Archive for the ‘science’ Category

California colors

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

I follow the Real Science blog. The pseudonymous author, “Steven Goddard”, is skeptical, abrasive, iconoclastic, environmentally savvy, and thinks like the engineer he is. A couple of recent posts got me thinking about a state I lived in for a while and most recently visited last year.

I’ve long had mixed feelings about California. It is both a place of astonishing natural beauty and a monument to the hubris of its residents. Messing with Mother Nature has been a way of life for Californians for a hundred years. They seem to honestly believe that there is no feature of the natural world they can’t overcome with enough other peoples’ money, technology, and willful blindness. But at what cost?

Condors and the early days of the Sierra Club aside, California has long been a center of environmental destruction in the U.S. Most of the state is semi-arid, a region where droughts and wildfires have always been common. Yet recent droughts (severe but far from record-breaking) have been trotted out in support of the global warming hoax.

It’s silly to look at the myth of global warming to find the ongoing effects of human activity on the environment. Just look at what humans have done – and continue to do – to transform California into the "golden state". And for all this destruction, they pride themselves on being "green".

Well, yes; gold and green are the colors of money.

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What do educated evangelicals know?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Chuck Queen is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky and author of Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith. He posted an opinion piece entitled “It’s time for evangelicals to come out for evolution” on the ABPnews/Herald (Baptist news) web site. He decries the fact that “76 percent of evangelicals doubt that life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection” and thinks it’s time for evangelicals to get with Darwin’s program. And it’s up to the educated ones to take the lead in transforming the great unwashed masses of presumably uneducated evangelicals:

Educated evangelicals know that the creation stories were never intended to be history lessons or science reports, because the Bible is not a history or science book.

Educated evangelicals also know:

• That evangelical Christians need not fear or deny the enormous amount of scientific data supporting evolution.

• That the story of evolution and the biblical story are not mutually exclusive.

• That a healthy faith welcomes and is informed by science.

As an educated evangelical myself, I thought to challenge Pastor Queen’s assumptions about what we know. I preserved our dialog and present it here. (Notes: My last comment was not published before all comments disappeared from the page. I have inserted a link and added a little formatting that was not possible in the original online conversation.)

Grumpy: "Educated evangelicals" also know that Darwinian evolution is a theory that has some explanatory power but is unable to explain some phenomena, such as the Cambrian Explosion. And educated evangelicals know that no form of neo-Darwinism (natural selection operating on random mutations) has ever been observed in nature or demonstrated in the laboratory. Educated evangelicals also know that such evolutionary staples as junk DNA have been debunked by ENCODE and other studies. And educated evangelicals know that evidence for evolution is so shaky that its promoters have had to come up with such outright propaganda as staged photographs of peppered moths and Haeckel’s phony drawings of embryos. Finally, educated evangelicals know that there is no settled science and that claims that there is are made by people whose livelihoods, philosophical views, tenure, or government grants require propagating the myth that evolution is, to use your word, "truth". Yes, definitely a truth that evangelicals should "come out for".

Pastor Queen: I know . . . I shouldn’t have used the term "educated evangelicals" because it sounds condescending. Sorry about that. Should have used the phrase "evangelical university and seminary professors." I stand by my claim that if the truth were told many, if not most, evangelical university and seminary professors hold to some form of evolution. All of us see God engaged in the process. Exactly how is the great mystery of divine oversight and creaturely freedom. And I stand by my claim that they know that the Genesis stories as "religious myths" contain much truth, though the truth is not factual or historical.

G: Thanks for the reply and the clarification. IMHO, it all depends on what you do with the first five words in the Bible. They aren’t "In the beginning, God engaged …". They are "In the beginning, God created …. " If those five words aren’t a "myth", then God created. He didn’t "engage in the process"; he was the process. If the first five words contain any falsehood, then there’s no reason to accept the rest of them. Ultimately we’re left with what the extra-Biblical sources confirm about the historical Jesus – he was a moral teacher who did some parlor tricks (essentially what the Jesus Seminar would have us believe). In similar fashion, you seem to be suggesting that we limit our understanding of God’s role in the creation of all things to what can be confirmed by extra-Biblical sources masquerading as science.

Let me state unequivocally that I’m no fan of "creation science"; it’s nothing more or less than the flip side of "evolution science". They both start from an a priori assumption (a statement of faith, if you will) and conform their results to that assumption. The former assumes a literal interpretation of Genesis while the latter assumes philosophical naturalism. Neither assertion can be confirmed by science and so both subvert the open-ended inductive reasoning that is at the heart of real science. More than one neo-Darwinist has claimed that his/her explanation must be correct because "evolution is true". That is pure religious dogma, not science. It is the logical equivalent to Ken Ham saying his explanation must be correct because "the Bible, literally interpreted, is true".

On a final note, I just retired from teaching in the Purdue University School of Technology. I am indeed an educated evangelical who is not fooled by the propaganda flowing from the multi-billion-dollar evolution industry.

PQ: Surprised that you take such an either/or, binary view of the Genesis story. You well know life doesn’t work that way. We shouldn’t expect God to.

G: Life/death; sheep/goats; good/evil; obedience/sin; banquet/darkness; wheat/tares; wide way/narrow way; these seem pretty binary to me. No, I don’t expect God to work like his creation does. If you take "created" to mean "engaged in the process" in Genesis, you might as well take Jesus "died" to mean Jesus "fainted". Acceptance of random mutation/natural selection (which is what evolutionists mean by "evolution") is a way point on that slippery slope.

Concluding thoughts

My problem with Pastor Queen’s enthusiastic support of evolution (as explained today – the explanation shifts to accommodate observed reality; see e.g.horizontal gene transfer”) is the words “random” and “natural”. “Random mutation” is mutation that is accidental and undirected – meaning it could not possibly have been directed by God. “Natural selection” is selection that occurs through a purely naturalistic process (e.g. “survival of the fittest”) – meaning God could not possibly have supernaturally intervened to produce a species he desired. The “theistic evolution” Pastor Queen espouses is logical nonsense, an oxymoron.

Ultimately, Pastor Queen is advocating a worldview that is commonly known, not as Christianity (theism), but as atheism. This seems a strange enterprise for a Christian pastor. Perhaps, as he composed the perfect title for his piece, he carefully considered the meaning of the phrase “to come out”. But to come out of the closet of philosophical naturalism – as Pastor Queen seems to have done – one must be in the closet to begin with. I doubt that most “educated evangelicals” are in that particular closet. Progressive “Christians”, yes, but not evangelicals, educated or otherwise.

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The global-warming hoax on trial

Friday, June 11th, 2010

A review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change. [emphasis added]

Jason Johnston is Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law and Director, Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He holds JD and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan. From these and other facts, I conclude that (a) he is not a dummy, (b) he is trained in the examination and evaluation of both written testimony and physical evidence, and (c) he knows something about the relationship between the environment industry and the fields of law and economics (his PhD is in economics). He is the author of “Global Warming Advocacy Science: a Cross Examination” (which can be downloaded for free here).

The cross-examination conducted in this paper reveals many additional areas where the peer-edited literature seems to conflict with the picture painted by establishment climate science, ranging from the magnitude of 20th century surface temperature increases and their relation to past temperatures; the possibility that inherent variability in the earth’s non-linear climate system, and not increases in CO2, may explain observed late 20th century warming; the ability of climate models to actually explain past temperatures; and, finally, substantial doubt about the methodological validity of models used to make highly publicized predictions of global warming impacts such as species loss.[emphasis added]

Consensus Science

At the heart of the hoax is the phony assertion that there is a “consensus” among scientists that anthropogenic global warming is an undeniable “fact”:

In recent Congressional hearings, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts stated that not a single peer-reviewed scientific paper contradicts the “consensus” view that increasing greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a “catastrophic” two degree Celsius increase in global mean temperatures. Senator Kerry is hardly alone in this belief. Virtually all environmental law scholars seem to believe that there is now a “scientific consensus” that anthropogenic greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions have caused late twentieth century global warming and that if dramatic steps are not immediately taken to reduce those emissions, then the warming trend will continue, with catastrophic consequences for the world. [emphasis added]

If ever there was ever a red flag in any discussion of science, the word consensus is it. The late author Michael Crichton warned of this sort of anti-science in a speech at Cal Tech in 2003.

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had. [emphasis added] [The text of this speech seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the “official” Crichton site. I’m just sayin’.]

With politicians like Kerry, it’s hard to know if he is just ignorant or willfully lying in order to promote Obama’s Marxist agenda, but Johnston cites dozens of peer-reviewed papers in the course of his cross-examination of the hoaxers.

It is virtually impossible to find anywhere in the legal or the policy literature on global warming anything like a sustained discussion of the actual state of the scientific literature on ghg emissions and climate change. Instead, legal and policy scholars simply defer to a very general statement of the climate establishment’s opinion (except when it seems too conservative), generally failing even to mention work questioning the establishment climate story, unless to dismiss it with the ad hominem argument that such work is the product of untrustworthy, industry-funded “skeptics” and “deniers.”

The danger to America is that, since

the most significant ghg emission reduction policies are intended to completely alter the basic fuel sources upon which industrial economies and societies are based, with the costs uncertain but potentially in the many trillions of dollars, one would suppose that before such policies are undertaken, it would be worthwhile to verify that the climate establishment’s view really does reflect an unbiased and objective assessment of the current state of climate science.

But the leaders to which we have entrusted our economic and political future are not interested. Al Gore, Congress, White House advisors, and the UN’s fraudulent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are focused on destroying America’s free-market economy. Real science can only get in their way, so they evangelize us with their brand of true religion – unquestioning faith in “consensus science” and an inquisition for the “untrustworthy, industry-funded ‘skeptics’ and ‘deniers’”.

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Must Watch TV: "Hide the Decline"

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Some interesting videos discussing the fabrication of “global warming” data and efforts to stifle opponents. The videos describe what happens when scientists becomes prostitutes to political objectives.

Al Gore’s “inconvenient falsehoods”

Learn more at Climate Depot.

Emails reveal efforts to promote “global warming”
fiction and punish dissidents

The corrupt peer review process
behind “global warming”

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Why do they call me an IDiot?

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I’ve been having a lively discussion on a “science blog” (“Dispatches from the culture wars“) about Intelligent Design (ID) and the nature of Darwinism. In the discussion, I noticed a new term, “IDiot”. The term is used to imply that anyone who defends ID is an idiot. This is fairly typical of a large segment of people who continue to defend Darwin. I suppose those who persisted in defending a flat Earth in the face of mounting evidence of the planet’s roundness had a similarly snarky attitude and for the same reason. (To be fair, no one in the discussion referred to me specifically as an IDiot.)

Anyway, in the discussion, I mentioned a brief filed in the case of Edwards v. Aquillard in which the Supreme Court ordered (correctly, in my opinion) that Biblical Creationism could not be taught alongside evolution in public schools. Despite what both the Darwinists and Creation Scientists would like you to believe, ID is not stealth creationism. It’s a valid scientific hypothesis that continues to gain traction in the secular scientific community despite decidedly non-scientific attempts to suppress it.

One of those in the debate asked me “of all the cases you could’ve brought up, why in the Intelligent Designer’s name did you pick Edwards v. Aguillard?” I replied that I brought it up because there is something much greater than specific biological questions at stake. According to the brief,

Science is devoted to formulating and testing naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. It is a process for systematically collecting and recording data about the physical world, then categorizing and studying the collected data in an effort to infer the principles of nature that best explain the observed phenomena. Science is not equipped to evaluate supernatural explanations for our observations….

Science seeks only naturalistic explanations. Sounds reasonable, but it isn’t. The a priori assumption is that a naturalistic explanation exists for every natural phenomenon (i.e. observed event in the “physical world”). If evidence points to a supernatural cause, science won’t bow out of the investigation but will continue to pursue (and promote) a naturalistic one – whether one exists or not. (The state of modern science is such that any crummy naturalistic explanation is better than admitting the possibility of a supernatural one.)

Now you might claim that these scientists just made a simple statement of fact because “natural” (phenomena) is identical in meaning to “naturalistic” (explanations). If that were the case, however, the statement would be tacitly acknowledging the possibility of non-natural phenomena that might also be observed in the physical world (otherwise, why qualify it?). The original statement could then be recast as something like “science looks for naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena but does not look for non-naturalistic explanations for non-natural phenomena”.

But that would introduce the fundamental problem of categorization – how could science, without determining all of their causes, possibly separate the non-natural phenomena from the natural ones and study only those? The inability to categorize the observed phenomena would leave science with no legitimate areas of inquiry. That position would obviously be untenable, so the signatories to this brief did the best they could; they punted.

More specifically, they created the (possibly false) impression that any phenomenon that occurs in the physical world is both “natural” and subject to a “naturalistic explanation”. But there’s that sneaky a priori assumption again – based only on philosophy, not science. The assumption is neither verifiable nor falsifiable. And it’s not falsifiable because science specifically declares that any effort to falsify it is outside the bounds of science! Neat.

The brief also claims that “without passing judgment on the truth or falsity of supernatural explanations, science leaves their consideration to the domain of religious faith.” But of course it doesn’t. Whether it’s rooted in petulant hatred of God and his followers (atheist stooge Richard Dawkins) or simple hubris, many scientists do indeed pass such judgments. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of epistemology (the philosophical study of what knowledge is and how we get it) knows that there are ways of knowing other than the scientific method (and a seriously compromised one at that). When scientists become amateur philosophers and operate on the ridiculous assumption that theirs is the only way of knowing, their credibility suffers.

There’s a reason the public does not trust science as it once did. Arrogant scientists will look outward and blame it on public stupidity, Walmart, and talk radio. Smart scientists will look inward to see if they’ve overstepped their bounds, particularly their own. Science has been defined by a majority of its practitioners (by no means unanimously) as an endeavor that by definition must always reject ID and must always support a naturalistic explanation even if it is repeatedly shown to be fatally flawed and barely credible.

Why would anyone – whether they have confidence in other ways of knowing or not – trust such an enterprise?

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ACLU Follies: Kansas Board of Education gets it right

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

The Kansas Board of Education has adopted new standards for science education that will allow teachers and textbooks to finally acknowledge scientific challenges to Darwin’s theory of evolution – no religious challenges, just scientific ones. The ACLU really doesn’t want you to know that.

Like many journalists, John Hanna of the Associated Press followed the ACLU party line in reporting the story. The ACLU has manufactured a definition of Intelligent Design theory (ID) that suits its decidedly un-Civil purposes. The ACLU calls it “a pseudoscientific set of beliefs based on the notion that life on earth is so complex that it cannot be explained by the scientific theory of evolution and therefore must have been designed by a supernatural entity.”

The irony here is that this definition is a point of agreement between the ACLU and its bitter enemies, the “creation scientists”, who would like to see in ID a validation of their scientific claims. Creation scientists start from a more-or-less literal reading of the creation story in Genesis and conform their findings to that principle – a process called deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is a requirement for religion and useful for math and philosophy, but it is the opposite of science.

“Real” science

Intelligent Design theory is not a “set of beliefs” nor is it based on any “notion” about the complexity of life. It is a valid theory arrived at independently by scores of “real” scientists at “real” universities conducting “real” research in a variety of “real” scientific disciplines. ID is the product of open-ended scientific inquiry – a process called inductive reasoning that lies at the heart of the scientific method. Commenting on the ACLU’s attack on a similar rule in nearby Dover, Delaware, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Casey Luskin (who opposes rules that require public schools to teach ID) had this to say about ID:

It is no secret that intelligent design is a fairly young scientific theory, currently supported by a minority of scientists. But it is being debated by the scientific community. In the last year, three research articles have been published in mainstream scientific journals supporting design theory. In the last five years, three high-profile academic publishers – including Cambridge University and MIT Press – have published volumes with scholarly articles both pro and con debating the scientific merits of intelligent design.

Although the ACLU is not an organization I have much respect for, I will grant that they probably are smart enough to understand the merits of ID as well the academic publishers at Cambridge and MIT. Perhaps it is their legal training that keeps them from seeing how closely their straw man definition of ID resembles an outright lie.

Another irony

Many evolutionary scientists have created their own holy book that lays out the principles to which they must conform their findings. That book, of course, is The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Such conformity is the product of deductive, not inductive, reasoning. In fact, the only real difference between evolutionists and creationists is the book upon which they pin their hopes.

When we consider how the Roman Church responded to Galileo – a scientist who produced evidence that contradicted the Church’s scientific orthodoxy, we see a precursor to the modern reply to ID. The Church lost sight of its foundation by confusing its authoritative guide to faith and practice – the Bible – with a scientific textbook. Likewise, the 21st century scientific establishment has lost sight of its foundation by confusing inductive methods with deductive ones and has reacted in a way similar to the Church – with fear and an all-out campaign to suppress the evidence.

In the end, of course, Galileo and science won out. The Church is stronger for it because it has acknowledged its error and moved away from reliance on the Bible as an authoritative source of scientific information (a claim not found anywhere in the Bible itself). Similarly, ID may win out simply because it is a more viable explanation for some phenomena. If it does, science will be stronger for it, having been forced to return to its misplaced roots in inductive reasoning and the open-ended quest for knowledge that identifies real science.

In the meantime, it is a matter to be settled by open-minded scientists, not by religious leaders and not by ACLU lawyers.

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