anybody puts up a scientific conjecture, hypothesis, even theory, there rightly should be skepticism. Science does not work well without ideas being challenged. In all this the Galileo connection has become lost. Galileo was skeptical of the church sanctioned explanation of orbital mechanics, but he was not merely suspicious. He proposed a better explanation, one that did away with a vast body of specious explanation required to make the Ptolemaic system work. He proposed an alternative, and along with that alternative he proposed a better explanation. This is scientific skepticism, not just idle doubt.

Next, Jim brought God into the matter. He mentioned I am skeptical of God. Moreover, I’m skeptical of God without having to prove my skepticism. To this I take exception. Not only am I skeptical of the existence of God, but I am prepared to present detailed arguments supporting that position. This is not idle doubt. More on that later.

Jim advises me to put my ego aside and coexist. As I mentioned in my follow-up to Jim’s last comment, there is no amount of ego involved in my position. By this I mean, there is no emotional involvement on my part regarding the science behind AGW. What does catch my interest, however, is an abiding respect for the truth. Let’s put this more directly. For example, somebody tells me he believes scientists are all wrong, and the Earth is flat. At the very least I am going to respond, “Excuse me?” I may go so far as to give a big belly laugh. In some cases I might go to the extreme to point out evidence that the Earth is, in fact, not flat. It more closely resembles a ball of matter about 8000 miles in diameter. Yes, I do get emotional when confronted with idle objections to what should be common knowledge.

To wit, the science that backs up the truth about AGW is comprehensive and well exposed for all to see. A 21st century citizen who dismisses all the evidence with a shrug and a comment expressing doubt is going to meet with a challenge from anybody knowing the background. And, the facts be known, that is a job I have given myself, and a task I have been involved with for nearly 30 years. Some history.

Thirty years ago I hooked up with the North Texas Skeptics, a Dallas-based group concerned with the promulgation of astrology, psychic powers, faith healing, creationism, and any number of other factually baseless concepts. It was about this time Jim and I had the conversation with Don Hay, mentioned in my Facebook comment.

Jim and I were working on a missile project for a defense contractor, and Don Hay was recruited from another company. Don was college-educated, a requirement for the job, so it was with surprise that Don advised us he believed in creationism. He announced that he was a devout Christian, and creationism was an integral part of his belief. Part of Don’s belief was that the Earth and the universe were created in six days, as described in the Bible. I inquired of Don whether he had ever visited the Grand Canyon and seen for himself the multitude of exposed layers of the Earth’s crust, giving evidence to an age of millions, if not billions, of years. Don was proud to claim he had never done so, and he never intended to do so. His faith told him all he needed to know, and the matter was settled. It was shortly after that I joined up with the North Texas Skeptics.

Anyhow, at the time, Jim seemed equally as embarrassed by Don’s position as I was. I never then nor have I since heard anything directly from Jim expressing agreement with Don, including a belief in God. I was hoping that a follow-up comment from Jim would clear up that matter. I can discuss my objections to the concept of God better if I know what that concept is supposed to include. Anybody discussing this with me may want to stake out one or more of the following claims:

  • There is an omnipotent being as described in the Bible (Jewish, Christian plus the Quran), said being to be hereafter called God. This God takes a particular interest in the human race.
  • God created the universe as described in Genesis in the Bible.
  • Man (the human race) was created in God’s image.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was the human embodiment of God.
  • God contrived to have Jesus be persecuted and tortured to death in order to absolve the human race of all its past sins.
  • After being killed, Jesus returned from the dead and lived for 40 days before ascending into the sky, never to be seen again.
  • All that is necessary to be a true Christian is to accept that Jesus was the son of God and died for our sins. Those who believe will have everlasting life after death and will dwell in a special place called Heaven. All who do not accept Jesus will be tormented in Hell for eternity after death.

There could be much more, but this will do. Anybody wanting to discuss God at a serious level needs to sign up for one or more of these conjectures. On the other hand, it is not OK for me express my skepticism about God without stating at least some basis for my skepticism. I am willing and will now state my objections to the concept of God.

First allow me to state that I will be unable to prove conclusively that God does not exist. Hopefully I can convince readers that I do not need to prove conclusively that God does not exist. With some effort I can put forth good arguments against the existence of God.

First, regarding lack of conclusive proof that God does not exist. There are any number of untrue things I cannot disprove. Here is one:

Orbiting the sun along the same path as the Earth but on the other side of the sun, is a jade teapot. No, there is not, but I cannot prove there is not. I could prove its nonexistence in principle. I could convince the government to go investigate, and millions of tax dollars could be appropriated, and we could launch a mission to the far side of the sun to have a look-see. Nah, that’s not going to fly. The guy who stands at the gate protecting the national treasure from foolish enterprises is going to say, “You have got to kidding. The United States government has spent money on foolish adventures before, but this one is way off the chart. Not only is there not likely to be a jade teapot on the other side of the sun, in which case this one expensive venture will gain nothing. Besides that, if there is a jade pot on the other side of the sun, we don’t give a fat rat’s ass. Get on out of here.”

Let’s take this a step further. Suppose I postulate there is something else on the other side of the sun besides a jade teapot. Suppose we need to investigate whether there is a compact source of energy that can be brought back to the United States and will supply the entire country’s energy needs for the next hundred years. Now the treasury gate keeper will give a fat rat’s ass. And the answer will still be no. The evidence there is a jade teapot or even a hundred years’ supply of energy is still based on my conjecture and nothing more.

And therein is the tie between the jade teapot and God. The evidence for each is exactly the same—none. Somebody will tell me now that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Well taken. Then why not go after the 100 years’ energy supply? Also, why not make any material investment in belief in God?

At a personal level there is almost no reason not to believe in God, absent any evidence. You can just shake your head and say that you believe in God and then go about your business. The problem comes when belief in God calls for something material. At the entry level this might be taking a day each week out of your life and going to a church to reassert your belief—plus paying to support the church. Beyond that can lie trouble.

What kind of trouble you ask. Here are some examples.

  • William Miller in the 19th century convinced his followers, in excess of 50,000, that Jesus was about to return to Earth, and they should get rid of all their personal wealth and join him to journey into the afterlife with Jesus. This happened a couple of times, and of course Jesus never came, and the people lost all their worldly possessions. An offshoot of Millerism was the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
  • Nineteen, otherwise intelligent, young men believed that killing people in the name of God would result in their obtaining glory in the afterlife. They killed approximately 3000 people, including themselves, in the United States on 11 September 2001.
  • Marshall Applewhite convinced his followers (38) that Jesus was coming for them in a space ship that was following the Hale-Bopp comet. They all packed their bags for the journey and took poison.
  • Vernon Howell took the name David Koresh and convinced his followers the end times were coming. At the conclusion of a standoff with police and federal authorities, his followers killed themselves and their children, a total of 80.
  • It was much the same with Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. This time over 900 died.

There are more. The Blanton family name originated in Normandy in France. They all had to leave on threat of death, because French Catholics were killing all the Protestants. The short story is that there can be bad consequences from believing untrue things. The lesson that should be taken away is when believing in something not well substantiated, invest small.

My previous statement that the evidence for God is nil needs to be backed up. Here is my case, in its briefest form:

The entire case for the existence of God resides in some ancient texts, written at an undetermined time by people not well verified. Nobody has ever seen God, nobody has held a conversation with God, God has never been on television, nor has God testified in court nor served in the armed services. God does not pay taxes. This is the perfect description for a person who does not exist.

Everything said to be attributable to God can be more reasonably explained by natural processes. A ship sinks. Thousands drown. Three survive. This has happened. Was this a miracle attributable to God. No. Each of the survivors told the story of his survival, and each of the stories explain the survivor’s escape in natural terms.

Creationists point to the magnificent universe and the wonder of life. Surely God had a hand in this. People who support creationism claim all this wonder is the work of God. Specifically, it is the work of the God of Abraham. If I were to spot a creationist the point that a supernatural being created all these works, the creationist would still be left with the unsurmountable task of tying this to the God of Abraham and not some other God.

In addition to all of this, the only thing of substance relating to God, the Bible, is demonstrably incorrect at almost every point. The universe was not created in six days. There was no world-wide flood as described in the story of Noah. The story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt is false, since the Hebrews never were in Egypt. This and numerous other points the Bible gets wrong. And somebody is supposed to believe the unbelievable based on the word of the Bible?

I have run on at length (Jim was right on this point) in response to Jim’s most recent comment. Hopefully this dispels the notion of my skepticism about God without the need to back up my skepticism. If doubt remains I am able to run on at ten times this length.

Regarding AGW and “You’re not going to convince anyone,” I am definitely not going to convince anybody who rejects the science out of hand and will not provide evidence for their position nor accept evidence of AGW. A substantive discussion will involve all parties involved providing evidence to support their position. I invite Jim, Luis, and all others willing to discuss the matter to join in. I offer my blog site as a medium for exchanging ideas. This post has a provision for appending lengthy comments. Please use that space and get the conversation going.

Best to all reading this.

Update

It’s been three days since I posted this, and Jim has not gotten back with additional responses. I will presume there are not going to be any. Continuations on this theme will resume with a new post.

Anthropogenic Global Warming

This is being reposted from The North Texas Skeptics.

The NTS program presentation for today is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

  • 2:00 p.m.
  • Center for Community Cooperation
  • 2900 Live Oak Street
  • Dallas, Texas

Some members will be participating by Skype. To join the discussion on Skype connect to prasadgolla75075.

A PDF copy of the presentation is on-line here.