Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

global warming

The First Scientist

From Ruben Bolling… on-target for so many topics.

The First Scientist 

(h/t The Daily Kos)

John Oliver on Climate Change

I’ve been meaning to post this all week but kept forgetting. John Oliver gives a spot-on (and funny) commentary about the climate change “debate” and public opinion polls about climate change. Love it!

h/t: IFLScience!

Tilting at Windmills…

I read some articles a few weeks ago about a study which found wind farms causing localized ground surface warming in certain regions because they mix the higher, warmer air with the cooler air closer to the ground at night. The headlines were predictably misleading at first, saying things like “Wind farms causing climate to warm.” In a few days, things settled down and the people who understood the study responded with explanations… no, they’re not causing global warming. It’s localized warming. It’s at night. Here’s what happens. etc… etc…

So most headlines were more accurate from that point. Not all. There were still plenty of misleading ones, just not as prominent or numerous. What I found funny, however, was the collection of headlines in my Google News feed on the subject (ordered and formatted here as it showed up in my feed). Note the headline message… and the news source. One of these things is (predictably) not like the others. Ha!

Don’t believe the headlines. Wind farms do not cause ‘global’ warming.
Christian Science Monitor – ‎20 hours ago
A recent study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that large wind farms could be pulling down hot air at night, raising the average temperature of the local region.

No, wind farms are not causing global warming
Washington Post (blog)

Myth-busting claims that wind farms cause global warming
Alaska Dispatch

In Depth:Wind farms are causing global warming, researchers say
Fox News

Anti-science? No surprise there.

Denying realityPaul Krugman had an editorial today in the New York Times about the decidedly anti-science bent of the Republican party… or at least of the current crop of candidates. John Huntsman seems to be the only candidate grounded in actual scientific reality at the moment. Romney was, too, but now he’s hedging.

When it comes to science, Republicans seem to have no problem with things like atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, physics, chemistry, etc. The problem is just when it comes to science that reaches conclusions that don’t mesh well with their ideology (or the ideology of their base). The obvious mentions are evolution and climate change, both of which are supported by an astounding amount of evidence, yet both of which cause Republicans some discomfort; one on political note and one on a theological note. But rather than acting responsibly and dealing with the reality the science represents, they attack the science or the scientists or the data or (more often) the make-believe stories conjured up as easily-attackable straw men.

Sadly, Huntsman is way behind in the polls, so that leaves either the outright anti-science group or Romney, who has, in a politically stereotypical move, hedged his bets on science in an attempt to placate the Republican base. That leaves the party with pretty lame options. As Krugman says in his editorial…

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

Phil Plait, on his Bad Astronomy blog, follows up on Krugman’s piece with a few more details on some of the candidates, and with this thought…

[Huntsman] recently said he thinks both evolution and global warming are real. This makes me sad, and scared. Why? Because this statement is considered bold.

How can it be bold to accept reality, to not deny the overwhelming evidence, and to agree with the vast, vast majority of scientists studying the very topics of discussion?

Huntsman wants his party not to be "the antiscience party". But that shouldn’t be bold. That should be common sense.

It should be common sense. Sadly, for most of the Republican presidential candidates, it seems to be neither common nor sensible.

Joe Mohr Cartoon

I can think of other applications for this in addition to global warming. Ha!

Joe links to a couple articles that inspired this cartoon. Click the image to go to his site and check them out if you’re curious.

'Thinking' Like a Climate Skeptic - Joe Mohr Cartoons

Oh no! Sunspots! (or lack thereof)

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy beat me to it (as did probably another 50 blogs).

I heard the report last week about the decrease in sunspot activity and just knew that the global warming deniers would pounce on it with a vengeance, even though plenty of articles had statements such as…

But scientists warn that the temperature change due to a decline in sunspot activity would likely be minimal and not enough to compensate for global warming. – Global Post

Statements like that will most likely be dismissed with a haughty "poo poo" from deniers, however, because it doesn’t fit into the strategy of cherry-picking data in vain attempts to support their untenable position.

It’s one thing to disagree on policy issues and about how to handle the situation. That’s a matter of political opinion and can be debated endlessly from various ideological viewpoints. However, to avoid the policy issue by trying to discredit the actual science… the science that is backed up by virtually all the available data, by virtually all climate scientists, and by virtually all scientific organizations… is disingenuous, dishonest, and despicable.

I constantly read deniers railing against climate science based on policy issues, saying things that basically amount to "climate science is wrong because cap and trade legislation would cause job losses!" It’s an absurd statement, but it’s one that gets repeated, in various forms, over and over and over and over by global warming deniers… seemingly without any awareness of how ludicrous it is.

It’s the position that "facts don’t matter to me because they don’t fit neatly into my preconceived conclusions based on my ideology."

Scientific Prognostication

… [B]eware those who deride predictive science in its entirety, for they are also making a prediction:  that we have nothing to worry about. And above all, do not shoot the messenger, for this is the coward’s way out of openly and honestly confronting the problem.

Dr. Kerry A. Emanuel during the Congressional hearing for U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science Space and Technology

Interestingly, those who “deride predictive science in its entirety” are frequently the same folks who deride science in general when it reaches conclusions that don’t support their pre-existing political or religious ideology.

That’s all too common.


Henry Waxman calls shenanigans

Henry Waxman calls shenanigans on anti-science Republicans…

“The new Republican majority in the House has a lot of power to write our nation’s laws, but they do not have the power to rewrite the laws of nature,” Mr. Waxman said. “Republicans in Congress can’t cure cancer by passing a bill that declares smoking safe. And they can’t stop climate change by declaring it a hoax.”

They can’t… but they continue to try.

Personal attacks in science denial

Orac, of Respectful Insolence, has a post about how global warming wasn’t "invented" by Al Gore, contrary to what many global warming deniers seem to think. However, the part I find especially interesting in his piece is his explanation of why denialists tend to attack people.

Here’s an excerpt:

If there’s one characteristic of denialists of all stripes, it’s that they have a strong tendency to personalize their dislike of their particular bete noir science.


The reason, of course, is that cranks can’t attack the science using good science and, of course, it’s far easier to attack a person than well-supported science. After all, all people have flaws that can be ridiculed or used as the basis of ad hominem attacks.

Like Orac, I’ve seen this from global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers, religious fundamentalists, and anti-evolution creationists. Whatever motivates them in their denial, it seems they share this common tactic of attacking the messenger.

…any messenger.

My three questions for candidates

People have different ways of selecting a candidate in any given elections, sometimes changing their selection method from election to election depending on current events. Some focus on a candidate’s position on the big issue of the day, some on a plethora of smaller issues, some one the tone of campaign ads, some on a specific hot-button issue, some on the candidate’s political party, some on what their chosen party tells them to do.

My approach is generally to focus on a few main questions (three in this example). Sometimes it’s hard to find the candidates’ answers to the questions and sometimes the candidates will hedge when answering, but to me, the answers to these questions say much more about the candidates than just their positions on the issues at hand.

Question #1: What is the candidate’s position on abortion?

This one has many shades of gray (funding, age limits, accessibility, notification, etc), but the focus of my question is on the candidate’s position about the morality of abortion. Should a woman have the right to choose whether or not to get an abortion? Usually, candidates will be fairly black and white on this issue.

Why this question?
It reveals something important about the basis for a candidate’s policy decisions. There is no argument that 100% opposes abortion (that I have heard or that anyone I know has heard) that is not based on religion. This is not to say that some of the arguments about limiting abortion are not valid for other reasons, but a strict, 100% opposition… it’s all about religion.

Why is it important?
Someone who has a strict anti-choice viewpoint bases their decision on religious dogma. I’m looking for a candidate who bases their decisions on rational thinking and objective reasoning. Basing decisions on 2,000 year old dogma doesn’t meet that criteria.

Question #2: What is the candidate’s position on climate science?

I want to clarify that this is not a question about any particular legislative proposals on how to handle global warming. This is a question specifically concerning the candidate’s view about the current state of climate science and, by association, whether they think global warming is occurring or not.

Why this question?
This question reveals an important aspect of the candidate’s objectivity and ability to independently analyze information. The evidence gathered by the world’s climate scientists overwhelmingly points to the fact that our planet is warming and shows an extremely high probability of it being accelerated by human activities. While the manner of dealing with the problem can be honestly and objectively debated, denying the existence of global warming is the intellectual equivalent of covering your ears and yelling “La! La! La! I can’t hear you!”

Why is it important?
Science education in much of the country is in a horrible state of insufficiency and the last thing we need is the country’s leaders making public statements discrediting good science in an attempt to score political points. Denial of global warming is ideologically-based and indicates that the candidate is more concerned with political or religious ideology than with objective reality and good science.

Question #3: What is the candidate’s position on the separation of church and state.

Prayer in public schools? Crèches in the courthouse lobby? Teaching creationism/intelligent design in public schools? Beginning government meetings with prayer? Proselytizing in the military? Religion-based discrimination? These issues are all ones of religious intrusion into what should Constitutionally be secular government activities.

Why this question?
This is another test of the candidate’s objectivity. Our Constitution has strict rules preventing government intrusion into religion and ensuring the free exercise of religion (and a non-preferential treatment of religion). A candidate’s response to this question reveals his thinking about religion and our government… and whether or not he actually supports the Constitution or if he only says he does.

Why is it important?
The religious right has become a disturbingly strong influence in this country, particularly in the Republican Party and the Tea Party. Despite their calls for following the Constitution, this issue reveals that their support of the Constitution only goes as far as their religious beliefs. The path they have chosen is one that leads to a theocracy and that’s about as anti-American as you can get. Any candidate who doesn’t strongly support an uncompromising separation of church and state is supporting that theocratic path.

There are other criteria that I use to select candidates as well as the ones above, but the above three questions serve as a good litmus test for candidate selection. I’ve only given brief summaries for the reasons behind each of the questions, but in each question, there’s a strong focus on finding out which candidates support good science and rational thinking, not necessarily by looking at many small issues, but by examining the overall intellectual and philosophical tendencies of a candidate. It establishes a foundation for further inquiry into each candidate’s positions, but if a candidate can’t provide that solid foundation based on a few simple questions, it seems silly to support them on issues that are, essentially, built upon that foundation.

If a candidate can’t leave religious dogma out of their decision-making process, doesn’t support solid science, and doesn’t support the Constitution, why should they get my support?

…or anyone’s support, for that matter.