Quiz Question

Number 239 of a series

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

Update and Solution

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

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

Quiz Question

Number 233 of a series

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

Update and Answer

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

Abusing Science

Number 45 of a series

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

Physics, Philosophy, and Free Will

by  | Aug 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Emphasis added]

Abusing Science

Number 44 of a series

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

The climate for change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t make this stuff up.

Number 15 of the series


Thanks to the world’s creationists I don’t have to make a bunch of stuff up. When it comes to making stuff up, these people stand head and shoulders above your average fool and liar. Take the example of Minnesota school board chairwoman Sue Kern. This from DeadState:

MN public school board chairwoman: Evolution is outdated because ‘it was discovered in the 1800s’

Before this goes any further I need to tip my hat to the creationists on this one. I mean, this evolution stuff was invented in the 19th century, and that was back when people didn’t know nothing, so why are we still using it and not replacing it with some 20th century (21st century?) concepts? I’m telling you this. After reading that bit of wisdom I immediately threw over all pre-conceived notions I had about human origins and wrapped myself around the truth of creations. Well, not so fast.

Then I remembered Benjamin Franklin formulated a concept of what electricity is back in the 18th century, and we are still using it. And it’s already the 21st century. Wait, some more. I realized the concept of creationism was laid out back in the negative 9th century, so it is long due for an overhaul. Maybe Kern needs to rethink her argument. Not going to happen.

“Never been proven.” Amazing! Let’s look at some other things that have never been proven:

  • Somebody created everything about 6022 years ago in a record-breaking six days.
  • Somebody got pissed off at the human species and flooded the entire planet, killing everybody except for a family of eight. All the animals, too.
  • A guy got crossways with the Roman government about 2000 years ago, and they strung him up to bleed to death and then took the body down after which the guy’s body was stuck into a cave from which the guy extricated himself and walked and talked among others for 40 days before launching himself into outer space. Not an ounce of proof has ever been offered.

Anyhow, Kern needs to wise up and get a grip on what is common practice with proving things. I recall rule number one is don’t go around making stuff up.

Abusing Science

Number 43 of a series

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

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

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

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

You have two choices.

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

I forgot. There is a third alternative.

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

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

The Daily Signal <morningbell@heritage.org>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quiz Question

Number 229 of a series

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

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

Update and Solution

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

Abusing Science

Number 41 of a series

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

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

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

October 9, 2019, 5:00 AM

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

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

The Irony, Please?

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

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

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

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

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

Bat Shit Crazy

Number 14 in a Series

There is crazy, and there is bat shit crazy. Take, for example, former candidate for president Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Michele Marie Bachmann ( née Amble; born April 6, 1956) is an American politician and a member of the Republican Party. She represented Minnesota’s 6th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2015. The district includes St. Cloud and several of the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities.

Get past, for a moment, her being a member of the Tea Party movement and a founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, Bachmann brings bat shit crazy to a new level.

Bachmann: Climate Change Is A Hoax Because God Promised No More Floods

Former Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann appeared on Jan Markell’s “Understanding The Times” radio program last weekend, where she urged pastors to start preaching the “truth” from their pulpits that climate change represents no threat to humanity because God said in the Bible, after Noah’s flood, that he would never again destroy the world with water.

Bachmann said that in her capacity as “pastor to the United Nations,” she has met with dozens of ambassadors “and every single one of them talk[s] about climate change.”

“I would encourage pastors to start preaching on this issue of climate change and God’s view of climate change,” Bachmann said. “The very covenant was established by God and Noah. And that covenant was that sin was so gross in the world that God had to bring about judgment, and then he had to bring about salvation, and from there came Abraham. God put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant and he said very clearly to the entire world, ‘Never again will there be judgment, never again will the world be flooded.’”

“You can take it to the bank, that’s God’s word,” she added. “And what is it these frauds tells us with climate change? That the world’s going to be flooded. Isn’t it interesting they’re saying it’s going to be another catastrophe, it’s flooding, we’re going to be flooded? God says we will never be flooded.”

Just so we have it straight:

  • There is a magical person in the sky.
  • This person flooded out the entire world, killing all but eight people a few thousand years ago.
  • This person said it wouldn’t happen again.
  • The science behind global warming is a hoax.

Yes, that about wraps it up. This is what we call “bat shit crazy chrome plated.”

Abusing Science

Number 40 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

The media elevates these idiots.

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

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

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

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

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

Gutfeld invokes hyperbole:

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

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

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

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

Gutfeld concludes:

The media won’t see it that way.

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

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

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

Abusing Science

Number 39 of a series

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

Connecticut’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’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’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.

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

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

Board retains Moses in Texas social studies curriculum

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

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

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

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

20 And God spake all these words, saying,

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

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

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

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

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

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

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abusing Science

Number 38 of a series

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

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

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

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

Paul Snover

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

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

Thanks –Dan Asmussen

…and great funny cartoon by Tina Toon—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s see what followed from that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abusing Science

Number 37 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?


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 35 of a series Sea-level curve for Sydney Harbour (Port Denison) since 1940, with fitted polynomial curve of decelerating nature. Adapted from Watson, P.J. 2011. Is there evidence yet of acceleration in mean sea-level rise around mainland Australia? Journal of Coastal Research 27 : 368–377

Here’s how it works, fairly often. An exchange on Facebook:

Initial post (1): Sanders wants to make steel without use of fossil fuels. Hes a modern alchemist. Fascinating.

A response from me: Life would go on just fine if every coal mine were shut down. The age of coal is coming to an end. Details on request.

Followup response from me: I have a degree in physics, and I have studied chemistry. You can make steel without using fossil fuels. No magic is involved. Details on request.

Response from (1): John Blanton not at scale or economically. But that never matters to futurists or idelogical driven thinkers in any time. Just the dream not the practical

Response from me: I believe the original statement was calling Sanders an alchemist. Is it time to revise that statement?

Response from (2): Just rearrange the letters. Asshole. (If democrats can do it, so can I.}

Response from (1): John Blanton no. Because its not practical. Practical matters.

Response from me:  So, what is practical? An increase in the cost of producing steel or the cost to mitigate the effect of rising sea levels? My offer to provide details still stands. Any takers?

Response from (3):

And there you have it. A discussion regarding what is real and what is not devolves into the posting of an Internet meme with no explanation tendered. What (3) should have done was to pull up some research into the matter and to post excerpts and links to that. Such response being not forthcoming, I will do some of it myself.

An item that popped up close to the top of my Google search is this. See the graph above:

Key Findings The Hydrosphere • Little evidence exists for an overall increase in global precipitation during the twentieth century independent of natural multidecadal climate rhythmicity. • Monsoon precipitation did not become more variable or intense during late twentieth century warming; instead, precipitation responded mostly to variations in solar activity. • South American and Asian monsoons were more active during the cold Little Ice Age and less active during the Medieval Warm Period. Neither global nor local changes in streamflow have been linked to CO2 emissions. • The relationship between drought and global warming is weak, since severe droughts occurred during both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. • Knowledge of local sea-level change is vital for coastal management; such change occurs at widelyvariable rates around the world, typically between about +5 and -5 mm/year. • Global (eustatic) sea level, knowledge of which has only limited use for coastal management, rose at an average rate of between 1 and 2 mm/year over the past century. • Satellite altimeter studies of sea-level change indicate rates of global rise since 1993 of over 3 mm/year, but complexities of processing and the infancy of the method precludes viewing this result as secure. • Rates of global sea-level change vary in decadal and multidecadal ways and show neither recent acceleration nor any simple relationship with increasing CO2 emissions. • Pacific coral atolls are not being drowned by extra sea-level rise; rather, atoll shorelines are affected by direct weather and infrequent high tide events, ENSO sea level variations, and impacts of increasing human populations. • Extra sea-level rise due to heat expansion (thermosteric rise) is also unlikely given that the Argo buoy network shows no significant ocean warming over the past 9 years.

The article’s abstract contrasts with the lead graphic, which shows a sea level rise at Fort Denison. My search discloses numerous publications concerning sea level rise, or lack of it, at Sydney Harbor. One would think global warming is not contributing to sea level rise. One would think global warming does not exist. One would think global warming is not attributable to human activity. One would be at variance with a vast body of observation.

Greenland’s ice is melting at the rate scientists thought would be our worst-case scenario in 2070

Whether the United States purchases Greenland from Denmark or not, there is still a great gob of ice sitting the planet’s largest island. The following are statements of fact, something often lacking in Facebook exchanges.

Greenland’s ice is melting six times faster now than it was four decades ago.

The authors of a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimate that the Greenland ice sheet is now sloughing off an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year. In 2012, Greenland lost more than 400 billion tons of ice.

Two decades ago, the annual average was just 50 billion.

All that lost ice means Greenland’s melting has contributed to more than 0.5 inches of global sea-level rise since 1972, the researchers reported. Alarmingly, half of that increase came about in the last eight years alone.

An additional statement of fact:

Ice sheets contain enormous quantities of frozen water. If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, scientists estimate that sea level would rise about 6 meters (20 feet). If the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet).

These facts can be disputed, and it is incumbent on people arguing the point to come back with facts. Respondent (3) posted a meme created by somebody else—not a way to convince anybody who is serious about the issue. To repudiate the assertion that CO2 emissions are economically damaging, somebody will need to put forth some numbers.

My question, as posted, was whether it is more practical to continue current CO2 emission rates and to pay the cost of mitigation. Would somebody like to comment on the cost of mitigating a 20-foot sea level rise? A 200-foot sea level rise? Get back to me with your numbers.

Abusing Science

Number 32 of a series

The propaganda campaign against naturalistic explanations continues relentlessly from the Discovery Institute. David Klinghoffer has been getting a lot of air time on their Evolution News Web site. Here is something recent:

On the Origin of Life, Science Uprising Helps Break a Poisonous Spell

If you follow the news, you’ve seen countless headlines like this: “Amazing Discovery May Hold Key to Origins of Life,” “Found: The Origin of Life,” “Scientists May Have Found the Chemical Compound That Started Life,” and on and on. Michael Egnor wrote about just such a story here yesterday.

The origin of life is the deepest mystery imaginable and it sounds like scientists have it all figured out. Or just about. The new episode of Science Uprising, “Origin of Life: Intelligence Required,” firebombs that persistent and influential myth, advanced by scientists themselves and their media helpers. It does so in just seven devastating minutes.

“We See the Human Soul”

It’s crucial to materialism to believe that blind, natural processes alone could have blundered about and generated life from dumb chemical predecessors. Whether it happened on our planet or another, all the wonders of the first living cell must have come into existence with no need for intelligent design. Any hint to the contrary threatens to topple a whole of way of thinking about human beings and about all life, that denies any reality beyond the material. “We are not materialists,” says the masked narrator of Episode 5, “We see the human soul”:

There follows a video.
Getting past Klinghoffer’s prologue, we get around to discussing the human soul. Some discussion is in order.

Science is a human endeavor to obtain knowledge by studying things. Science is generally considered to concern itself with material things, but that is a shortsighted assumption. There are non-material things that need studying, and the scientific approach applies to them. Things that are not material would include politics and economics. Things that are not material and not subject to scientific study would include the concepts of beauty, love, mathematics, and grammar. Although the human concepts of beauty and love can be studied through the science of psychology, it is the manifestation that is studied, not the thing. Mathematics and grammar are not subject to scientific study, first because mathematics is a human creation, today defined by a handful of axioms and possessing no additional  information content, and grammar is a human creation that is subject to the whims of people, floating with passing time, and not something ripe for scientific study.

The soul is a human contrivance and is not a physical thing. To argue that the souls exists as an entity that can be studied scientifically is fruitless, since the soul means whatever an individual decides it is. There is nothing to study.

But getting to Klinghoffer’s pitch: any evidence that life did not come about by natural processes would be devastating to our way of thinking about the natural world. The problem is, Discovery Institute propaganda advocating supernatural origins is just that. Words and no evidence.
When the Intelligent Design people decide to cut loose from these specious arguments, we can begin to take them seriously. Not before.

Abusing Science

Number 30 of a series

There is no way I’m going to run out of material for this column as long as there are creationists around. They take abuse of science to an industrial scale. Needlessly, there are others stepping forward to add their contribution. One of these calls themselves Open Sciences.

OpenSciences.org is a portal for open-minded scientific investigations that go beyond the dogmas dominating so much of science today. The main areas covered include consciousness studies, alternative energy sources, integrative medicine and healing, post-materialist approaches to science and new aspects of cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology. The website includes selected videos, books, journals and links to the websites of open-minded scientific researchers and organisations, as well as a growing number of articles on open questions in science.

The website is a project of the Campaign for Open Science, launched in 2014, with special thanks to James Velghe for his generous support. Sebastian Penraeth is Editorial Director.

What is interesting is to read their recently-published manifesto. Here is an excerpt:

We are a group of internationally known scientists, from a variety of scientific fields (biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, psychiatry), who participated in an international summit on post-materialist science, spirituality and society. The summit was co-organized by Gary E. Schwartz, PhD and Mario Beauregard, PhD, the University of Arizona, and Lisa Miller, PhD, Columbia University. This summit was held at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, on February 7-9, 2014. Our purpose was to discuss the impact of the materialist ideology on science and the emergence of a post-materialist paradigm for science, spirituality, and society. We have come to the following conclusions:

1. The modern scientific worldview is predominantly predicated on assumptions that are closely associated with classical physics. Materialism—the idea that matter is the only reality—is one of these assumptions. A related assumption is reductionism, the notion that complex things can be understood by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things such as tiny material particles.

2. During the 19th century, these assumptions narrowed, turned into dogmas, and coalesced into an ideological belief system that came to be known as “scientific materialism.” This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts cannot have any effect upon our brains and bodies, our actions, and the physical world.

3. The ideology of scientific materialism became dominant in academia during the 20th century. So dominant that a majority of scientists started to believe that it was based on established empirical evidence, and represented the only rational view of the world.

4. Scientific methods based upon materialistic philosophy have been highly successful in not only increasing our understanding of nature but also in bringing greater control and freedom through advances in technology.

5. However, the nearly absolute dominance of materialism in the academic world has seriously constricted the sciences and hampered the development of the scientific study of mind and spirituality. Faith in this ideology, as an exclusive explanatory framework for reality, has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.

6. Science is first and foremost a non-dogmatic, open-minded method of acquiring knowledge about nature through the observation, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Its methodology is not synonymous with materialism and should not be committed to any particular beliefs, dogmas, or ideologies.

7. At the end of the nineteenth century, physicists discovered empirical phenomena that could not be explained by classical physics. This led to the development, during the 1920s and early 1930s, of a revolutionary new branch of physics called quantum mechanics (QM). QM has questioned the material foundations of the world by showing that atoms and subatomic particles are not really solid objects—they do not exist with certainty at definite spatial locations and definite times. Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. According to one interpretation of QM, this phenomenon implies that the consciousness of the observer is vital to the existence of the physical events being observed, and that mental events can affect the physical world. The results of recent experiments support this interpretation. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.

There are a total of 18 position statements in the manifesto, but these will do for some Skeptical Analysis. Start by examining the backgrounds of the scientists listed above. All of them have legitimate degrees, but there work tends toward physiology and psychology, especially neuroscience. Note these are worthwhile fields of science, but additional note should be taken. There are no chemists, physicists, paleontologists, geologists, etc., among the group. Forgive me the opinion that psychology is a spongy science. Now for the separate items.

Start with number 1, containing the phrase, “Materialism—the idea that matter is the only reality.” This is not a strictly an accurate description of materialism. Materialism includes, besides matter, time and space. Notice I did not list light and energy, since these are accepted as manifestations of matter. If Open Sciences is going to kick off their manifesto with a confused description of materialism, some subsequent improvement will be required.

Number 2. “This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts cannot have any effect upon our brains and bodies, our actions, and the physical world.” Correctly stated, “This belief system implies that the mind is nothing but the physical activity of the brain, and that our thoughts interact with the physical world through our body under control of the brain.” Even this is not quite complete. The brain may not be the sole repository of the mind. The brain is apparently a central junction of neural activity occurring throughout the body. Some activity (reflex actions) does not require participation of the brain.

Where does this line of reasoning lead? That brings up item 5, saying the materialistic approach “has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.” This is true on the face of it. Science typically does not get involved in such matters as art appreciation and color preference. However, the real science of psychology may be employed to make such studies.

What finally clinches it is item 7, particularly this, with the pertinent text in bold:

Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. According to one interpretation of QM, this phenomenon implies that the consciousness of the observer is vital to the existence of the physical events being observed, and that mental events can affect the physical world. The results of recent experiments support this interpretation. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.

And this is flat wrong. The basic principles of quantum mechanics do not in any way invoke the mind. While it is true that measurement of an event can affect the system under study, it is a mistake to conclude a mental process is required. It is the act of measuring, the interaction of the system under examination with the measurement process that has the effect, not the act of the experimenter observing the reading.

The authors of the manifesto have a basic misunderstanding of that which they oppose, physical science. Attacking science through ignorance is never a good idea.

Abusing Science

Number 27 of a series

The above image is from an item posted to the Evolution 2.0 site. The page title is “Information Theory and the Trinity.”

Information Theory and the Trinity

Here is a transcription of the Facebook post.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb September 21, 2014

INFORMATION THEORY is the new central discipline. This graph was from 20y ago in the seminal book Cover and Thomas, as the field was starting to be defined. Now Information Theory has been expanded to swallow even more fields.

Born in, of all disciplines, Electrical Engineering, the field has progressively infiltrating probability theory, computer science, statistical physics, data science, gambling theory, ruin problems, complexity, even how one deals with knowledge, epistemology. It defines noise/signal, order/disorder, etc. It studies cellular automata. You can use it in theology (FREE WILL & algorithmic complexity). As I said, it is the MOTHER discipline.

I am certain much of Medicine will naturally grow to be a subset of it, both operationally, and in studying how the human body works: the latter is an information machine. Same with linguistics. Same with political “science”, same with… everything.

I am saying this because I figured out what the long 5th volume of the INCERTO will be. Cannot say now with any precision but it has to do with a variant of entropy as the core natural generator of Antifragility. [Revised to explain that it is not *replacing* other disciplines, just infiltrating them as the point was initially misunderstood…]

And that’s something to digest. You need to read the item, but here is the gist:

All communication systems that we know the origin of are designed. This suggests that consciousness comes first in the universe. Consciousness first, matter second. Not the other way around. (If anyone solves the Evolution 2.0 Prize, and I hope they do, they’ll solve it by starting with consciousness and working from there. My 2 cents.)

You cannot create messages or communication by blind material processes, so far as anyone knows thus far. Information always starts with consciousness. Which is the thesis of my Evolution 2.0 book.

What he is saying—see the diagram above—is that we marvel at the employment of DNA to encode and reproduce life forms, but DNA is merely the telephone line in a communication system. To explain the origin of the message (the structure of novel life forms) you need to invoke outside intelligence.

Perry Marshall is the author of the book and presumably the posting. He wants to stretch the analogy of an information transmission system into the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is a stretch too far.