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AGW skepticism and creationism

Rand Simberg is not a happy man:

“….here’s the problem with the comparison between creationism and climate skepticism. Evolution is a scientific theory. It is the one that best fits all of the available evidence. There is also a creationist theory that fits all the evidence: God did it, complete with evidence that evolution occurred. The problem with the latter theory is that, while it might be true, in some sense, it is not scientific, because it isn’t falsifiable. “Intelligent design” also isn’t a scientific theory — it’s merely a critique of one. And hence, it does not belong in a science class, except as an example to illustrate what is science and what is not. If people want to challenge the theory of evolution, they have to come up with an alternative one that is testable, and to date, they have failed to do so.”

“In contrast, even accepting for the sake of the argument that the planet is really warming abnormally (despite the cooling trend of the past decade), there are numerous scientifically testable alternative theories to explain this, which is why AGW skeptics “are better able to get their message across in the mainstream media than creationism supporters.” In fact, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions over the past several years, belief in AGW has taken on the aspects of a religion itself, complete with sin, a corrupt priesthood, indulgences for the rich to buy absolution and into green heaven, and the persecution of heretics.”

I could not agree more. I have nothing against people who contest evolution and Darwin’s ideas, but it is odd to conflate a skeptic about man-made global warming (where the evidence is far from settled) with someone who thinks that life on Earth was brought about by a Supreme Being.

And here is Simberg’s signoff:

“I have a modest proposal. Instead of promulgating either the Christian religion, or the Green religion in our science classes, let’s get teachers who actually have degrees in science (as opposed to “education”), so they don’t need “teaching materials,” and teach kids how to do math (including statistics), think critically, and actually formulate testable and falsifiable hypotheses and test them, so that they will be inoculated to all religions, when it comes to learning science.”

And this surely is the key. If we want people to learn science, a crucial thing is that it involves understanding the scientific method in all its rigour and painstaking discipline.

Brian Micklethwait recently, on a similar topic, asked the question of how much it really matters if people believe that the Earth and life on it were created rather than evolved. It is a good question.

24 comments to AGW skepticism and creationism

  • Alisa

    And this surely is the key. If we want people to learn science, a crucial thing is that it involves understanding the scientific method in all its rigour and painstaking discipline.

    Oh, but we don’t, not really. We don’t want them to acquire anything like real critical-thinking skills. because they just may start asking too many questions that may make us uncomfortable. Or worse, they may just figure things out on their own, without the need for explanation from us. We don’t want that.

  • Jacob

    Alisa,
    The expression “critical thinking” has become a fashionable buzzword.
    I think this is a redundancy. Al thinking is critical. The uncritical people are those who don’t think.

  • Alisa

    I see your point, Jacob, but the term ‘thinking’ is used in a much broader sense than that, and rightly so. I mean, we do need a term for when people are uncritically repeating in their head stuff they have been told by others.

  • Al thinking is critical.

    Nope. Thinking can be fuzzy or confused or any other conditional you need to add. The only sort of thinking is most assuredly not critical.

  • Hmm

    Jacob, “Critical-thinking” is more than just a fashionable buzzword – its an “ideological command construct”- one of the devious conscriptions of words and phrases into ideological commands, that is a central part of the problem that Alisa points out: i.e. The process where the vacuously-annointed “elite” decide on a nice innoffensive wording to propagate some new insidious idea, they start by choosing a wording that has the exact opposite meaning of the command idea being propagated… Thus camouflaged, this command is then promoted using every possible /media/ education system/ peer pressure/ useful fool etc to advertise and flood the market to ensure that everyone becomes familiar with the flowery idea in which the command is hidden.

    Eventually the now altruistic flowery command becomes repeated zombie-like with no thought attached…and without conscious knowledge of the command that is now unthinkingly being adhered to.

    This is how Bad becomes the new Good – via the now unthinking “critical thinking”.

    Scientific method … downgraded to … “use only when it doesn’t contravene the agenda”

    Science moves to “Consensus”.
    Theology is poohpoohed down to “Fairy story”
    Wisdom devolves to “Everybody knows that”
    Thinking for oneself??? becomes mere… “Idiots game!!”

    The problem isn’t that “Scientific Method/Religious Belief is Right/Wrong” The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The problem is that they are two different subjects involving two different methods of thinking and are being thrown together because it suits several different agenda driven cliques to do so in order to damage both Scientific method and Theology while they gain power and influence from doing so. They need to damage both of them – and that is what is most lacking from reports on this subject.

    Note: No memes were harmed during the making of this comment :)

  • Alisa

    OMG, and there was silly me, using words to be understood literally…Someone remove the corpse?:-)

    Indeed, Hmm.

  • veryretired

    There are several strands interwoven here, so let’s examine a few major ones.

    The great majority of people believe the great majority of what they have been taught, both explicitly, by family and teachers, and implicitly, by observing how things, and people, actually function.

    When the former gets too far out of congruence with the latter, cultures have problems.

    One of the crucial dangers of the agw cult’s influence in our schools is that, when their endless predictions of doom are thoroughly discredited by events, real science will suffer because of the failed phantasms produced by this subsidized, politicized science.

    This segues into the reason so many warmists start talking about evolution/creationism as soon as they are questioned. Not only do they tar anyone who is skeptical of their claims by associating them with faith-based non-science, they also don the mantle of the embattled scientist, holding out against religious mania, in support of a thoroughly tested and verified theory which has actually explained how things seem to work in the real world.

    Even when one accepts the probability of the earth warming, but disputes the assertions as to the causes, and proposed policy actions to deal with the issue, this is not enough. As Lomborg found out to his dismay, in this, as well as other environmental issues, there exists a catechism, or Litany, which must be upheld at all costs.

    Why? is the obvious question. If I accept that the earth is warming as it emerges from the Little Ice Age, which ended less than 2 centuries ago, a moment in geologic time, why is questioning the drastic political, social, and economic measures being proposed by the warmist cult such a dire threat to them?

    Because the political policies are the whole point.

    Power is the purpose, the motivating factor, and the entire underlying “cause”.

    CO2 is only so much hot air.

  • William Newman

    “Al[l] thinking is critical.”

    I don’t think so. E.g., the world seems to contain quite a lot of thinking of a rote/blinkered nature. Consider the thinking involved in parking an automobile (or backing up a pair of trailers), or figuring out the payment schedule on sort of interest-bearing loan arrangement, or dredging up a half-remembered vocabulary word in a foreign language. There will be some amount of critical thinking up front to make sure that you really should go into the blinkered thinking — don’t try to park if there’s something dangerous there, don’t lend if it won’t get paid back, don’t work too hard to remember if there’s a less obscure word to use instead — but in many cases for many people the critical thinking will be easier than the more narrowminded thought that follows.

  • When you do the lab component of any decently taught undergraduate science course – it doesn’t really matter which science – you are taught to put error bars on your graphs, and if you do not rigorously estimate the size of your errors, you get poor marks for it. When you have highly nonlinear systems – and the earth’s climate is a highly nonlinear system – this can be hard, or sometimes impossible. In a good lab course, you will encounter a couple of situations where the margin of error is impossible to estimate. In such a case, a student should at least explain why the margin of error is impossible to estimate.

    With respect to the results of climate models, I need to see this first year undergraduate exercise done properly. What are the margins of uncertainty in the answers. Do you know? If not, why not? I have never seen this done.

    Without an answer to this, there is really not much point in listening to the climate scientists. AGW might be happening. It might not. I don’t know. Neither do they.

  • Rob H

    The whole disprovable thing is also a difficult thing.

    What discovery would disprove evolution?

    The whole debate about science proving religion wrong is silly. It lacks “critical thinking” – sorry.

    If there was a supreme being able to create the universe, to create time and space, then by definition that being would be beyond time and space.

    One often hears people say that evolution or geology proves the world was not created 6000 years ago and therefore the bible is wrong. If you are outside time and space and every day that has ever been is today or rather is now then how can science help here?

    All it can do is describe. “When this occurs that happens” and so on. It never answers (or even asks) why?

    I’m amazed how so many intelligent people fail to grasp the point. Why is it that they want science to prove there is no God? That is not the job of science.

    Also when science is constantly trying to claim religious ground is it any wonder that the religious attempt the same in return.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Is it true that Europe has just had a very cold winter? Was it predicted by any global warming model? You could try using reality as a method of criticising theories and models- that is, those of the students who make it through the snow to the classes could use these examples.

  • “Intelligent design” also isn’t a scientific theory — it’s merely a critique of one. And hence, it does not belong in a science class, except as an example to illustrate what is science and what is not.

    This made me laugh – does this mean if I disprove a scientific theory (doesn’t matter which) but I do not present an alternative idea, then the work I have done is “not science”. Bizarre.
    Surely there are examples where ideas and theories in the past were disproved without new ideas being introduced at the same time? Science does not need to be positive to be valid – it can also be negative by ruling out ideas we can prove are wrong.

    Intelligent design is a scientific theory by an objective measure – it might be complete nonsense, but that only means it is incorrect science. This constant attempt to describe ideas we don’t like as “unscientific” is really just shorthand for either science we don’t like or science we believe (perhaps with evidence) to be incorrect.

  • Gib

    Rob H, some things which would disprove evolution, or at least hit it with some serious body blows:

    1. Fossils of rabbits from the pre-cambrian era.
    2. The aliens/gods coming down with the plans and demonstrations of how they created life, and planted the fossils and molecular evidence, and messed with our experiments.
    3. A star-trek like video sequence encoded in the junk DNA of some animals, which when played, has an alien explaining the secret of the universe.
    4. Proof that the earth is really young.

  • Laird

    Actually, it’s AGW, not its skeptics, which properly should be likened to creationism. Neither is “science”.

    Anyway, although the multitudes haven’t caught on yet, the “global warming” fraud has about run its course and will soon be passé; the new new scare is Cycle 25: global cooling. I suppose it was inevitable. Has a very Hegelian feel, doesn’t it?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Global Cooling????? Quick! Give the government more power! I wouldn’t trust it with global warming, but cooling is the opposite, so I’ve got to trust them! After all, if the globe is about to cool, the best source of hot air will be Governments everywhere!

  • The other problem with comparing AGW scepticism with creationism is the creationists are going to be in a very strong position when the world actually gives up on AGW. Which, given that it’s primarily a politically-driven movement, and the politicians are backing away from it as fast as they can, might be quite soon

  • Ed Snack

    Andy Frith, ID is not scientific because it cannot be falsified. Anything wrong such as a proposed example of “irreducible complexity” shown NOT to be irreducible (see the eye, clotting cascades, bacterial flagella, etc, etc) is just a failed refutation, and obviously, Goddidit. ID is generally expressed as the “argument from incredulity”, that is, I can’t imagine how this evolved so it can’t have.

    Thus it is formulated in unscientific terms in general, and probably, since it posits a priori an unmeasurable measure, it can’t be made measurable.

  • Ed Snack beat me to it. I can only add… indeed.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Good grief, you mean teach the young to analyse a situation. That is recognise there are facts just as there are theories. The former is proven, the latter seeking to explain what facts we have. It will never happen, teaching has become propaganda, not an exercise in understanding anything much.

  • PeterT

    Global Cooling…..was first worried about in the 1970!

    Obligatory wikipedia link here:

    link

    There is a parallel between fiat currency fuelled bubbles and government backed ‘intellectual bubbles’. Generally, higher rewards sooner are preferred to lower rewards later. Cheap funding allows investments into unsustainable projects to go ahead. The promised pay-off could be a 5% return on a mortgage backed bond, or it could be ‘saving the planet’ in a hundred years time. If the funding position can be rolled indefinitely, fewer questions will be asked. In both cases, when the bubble bursts you get your pride hurt as well as your wallet.

  • Tedd

    Michael:

    What are the margins of uncertainty in the answers. Do you know? If not, why not? I have never seen this done.

    A friend of mine did this several years ago, using some publicly-available climate data. The 2-sigma range of a linear regression through the data went from (IIRC) a couple of degrees/century negative to a couple of degrees positive. It was the the first step in his conversion from someone relatively concerned about AGW to an enthusiastic AGW doubter.

    He has since gone on to examine the subject from several other interesting points of view, such as a comparison of the distribution of energy radiated by the Earth, by frequency, with the frequency ranges filtered by “greenhouse” gases. Very interesting stuff. It’s amusing, because our conversation about the subject began several years ago with him chastising me for expressing doubt about AGW, and has now progressed to me trying to moderate his claims for its bogusness! (But that may say more about our differing personality types than anything else.)

  • Rob H, some things which would disprove evolution, or at least hit it with some serious body blows:

    1. Fossils of rabbits from the pre-cambrian era.
    2. The aliens/gods coming down with the plans and demonstrations of how they created life, and planted the fossils and molecular evidence, and messed with our experiments.
    3. A star-trek like video sequence encoded in the junk DNA of some animals, which when played, has an alien explaining the secret of the universe.
    4. Proof that the earth is really young.

    Good grief.

    Let me put forth the question as Rob H should have phrased it: what would disprove the claim that life forms can evolve? That phraseology points to the ridiculousness of Gib’s response.

    1. If we ever found a Precambrian rabbit, Richard Dawkins would be scouring the site for a TARDIS footprint. I’m only being half facetious – somebody would postulate that a modern rabbit got caught in a temporal rift of some kind. The miraculous creation of such a rabbit doesn’t disprove the notion that all of Earth’s other biota – or created life forms – can evolve. The existence of a rabbit in an age lacking its food sources certainly explains how it became a fossil.

    2. Hearsay is a scientific proof? Yeah, I’ll take Loki’s word for it.

    3. Um, ever heard of genetic engineering? It’s not within our current technology, but maybe Loki knows how to Rickroll junk DNA.

    4. A young Earth proves that biota existed on Earth for a much shorter time than conventional wisdom postulates. How the biota got here is another matter. Maybe life was created on Earth. Maybe it was created elsewhere and brought here. Maybe it evolved elsewhere and was brought here. And how do we know that a created life form cannot evolve?

    Some time back on Transterrestrial Musings (and once here, I think) I brought up an issue that a lot of people miss: many people, probably most humans, cannot understand evolution any more than they can understand Star Trek transporter technology. (Or, for a slightly less fanciful example, and Einstein-Rosen Bridge.) They know what it’s supposed to do, but they can neither witness the phenomenon in real time nor understand its mechanism. IIRC, nobody knows how gravity works, but everyone has seen it do it’s thing. Nobody can witness continental drift, but it’s mechanics can be described in pantomime.

    On another note…of course creationism and intelligent design don’t compare to CAGW skepticism – for the same reason that evolution doesn’t: “A is true” is not the same as “A is not proven.” Evolution skepticism compares to CAGW skepticism.

  • JohnB

    Regarding ‘creationism’, scientific method, etc.

    If we think of time/space and all the events and matter in it as being without direction or design, ie, it all happened by chance, then there are two problems.

    The first is that if it has happened that any order that exists, such as life, occurred spontaneously in randomness, then one is actually accepting that it is not order but simply another random set of events that have occurred by chance, and because we live in this fleeting breath of time, we perceive the apparent sequence of events as order.
    In fact they are part of the pure randomness of eternity.

    However.
    Then the second problem is encountered. Pure chance, randomness as we perceive it, tends to dissipation.
    A drop of ink in a glass of water tends to dissipate throughout the water. Never has it been known for ink dispersed in a glass of water to randomly come together as a drop of ink.

    Pure randomness tends to evenness as all its parts, all of it, merges with every other part and becomes one unified existence.
    In fact, pure randomness would lead to absolute nothingness as everything blends with everything else.

    All that we see, experience, know touch and feel, including our perception of those happenings, is based on difference, potential, separation.

    All structure is based on difference such as electrons and protons. And all difference implies order because without order, if everything was purely random, there would be complete evenness, which would in fact be nothing.

    Everything would have submerged into everything else. In fact that is not really correct because it would not have occured in the first place.

    Random events tend to dispertion. And dispertion tends to stasis.
    Total silent nothing.

  • Alisa

    John: that was a very interesting comment, but not as advertized: it has nothing to do with scientific method. The scientific method does not, as things stand now, lead us to the conclusion that God did not create this world, and not even to the conclusion that God does not exist. It simply says (albeit indirectly) that these things are unknown, and probably unknowable scientifically. If you know that God exists, no scientist can honestly argue against that based on scientific method. All he can say is that your knowledge is subjective and should be objectively called ‘belief’. He may also observe that his subjective knowledge tells him otherwise. But none of that would qualify as a scientific discussion – just like most of such discussions do not.