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The House of Representatives Committee on Science is turning into a national embarrassment

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A few days back I wrote a post explaining why I am all for private support of basic science, especially in an age when government funding and support is flagging. My feelings were simply reinforced when I came across this news piece documenting the shameful behavior of Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in denying climate change and harassing John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.

The debacle was part of a hearing in which the members were supposed to discuss the upcoming 2015 budget with Holdren. Instead the proceedings turned into a mixture of hostile heckling and insulting sarcasm. This was black comedy that would have been mildly humorous had it not been real. The Republican members of the committee made it clear that not only do they lack the slightest interest in addressing climate change but they are about as ignorant about the nuances of science as a stone. Leading the charge was Texas congressman Randy Weber:

Several members, for example, appeared to be trying to mock rather than engage Holdren on climate change. “I may want to get your cellphone number, Dr. Holdren,” said Representative Randy Weber (R–TX), “because, if we go through another few cycles of global warming and cooling, I may need to ask you when I should buy my long coat on sale.”

Weber, a freshman from the Galveston area, began his interrogation by asking Holdren whether “when you guys do your research, you start with a scientific postulate or theory and work forward from that? Is that right?” Holdren gamely played along, explaining that “it depends on the type of science, but the notion of posing a hypothesis and then trying to determine whether it is right is one of the tried and true approaches in science, yes.”

But Weber’s question was really just a setup for his concluding statement. “I just don’t know how you all prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years,” Weber said.

Perhaps Weber also wants to discount theories in astronomy, cosmology and paleontology? After all even those theories are based on evidence going back millions of years. I don’t know Weber’s views on evolution but I would be hardly surprised if he turns out to be in favor of “teaching the controversy”.

The farce continued with another Republican member trotting out the tired old examples of global cooling and dinosaurs:

“I remember in the ’70s, that [cooling] was the threat, the fear,” Posey recalled. Then he pivoted. “I’ve read that during the period of the dinosaurs, that the Earth’s temperature was 30° warmer. Does that seem fathomable to you?”

From the described exchange it seems that the members have zero interest in knowing the truth or understanding how science works. Sadly this rancor, ignorance and lack of respect for science and scientists is business as usual for Republican members of the House committee. After all, the subcommittee responsible for climate change is, quite appropriately enough, led by a climate change denier (this literally sounds like something out of Orwell). 17 out of 22 members of the larger committee either deny that climate change is happening or question that human activities are responsible for it; the chairman of the committee himself is skeptical about global warming. And of course, let’s not forget committee member Paul Broun who thinks evolution is a “lie from the pit of hell”.

No wonder that scientists like me find it refreshing when we hear about billionaires appreciating and funding basic research. Pretty much all politicians in this country seem to have lost respect not just for the findings of science but for the basic nature of the scientific method, but let’s be clear: one party disproportionately more than the other is holding science back. It’s a little surreal to see people like Weber, Broun and Smith on the science committee but such is the age we live in. Nonetheless, the prevarications, ignorance and feet-dragging in that party reflect poorly on the entire political establishment. When none other than the House Committee on Science is stacked with people who literally live in the Middle Ages in their ignorance of science, hearing a kind word about science coming from any direction is a breath of fresh air.

Ashutosh Jogalekar About the Author: Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar is a chemist interested in the history and philosophy of science. He considers science to be a seamless and all-encompassing part of the human experience. Follow on Twitter @curiouswavefn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Bill_Crofut 11:12 am 03/31/2014

    Re: “Perhaps Weber also wants to discount theories in astronomy, cosmology and paleontology? After all even those theories are based on evidence going back millions of years. I don’t know Weber’s views on evolution but I would be hardly surprised if he turns out to be in favor of “teaching the controversy”.”

    None of the current labels, Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal apply to me. My only claim is that of an unlettered Traditional Roman Catholic, militant young-Earth Biblical creationist and geocentrist. My chosen status obviously posits me in a tiny minority of the population. My personal position regarding the issue of “evidence going back millions of years” is, the pioneers of the allegation would seem to have left a gap in the evidence:

    An evolutionist correspondent (snail mail, December 1988) provided me with a copy of what he considered the seminal paper on the issue which catapulted us from,

    “…the generally accepted estimate of 3.1 x 10^9 yr…” to “…about 4.5 x 10^9 yr…”

    [C. Patterson, G. Tilton and M. Inghram. 1955. Age of the Earth. SCIENCE, 21 January, p. 69]

    The paper is replete with assumptions and the following warning which would seem to have gone unheeded:

    “It should be recognized that an approximate age value is sufficient and should be viewed with considerable skepticism until the basic assumptions that are involved in the method of calculations are verified” (p. 75).

    Where, in the scientific literature will one find verification of the basic assumptions or, any skepticism concerning them?

    Link to this
  2. 2. JasonX 1:32 pm 03/31/2014

    I was going to quip that comments 1 and 2 were equally valid, but no, I’ll keep it serious.

    “Evidence going back millions of years” is typically based on analysis in several different fields or different methods lining up to point to a similar conclusion. How can you verify whether these conclusions hold up? By doing the leg work yourself. Read extensively about how these different methods work. Talk to people who have studied these field for decades. Then, after you thoroughly understand the processes and reasoning behind the different methods, if you do find a legitimate hole in the logic, do your own research and submit the findings to a respected peer-reviewed journal. That’s how science works, and it really does work pretty well.

    Link to this
  3. 3. tuned 3:37 pm 03/31/2014

    The House has been a shame for awhile.
    Fortunately it’s the kind of stupid that CAN be cured
    by voting!
    X>

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  4. 4. WJHayes 4:42 pm 03/31/2014

    This is representative of 99% of all committee hearings. Not just in science, but budget, foreign policy, defense, tax, etc. Hearings are just sound bite generators. No one’s mind is changed because of testimony because that is not the point. The only difference is that with C-SPAN and now social media, it is easier to see this theater.

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  5. 5. HenryC 4:47 pm 03/31/2014

    Education of the legislators is the most important thing any of the scientist appearing before congress can do. Answering those questions with logic and knowledge is the best thing that can happen.

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  6. 6. ddwzcw6 7:15 pm 03/31/2014

    The USA is in an unbelievable quest to educate people that wear stupidity as an honor. How to teach people that refuse to learn, deny any thing they perceive to be scientific, believe the earth is 6,000 years old and think they are omnipotent.

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  7. 7. z34aa 8:19 pm 03/31/2014

    @ddwzcw6

    You don’t, instead you focus on teaching their kids who are more likely to except “new” ideas because all ideas are new to them.

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  8. 8. usmarine1211 10:19 pm 03/31/2014

    At the risk of sounding overly emotionally involved, when I was a kid growing up on Galveston, John Elway in his prime couldn’t get a football wet if he stood on the seawall to throw. Now waves come up to parts of the seawall at low tide. For Rep. Weber of Galveston, Texas to take the position he has on this issue, he might be the greatest example of a politician forsaking his people in human history.

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  9. 9. M Tucker 12:13 pm 04/1/2014

    This is really a Republican tactic. Sure a few Democrats from oil and coal states might also be interested in sidelining and delaying any government action but what we are seeing in the House is a fundamentally Republican effort. They know exactly what they are doing. They know what the evidence is. They are despicable criminals and the farce we see every time the Science Committee meets is nothing compared to a vote in the House.

    “The House will vote next week on a legislation to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus its efforts on storm predictions instead of researching climate change.

    Members will consider the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act, H.R. 2413, as early as Tuesday. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced his bill last year”

    This was posted last week so that vote could happen as early as today.

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  10. 10. yamanoor 2:10 pm 04/1/2014

    By suggesting that this is an ongoing process, you are misleading readers. The House Committee on Science is not merely an embarrassment. It is something that this country will be ashamed of, for generations to come. It is something that has already happened, and with the aid of gerrymandering, I predict has reached a point of no return for a long time to come.

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  11. 11. HowardB 2:20 pm 04/1/2014

    ““Evidence going back millions of years” is typically based on analysis in several different fields or different methods lining up to point to a similar conclusion. How can you verify whether these conclusions hold up? By doing the leg work yourself. Read extensively about how these different methods work. Talk to people who have studied these field for decades. Then, after you thoroughly understand the processes and reasoning behind the different methods, if you do find a legitimate hole in the logic, do your own research and submit the findings to a respected peer-reviewed journal. That’s how science works, and it really does work pretty well.”

    What utter nonsense. I have worked in Science for decades and this is the kind of ridiculous nonsense that gives Science a bad name.

    This committee is indeed an embarrassment. But the AGW religion is not the reason, and by trying to smear their opponents with common insults they only spread a lack of faith in Science even further.

    The biggest enemies of Science in this century are the followers of AGW.

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  12. 12. ocschwar 3:45 pm 04/1/2014

    usmarine1211, my family has links going to Ashton Villa. I warned my wife when we visited that w could never live in Galveston because the place is a death trap, and this guy is part of why that came to pass.

    Link to this
  13. 13. jkelby 3:58 pm 04/1/2014

    HowardB,

    While not alerting you to your exact, particular “tells” as is commonly used in poker vernacular, even without reading your comment for content it is painfully obvious at a cursory glance of your post that you are neither versed in any field of science nor are you one to be swayed by rational thought, even if carefully deconstructed and put to you as one would a small child.

    Your propensity for obfuscation reveals you to be an internet troll, one who has suckled at the teat of modern conservatism and jingoistic blather so long that it would be an exercise in futility to attempt to explain the almost universal consensus of climatologists that the dire results of our current state of climate change is indeed exacerbated by man.

    Your time is grossly misspent on this forum as no one here of any merit accepts your ridiculous pap; perhaps your time would best be utilized on a site dedicated to racist musings, end-times biblical interpretations or second amendment howlings.

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  14. 14. Denswei 9:07 pm 04/1/2014

    “The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.” (Horace Walpole).

    More & more I feel like the only appropriate response to these clowns is a good round of well deserved laughter.

    Think about it: how many of us have read any of the global cooling/global warming debate back in the 70′s? Remember what the big deal was? Which scientists & what evidence supported global cooling? And who & what supported global warming?

    Contrary to the propagandist’s claim, the 70′s cooling/warming debate underscores the severity of man-made climate change & makes fools of anyone spewing that BS. FOOLS. How can I emphasize it enough?

    Consider Milankovich cycles: the earth was as warm as today at the peak of the Milankovich cycles BUT we are no where near a peak. Instead, Milankovich cycles PREDICT cooling. Warmer in Roman times? Did anyone else notice the trend since Roman times in temperature reconstructions: Generally, slooowwwllllyyy cooling.

    The whole freaking debate in the 70′s was that past evidence (e.g., geology, Milankovich cycles, etc) supported gradual cooling into the next ice age. Atmospheric scientists on the other hand looked at the physics of greenhouse gases & such, and said no way: increasing greenhouse gases will increase the greenhouse effect resulting in warmer temperatures on average and wilder weather in general. (it’s just 8th grade earth science with calculus: weather is nothing more than a mechanism for redistributing heat around the globe. More heat, more energy, more severe weather.)

    The punchline of the 70′s heating/cooling debate was that the natural trend of cooling temperatures into the next ice age was reversed and massively overwhelmed by man-made global warming.

    Idiots & fools meanwhile just parrot what they’ve been told to say, sans any rational thought, oblivious to the facts of the matter.

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  15. 15. Mnestheus 12:08 am 04/2/2014

    I for one welcome our new monopartisan masters. We should do exactly as they tell us for their views are worth every pitcher of warm spit ever to have flowed down Capitol Hill.

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  16. 16. DavidMarjanovic 8:08 am 04/2/2014

    Where, in the scientific literature will one find verification of the basic assumptions or, any skepticism concerning them?

    …Uh, why don’t you just search the scientific literature? It’s called http://scholar.google.com/ .

    I have worked in Science for decades

    …so why can’t you even spell it? Or have you in fact worked for this journal?

    Instead, Milankovich cycles PREDICT cooling.

    Yes – the next ice age is scheduled to begin in 50,000 years, with the next glacial maximum in 100,000.

    Find me in Google Scholar (link above) and drop me an e-mail, and I’ll send you the paper that shows this.

    Warmer in Roman times?

    Warmer than when exactly?

    Did anyone else notice the trend since Roman times in temperature reconstructions: Generally, slooowwwllllyyy cooling.

    And then the Little Ice Age ended.

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  17. 17. stargazerbob 10:25 pm 04/2/2014

    Why should Congress be involved in climate change studies? Realistically, climate change happens whether we want it to or not. It is mostly a natural phenomenon. What can we do about it? Should we gut our already fragile economy? It seems like the result of fighting climate change is to put the average hard working American in abject poverty, without making any difference in climate.

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  18. 18. SAULT18 2:05 pm 04/3/2014

    stargazerbob,

    You asked, “Why should Congress be involved in climate change studies?”

    The answer is that this is the House Committee on SCIENCE. They hold sway over the government’s research budget and they also propose bills that affect environmental and energy policy.

    “Realistically, climate change happens whether we want it to or not.”

    While the climate changes naturally over thousands of years, human activities also have a strong influence on short-term changes and the long-term steady-state of the climate. You do know that CO2 traps heat, right? And currently, that trapped heat is the energy equivalent of 10 nuclear bombs going off every second, right? That heat doesn’t just dissappear and you can’t cause a rapid change like this and not expect anything bad to happen. For example, from 6,000 years ago to the present, the planet cooled 0.7C. It has since warmed up 0.7C once again in 150 years, an artificial warming rate 40 TIMES faster than the natural changes the Earth has went through in the past! What evidence do you have that makes you think this won’t be a costly and difficult burden to deal with? That this won’t kick the mass extinction we are in the middle of into high-gear? That this won’t be a huge drag on the economy or lead to geopolitical instability?

    “What can we do about it [climate change]? Should we gut our already fragile economy?”

    Well, disrupting the ecosystems and climate patterns we have built our entire civilization around will SURELY “gut” our economy eventually. Plus, relying on fossil fuels has saddled us with a HUGE pollution problem aside from climate change anyway. This study found that coal pollution alone causes $100B in annual damages to just the U.S. economy:

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/aea/aer/2011/00000101/00000005/art00001

    This study pegged the annual damages at between $300B up to $500B in annual damages:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/abstract

    Since coal companies cause these massive damages without paying a dime for them, allowing coal power to remain such a dirty energy source is a MASSIVE subsidy to the industry, distorting energy markets to favor it. Accounting for just these most apparent “negative externalities” of coal pollution would triple the price of coal electricity or more. All together, the IMF tabulated these negative externalities for fossil fuels and the direct subsidies the fossil fuel companies receive and determined that they amount to $1.9 TRILLION annually:

    http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf

    Shoveling this amount of money from governments and into the pockets of fossil fuel companies surely has a negative effect on the economy. And giving them a free pass on all the negative effects of the pollution they produce has a HUGELY negative effect on the global, and consequently, individual national economies. The current status quo of using copious amounts of dirty fossil fuels is the SUREST way to “gut” the economy.

    Efforts to combat climate change will actually provide TONS of jobs for the “average[sic] hard[sic] working American in abject poverty”. Firstly, massive environmental injustices have caused the most polluted areas to also have high poverty and unemployment rates. Secondly, clean energy and efficiency measures can put millions of people back to work building a cleaner economy. Dirty energy technologies don’t even come CLOSE to producing the number of jobs that clean energy / efficiency can per dollar invested. Finally, once the negative externalities of fossil fuel pollution are reduced, people will live longer, have better health and spend less money on healthcare all while enjoying higher economic productivity (from taking less sick days and even living longer!) On the contrary, switching away from firty fossil fuels can be a huge BOON to the economy!

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  19. 19. computerguy0526 3:32 pm 04/3/2014

    I saw clips of that hearing, and I almost don’t know how politicians such as these earn a seat on the *Science* committee. I think that the science committee should be filled with people with either a scientific background or at least an open mind and a willingness to learn. It applies to both parties, because although one is worse than the other, it doesn’t put either party into the right. To be honest, I think we need more trained scientists to get into legislatures and other parts of government (although I perfectly understand the hesitance to do so). We need more scientists on school boards and state boards of education to help turn back the tide of “intelligent design” and other pseudo-scientific nonsense. The only way scientists can influence policy at a grand scale is through the machinery and levers of government, for as long as non-scientific laypeople dominate that machinery, the scientists will be at a disadvantage.

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  20. 20. dick.dowdell@gmail.com 4:12 pm 04/3/2014

    Bill_Crofut seems to revel in his ignorance. Somewhat like the “Know Nothing” Republicans in the House. “Don’t confuse us with facts!”

    I would submit that if ignorance were God’s intention, He would not have given us large brains and the curiosity with which to examine His amazing universe and its elegant mechanisms (such as evolution).

    I’m also a Roman Catholic and would like to note that the Catholic Church long ago accepted evolution. Deliberate ignorance is an affront to God.

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  21. 21. enjuneer 4:59 pm 04/3/2014

    With something around 90-95% of the American voting population being scientifically illiterate, they are only capable of voting for the person who tells the best story and promises to save us from the big green meanies. Throw in a very politically biased, yet scientifically illiterate press who will always spin the story their way, which is always based on fame and money, and what do you get?

    The people we have in Congress and the Presidency. If they agree to some entity’s perception of “science” it is only because they can use it to support their efforts to get elected and hold power. Anyone with a degree that only requires 6 hours of bonehead math and 6 hours of bonehead science with the kind of life’s experience that will get them, is not capable, no matter how many stories they tell or “cover” about something won’t possess the life’s experience or qualitative experience to make good judgments based on science and technology.

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  22. 22. dick.dowdell@gmail.com 6:15 pm 04/3/2014

    enjuneer,

    You seem somewhat elitist. I would agree that the general population is relatively ignorant of the scientific method. I would attribute much of that to the destruction of the public education system over the last 40 years. However, one does not need an advanced degree in engineering or one of the hard sciences to comprehend the scientific method. It used to be taught in high school.
    Unfortunately, in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. As the world becomes too complex for average human beings to cope with, many turn to fundamentalism for comfort—relieving one from the obligation to learn, think, and reason. For its own selfish purposes, the modern Republican Party has exploited this celebration of ignorance as have many of the oligarchs in out midst. “As they have sown the wind, so shall they reap the whirlwind.” I suspect that many Republicans will ultimately regret pandering to the ignorant. I just don’t know when the political pendulun will swing back.

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  23. 23. RobFromLoveland 12:17 am 04/4/2014

    It is a sad commentary on the current state of representation in Washington that many members of the House, possibly a majority, are at their core anti-science. The idea of a committee on science would seem to be somewhat ridiculous on the face of it.

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  24. 24. whbeckmann 12:48 am 04/4/2014

    There seem to be (at least) 3 different related but distinct considerations that are discussed and debated: (1) Is an “abrupt climate change” occurring? (where I am using the IPCC definition for “abrupt climate change”: “A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems”); (2) What are likely to be the impacts of such climate change?; and (3) Is such climate change primarily or significantly anthropogenic? (where “anthropogenic” is used by the IPCC to mean “Resulting from or produced by human activities”).

    It seems as though detection of climate change could be measured by, for example, taking temperatures at a statistically significant set of locations around the globe and comparing these measurements against previous measurements. It is my understanding that such measurements — and many more — have been undertaken by scientists contributing to the IPCC reports and that, based on comparisons with analogous measurements, concluding that climate change is underway. It seems that if one wanted to dispute or deny such conclusions, one would need to address either the measurements or measurement methodologies, or the underlying statistical analysis, or both. From what I have read of the Working Group 1 contribution (“Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”) to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and other analyses, the conclusion that we are undergoing climate change has a high confidence level.

    It is not clear to me how it can be determined, and at what level of certainty, that this “[will] take place over a few decades or less, [will] persist (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades and [will] cause substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.” This, of course, is question (2), regarding “the likely impact of such climate change.” We can, of course, “wait and see what happens”; but if there is reasonable argument that what will happen could be bad, then we probably don’t want to wait and discover how bad it actually is. Generally, “prevention” (or mitigation, at least) is easier and cheaper than “cure.”

    Finally, question (3) regarding the “attribution” of this climate change to human activities and practicies may be the most hotly debated of these three questions. The IPCC AR5 clearly asserts (see the Executive Summary on pages 869 to 871, at the beginning of Chapter 10, of that report) that this climate change is “likely” or “very likely” caused by us (such as by the greenhouse gases we create). I remain skeptical of many of these conclusions because I do not see how or why natural events, such as Dansgaard–Oeschger events (mentioned several times in the report), have been eliminated from (many if not all of) the models being used in this, and previous, IPCC assessments. Little is known about these “DO events” except that they do cause or are associated with abrupt climate change. Indeed, as stated in the IPCC report (page 432): “In spite of the visible presence of DO events in many paleoclimate records from both hemispheres, the underlying mechanisms still remain unresolved and range from internally generated atmosphere–ocean–ice sheet events … to solar-forced variability …”

    So when the IPCC AR5 states (page 469) that “More than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature (GMST) from 1951 to 2010 is very likely due to the observed anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations” (where “very likely” means with probability between 90% and 100%), it seems reasonable to agree that this increase in GMST has been detected, but it does not seem so reasonable to agree the attribution to the observed anthropogenic increase in GHG concentrations is “very likely.” It, in fact, may be very likely; but the methods and models employed to result in this attribution — or the descriptions of such methods and models in the report — is not so compelling. I was slightly disappointed that Dr. Jogalekar appeared distressed that “members of the larger committee either deny that climate change is happening or question that human activities are responsible for it.” I personally have doubts as to the extent of responsibility that humans have for climate change, and I consider my approach to this matter of climate change has been both diligent and scientific.

    Ultimately, the actions taken and the money spent to adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change will need to take into account – at some point – the underlying causes of such climate change. But when “some point” occurs does not seem to be so clear. If the initial impacts of this climate change are as dire and as soon as some fear, then efforts and money should be focused on controlling and mitigating those initial impacts, and not on preventing them, which may be impossible, either because of: the lack of time; or the inability to significantly alter human behavior patterns around the world; or because of incorrect attribution.

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  25. 25. Bill_Crofut 8:03 am 04/4/2014

    dick.dowdell@gmail.com,

    Re: “ Bill_Crofut seems to revel in his ignorance.”

    Perhaps you’d be willing to be a bit more specific (i.e., provide an example).

    Re: “…the Catholic Church long ago accepted evolution.”

    Perhaps you’d be willing to “enlighten” me as to the specific Church teaching in which evolution was accepted.

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  26. 26. shepsters 5:47 pm 04/4/2014

    I note the disclaimer (The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.) at the end of this post and can only say that the views expressed had better be subscribed to by SA!!!

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  27. 27. jaybyrd 12:06 am 04/5/2014

    And of course this is just one example of the church’s evolution of doctrine.

    But, of course, any response to you is probably ultimately futile, because, as you stated in your first post:

    “Where, in the scientific literature will one find verification of the basic assumptions or, any skepticism concerning them?”

    reveals that not even a cursory attempt has been made by you to even verify that that the “basic assumptions” have been subjected to skeptical review and verification until they have become accepted.

    Link to this
  28. 28. jaybyrd 12:16 am 04/5/2014

    Why ask Dick Dowdell to give the first example when you do it so well yourself:

    My only claim is that of an unlettered Traditional Roman Catholic, militant young-Earth Biblical creationist and geocentrist.

    As to the catholic church’s position on evolution, on October 22, 1996 Pope John Paul 11 states:

    “In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points…. Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”
    And of course this is just one example of the church’s evolution of doctrine.

    But, of course, any response to you is probably ultimately futile, because, as you stated in your first post:

    “Where, in the scientific literature will one find verification of the basic assumptions or, any skepticism concerning them?”

    reveals that not even a cursory attempt has been made by you to even verify that that the “basic assumptions” have been subjected to skeptical review and verification until they have become accepted

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  29. 29. Benway 3:49 am 04/5/2014

    Thank you jaybyrd, for locating and quoting the pope’s (somewhat belated) comments to try to “enlighten” Mr. Crofut, per his singularly uninformed request.

    He (Crofut) also asked for a specific example of his reveling in his ignorance, let me simply refresh it: “unlettered, militant, young-earth and geocentrist”. Seems like ’nuff said?

    To put a sharper point on it, Mr. Crofut, you quote an article from 1955 to represent what science knows about the age of the earth today (we have found out a few things since you were a boy!). You will have to make the effort for yourself to at least try to use Google and perhaps Wikipedia to begin to learn about the evidence as well as the assumptions and the skepticisms that are the essence of actual scientific discovery and advancement. You are in fact not ready to tackle the actual scientific peer-reviewed journals, but Wikipedia, or Brittanica or any other serious objective presentation from outside your tiny cloister would “enlighten” you as fast as you are able to tolerate the agoraphobia. I am certain that you will be unwilling to do that, no matter how easy it is made for you. When you challenge this discussion to “show you the scientific literature”, you are demonstrating that you are in fact reveling in your ignorance.

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  30. 30. Colorblind 9:36 am 04/5/2014

    I am unaffiliated with Religion, Politics, and sex. So I thought I would give my 2 cents. Where I come from they have debates about how to teach Science, Evolution. I thought your Governor would step up an Represent all. First thing out of his mouth is God. Our Supreme Court had to order him to fund our schools equally. Now he is in TV commercials touting his program for funding our schools. Now that is a Politician. We recently lost the Founder of a Hate group. And most around here for a millisecond thought. Good riddance. Denying the carbon effect on our atmosphere. Or blaming it all on Al Gore. Is to pretend your an Ostrich with your head in the sand. A lot of good people lobby against abortion. They are also uncomfortable with any one needing Government Assistance. War, genocide, overpopulation, poverty. Global warming. History will teach us nothing. All we need is Love! Love is all we need.

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  31. 31. Bill_Crofut 1:24 pm 04/5/2014

    Jaybird (comment 26),

    On the contrary, my research indicates no one has addressed the basic assumptions:

    “The Earth is 4.54 billion years old…”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/carbon-dating-science-history-dinosaurs-human_n_1536274.html?utm_campaign=052412&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-%20%20science&utm_content=Photo

    “[T]he Earth is 4.5 billion years old…”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/creationist-congress-early- earth_n_2234540.html

    and

    “The continuing denial, mostly by certain fundamentalist groups, of the 4.56-billion-year age of the Earth…”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-h-bailey/when-skepticism-becomes-d_b_4215286.html?utm_hp_ref=science

    Link to this
  32. 32. Bill_Crofut 1:35 pm 04/5/2014

    jaybird (comment 27),

    Your quote of Pope John Paul II is not from a teaching document of the Church. It’s taken from a letter (in all likelihood, written by Benedictine Fr. Stanley Jaki) read before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. No Catholic is bound by anything written in the letter. Note his reference to, not abrogation of, Humani Generis which is binding on Catholics:

    “Some will contend that the theory of evolution, as it is called—a theory which has not yet been proved beyond contradiction even in the sphere of natural science—applies to the origin of all things whatsoever. Accepting it without caution, without reservation, they boldly give rein to monistic or pantheistic speculations which represent the whole universe as left at the mercy of a continual process of evolution. Such speculations are eagerly welcomed by the Communists, who find in them a powerful weapon for defending and popularizing their system of dialectical materialism; the whole idea of God is thus to be eradicated from men’s minds.”

    [Pope Pius XII. 1950. HUMANI GENERIS: Encyclical Letter on FALSE TRENDS IN MODERN TEACHING promulgated 12th August. In: FALSE TRENDS IN MODERN TEACHING. 1961. London: Catholic Truth Society, section 5]

    also: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

    Link to this
  33. 33. Bill_Crofut 1:42 pm 04/5/2014

    Benway (comment 28),

    Re: “To put a sharper point on it, Mr. Crofut, you quote an article from 1955 to represent what science knows about the age of the earth today (we have found out a few things since you were a boy!).”

    “In conventional interpretation of K-Ar [potassium-argon] age data, it is common to discard ages which are substantially too high or too low compared with the rest of the group or with other available data such as the geological time scale. The discrepancies between the rejected and the accepted are arbitrarily attributed to excess or loss of argon”

    [Geophysicist A. Hayatsu. 1979. K-Ar Isochron Age of the North Mountain Basalt, Nova Scotia. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF EARTH SCIENCES, April, p. 974]

    Link to this
  34. 34. jonmeads 8:38 pm 04/5/2014

    The problem with Democrats is that they just think too small. If we want to accomplish anything we need to repeal the laws of science and that is why men of conscience vote GOP.

    Link to this
  35. 35. johnog 1:35 am 04/6/2014

    Mr. Crofut, as a self-proclaimed geocentrist shut up, or provide conclusive evidence, in terms other than Ptolemaic epicycles upon epicycles that the Earth is the center of the universe (or is that the deist universe). You are either a provocateur, or as close minded as those criticizing you have claimed. What, again, please, evidence do you have that the earth is the center of anything except our observable universe, if I am in the middle a reasonably sized lake, let alone an ocean, I will be out of sight of land. As I turn in 360 degree circle I observe a horizon limited by what light reaches my eyes. Hence I am at the center of what I can see/observe. This is NOT an argument for geocentrism.

    Link to this
  36. 36. subterra 2:59 am 04/6/2014

    @Ash – Sorry I’m a week late seeing your column, but when you mention living in the Middle Ages, it seems to me that having to depend on enlightened billionaires to fund science just sounds a lot like having to rummage around for a sympathetic king or prince for patronage. That wasn’t a really great system either, was it? We supposedly live in a democracy (I have my doubts these days), where science is funded by the people collectively rather than by feudal royalty.

    Also please consider that when you look more closely at these Congressional clowns, they too very often turn out to be little more than tools of a different set of billionaires, who profit quite handsomely from the complete drooling ignorance of as many folks as they can possibly brainwash. In other words, they didn’t just drop stupid from the sky, they were deliberately put there.

    I don’t think this is a partisan issue. Republicans need to take back their party from the plutocrats that currently run it, and Democrats need to take back their party from the plutocrats who are running it. Not easy tasks, but the alternative is a new sort of Middle Ages, or maybe even Dark Ages.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Bill_Crofut 6:50 pm 04/6/2014

    johnog (comment 34),

    Re: “…provide conclusive evidence, in terms other than Ptolemaic epicycles upon epicycles that the Earth is the center of the universe…”

    “…[A]ll this evidence that the universe looks the same whichever direction we look in might seem to suggest there is something special about our place in the universe. In particular, it might seem that if we observe all other galaxies to be moving away from us, then we must be at the center of the universe. There is, however, an alternate explanation: the universe might look the same in every direction as seen from any other galaxy, too. This, as we have seen, was Friedmann’s second assumption. We have no scientific evidence for, or against, this assumption. We believe it only on grounds of modesty: it would be most remarkable if the universe looked the same in every direction around us, but not around other points in the universe.”

    [Prof. Stephen Hawking. 1988. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. New York: Bantam Books, p. 42. Quoted in: Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D. and Robert J. Bennett, Ph.D. 2008. Galileo Was Wrong The Church Was Right , Volume I. The Scientific Case for Geocentrism. State Line, PA: Catholic Apologetics International Publishing, Inc., p. 63]

    Link to this
  38. 38. rrusson 2:42 pm 04/7/2014

    Kudos to Ashutosh for not pulling punches. The end of the world won’t be war, but intellectually challenged leaders making terrible decisions based off the proposition that their ignorance is equal to scientists’ knowledge. Like the insecure, anti-science trolls littering far too many SA comment sections, they believe that seeing their thoughts in print makes their opinion valid.

    Link to this
  39. 39. lucaspa 3:58 pm 04/7/2014

    subterra: unfortunately, resistance to science IS a partisan issue. Science deniers have overwhelmingly clustered in the Republican party. Look at the state level: anti-science education bills that are introduced are 99.99% of the time introduced by Republicans.

    The solution is to vote anti-science people out of office. Republicans can do this in primaries. When the Kansas Board of Ed voted to teach Intelligent Design (by the majority Republican members)in 1998, Republicans turned them out in the next primaries for the Board of Ed — and the standards were reversed. If Republicans choose anti-science people in their primaries, then everyone votes for the Democrat.

    BTW, the way we “prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years” is because those events (theories) have left evidence that PERSISTS TO THE PRESENT. The present is the way it is because the past was the way it was. Unless, of course, you want to “assume” cause and effect do not work. Rep Weber should take a trip to Meteor Crator in Arizona and ask “how do we prove a meteor hit here 10,000 years ago?”

    Link to this
  40. 40. Gopher63 5:15 pm 04/7/2014

    @Bill_Crofut: I’m amazed that with your stated positions you continue to read Scientific American. Do you intend just to provoke? You positions seem untenable. Per other suggestions, I suggest that you do more research and not cherry pick.
    @Howard B: AGW is not a religion but you seem to preach your own version, unbecoming one who has ‘worked in science”.
    @stargazerBob: your point of view seems to reflect a head in the sand policy.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Colorblind 10:19 pm 04/7/2014

    Repeal the Laws of Science. And lock up any one that don’t have a conscience. Bring back the Jim Crow laws. What a wonderful World it would be. Sure some States are getting real belligerent. Like Colorado for instance. They voted to Legalize pot. Now they are making money. Going to where it is needed. In their schools. Think they debate about Science, or conscience. They live in a democracy. The people got to vote on everything. And it seems to be working. Waiting to see the footage of a person suffering from withdrawals from pot on Dr Drew. Recall the Nakatomi Building in the movie Die Hard. Walk into our Board of Education. The buildings looks similar. Our Board is still discussing whether fish should be taught to spawn.

    Link to this
  42. 42. Bill_Crofut 10:21 am 04/8/2014

    Gopher63(comment 39),

    Re: “I’m amazed that with your stated positions you continue to read Scientific American. Do you intend just to provoke?”

    Absolutely! SA is one of my primary sources for anti-evolutionist quotes (even though it’s unintentional).

    Link to this
  43. 43. lucaspa 3:45 pm 04/8/2014

    Crofut, don’t you think you should quote the Pope, of all, people, CORRECTLY?

    “5. If anyone examines the state of affairs outside the Christian fold, he will easily discover the principle trends that not a few learned men are following. Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism.

    6. Such fictitious tenets of evolution ”

    Do you see what you did? You committed false witness. Pope Pius was not refuting evolution, but instead refuting “fictitious tenets” about evolution.

    Let’s go further into the document:
    “36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter ”

    In the same paragraph: “Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts,” http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

    It is this statement that Pope John Paul II modified (as a Teaching Authority)

    “4. Taking into account the scientific research of the era, and also the proper requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis treated the doctrine of “evolutionism” as a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and serious study, alongside the opposite hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions for this study: one could not adopt this opinion as if it were a certain and demonstrable doctrine, and one could not totally set aside the teaching Revelation on the relevant questions. He also set out the conditions on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith—a point to which I shall return.

    Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.* In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM

    Basically, evolution has been discussed and is on much more solid ground.

    However, you are definitely NOT a “Traditional Catholic”, since Catholicism has never had a problem with evolution and has always had a “2 books” tradition. God has 2 books: scripture and Creation. Science reads the book of Creation. Pope John Paul II also stated the Traditional Catholic view:
    “”The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationship of man with God and the universe. Sacred scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The sacred book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogenies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made, but how to go to heaven.”

    You are contrary to the intention of the Bible.

    Link to this
  44. 44. bungay lad 3:18 pm 04/9/2014

    Integrity in the House of Representatives is sadly wanting. Members routinely disparage science and attempt to curtail funding for any and all programs and support of scientific research that would confirm climate change, enhance understanding of evolution or protect environmentally sensitive species and areas. The motivation? Same as always, greed. Our government has a fundamental responsibility to fund scientific research and is failing at that. We cannot and should not rely on private benefactors. House members must be taken to task for their asinine conduct. They may feel immune due to gerrymandered districts but their party can and should be held accountable.

    Link to this

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