Category Archives: Creationism

Climate change and evolution denial (guest post)

From the blog uknowispeaksense:

Not so long ago, the LNP state convention in Queensland put forward the proposal that climate change not be taught in Queensland schools. A ridiculous idea that thankfully hasn’t been implemented by the LNP parliamentarians….yet.

It’s an idea so rooted in the 1950′s mindset of the crusty old farts that run the conservative party in Queensland it would set education standards back 50 years. What next? ”Get out the slate boards and chalk kids, for Science today we’re going to discuss talking snakes and original sin.”? OTT?

Yep, maybe so, but not really as far-fetched as it sounds, at least in principle. Here is a very recent talk by Eugenie Scott from the NCSE in the US discussing some of the parallels between climate science denial and denial of evolution. It’s a long one, so settle in.

I’ve long argued there is a connection between evolution and climate change denial: indeed, they are the product of the same anti-Enlightenment forces of creationism and right-wing popularism.

There is a great deal of convergence and cross over between these two movements. Tim at New Anthropocene also picks this up on his piece on the conservative-Christian Cornwall Alliance.

Great video: watch and note the deep connections.

Decline and fall: in the US they’re building Noah’s Ark, in China they’re building the future

The animals went in two, by two...

Two recent announcements reflect the decline of America and the rise of China.  

The Governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, has announced a new “tourist attraction” for the state. 

A creationist themed park that includes a full-scale version of the Noah’s Ark:   

Gov. Steve Beshear announced plans Wednesday morning for a new tourist attraction in Northern Kentucky that will include a wooden ark and a theme park. The governor made the announcement Wednesday morning during a news conference at the Capitol Building in Frankfort. Representatives of Answers in Genesis, which opened the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky about three years ago, will partner with other investors in the project.

The park, called the Ark Encounter, will be on 800 acres off Interstate 75 in Grant County and is expected to be complete by 2014.

The park is being built by Answers in Genesis, a group that believes the world is less than 10,000 years old. The Government is giving them nearly $40m in tax breaks to help cover the estimated $150m to build it.  

Beshear is very proud of the job creating possibilities of the Ark… never mind it helps support ignorance and scientific illiteracy.  

Perhaps as sea levels rise that Ark may become handy?  

Let’s hope the thing can actually float and is “fit for purpose”! 

In contrast, China announces ambitious plans cut carbon emissions and invest in green technology: 

In November 2009, China promised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, while increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.

At a press conference unveiling the report, Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of NDRC, China’s top economic planner, said great effort has been made by China in energy-saving and greenhouse gas emission reductions in recent years.

During the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) period, China’s investment in energy-saving and emission-reduction projects reached about 2 trillion yuan ($301 billion), more than 200 billion yuan (13.2 trillion) of which came from the Chinese Government, according to NDRC statistics.

In the US, elected government officials are throwing money at creationists. 

In China, they’re investing billions in technology that will create jobs and push them to the forefront of technology innovation.  

Ladies and gentlemen, in case it was not apparent, the 21st century belongs to China.

Denier Andrew Bolt posts pro-science story, creationist posters demonstrate his blog a hot spot of ignorance

 

Andrew Bolt's readers react to a pro-science story on his blog...

 

Pity poor Andrew Bolt…. 

Even when he attempts a pro-science story, he proves his blog is hot-spot for ignorance and superstition. Most of his readers react to his pro-science story by attacking science.

I was amused to see Bolt post a story on NASA’s announcement on the possibility of alien life (see here for more details).  

Andrew happily accepts the science behind this story. Amazing given NASA is one of those “warmist” organisations, a key player in climate science. Of course, astrobiology and evoluton don’t offend Andrew’s political sensibilities.

But judging by reader’s comments, evolution and science really offend them.

Those corrupt scientists! 

Bolt’s readers go to town, attacking evolution, NASA, universities and science in general. They really, really have an axe to grind against the scientific “elite”.

Says Chris M:

There is also an organism that feasts on gold (no joke). Now I would like to cultivate a bunch of those little critters.

This just reveals further how little we know and how immeasurably far ahead of our game God is.

Says Tasman of Chapel Hill:

It all depends on how life originated in the first place. No one knows how life originated on Earth by naturalistic processes. No-one. Dawkins says so on Expelled and suggests life may have been seeded on Earth by aliens.

Life has all the hallmarks of design.  It is amazing, remarkable, mind-boggling, intricate, ingeneous, brillian design of self-repairing, self-replicating, adaptive nano-scale systems. As the Bible says, the creation points unmistakably to the invisible nature of the Creator God (Romans 1).

Says Ancient Mariner:

Maybe, just maybe, this demonstrates that man is just not ‘all knowing’ and so many of our theories are just that, theories. Even the theory of evolution based on spontaneous creation in a prehistoric slimepit?

Others just see science as a “big scam”: 

I sense with this announcement the researchers think and believe it’s time for more funding.

So many researchers, in different spheres, including here in Australia, are continually publishing papers of alleged ‘new discoveries’ which are merely a means of shoehorning more funding from government/s.

They have a great lifestyle – large salaries, large salaries and houses – invariably obtained from the public teat.

Daily, the universities are turning out more and more academics who spend their time looking into computers, attending seminars with their peers and who produce nothing more than papers or perhaps a book (often remaindered.)

And, practically every day they appear on TV and radio, especially YOUR ABC to blow thir bags and prognosticate about what might happen in say ten years.

It has become almost an art form to gain notice by putting the FRIGHTENERS on people.

I believe so many of them are what one may term ‘elitist bludgers’ who are only concerned with making a very good living at taxpayers expense.

Yeah, right on!  But this is my favourite:  

…Do scientists really think that we are that dumb that we can’t nut these things out.(I suppose the answer to that is yes if you consider the ammount [sic] of numb nuts who believe in man made global warming)
Was it a coincidence that at the time NASA was was [sic] about to have it’s funding slashed dramatically.
NASA has cried wolf too mant [sic] times for anybody to take notice.

And NASA faked the moon landings as well!

Do these people not get the irony of posting anti-science comments on the Internet, one of the marvels of technology and science?  

Inherit the wind: what the war on science has created

Of course, people like Andrew Bolt are blind to how their efforts are destroying public trust in science.

One need not look any further than the comments on Bolt’s blog to see the world the deniers have helped created: one of ignorance and superstition.

Take a bow Andrew, you’ve done a great job!

Herald Sun War on Science 9: escalating the war on science

Yesterday the Herald Sun announced that conservative columnist Miranda Divine would be joining their stable of columnists.  

My first thought was “Here comes more climate change denial…”

And true to form, I’m not disappointed.

Dear old Miranda is one of those conservative journalists who recycle denial memes and propaganda in her columns. Divine’s first column – titled “Green advertisement to bring pain” – is a wide-ranging attack on environmentalism and science.

Let’s break it down piece-by-piece.  

10:10 No Pressure campaign

As predicated, the 10:10 campaign is a disaster and will be used again, again by the deniers to draw the “green = terrorism” meme. Divine milks it for all it’s worth:

It’s green Darwinism, known in earlier times as The Final Solution.

Armstrong and friends removed the video from the 10:10 website when complaints started, but it was too late.

She has let the cat out of the bag.Now we have the evidence that during the long silence after the twin blows last year of the Copenhagen climate summit and Climategate, green zealots had been busy plotting revenge.They flipped the switch in their brains that takes them down the blood-spattered path of totalitarian death so well-worn in the 20th century. Now we know: climate change alarmism is a death cult.

We heard the message in its starkest form last month from the Discovery Channel’s suicide bomber James Lee, whose eco manifesto demanded no more “filthy human children” before he was shot dead by police outside the US cable channel’s headquarters in Maryland.

These rants are worthy of your garden variety creationists: Hitler, the Final Solution. In this respect Divine mimics creationists in the US who link Darwin with Hitler, the Holocaust and the individual acts of mentally unwell people.

Personally, I find the 10:10 video objectionable on two levels:

  • the film is tasteless. I find the violence objectionable, especially the thought of harm to children
  • it was an incredible blunder made by people who fail to understand the difference between entertainment and communication.

Divine recycles Heartland Institute talking points

As I noted a few weeks back, the industry funded American think tank “The Heritage Institute” was sponsoring a sceptics conference.

As predicted, talking points have made their way into the media:

As the brilliant Perth-based mathematician David Evans, who wrote the Government’s carbon accounting program when he worked at the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) told a climate seminar last week, the temperature record is based in part on suspect readings.At a seminar by the American climate sceptic think tank, the Heartland Institute, in Sydney on Friday, Evans displayed images of temperature measuring stations around the world, including in Melbourne and Sydney, which stand next to heat-generating air conditioners, freeways and asphalt runways.

The link between industry funded think tanks, the denial machine and the media is made explicitly clear here. 

Divine is recycling the old “temperature records are unreliable” meme. This has been debunked so many times (see here) it’s not funny, however like the creationist meme “There are no transitional fossils” it is endlessly repeated by climate sceptics.

I also like the fact that she calls David Evans a “mathematician”.

Evans has a PhD in engineering. He has not ever been a mathematician, which is a recognised discipline.

Evans also calls himself a “rocket scientist (from SourceWatch):

According to his biographical note, Evans rhetorically describes himself as a “Rocket Scientist”[4]. (While Evans use of the term was rhetorical, one article on a website for the conspiracy-minded took it literally and headed an article about Evans claims “Top Rocket Scientist: No Evidence CO2 Causes Global Warming”.[5] While Evans has a PhD in electrical engineering, there is no evidence that he was ever employed as a rocket scientist. Evans explained this was a misunderstanding: “In US academic and industry parlance, ‘rocket scientist’ means anyone who has completed a PhD in one of the hard sciences at one of the top US institutions.”[6]

He has never worked for NASA. 

He just thinks it makes him sound super-smart. 

It’s the old trick of puffing up ones credentials.

Journalists like Divine are simply gullible.

The HUN is stepping up its war on science

Divine joins Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann as their most high-profile journalists who without fail regularly wage war on science.  

Since the election in which over 11% of the Australian population voted Green, conservative papers such as the HUN and The Australian have gone into a panic.

They’ve seen the rise as the Greens as a threat, and have been running dozens of stories seeking to attack their credibility and link their world view with Osama Bin Laden, the Nazi’s and communists.  

It’s a very dirty, ugly campaign that is only getting worse.  

Climate science is seen simply as another “green belief”, a meme fostered by think tanks hoping to discredit the science and scientists.

“El sueno de la razon produce monstruos…”

The Age of Unreason: creationism and climate change denial travel hand-in-hand

Increasingly it is become clear that we are entering the Age of Unreason.  

For proof look no further than the growing links between Creationism and climate change denial. 

Christopher Booker, one of the UKs most prominent climate sceptics has announced his support for the anti-Evolution cause:

“…Academics who dare to question the scientific establishment’s consensus on Darwinism or global warming increasingly find themselves ostracised and demonised

Three months ago I spent a fascinating few days in a villa opposite Cap Ferrat, taking part in a seminar with a dozen very bright scientists, some world authorities in their field. Although most had never met before, they had two things in common. Each had come to question one of the most universally accepted scientific orthodoxies of our age: the Darwinian belief that life on earth evolved simply through the changes brought about by an infinite series of minute variations.

The other was that, on arriving at these conclusions, they had come up against a wall of hostility from the scientific establishment. Even to raise such questions was just not permissible. One had been fired as editor of a major scientific journal because he dared publish a paper sceptical of Darwin’s theory. Another, the leading expert on his subject, had only come lately to his dissenting view and had not yet worked out how to admit this to his fellow academics for fear that he too might lose his post.”

One wonders what the likes of Ian Pilmer, the Australian scientists who fraught creationism but believes global warming is a “scam” would make of this?  

Booker also doubts asbestos is dangerous, calling it “chemically identical to talcum powder” and poses a “non-existent” risk to human health”.  

Clearly Booker must be a genius – he can see the faults in not only climate science, but evolution and contemporary medicine.  

A fool, a liar or a genius? I’ll leave that for you to decide…  

Creationism helped sow the seeds of denial  

As I’ve said since the inception of this blog, creationism and climate change denial go hand-in hand.  

Indeed, I regard climate change denial is the “bastard” child of creationism.  

In the US creationists have argued against the science for decades, claiming there was “no real evidence” and that evolution as a “liberal conspiracy”. So effective are their attacks on science that 50% of the US population thinks the world is less than 10,000 years old and distrust mainstream science.   

Climate change denial fell upon this fertile, anti-science  ground.  

Creationism has provided the template for the denial movement, as their strategies are almost identical. Generations of Americans, Australians and people around the world have been taught to distrust science, and place their faith in fast-talking intellectual hucksters.  

Is it no surprise that the Herald Sun, home to Andrew Bolt, gave over two full pages to disgraced former footballer Gary Ablett to attack evolution?  

Isn’t any wonder that Christopher Monckton, the pompous self-styled “Lord” speaks the language to Creationism?  

Are we not surprised that (now former) Family First Senator Steve Fielding not only doubts climate change, but also rejects evolutionary theory?  

Is there not a pattern emerging?  

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Guest post: Lord Monckton, are you a creationist?

[Peter from Citizen’s Challenge has an interesting question, and one I’d be keen to here more about. How much of Lord Monckton’s opposition to the science of climate change is fueled by his religious faith?

Peter comments on a recent presentation by Monckton that was sprinkled liberally with references to God and the Bible.

It is not uncommon for Jo Nova – who has published papers under the Science and Public Policy Institute of whom Monckton is an advisor – to also cite the work of religious conservatives.

Roy Spencer is a scientist on record for doubting both climate change and evolution. Indeed, the links between creationism and climate change denial may be deeper than we think.

Thanks again to Peter for another great post.]

Lord Monckton,

I’ve been reviewing your Minnesota Free Market Institute presentation. One of many disturbing aspects of your performance are the following statements. But, first to borrow from your 466 questions to Professor Abraham: Could you, Christopher Monckton, confirm that the following quotes accurately encapsulate your recorded comments?

5:20:  “… we all love the planet that the good Lord has given us. And he’s given us the stewardship of it, Genesis 1:22, very clear what our obligations are as stewards of the planet. We are to look after all that is in it, and over it and under it and swimming in the sea. We are not therefore to exercise that stewardship given to us by our creator in an irresponsible fashion. Therefore it is important that we do not waste money, effort, time, or resources on non-problems such as global warming. As I shall show you that it is.”

9:22 to 9:45:  A long Latin dissertation…{I guess to impress us}

9:45:  “‘Unto this was I born, for this came I into the world that I might bare witness to the truth.’ Now those words of our blessed Lord are a perfect mission statement…”

10:25:  “The truth is the truth whether you or I or anyone believe it or not. And here is why the truth matters. It was all very well for jesting (Pontius) Pilate to ask that question and then not to tarry for an answer. But that question that he asked: ‘What is the truth?’ Is the question which underlies every other question, it’s the only question in the end that really matters…”

It seems to me that for someone to deliver those words as movingly as you have, the infallible Bible must be central to how you view everything. That being the case, I’m puzzled – How can you claim to be an impartial conveyor of scientific information? This portion of your talk begs a few questions. But, first some clear definitions are needed, please consider the following.

You conveyed a commitment to the one and only true word of God Bible. That being a belief in a made-in-man’s-image of “God” sitting on a throne, looking down and judging all. Now, I have nothing against this faith-based image of God within the hearts of people and their families and churches. There is much tradition, comfort and strength there.

But, taking this personal need fulfillment to some absolute “I know the One Truth!, because of My God” level, mangles the honest pursuit of science where all must keep an inquisitive skeptical mind. We have a real world biosphere that your ancient Bible is oblivious to – why shackle your exposure to new information and learning with two thousand-year old tribal dogma? Which is exactly what you do! Talk about a dishonest “Appeal to Authority.” This is but one reason I claim your presentation was political showmanship and not science, and even worse, not education.

Beyond that, another unavoidable implication of glorifying your personal “blessed Lord” is that you believe your Lord on his Throne executed that six day rush of creation, six thousand years ago… the entire cosmos, poof, just like that. Are you, Lord Monckton, a Creationist?

I ask because honest science has unhitched itself from that made-in-man’s-image God. Today we appreciate the true God of time and creation is well beyond the understanding of us Earth bound sinners, filled, as we are, with our own self absorbed natures, our self serving greed and follies, and tragedies, leavened with a touch of love now and then. This does not mean the religions are wrong… it simply means there is so much more that no religion has, or can, encompass. God is in your heart – but, beyond your understanding.

Lord Monckton, if you are a Creationist – how is it you can use graphs going back hundreds of thousands of years? This is central because understanding our climate demands an appreciation for Earth’s processes on very long time scales. It has no room for a six thousand-year ago creation, nor the notion that God is just chomping at the bit to call it quits with his personal Armageddon. There’s room for that within ones heart, if that is what you want or need. But, not without, in the real physical biosphere, nor within the science struggling to understand it.

The science is extracted from the real living Earth… which is, after all, where we come from and what sustains and nurtures us. Lord Monckton, your right-wing, Republican glorified, contempt for understanding that real living Earth, is contemptuous in itself.

As for your grand allusions to the Christian ethic: Why does that allow you to handle your “adversaries” with such venomous scorn, bordering on hatred? How is it you find it so easy to broad-stroke many thousands of serious scientists as frauds – as the whole of your presentation clearly implies? Why are you so dismissive of learning about Earth’s Biosphere – as your bitter attacks on Earth observation funding proves? Do you actually believe there is nothing outside of your bubble for you to learn from?

You finished off your slide program with another pompous Latin quote: “OMNIS SPIRITVS LAVDET DOMINVM,(All breath praise to the Lord) emblazoned above crossed USA & Canadian flags, with your seal superimposed upon the bottom portion of the flags. Incidentally, another grosser example of you’re symbolizing some notion of “dominion” over the USA, came in slide #2. How dare you!? I’ll never understand how those salt of the earth Minnesota Republicans so loved you.

But, back to the matter at hand. Understanding what is going on within our biosphere and its climate. Lord Monckton, I will agree, lefties and Democrats have made plenty of mistakes, fine. But, even Republicans must notice their own track record of pushing very bad, very long term, very hideously destructive, very costly mistakes themselves. Don’t you?

Why your eye for an eye until the whole world is blind attitude? Why can’t we all try to start learning about our climate in a serious manner rather than hiding behind politically motivated, corporate driven entertainment? Why can’t you, and your Republican backers, open your minds to real world information?

The scientists are not the bad guys!

Why not shut up and sit down to listen, think and learn for a while?

The left/right divide on climate change: some thoughts

Idiot Tracker – authored by Robert in the US – is a blog with some great insights into the (still growing) political divide between “liberals” and “conservatives” in the United States.

In particular I’ve found his analysis of why the science of climate change is difficult for conservatives to “grasp” most informative. Posted in two parts is worth a read.

Robert’s analysis is not a simple “Conservatives are dumb coz they don’t get it” rant. It’s a thoughtful analysis of both conservative and liberal responses to climate change.

On the left’s reaction to climate change:

“…It’s easy to see how conservatives would tend to drift to the status-quo side of the argument: environmentalism represented (and continues to represent) a challenge to an absolutist argument for the morality of unrestricted capitalism. And it is hard to miss an undertone of hostility to unrestricted capitalism (and to the established order generally) in the writings and speeches of environmental activists — there is sometimes evident a certain glee at the prospect of a civilization-shaking cataclysm, and the warnings of disaster, the vivid pictures painted of the consequences of “peak oil,” for example — can come off as less salutary advice and more wish fulfilment.

Hard-core leftism is a frustrated ideology in the West, and it has had to watch capitalism, whose demise it has often predicted, go from strength to strength, as the moneyed interests that serve it have, far from suffering the fruits of their (very real) crimes against the poor, prospered greatly by their association with it.”

And on how conservatives have embraced a worldview that comforts them:

“…Denialism is comfortable to conservatives because they have gradually acclaimated themselves to the practice of making the facts bend to the ideology; of embracing whatever narrative gives aid and comfort to the tribe, regardless of how far-fetched it is. This dynamic has been assisted greatly by the internet. No longer does a conspiracy theorist have to air their views in mixed company when they are less than fully formed and hardened in place.”

Continue reading

What the denial movement has wrought: the collapse of public trust in science

Bad moon rising.

  

Quite a few blogs – and readers of this blog – have already made mention of the fascinating study “Social influences on paranormal belief: popular versus scientific support“.  

In short, the study looked out how individuals weighted the opinion of the majority versus the scientific consensus (in this case ESP). As suspected, it was found the more popular a view the more readily the individual would accept that consensus of the majority.  

However – shockingly – if the scientific community discounted the pseudo-scientific belief, and it was seen to have broad popular support, then individuals where more likely to reject the view of science. Here’s the abstract:  

“Paranormal claims enjoy relatively widespread popular support despite by definition being rejected by the scientific community. We propose that belief in paranormal claims is influenced by how popular those claims are as well as by dominant scientific views on the claims. We additionally propose that individuals will be most likely to be positively influenced by the views of science when claims are unpopular. An experimental study varied instructions to participants in a 2×2 design which informed participants that a particular paranormal belief/claim (ESP) was very popular or not and was rejected by science or not. Participants then watched a brief video that appeared to present evidence of ESP. As predicted, participants became more likely to believe in ESP when claims were more popular. Contrary to predictions, participants appeared to react against the views of science when evaluating claims, particularly when they believed those claims were unpopular. This finding may reflect decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

Some of the observations are worth noting:  

“Although trust in science remains generally high, Americans are willing to depart from dominant views of science on particular issues such as evolution and global warming (Lang 2005). The 2009 Pew poll which found that trust in science remains high also found increasing scepticism about science. When asked America’s greatest achievement in the prior 50 years, 47% of Americans in 1999 listed a scientific achievement. In 2009, only 27% of American’s listed a scientific achievement in response to the same question. The growing acceptance of paranormal claims combined with a decreased trust in science and willingness to depart from science on particular issues leads us to predict that individuals will selectively adhere to dominant views of science…”  

It should be noted, that views most frequently rejected but the public those that directly contradict the world view of some religious conservatives (evolution) or represent a threat to specific industries (CO2 emitters).  

That both creationists and the denial movement are now working together and share the same tactics is no coincidence.  

There paper concludes:  

“Overall, our research demonstrated that individuals responded positively to perceptions of the popularity of paranormal claims when making decisions about belief in those claims. Results also suggest that participants reacted against the views of science in making decisions about paranormal claims. These findings may be due to individuals seeing paranormal belief as a matter of faith rather than evidence and therefore reacting against science. Alternatively, perhaps endorsement from peers provides a stronger source of legitimacy for paranormal beliefs than authorization from a higher authority. Or, the findings may result from a decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

For both myself and other advocates of science and reason it highlights what we have been saying for some time: the collapse in trust of science has been manufactured and orchestrated by the denial movement.  

It is having an adverse effect not just on climate science, but all science.  

Both the denial movement and religious conservatives are waging a bi-partisan war on science. Alternative medicine directly challenges the efficacy of evidence based medicine. Today more people believe in pseudo-science than ever before.  

Individuals would prefer to surrender their reason to the beguiling siren song of astrology, “The Secret” and the “Da Vinci” code. How comforting it is to be told “The universe really does revolve around you!”.  

Thanks to poor media reporting on science we have a perfect storm of misinformation: counter knowledge masquerading as facts.  

Public opinion on climate change is important: without it our political responses are paralysed as individuals either pay no attention to the the reality of global warming, or alternatively become hostile to proposed solutions.  

Thanks to the likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, The Institute of Public Affairs and Ian Plimer both politicians and the public are being actively mislead.  

Reality is not a democracy – even if 90% of the population chooses to belief climate change is not happening, it does not stop the reality that scientists been observing for decades.  

However, our democracy is being corrupted by these agents of the “anti-enlightenment”. Like all anti-science movements they refuse to engage in the scientific debate because they have no evidence or research that supports their claims.  

Their goal is simple: stall our response to climate change by shaping public opinion.  

I lay this collpase in trust at the feet of the deniers. They are one of the chief members of the chorus that tells us “not to trust” the scientists.  

And what have their actions wrought?  

We have missed the opportunity to prevent climate change. We now have only have two courses of action: mitigation and adaption as the reality of climate change makes itself more manifest over the coming decades.  

Our children will come into a world fundamentally different from the one we grew up in, and that our parents and grand parents took for granted.  

All us – those alive today, and those who have only just entered the world – shall inherit the wind.

Tagged

Inherit the wind: the bipartisian war on science by climate change denialists and religious conservatives

Who shall inherit the wind?

As one dives deeper into the literature of the denial movement, you come across the same names and arguments. What is even more striking is the deep links between creationism – a movement denying evolution – and climate change  denial.

Not only do these two anti-science movements share a disdain for science, but a similar world view. As I have noted previously the denial movement is very much centred in the US, and that many of it’s most prominent members are conservative Christians.

Roy Spencer is an example of someone on record for doubting both evolution and climate change. “Sceptical” bloggers such as Andrew Bolt and Jo Nova “import” a great deal of this material by republishing it on their own sites.

As it’s been demonstrated time and time again, both movements have a deep antipathy towards science, particularly it’s emphasis on methodological naturalism. Methodological what you ask?

Simply put science assumes only natural phenomena can explain the workings of the universe around us. It explicitly excludes supernatural phenomena as a means to explaining “how things work”.

Let’s take one example: earthquakes. In order to explain *why* earthquakes occur we must understand geology and plate tectonics. We don’t assume a god, or gods, got angry and shook the earth. There are good reasons for taking this approach which has a great deal to do with epistemology and the scientific method.

Let’s just say, it’s easier to guess how the earth’s continental plates may shift than try to divine the intention of an angry Earth god or goddess.

Inherit the wind: the conservative religious backlash against climate science

For some – not all, and I’d stress this – religious people methodological naturalism removes the need for a “creator” who “watches over” the world and individual human beings. It’s a deeply threatening position to take, as one cannot explain events by saying “This god did it”.

Whether that be the movement of continental plates or the creation of the universe, the default position of science is to remove a deity from any hypothesis. For some conservative Christians, the science of climate change is as deeply threatening as Darwin’s theory of Evolution. The reasons why conservative Christianity are “opposed” to climate science are complex, but it boils down to two reasons.

Firstly it implies God is “not in control”. Thus for some Christians it’s an almost existential fear: how could God allow the climate change and cause massive suffering without intervening? Better to believe the climate is not changing. Theodicy has never been able to explain away why a good God allows “evil things” to happen. Climate change is “an evil” almost beyond comprehension, and seriously calls into question God’s omnipotence. [2]

A perfect example of this line of thinking is Illinois Republican John Shimkus who blatantly states “only God can destroy the Earth”:

The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

Secondly, this antipathy to climate science is a by-product of the “culture wars” in the US, in which science and scientists are perceived as godless liberals, hostile to Christian beliefs. Therefore, anything scientists have to say on a topic should be treated with deep scepticism.

So, what does this diversion into the philosophy of science and creationism have to do with the denial movement?

Well, as I like to say “Everything”. [wink]

A great deal of the material produced by the denial movement is authored – and aimed for consumption by – conservative Christians.

Want further evidence? Let’s look at a recent example of this on Jo Nova’s blog where she promotes a recent publication by conservative Christian, Art Robinson.

Jo Nova: net importer of conservative religious propaganda

When the results of science don’t agree with your politics, there is only one thing to do: declare all science “corrupt”. Not just climate science, but all science. In her ironically titled post “The truth shall make you free” West Australian denier Jo Nova cites a recent publication by Art Robinson a well-known climate change “sceptic”.

The thrust of article is that science has been corrupted by government grant money, allowing a small group of non-scientists to control the outcome of scientific research:

“A relatively small group of fourth-rate scientists, who would never be scientists at all under the standards that prevailed 50 years ago, have received huge grants of research funds and extensive mainstream media notoriety by – there is no polite way to put this – lying about climate science in order to provide political cover for the U.N. political agenda. By all objective standards of inquiry, the hypothesis they promote is not just unproved; it is definitively disproved by the experimental and observational research record…”

This is the standard conspiracy claim made by most of the denial movement – it’s the classic “follow the money” argument. We’ve heard this many times before, both from the movements “official” spokespersons and the foot soldiers who plague Internet forums and the comments section of online newspapers. Robinson’s paper itself contains barely any citations, is strictly an opinion piece and is largely incoherent.

Robinson finishes his piece with a rather nasty revenge fantasy:

“…Are our best scientists blameless in this? Again, no. They have watched passively as their profession, which depends upon absolute honesty, is represented by dishonest people in public forums – and many have not spoken in opposition to these misrepresentations. If they permit this to continue, the inevitable backlash will eventually come. When that happens, the true scientists will suffer right along with the pseudo scientists – a reward they both will richly deserve.”

What “reward” Robinson hopes scientists to receive is not clear, though I’m pretty sure it involves fire and brimstone.

Who is the intended audience for Robinson’s paper?

This is not the language of science, or even reasoned political debate. It’s conservative Christian propaganda by conservatives for conservatives. It makes wild accusations without any references to the scientific literature.

There is little point taking apart the claims made by the paper. I have neither the time or inclination to correct it’s many factual inaccuracies (however at the end of these article I’ve explored one claim which is easily refuted). Reading Robinson’s paper one is immediately struck by the explicit references to God:

“In the second edition of the “Principia,” in which he published most of his discoveries in physics, Newton writes:

The true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful being. His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity. He governs all things.

Newton wrote only three books – the “Optics,” the “Principia,” and “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.” Averaged over the course of his life, he divided his time equally between his physics and his Bible, believing that his physics was a biblical ministry. To Dr. Bently he wrote, “When I wrote my Treatise about our System [the “Principia”], I had an Eye upon such Principles as might work with considering Men, for the belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that Purpose.”

Science is a search for truth among the things that man can see. The Bible teaches that there are things that man can see and those that he cannot see – “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and “we see through a glass darkly.” It teaches that “the truth shall make you free” – the truth about both things seen and things not seen.”

And this is the opening paragraphs.

When I first read the paper I was surprised by how heavily it was influenced by a religious outlook: “Is this paper serious?” I asked myself. But then I was able to make the connection between conservative Christianity’s rejection of a great deal of science.

Right from the beginning Robinson is citing biblical authority over science. I’m not criticising Robinson’s spiritual beliefs – these are his own – but in science explicitly putting faith before empirical evidence is a major red flag. The scientific method is built around methodological naturalism, the very opposite of Robinson’s approach. In addition to the above, Robinson’s paper is sprinkled with religious references. Here he is talking about the “golden age” of science during the 1940’s and 1950’s:

Most American scientists of that era held to strong Judeo-Christian principles. The majority were dedicated Christians and Jews, with the remainder largely following the custom and culture of those principles. Most were politically conservative. They had just fought and won a great war against government tyranny and did not think tyranny could ever come to their country.

The import of Robinson’s argument is clear: science was good when most scientists were dedicated Christians and Jews”. Today there are less Christian and Jewish scientists, ergo there is a problem with science. Can anyone else see the glaring non sequitur?

The paper contains numerous links to WorldNetDaily (WND), a “news service” with very strong evangelical Christian leanings. Indeed it not only questions climate science but evolutionary science. The WND is well recognised as a the home for all kinds of fringe beliefs, including musings on the apocalypse, the Antichrist and other “end times” subjects. Amongst the science community it is a recognised vehicle for all kinds of wackiness.

Throughout Robinson’s paper there many links to WND articles clearly demonstrating it is intended to be consumed by an evangelical audience.

Why would Nova promote such a piece?

Many of the sceptics I’ve encountered are horrified to associated with creationism. They can’t see the similarities between the two anti-science movements, however they have enough sense to recognise that creationism is a fringe belief.

The interesting question for me is why would Nova promote such a piece? In the extracts she cites from the paper she explicitly removes all references to God: she tones down the heavy religious overtones of Robinson’s paper. Is that she didn’t read the paper in full? I ploughed through it in fifteen minutes, and understood very clearly the authors world view.

Perhaps it is a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”.

Perhaps. Or is it possible that Nova herself has some sympathy with the more conservative Christian values as many of the deniers in the US? Hard to say as I can’t find any references to Nova’s religious beliefs. Of course, one is entitled to their own beliefs about God and the origin of the universe. But, if your religion clouds your understanding of science, and you spend your time trying to discredit climate science then it is a legitimate question to ask.

However, whatever her motivations are, one thing is very clear.

Robinson’s paper, and Nova’s promotion of it to the denial movement in Australia, makes it very clear both movements will happily wage a bipartisan war against science to further their own interests.

Appendix: Robinson claims there is “no observational proof” for climate change

Robinson puts forward on the most common denialist assertions on pages 8-9 of his “report”:

“Promoted by United Nations projects, primarily the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and related activities, and funded by tens of billions of dollars in “research” funds, the “climate change” business is now in full swing. Astonishingly, there are no experimental or observational facts that support the hypothesis of catastrophic human-caused global warming – not even one. This hypothesis is supported entirely by computer models that do not conform to experiment…”

This is a disingenuous claim. The science behind climate change is not reliant upon computer models. Indeed, there is a wealth of observational proof. To pick but one example, see the CSIRO’s recent “State of the Climate Report” which utilises historical data related to rainfall and temperature stretching back over 100 years. There are thousands of good quality research papers out there that also confirm that climate change is directly attributable to human activities. I’d suggest starting with this list of papers from AGW Observer.

Notes to article

[1] SourceWatch notes Robinson as a “…conservative Christian”

[2] I’m familiar with the problem of evil and debate around the issue, please don’t bombard me with statements about how contemporary philosophy treats the issue of “evil”.

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