Let’s get this out upfront. There is no evidence that genetically modified food (which most people call GM or GMO) cause any harm to humans. None. And many people, myself included, consider anti-GMO activists to be nothing more than the left’s version of global warming denialists. The anti-GMO crowd use many of the same strategies and techniques of all science deniers, whether it’s vaccine-, global warming-, or evolution-denialists:
- logical fallacies
- hysterical claims
- abject lack of real science
British environmentalist Mark Lynas was probably the heart of the anti-GMO movement, who as recently as 2008 railed that the big agricultural companies, like Monsanto, were lying that GM crops were necessary for feeding the world as the climate was changing. Basically, the only reason anyone today is questioning GMO crops is because of Lynas.
(more…) «Anti-GMO activist changes his mind–what…»
If you read a news article, Google a scientific topic, or watch TV, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. From listening to the screaming and yelling, you’t think that scientists aren’t sure about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the age of the earth (or even the age of the universe). There are even those who think there’s a debate that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.
Part of the problem is that the public falls for the false equivalency logical fallacy. They think that to be balanced, both sides of a scientific argument are equivalent in quality of opinion and evidence. But rarely is this true, especially in scientific principles that have been well-studied and supported by a massive amount of evidence.
Part of the problem is that some people think that science is unapproachable and too hard to comprehend. It isn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, because it shouldn’t be.
To become a world class architect and designing a skyscraper isn’t easy, but we, non-architects, can observe what we see, and accept that the building isn’t going to topple over in a hurricane. Do we presume to know how the foundation has to be built to support the building? Or what materials are used to give flexibility in a wind, but strong enough to not collapse? Mostly, we don’t, we trust that there isn’t a massive conspiracy to build unsafe skyscrapers because architects are being paid off by Big Concrete to use cheaper materials.
(more…) «How science deniers use false…»
Scientific denialism (also known as pseudoskepticism) is the culture of denying an established scientific theory, law or fact despite overwhelming evidence, and usually for motives of convenience. Sometimes those motives are to create political gain for their supporters.
Two of the most annoying denier viewpoints are the darlings of the right wing: evolution denialism and global warming denialism. The former is more commonly known as creationism and is mostly an American phenomenon, though it is known in other countries. In the US, creationism is a fundamental part of the Republican Party strategy across the country. The latter is sometimes mistakenly called global warming skepticism, because “skeptic” was stolen by the pseudoskeptics, but plainly is a right-wing belief across the world, often intersecting closely with the evolution deniers. In fact, much of the anti-evolution legislation pushed by Republican legislatures in the United States has an anti-global warming component.
Global warming or evolution is supported by a massive mountain of scientific evidence. Both are theories that are “ well-substantiated explanations of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” As I have stated before, rhetoric and debate are not going to refute these theories. We demand scientific data, produced in world class laboratories that have been published in top tier, high quality journals, subject to withering criticism. After time, they will either be accepted into the body of evidence or rejected. That’s how science works. It’s not a political debate where the person with the loudest voice wins.
(more…) «GMO opponents are the global…»
The Washington Post and Stanford University recently published a poll on American attitudes toward global warming and the environment (pdf). Not surprisingly, almost three quarters of Americans accept recent global warming, but only 30% think that it is human caused, while 22% think that it is naturally caused, while 47% think it is equally human and naturally caused. This is relatively unchanged over the past six years of polling
Asked if the world’s temperature is probably been going up over the past 100 years, 73% of respondents said yes, 25% of respondents said no, and 2% indicated that they didn’t know or refused to answer.
Asked “How much do you trust the things that scientists say about global warming?” 6% of respondents responded “completely,” 22% “a lot,” 33% “a moderate amount,” 26% “little,” 11% “not at all,” and 1% indicated that they didn’t know or refused to answer.
Interestingly, only 18% of Americans think that global warming is the most important environmental issue facing the world at this time. Pollution (which of course leads to global warming) was considered to be the largest issue, but numerous other problems including toxins in the environment, habitat loss, and other issues were also mentioned.
A Federal Court of Appeals rejected a claim that the evidence for climate change is too uncertain for the Environmental Protection Agency implementation of the Clean Air Act. The case, Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc., et al., v. EPA, involved a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Clean Air Act, filed by a number of states and industry groups. The challenge was based, in part, on the idea that the evidence that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to public health and welfare is shaky. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found otherwise.
The body of scientific evidence marshalled by EPA … is substantial. EPA’s scientific evidence of record included support for the proposition that greenhouse gases trap heat on earth that would otherwise dissipate into space; that this ‘greenhouse effect’ warms the climate; that human activity is contributing to increased atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases; and that the climate system is warming. Based on this scientific record, EPA made the linchpin finding: in its judgment, the ‘root cause’ of the recently observed climate change is ‘very likely’ the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
In a June 26, 2012 article, E.P.A. Emissions Rules Backed by Court, The New York Times summarized,
The judges unanimously dismissed arguments from industry that the science of global warming was not well supported and that the agency had based its judgment on unreliable studies. “This is how science works,” they wrote. “The E.P.A. is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”
In addition to upholding the E.P.A.’s so-called endangerment finding, the court let stand related rules setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and limiting emissions from stationary sources. Opponents had also challenged the agency’s timetable for enforcement and its rules singling out big polluters, but the court said the plaintiffs lacked the standing to do so.
In other words, there is no scientific controversy regarding global warming, and that those who deny global warming use scientifically invalid propaganda.
I’ve always considered all forms of denialism, whether it’s climate change, creationism or the latest anti-vaccine lunacy, to be based on the same arguments. It’s essentially an ignorant belief that either science is wrong or, worse yet, is a vast conspiracy to push false information onto innocent humans.
In Earth Magazine, Steve Newton wrote an article, Voices: Defending science: The link between creationism and climate change, which discusses the commonality between creationists and climate change deniers. Newton asks one simple question: what do the two groups have in common?
- The answer…is that creationists and climate change deniers have a lot in common — most especially in their assertions about science itself.
- In addition, they are often the same people! For example, Answers in Genesis, the young-Earth creationist ministry that runs a creation museum where animatronic dinosaurs cavort with humans in the Garden of Eden, also produces a DVD entitled “Global Warming: A Scientific and Biblical Exposé of Climate Change.” In another case, Roy Spencer, a climatologist featured in the film “The Great Global Warming Swindle,” has written that he regards “the theory of creation” as having “a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution.”
- What it boils down to is that creationists and climate change deniers both reject central principles of science on ideological, religious and political grounds. Moreover, they deny not just these principles, but also the idea of science itself as a way of knowing about the world.
- Attacks on evolution and climate science are both based on the rejection of well-established scientific techniques. Geologists demonstrate the age of the Earth with the techniques of radiometric dating. “Bunk,” say young-Earth creationists: These techniques rely on unproven assumptions. Climate scientists develop complex computer models as a technique to understand what might happen to future climates. “Bunk,” say climate change deniers: Such models are just a convenient fiction.
(more…) «The common threads between creationism…»
Science denialism, a form of pseudoscience, is everywhere these days. There’s the oft-discussed vaccination denialists who refuse to vaccinate children because they believe that vaccines cause some condition (usually autism), and Big Pharma hides evidence. Or AIDS denialists who believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or global warming deniers who think that either global warming isn’t happening or, if it is, it’s not caused by human activities. Or evolution denialists, like Ken Ham, who think that one hundred years of scientific research can be ignored for a book that was written 5000 years ago to help illiterate pastoral farmers understand the natural world. It’s not just science, of course, there are Holocaust deniers, who think that no Jews were killed by the Nazis. There are even 9/11 deniers (usually called truthers) who think that Big Government (probably in league with Big Pharma) is hiding the truth about what really happened on 9/11.
(more…) «Identifying science denialism and pseudoscience»
The Oklahoma legislature adjourned for the year on May 25, 2012, and all three legislative attempts to force the teaching of the nonexistent “scientific controversies” in evolution and climate change. The first antievolution bill was SB 1742 died in committee in March. The second science denialist bill, HB 1551, died in the Senate Education committee in April. The third attempt, which was an amendment to a school funding bill, HB 2341, died because the amendment could not be added in time.
Once again, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education led the charge to kill these bills. If Oklahoma citizens can do it, it should be possible everywhere.
In most industrialized countries, global warming is considered to be a fact supported by not only personal observations, but also because of the scientific evidence. In fact, there is an overwhelming level of scientific consensus on this matter, including nearly every scientific organization in the United States. But the American mindset is quite different than the rest of the world. The reasons are many: conflating political debate with scientific debate, poorly understood economic trade-offs, badly written articles in online encyclopedias, reliance on confirmation bias, and just plain ignorance.
(more…) «American attitudes about global warming»
As discussed before, Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature undertook a last-ditch attempt to push evolution- and climate change-denialism into the Oklahoma educational system. The two original anti-science bills, HB 1551 and SB 1742, died in committee in March, 2012. Republican Oklahoma Senator Steve Russell then attempted to amend HB 2341, a bill originally intended to extend by two years a deadline for local school districts to meet standards for media, equipment and textbooks, to add language from HB 1551. The amendment “encouraged” teachers to present “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of controversial” topics such as biological evolution and global warming.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 5»
One of the larger problems of the internet (OK, there are a lot) is how science is discussed out in the world. Google any science topic, and you’ll get thousand or millions of hits on any idea in science or medicine. The information is derived from other websites, news reports, rumors, or, to be cynical, from outright fabrication. In the fields of science and medicine, critical thinking is absolutely necessary to understanding it. Because it’s hard work, pseudoscience and anti-science have become quite prevalent lately.
(more…) «Checking for pseudoscience in real…»
When we hear about global warming these days, it’s usually about melting ice in polar regions or rising ocean levels, which has already had some disastrous effects. The global warming denialists continue to call it a “scientific controversy”, which it isn’t, and resist all efforts to halt or reverse human activities that may contribute to climate change.
Some scientists have speculated whether it’s too late to reverse global warming, since the earth has a strong positive feedback mechanism where as it gets warmer, things happen to make it even warmer. For example, ice reflects sunlight, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the earth. As the ice melts, and is replaced by dark land or water, more heat is absorb, melting more ice, then absorbing more heat. Once the earth hits some tipping point, it may be impossible to reverse course.
(more…) «Consequences of global warming–healthcare»
If you’re watching the series, Frozen Planet on the Discovery Channel (in the USA), you’d be watching some fascinating and lovely filming (especially in HD). Particularly amazing were the strange “brinicles” or ice stalactites, which form underneath the sea ice, creating a pipe of super cold water that freezes nearly instantly. As it reaches the sea floor, it rapidly freezes any organisms crawling around nearby. It was both wonderful and otherworldly to watch in time-lapse filming.
(more…) «The Discovery Channel and global…»
In 2008, Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Pact (LSEP)which allowed public school teachers to present “scientific criticisms” of evolution and climate change. Most scientists considered the law to be anti-evolution, since it was supported by the Discovery Institute (the Seattle based promotor of the evolution denialist Intelligent Design belief). The law’s sole purpose was to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools. Also, since it is very similar to Tennessee’s Monkey Bill (or more correctly, the Monkey Bill “apes” the Louisiana bill), it also allows teachers to instruct students about those non-existent scientific controversies in global warming and abiogenesis too.
(more…) «Where Louisiana Republicans hate the…»
As you recall, Tennessee’s governor, Republican Bill Haslam, did not veto HB 368, but allowed it to become law. The legislation allows public schools to teach the scientific controversies about evolution and global warming. Once again, there are no scientific controversies regarding evolution and global warming (though admittedly there are ongoing discussions about mechanics and other issues, as there are with all scientific theories). The only controversies are political and rhetorical, and evolution-denialism is based in religious beliefs, not in real science. Tennessee now will allow the teaching of creationism, a religious dogma, in publicly funded schools in direct opposition to the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. In every single case, when these religious laws were brought before State and Federal courts, the laws were overturned. This law will also be thrown out.
(more…) «Tennessee’s Monkey Bill–harmful to education»
This week, the Huffington Post, one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, continues to confirm our suspicions about the quality of their science journalism. HuffPo supports the anti-vaccination lunacy, have editors who claim homeopathy works, and that a bug on the lens of a camera is an alien spacecraft. It’s not clear why anyone with a stitch of science background would read that thing, but sometimes their junk science wanders over into bad journalism of the highest sort. HuffPo is the FoxNews of the left wing, a poorly written and edited mouthpiece for the uncritical left.
(more…) «Where the Huffington Post ignores…»
There’s good news, modified with a bit of bad news, out of Oklahoma regarding the ongoing Republican legislative push for evolution and climate change denialist opinion to taught instead of real science. Oklahoma House Bill 1551, which passed the House, died in the Oklahoma Senate, since they were unable to report out of committee in time. Similarly, Senate Bill 1742 also died in the Oklahoma Senate. Both bills essentially required Oklahoma public schools to teach their students about the “debate” between creation and evolution, and about global warming.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 4»
If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.–Leslie Brunetta
If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.–Leslie Brunetta
A quick update on Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill”, which is a Republican-led anti-evolution and global warming denying bill. The bill, HB 368, was sent to Governor Bill Haslam this week for consideration. Gov. Haslam has until April 9 2012 to either sign it, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it. The bill encourages teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” in topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life (known as abiogenesis), global warming and human cloning.” The scientific weaknesses are nearly nonexistent, except in the mind of the science denialists that inhabit the Republican Party, particularly in the South.
There’s been a lot of press and internet complaints about the new Tennessee anti-evolution bill that recently passed the Tennessee Senate, and passed last year in the House. Essentially the bill encourages teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” And I can’t say this enough, what scientific weaknesses? The only debate that makes sense would one on the ethics of human cloning, but then again, it could be a code word for anything from stem-cell research to in vitro fertilization.
The other day, I was watching some news story about climate change; it was mostly from the denialist point of view, but I was struck by what seemed to be almost the same arguments that the creationist folks say about evolution. I began to wonder if there was a religious component to the global warming denialists, maybe at the same fundamentalist belief level as the creationists.
While I was digging through the Huffington Post’s Science Section (which publishes story about how homeopathy works or how a bug jumping on a camera lens is obviously a UFO chasing the powerful Chilean Air Force, I noticed a couple of articles by Victor Stenger, a world-renowned particle physicist who writes about scientific skepticism of religion and faith. It’s possible that I’m too harsh about HuffPo’s general anti-science content, though Stenger only partially makes up for the rest of the anti-science articles on HuffPo.
(more…) «Religion and global warning denialism»