Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Party Of Non-science

      If you have been following my blog, you know that I am not very happy with President Obama's approach to solving the country's problems. But at least his activities are grounded in reality – I do not believe they are based on a disbelief of modern science. I cannot say the same about any of his Republican rivals, and that has me concerned.
     The recent hurricane has people asking the question: Was Irene a result of global warming? And the answer has two parts: (1) No one knows, and (2) That's the wrong question. It is impossible for anyone to say whether a particular phenomenon is a result of global warming; hurricanes have been around since long before global warming began.
     The proper question is: Should we expect more such catastrophic phenomena as a result of global warming? And the answer is: Absolutely, including not only hurricanes, but also extremes of temperature, droughts, floods and tornados.
     As the glaciers melt, the water level in the oceans rises – as a result, any oceanic surge caused by a meteorological phenomenon, e.g., a hurricane or a tsunami, will cause flooding further inland. In addition, the primary energy source of a hurricane is water vapor; as the oceans warm, more water vapor will be created which will lead to stronger hurricanes.
     A study released in January, 2009, concluded that, “Human-induced global warming is real, according to a recent U.S. survey based on the opinions of 3,146 scientists. However there remain divisions between climatologists and scientists from other areas of earth sciences as to the extent of human responsibility.
     “The strongest consensus on the causes of global warming came from climatologists who are active in climate research, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role... Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 percent and 64 percent, respectively, believing in human involvement.”
     "The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," said Peter Doran, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the survey's authors. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomena."
     However, Doran was not surprised by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists."They're the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it.”
     Compare that with recent statements on the subject by the current front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination:

     Mitt Romney (06/04/2011) “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course,’’ Romney said. “But I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that … so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.’’
     Mitt Romney (08/24/2011) “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” Romney said, as reported by Reuters. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans...What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to,” he added. Blogger: Waffles anyone?
     Rick Perry (08/17/2011) "I think we're seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. He said some want billions or trillions of taxpayer dollars spent to address the issue, but he added: "I don't think from my perspective that I want to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question." (It's true the theory is being questioned, but not the way Perry means it – more and more climatologists are questioning whether forecasts of dire consequences are strong enough.)
     Perry's home state of Texas releases more heat-trapping pollution carbon dioxide – the chief greenhouse gas – than any other state in the country, according to government data.

     Recently, 97% of biologists surveyed replied that there was no controversy within the field between intelligent design and evolution. Neither intelligent design nor creationism has any scientific support.
     But biology is not the only science dependent upon evolutionary theory for its success. If evolution is not factual, radioisotope decay rates are not constant, and the entire theory of nuclear physics crumbles. A collapse such as that would destroy all of physics, followed by chemistry, biology, geology, palaeontology, thermodynamics and cosmology. What do our candidates have to say about that?

     Mitt Romney (While governor of Massachusetts.) “In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed...If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”
     Mitt Romney (05/11/2007) “I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe...And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”
     He was asked: “Is that intelligent design?”
     “I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.” Blogger: More waffles?
     Rick Perry (08/18/2011) In response to a question from a little boy in New Hampshire, "I hear your mom was asking about evolution...That's a theory that is out there - and it's got some gaps in it."
     Perry then told the boy: "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."

     State education experts told the Texas Tribune that Perry is not quite right about what's taught in the Lone Star state's public schools. David Bradley, a conservative member of the Texas Board of Education, told the Tribune that nothing prevents a teacher from talking about creationism but "it is not specifically in the Texas curriculum."
     Other Republican runners are equally hostile to evolution - Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul support the teaching of creationism.

     It appears the Republican Party candidates, and by inference, the Party itself, has decided to disbelieve the well established underpinnings of modern science. How many science-illiterate students can we graduate before the competitive edge of the United States disappears? Can we afford to regress to the 19th century? It could happen if these throwbacks get control of the educational purse strings.
My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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