Intolerance Grows for Skeptics of Consensus Science in Spite of Data
If you question evolution or man-caused global warming, be prepared for a smear. If you are a Christian, be prepared for hate. But the skeptics may have the facts on their side.
Bill Nye was at it again (see 8/26/2012), smearing creationists on MSNBC.com, arguing (again) that U.S. science is threatened by those who don’t embrace evolution. He targeted Bible-believing Christians in particular. According to AP reporter Dylan Lovan, “The man known to a generation of Americans as ‘The Science Guy’ is condemning efforts by some Christian groups to cast doubts on evolution and lawmakers who want to bring the Bible into science classrooms.” No examples were cited: only the vague fear that “Nye, 56, also decried efforts in recent years by lawmakers and school boards in some states to present Bible stories as an alternative to evolution in public schools.” Aside from the fact that academic freedom laws try to allow scientific criticisms of Darwin in science class, not the Bible, the article refers to Christian as believers in the Genesis account, ignoring the fact that many Jews and Muslims do also. While strongly urging Christians to “question your beliefs,” Bill Nye appears unready to question his own. In a photo, Nye is shown shaking hands with President Obama. Some of the comments after the article are filled with unmitigated vitriol against creationists.
Live Science took aim at Fox News, a cable TV news service that advertises itself as “fair and balanced” because (unlike its competitors) it presents both conservative and liberal viewpoints. The headline shouts, “Fox News Climate Coverage 93% Wrong, Report Finds.” The evidence cited by reporter Stephanie Pappas, though, consisted of little more than circular reasoning: “The researchers found that Fox News and the Journal were consistently dismissive of the established scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that human activities are the main driver.” This is akin to a syllogism: “a. Everybody who is somebody agrees with me. b. You don’t agree with me. c. You are not somebody.” Ignoring specifics, Pappas referrred to “established science— in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.”
A look at the literature, though, fails to establish it as established science. As seen in leading journals, scientists – even though they agree with the consensus – are often the very ones pointing out flaws in their models and doubts about the sweeping conclusions.
Recently, for instance, the Editors of Nature (19 Sept 2012) warned, “Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming.” Tying visible effects to the theory require “enormous research effort,” they said, considering the political and economic fallout that may ensue from claims that particular events or threats (“event attribution”) are of man’s doing. At a recent workshop, “some speakers questioned whether event attribution was possible at all.” Here’s how indecisive the evidence is: “One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all,” they said. “And even if event attribution were reliable, another speaker added, the notion that it is useful for any section of society is unproven.” How does that jive with the certainty Stephanie Pappas exhibited? The editors of Nature, certainly a pro-warming fountainhead, had more subdued advice: “when communicating their results, scientists must be open about shortcomings in the models used.” The editorial generated some lively comments.
Just a week earlier, in a letter to Nature Sept 13, two scientists (who agree with the consensus) noted causes for public skepticism of the climate alarmists. “The public-image problem of current models stems partly from scientists’ failures to identify the limitations openly,” they said, suggesting that the public is often given bold pronouncements without proper scientific caution. “It is important to distinguish between questions for which current models are useful as prediction engines and those for which the models merely probe possibilities. The role of science is to reflect on the plausibility and relevance of such possibilities.” Memories of fraud seem to have faded into the background.
It’s not even clear that warming is bad. “Rather than kicking off the expected cycles of extinction, periods of warming in Earth’s history were accompanied by increased biodiversity, according to a report published this week,” Nature News wrote. The article hedged its bets that human-caused warming could be worse. Such reports of significant past warming, though, such as the inference about climate from the redwoods in northern Canada kimberlite (9/19/2012) make it difficult for skeptics to get worked up about what is going on now. The researcher was actually surprised by what he found: “given that climate change is generally viewed as disruptive, Mayhew admits it was a ‘big surprise” to find that eras of warming were accompanied by increases in biodiversity.'” His out was to say that the current warming is happening too fast for nature to cope. By the time that can be proven, however, we will all be dead from old age.
In another example of surprise, researchers studied the effects of global warming on migrating cormorants (Gienapp and Bregnballe, “Fitness Consequences of Timing of Migration and Breeding in Cormorants,” PLoS ONE 7(9): e46165. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046165). They didn’t find what they expected. They thought the birds would be disrupted by the climate shifts, but “the increasing selection pressure on timing seems to be unrelated to climate change as the climatic variables that were related to selection strength did not increase during the study period.” They tossed the ball to previous papers in footnotes to allege that climate change has disrupted other organisms, but they did not find disruption in their own work.
Researchers using a submarine in the North Sea expected to find methane reservoirs locked in ice to be coming loose as the climate warms, unleashing more of the greenhouse gas that is more potent than CO2. What they found, Science Daily reported, was that the submarine vents have been spewing out methane for centuries, long before the industrial revolution. “[T]he fear,” therefore, “that the gas emanation is a consequence of the current rising sea temperature does not seem to apply.… the observed gas emanations are probably not caused by human influence.”
Beneath the permafrost of Bylot Island in Canada’s arctic, dead leaves, tree trunks and pollen tell of a time when a diverse forest thrived there, filled with willow, pine and spruce. Can a frozen forest rise again? Live Science reporter Jeanna Brynner investigated this fossil forest, said to be 2.6 to 3 million years old. The actual wood is preserved, bearing tribute to a much warmer and pleasant past – a surprise, considering how the trees would have had to live in a land of the midnight sun and months of darkness. Certainly man was not to blame for a significant climate shift. And that’s not all: even farther north, “Fossil forests of a similar age have also been found on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, where so-called ‘mummy trees’ were uncovered in the wake of a melting glacier.” (See 3/17/2011.)
What exactly, then, are pro-consensus advocates worried about? Biblical creationists deny these fossil forests are millions of years old, a seemingly more reasonable interpretation of the evidence. Darwin skeptics at school boards are not trying to insert religious texts into the science classroom; they generally want to get the lies and distortions about Darwin evolution corrected in textbooks, and mitigate the scare tactics in presentations of global warming. Meanwhile, the U.S. remains the scientific leader in the world despite millions of his creationist bogeymen. What precisely is Bill Nye worried about?
By all accounts, the hard-core warmist alarmists and Darwin bulldogs are far left in their politics (8/22/2012, 7/26/2012) . It’s just like leftists to divide people into us-vs-them and use fear and hate to denounce their critics. It’s just like them to use glittering generalities to advance their view, and associate themselves with “science” (a.k.a. scientism), while sidestepping the uncooperative facts that undermine their position. They don’t want a reasoned discussion; they want power. Once you understand their propaganda tactics and how to refute them, your timidity will subside. Then, learn how to use evidence and logic to put the proud boasters in their place.
Project: Encourage Bill Nye to take his message to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.