Rachel Carson, star of Google Doodle on her 107th birthday

May 27, 2014

Have you been to Google today for a general search?  Did you catch the Doodle?

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Perhaps even more remarkable, if you click the Doodle (any Doodle) it takes you to a Google search on that subject.  The search you get today is all positive about Carson.  Considering the money being spent to soil her reputation, 50 years after her death, one might wonder if Google adjusted the search or the algorithm for the results to do that.

If they monkeyed with it, give them bonus points for accuracy and thoroughness.

If they didn’t monkey with it, take great hope that Ben Franklin was right, and truth does indeed win in a fair fight.

Here’s page 1 of the search result I got (not an image, so the links stay hot for you):

Rachel Carson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson

Wikipedia

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are …


    1. The Independent ‎- by Linda Sharkey ‎- 3 hours ago
      Tomorrow marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Louise Carson, the environmentalist whose research led to the banning of harmful …

    More news for Rachel Louise Carson


Rachel Carson left a great and powerful legacy.  52 years after the publication of her most important, most read, and most criticized book, not a single piece of science she cited has been disproven by subsequent research.  Discover Magazine did a literature search some years ago and found more than 1,000  research projects had been done on DDT’s harm to birds, and every one that was published came back to support the claims Carson had made.

Apart from her extreme care for the science and great accuracy, Carson’s words today can still inspire.  She was a helluva writer.  Carson made clear that biological research in the wild is really ecology.  Today more than ever before range botanists and zoologists, to take one example, work closely with each other, and with geneticists, molecular biologists, entomologists, chemists, physicists, climatologists, geologists and geographers, and anyone else who wants to chime in, to present clear understandings the ripple effects damage or benefit to one species may have on many others.

Before Rachel Carson, any graduate study programs in ecology were few and far between, often not even called ecology.

Those methods help to save birds, and also every other form of life on the planet.

Blinded, angry and malicious opposition to the facts Carson laid out, and later scientists still lay out, remains the bigger problem.

Chemical manufacturers spent more than $500,000 in 1962 to smear Carson and her work.  The smears largely did not work, instead forcing scientists to look at her work (which they found solid in science).  But since then, tobacco companies with the Tobacco Institute, perfected the techniques of raising doubts about good science among policymakers and the public.  Today companies spend billions to impugn scientific works in climate change, air and water pollution, and health care.  They are joined by an unpaid mob of internet-savvy malcontents to impugn the integrity of the U.S. space program, vaccinations, and even meteorologists who note that airplane exhaust creates condensation trails at high altitudes. (Yes, it’s water vapor.)

This blog’s seeming obsession with Carson was prompted by such an exquisite act of denialism in Congress, seven years ago, when I learned that Utah Congressman Rob Bishop was bragging about blocking the naming of a post office for Carson, based on false claims that Carson had written false or faulty science, that the U.S. ban on DDT use on crops had extended far outside the jurisdiction of the U.S., and that a shortage of DDT meant malaria had come roaring back from near extinction to unnecessarily kill millions. (The post office was eventually named for Carson, but Bishop and other deluded critics have never repented nor apologized.)

(The facts:  Malaria deaths and infection rates both continued to drop, worldwide, after the U.S. stopped spraying DDT on cotton. Many tens of millions fewer people died of malaria after the U.S. banned it.  The U.S. ban covered only the U.S., but let DDT makers keep cranking the stuff out for export, multiplying the amount of DDT available to fight malaria.  Unfortunately, as Carson feared, abuse of DDT in the third world quickly created DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes; in 1965, the World Health Organization abandoned its malaria eradication campaign because of DDT’s declining effectiveness, a full seven years before the U.S. banned DDT.)

Truth wins in a fair fight, Ben; but as in colonial America, it is necessary for brave citizens to work hard to keep the fight fair.

Because of Rachel Carson, the bald eagle is off the endangered species list, and proliferating in the lower 48 states of the U.S. — as indeed are the peregrine falcon, osprey, and brown pelicans.  DDT continues to hammer many creatures in the wild, however, including the still-endangered  California condor.  Our national policies now require, by law, that significant federal projects consider the environmental effects of those actions, and mitigate the more severe effects or not proceed.  The U.S. now has an agency whose sole job is to consider the safety of chemicals and substances we use in the wild, with power to regulate air and water cleanups — and to clean up more than 400 DDT-contaminated sites on the EPA Priority List, or Superfund.  Among the great successes of this agency was the elimination of lead from gasoline in the U.S., reducing chronic lead poisoning in tens of millions of Americans, and literally raising the national average IQ with elimination of the brain-killing effects of lead.  Lake Erie is cleaner.  The Potomac River, though with its problems, is once again clean enough for humans to swim and boat, as are a hundred other waterways in America, from the Raritan River in New Jersey to the Willamette in Oregon.

Very powerful legacy indeed.

Happy birthday, Rachel Carson; Earth is lucky to have had you, even for such a brief period.

More: 


The climate warmed, and I didn’t speak up, because I was not a cloud . . .

August 12, 2013

Another cartoon on climate change denialism, and the bizarre logic some denialists use — no apologies made to Niemoller at XKCD’s site:

http://xkcd.com/164/

XKCD cartoon, by Randall Munroe

[It appears that the word “denialism” triggers WordPress software to suggest “Fox News” as a topic.]

More:


Remembering Mermelstein the Hero, a day late

August 6, 2013

It’s a big world.  A lot happens every day.

Over time, significantly historic events tend to pile up on every day of the year.  This is important to remember shortly after the ides of April when students — almost always male — start going on about Hitler’s birthday, Hitler’s suicide, and any other events that may fall on those days.  It’s good to remember coincidence plays a huge role in history, much more than those looking for woo connections will admit.

But I also like to celebrate important events.  Yesterday I posted on Damn the Torpedoes Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay and then-Capt. David Farragut’s famous line.

Doing that, and a dozen other things, I completely overlooked another anniversary that carries a lot of weight with me, and I hope with you, too.  I was reminded this morning when I saw the post from Professor Olsen @ Large, noting the day Mel Mermelstein beat the Holocaust deniers in court, and established in U.S. law the historical fact of the Holocaust.

On this date [August 5], Long Beach, California businessman Melvin Mermelstein struck a powerful blow against bogus history and historical hoaxes. Mel was awarded a judgment in a California court, in a contract case.

In 1980, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a Torrance, California organization that claimed that the planned extermination of Jews by the Nazis was a myth, had offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who could prove that the Holocaust actually happened.

*     *     *     *     *

Mermelstein’s lawyer, William John Cox, had a brilliant idea. He petitioned the court to take “judicial notice” of the fact of the Holocaust. The doctrine of judicial notice allows courts to recognize as fact something that is so well established that it doesn’t need to be evidenced when it is introduced in court — such as, 2 + 2 = 4, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius, the Earth orbits the Sun, etc.

In a pre-trial hearing on 9 October 1981, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas T. Johnson resolved the most controversial part of the case; the court ruled that the Holocaust had occurred. The judge declared:

Under Evidence Code Section 452(h), this court does take judicial notice of the fact that Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the summer of 1944.

(…)

It just simply is a fact that falls within the definition of Evidence Code Section 452(h). It is not reasonably subject to dispute. And it is capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to sources of reasonably indisputable accuracy. It is simply a fact.

That ruling meant that, by operation of law, Mermelstein had won the case, obviating the need for a court trial.

Prof. Olsen has much more — go read — and I’ve listed my previous posts on Mel Mermelstein below.

There were two points of law in the case that delighted me.  One was the sweepstakes contract, and the other was the judicial note.  A sweepstakes contract is one where someone makes an offer, “the first one who does X, gets $,” for example.  While it’s a bit obscure, it is a point of contract law that sweepstakes contracts are enforceable in court (common law, as most contract law is).  Willis Carto‘s Holocaust denial group, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), hadn’t realized that they made a bona fide, potentially legally-binding offer.  Mermelstein did, performed the required task, and demanded payment.  When IHR refused to pay, Mermelstein hauled them into court.

Judicial note is another oddity of law school, that I think is probably used way too seldom to squelch stupid lawsuits.  The rule — again in common law — is that a judge may take note of certain facts so they need not be evidenced and “proven” in court, over and over again.  The sky is blue, most of the time (black at night); boiling water is hot; 2+2=4 — those are the sorts of facts that judges may rule need not be evidenced at every trial where they might play a role.  Mermelstein’s lawyer, William John Cox — another hero, along with Lawrence E. Heller and all of Mermelstein’s lawyers – moved that the court take judicial note of the fact of the Holocaust.  The judge held a hearing, and did.

That meant there was no issue to take to trial in Mermelstein’s suit against IHR.  Where IHR had probably hoped for a chance to trot out their denialists claims, perhaps for broadcast and print media, the issue was now one solely for the judge to rule on the points of law — and on those points, Mermelstein won.  IHR had to pay him.

Plus, it was established in California, that the Holocaust did occur.  As a point of law, Holocause denialists are wrong.

August 5 should be Accurate History Day, too. 

You could combine the lessons of history from David Farragut, Mel Mermelstein, and Davey Crockett, and get a good philosophy.  Davey Crockett said, be sure you’re right, then go ahead.

Get your history right, stand up for human rights, and damn the torpedoes!

I could live with that.

Tree of Testimony from victims of the Holocaust, at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Tree of Testimony from victims of the Holocaust, at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust; dozens of interviews of survivors were taped by researchers at the University of Southern California, displayed on these video screens.

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Again: Why do we worry about global warming? It ain’t the climate, it’s the people

July 15, 2013

This is almost entirely an encore post, repeated for the benefit of the millions who missed it the first time who make fools of themselves when they argue we don’t need to save trees.  It’s not about trees.

Kids hiking in a forest. These are the humans environmentalists worry about, these four, and a few billion like them.  Photo from American Forests.

Kids hiking in a forest. These are the humans environmentalists worry about, these four, and a few billion like them. Photo from American Forests.

Alun Salt gave great advice about not bothering to engage idiots, pigs, denialists or trolls (here, among other places).  He said I should avoid lengthy answers to blogs that have little audience.

This is probably one of those occasions.

But in a running attempt to stimulate serious thought at a denialist blog, I got a question that has been rather common, and a question which indicates the deep serious misunderstanding denialists and even some well-meaning, overly-skeptical sensible people have:

Why worry about  climate change, since the climate is changing all the time?  Especially, why are people like Al Gore urging that we stop climate change, when CO2 has no great direct effect on human health?  Shouldn’t environmentalists be cheering climate change on, since it’s a “natural process?”

The answer is lost on the other blog, as Mr. Salt predicted it would be.  But since I’ve gotten some version of the question repeatedly in the last month, I may as well repeat the answer here, for the record.

The short answer to why we worry about climate change is that, as with almost all environmental protection, we are worried first about the quality of life of humans, and ultimately about the ability of human life to survive at all.

Here’s the question put to me there:

Ed I’m a little confused. I thought we were talking about the effect of co2 on the climate not the effect of co2 on human health. Co2 is not a toxic gas and would have no effect on human health. The fact that humans weren’t around when co2 was 10-20 times higher has absolutely nothing to do with its effect on climate.
Ed there was no runaway greenhouse effect [link added here] or climate catastrophe. The planet was fine during the phanerazoic. There is actually a lack of co2 in the atmopshere comapred to that time.

Here’s my answer, with a few more links than their format would allow:

No, you’re not a little confused.  You’re a lot confused, greatly misinformed, and not thinking hard.

We worry about CO2’s effects on climate only because we worry about the future of humanity.  Many of us who have children and wish them the same blessings of having children and grandchildren, have thought through the truth of the matter that we don’t possess and rule the Earth for ourselves, but instead act only as stewards for future generations.

No Earth, no humans; but at the same time, no habitable Earth, no humans.  In the long run, Earth doesn’t care.  It’ll do fine — without humans.

We can’t damage the planet.  We can only damage its habitability for humans.

I don’t know what sort of dystopian Randian future you and other Do Nothings hope for, but it’s a future contrary to human life, American values, and all known religions.

We’re talking about the future of humans.  I tell “skeptics,” “If you don’t care, butt out.  You’ll be dead in the short run anyway, but that’s no reason to stand in the way of action not to ensure a livable planet for our grandchildren.”

You also fail to understand chemistry, pollution, and how the world works.  CO2 is indeed a toxic gas.  For about a century now we’ve had indoor air standards that require air circulation to keep CO2 down below concentrations of about 500 5000 ppm [see comments], because at that level it starts to have dramatic effects on humans working.  It clouds their thinking and causes drowsiness.  CO2 is a conundrum, in that it is also necessary to trigger mammalian breathing.  If CO2 drops too low, we don’t take in enough oxygen and may pass out.  Too much oxygen in place of CO2 is a problem in that regard.  A substance can be both essential and a  pollutant, at the same time. (This has vexed food safety experts for years, especially after the 1958 Delaney Clause; substances we know to be essential nutrients can be carcinogenic, in the same concentrations, or in the same concentrations with a slight twist in chemical formula — how do we regulate that stuff?)

English: Main symptoms of carbon dioxide toxic...

Main symptoms of carbon dioxide toxicity (See Wikipedia:Carbon_dioxide#Toxicity). References: Toxicity of Carbon Dioxide Gas Exposure, CO2 Poisoning Symptoms, Carbon Dioxide Exposure Limits, and Links to Toxic Gas Testing Procedures By Daniel Friedman – InspectAPedia Davidson, Clive. 7 February 2003. “Marine Notice: Carbon Dioxide: Health Hazard”. Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CO2 is toxic in much greater proportions — it was a CO2 cloud that killed thousands in Cameroon 30 years ago or so, if you know history.

Clearly you did not know that we’ve regulated indoor CO2 for decades.  Clearly you haven’t looked at the medical journals‘ discussion on CO2 — and I’ll wager you’d forgotten the Cameroon incident, if you ever knew about it.

CO2 is a toxic gas (the dose is the poison); CO2 has dramatic effects on human health — too little and we die, too much and we die.

The fact that humans were not around when CO2 was much higher is exactly the point.  That was presented here, as it is in most venues, as support for a claim that we don’t need to worry about CO2 pollution.  Well, that’s right — if we don’t care about a habitable Earth.  But when CO2 was higher, life for humans was impossible.

I think it’s reckless to run an experiment on what would happen with higher CO2 levels, using the entire planet as a testing place, and testing the hypotheses on just how much CO2 will kill us all off, and how.

How about a control group, at least?

In the past, massive CO2 created massive greenhouse effects that would devastate us today — not as a toxic gas, but as a result of the warming that greenhouse gases do.

Let us understand the physical conundrum of CO2 here:  Without the greenhouse effect from the human-historic levels of CO2, this would be an ice planet.  Our lives today depend on the greenhouse effects of CO2.

Consequently, anyone who claims there is no greenhouse effect fails to understand physics, chemistry, biology and history.  (Heck, throw in geology, too.)  Life would be impossible but for the greenhouse effect.  Life is impossible without water, too, but you can’t live totally surrounded by water.

Can it be true that there can never be too much of a good effect, with regard to greenhouse gases?  Ancient Greek ideas of “all things in moderation” applies here.  We need a Goldilocks amount of CO2 in our atmosphere — not to much, not too little; not too hot, not too cold.

To the extent that higher CO2 levels didn’t produce a total runaway greenhouse effect, as some hypothesize exists on Venus, we know that was due to other feedbacks.  Early on, for example, CO2 began to be reduced by photosynthesizing life.  Animal life today would be impossible but for that occurrence.  Few if any modern chordates could breathe the very-low oxygen atmosphere of the early Earth, and live.  Those feedbacks and limiting situations do not exist today.

Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouse Effect. Wikipedia image

So now we face a double or triple whammy.  The reduction in CO2 in the air was accomplished through a couple billion years of carbon sequestration through plants.  In fact, a lot of carbon was sequestered in carbon-rich fossils, stuff we now call coal and oil.  Oxygen replenishment was accomplished with massive forests, and healthy oceans, with a great deal of photosynthesis.  This created a rough CO2 equilibrium (with fluctuations, sure) that existed we know for at least the last 50,000 years, we’re pretty sure for the last 100,000 years (we know that from carbon-dating calibration exercises).

Today we have removed fully 30% of the forests that used to replenish oxygen and lock up a lot of CO2 (some estimates say 50% of the forests are gone); modern plant communities cannot pluck CO2 out fast enough.  Plus, we’re releasing a lot of that old, sequestered carbon in coal and oil — at rates unprecedented in human history.

Will more CO2 warm the planet?  We know from the fact that the planet is warm enough for life, that more CO2 will warm the planet more.  Anyone who says differently does not know physics and chemistry, nor history.

Is there anything that can stop that effect?  Sure — healthy, massive forests, and healthy oceans.  Reducing carbon emissions could help a lot, too.  But we’re committed for about a century.  CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t fall to the ground like particulate pollution.  it drifts until it is incorporated into something else, either through photosynthesis or other chemical reactions.  It takes a mole of CO2 a couple of centuries to come out of the air.  We’re stuck with elevated and elevating CO2 regardless our actions, for a century or two, even if we are wildly successful in reining in emissions and creating sequestration paths.

What happens when CO2 levels get higher than 350 ppm?  History, physics and chemistry tells us glaciers will melt, rainfall patterns will alter dramatically, sea levels will rise, carbon will be absorbed by the seas in increasing amounts (causing acidification — simple chemistry).  [See the counter in the right column of this blog; by July 2013, CO2 temporarily climbed above 400 ppm in a spike, and rested dangerously close to 400 ppm constantly.]

It’s a very exciting experiment.  The entire human race is at stake. How much CO2 will it take to produce the effects that kill us all?  It’s likely that changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels will produce wars over resources, long before CO2 itself starts being physically toxic.  That’s what the Pentagon’s big thinkers say.  That’s what the Chinese big thinkers say, which is why they are working to reduce emissions even without an enforceable treaty.

As experiments go, I think it’s immoral to use humans in experimentation without getting their consent, and without passing the entire experiment through the Institutional Review Board to make sure the experiment is useful, necessary, and done ethically.

Do you have those consent statements?  All seven billion of them?  Have you got approval from the research overseers of the institution?

If you don’t have permission to proceed with this progeny-killing experiment, why do you propose to proceed?  Many people believe that, if the courts on Earth don’t get us, a higher court will.

How will you plead wherever the call to justice is delivered?

More:


Doubt climate change? Here, have a cigarette . . .

July 9, 2013

Colorado River runs dry, Peter McBried, Smithsonian

From Smithsonian Magazine: The Colorado River Runs Dry A boat casts a forlorn shadow in a dry river channel 25 miles from the river’s historical end at the Gulf of California. Photo by Peter McBride (Go see the entire slide show; spectacular and troubling images)

As John Mashey has been quietly but consistently warning us for some time . . .

From ClimateRealityProject.org:

Join us and stand up for reality. http://climaterealityproject.org – This film exposes the parallels between Big Tobacco‘s denial of smoking’s cancer-causing effects and the campaign against the science of climate change — showing that not only are the same strategies of denial at work, but often even the same strategists.

If you watched that all the way through, odds are high you’re not a denier.  If you can’t watch it, you really should think about it, hard.

More, and useful resources:


Climate insanity

November 28, 2012

Watching New Yorkers get caught not-yet-prepared to stop the shutdown of the subways and electrical grid due to the Sandy storm surge at high tide, and noting that the ridicule heaped by denialists on those who tried to warn us about such storms, I asked at Climate Sanity about updates on their rosy “What? Us worry?” view of climate change.

Photo of water in 86th Street Station in Brooklyn, NY, after Sandy

Photo of water in 86th Street Station in Brooklyn, NY, after Sandy – photo found at Naked Capitalism. Denialists could note that subway crime was significantly reduced at the time of this photo.

Surprisingly, we got an answer.  ‘What?  Worry?  Us?  What surge?  You shoulda seen the Hurricane of 1938!  Why, back in the Jurassic there were even BIGGER surges . . .’

It’s a classic example of how rabid advocacy for a disproven position can predict that the rabid advocate will not change her/his mind, at least publicly.

More:

Cartoon by Joel Pett, USAToday, what if climate change is a big hoax

Cartoon by Joel Pett, USA Today


Creationism vs. Christianity (a reprise)

October 30, 2012

This is an encore post, a repeat post from about four years ago, back in 2008.  For some reason the post got a couple hundred hits one day this past week, probably from a reference at another blog that I could not track.  I reread it — still true, still good stuff.  In this campaign year of 2012, I am dismayed at how anti-science and the denial of reality haunts election discussions, especially on-line, but also in the newspapers and magazines, on television and radio, in diners and drugstore fountains, in churches and PTA meetings.  Denial of reality may or may not be a genuine ailment to humans.  When it becomes a core belief of a significant number of people, denial can cripple our nation, our states, cities and towns. We need to ask deep questions.  We need to have real answers, not fantasies nor dangerous delusions.

PhotonQ-Charles Darwin 's Office

Charles Darwin’s study, where he conducted experiments and made many of the observations he wrote about. Photo: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

Denying reality plagues us as an actual political response to several problems.  Denialists wander so far down paths of disreality, they argue that we should ignore serious problems, and that the problems will then go away.

Should we teach the science of evolution to our children, or should we pretend fairy tales will substitute?  This has deep meaning to those who understand that Charles Darwin’s greatest contribution to science probably was his strict methodology, which required observation of things in nature before writing about them as if authoritative. 

Early in his life Darwin recognized that the natural world he saw, in Brazil, in the Galapagos Islands, in Australia and Tasmania, in South Africa, bore little resemblance to the world portrayed as authoritative by the great William Paley in his Natural Theology.  Throughout his science career Darwin observed real things in real time.  For his monograph on coral atolls, Darwin extensively observed the volcanic island phenomena throughout the South Pacific.  To write about barnacles, Darwin raised them in tanks in his study.  Looking at the mystery of exactly how the ivy twines, Darwin put a plant before him, and watched it, unraveling the secrets of how tendrils “knew” what to latch onto for support of the vine.  To write about leaf moulds, Darwin observed worms at work, in his lab and in his gardens.  To show the variation existing in what we now call the genome of a species, Darwin made extensive interviews and correspondence with animal husbanders of pigs, sheep and cattle, and he raised pigeons for generations himself, demonstrating how variations can be expressed that drive populations of one species to split into two through natural, everyday processes familiar to anyone who observed nature, and accessible by anyone who made methodical notes.

This familiarity with reality made Darwin a great scientist.  The methodology proved extendable into other areas when he carefully observed the mediums to whom his brother had cast great credence.  Charles revealed to Erasmus that spirit knocking on the tables at the séances did not occur so long as they held the hands of the mediums, who were then unable to feign the knocking. 

Ultimately it provided some despair to Darwin, too:  In the face of criticism from William Thompson, Lord Kelvin, that the Earth was not old enough to allow for evolution as Darwin suggested it must have occurred, Darwin had no answer.  Lord Kelvin calculated the ages of the Earth and Sun to be no more than 200 million years.  This was shown by the present temperatures and color of the Earth and the Sun, and calculated by Lord Kelvin from how long it would take the Earth, known to be composed of much iron and nickel, to cool from white hot to current temperatures.  Lord Kelvin ventured deep into coal mines to measure the temperatures of the Earth deep underground, to confirm his calculations.  At his death, though he defended his own observations of fossils and breeding of live animals, Darwin had no response for those arguments.  Darwin thought there must be other forces at play.  Only some years later did Ernest Rutherford find the secret of the Earth’s heat:  Radioactive decay in the mantle and core of the planet keeps it warm.  Measures of heat loss for such a large body had not accounted for continuous heating from within.  A short while later astronomers and physicists discovered problems with Lord Kelvin’s calculations of the age of the Sun:  The Sun is not composed of iron, cooling from white hot temperatures, but instead is hydrogen, fusing into helium, and making its own heat.

Darwin’s calculations of the age of the Earth were more accurate than Lord Kelvin’s, based on Darwin’s crude calculations of how long it might take animals and plants to have evolved from much more primitive forms.  History demonstrated by easily observable things provided greater accuracy than history devised without benefit of grounding in reality.

In what other realms might grounding in reality produce answers different from what some expect, even producing better questions that many ask?  Should we consider the migratory pattern changes of birds, fish and mammals, as indicators of a warming climate, over rebuttals provided by untested claims that measuring stations might not be placed correctly?  Can we actually “cool” atoms with lasers, and use individual atoms to store information, no matter how counterintuitive that might sound?  Can it be true that teaching people about contraception, and about sex, actually prompts teenagers (and others) to reduce sexual activity and look for love, rather than just sex?  Does extending medical coverage to an entire population actually decrease total health care costs as observed in all other nations where that solution has been tried, or will it increase costs because the only way to reduce medical costs is to ration it, either with a bureaucracy, or by cutting off access by backdoor, death panel means testing (no money, no health care)?  Is there any place Arthur Laffer‘s “curve” of increasing tax revenues by cutting tax rates, actually does not work — or any place it actually works?  Has any society in history ever gotten rich by showering riches on the rich, and ignoring the poor, the merchants, and the working class?

In short, how does reality we know, inform us about reality yet to be?  Which is the more potent predictor, observed reality, or hoped-for results to the contrary?

Our future hangs on how we answer the question, probably more than what the answer actually is.

I believe Christians, the largest faith group in the U.S., have a duty to stand for reality, and truth discovered by observation.  That was the issue in 2008, too.

Here is my post of four years ago.  I noticed a few of the links no longer work; I’ll replace them with working links as I can.  If you find a bad link, please note it in comments; and if you have a better link, note that, too.

Several weeks ago [in 2008] I responded to a lengthy thread at Unreasonable FaithThe original post was Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon of the guy in a doctor’s office, just diagnosed with an infection.  The physician asks the guy if he’s a creationist, explaining that if he is, the doc will treat him with old antibiotics in honor of his belief that evolution of bacteria doesn’t occur.

Point being, of course, that evolution occurs in the real world.  Creationists rarely exhibit the faith of their claims when their life, or just nagging pain, is on the line.  They’ll choose the evolution-based medical treatment almost every time.  There are no creationists in the cancer or infectious disease wards.

At one point I responded to a comment loaded with typical creationist error.  It was a long post.  It covered some ground that I’ve not written about on this blog.  And partly because it took some time to assemble, I’m reposting my comments here.  Of course, without the Trudeau cartoon, it won’t get nearly the comments here.

I’ll add links here when I get a chance, which I lacked the time to do earlier.  See my post, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


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