Science democracy – debunking the strategies of denialism

I’ve always considered all forms of denialism, whether it’s climate change, creationism or the latest antivaccine lunacy, to be based on the same type and quality of arguments. It is essentially holding a unsupported belief that either science is wrong or, worse yet, is a vast conspiracy to push false information onto innocent humans.

One of the “tools” often used by science deniers is trying to convince the casual observer of a science democracy – that is, there is some kind of vote, and some number of “scientists” are opposed to the consensus.

I’ve often joked that science deniers all get together at the World Denialist Society meetings and compare notes. They all use the same strategies, including the myth of the science democracy, which seriously doesn’t exist. Continue reading “Science democracy – debunking the strategies of denialism”

California drought myths and science

If you pay attention to anything about the weather, especially climate change, you know that California is experiencing an epic drought. The causes are complex (always be skeptical of “simple” explanations), and the fixes may not even be possible.

So instead of talking about California’s new mandatory vaccine law (or anything else about vaccines), maybe it was time to talk about California drought myths –then refute them with science, which is always fun.

Stating the obvious, water is necessary for the residents, industry and agriculture of California. The Los Angeles metro area, with about 10 million people, and other Southern California cities, like San Diego, have few natural water sources, so they must rely upon water that arises far away from the residents.

The mountains, especially the Sierra Nevada range, of California are the water “bank” for the state. The winter snowfall ends up being the spring runoff, which is stored in reservoirs, and used, until the next season. Los Angeles takes (or steals if you saw the Jack Nicholson movie, Chinatown) water from the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a sparsely populated (and rarely visited) part of California.

The fact that the 2015 snowpack on April 1 was a pathetic 5% of normal, while the snowpack on June 1 was 0% of normal, is frightening. In other words, snowmelt, that in some years can last well into summer, was gone before summer started, so California essentially has no water in the bank. And because this drought is nearly 4 years old, the reservoirs are mostly dry, and there’s little water left.

Continue reading “California drought myths and science”

One hour of research on Google–obviously all science is wrong

I’ve been told that I need to quit relying on the peer-reviewed journals for my scientific knowledge, because they are paid for by Big Government, Big Pharma, Big Agra, Big Hebrew and Big Whatever. They’re all just big with every single person involved dedicated to providing information to fool the people of earth. 

Science is obviously wrong about everything. Including unicorns. Obviously wrong about unicorns.
Science is obviously wrong about everything. Including unicorns. Obviously wrong about unicorns.

Apparently, the only acceptable type of research is doing it yourself using Google. Or in a pinch, Bing. 

Because I wanted to be more open-minded and to learn the Truth™ about everything. And here’s what I found. Continue reading “One hour of research on Google–obviously all science is wrong”

Poll: which scientific principle do you accept or reject

One of the things that drive pro-science types crazy (amongst a few hundred things, but still let me proceed) is when someone who seems to be rational about a scientific idea, then drop a bomb that they accept something so pseudoscientific, you have to wonder about everything else that person accepts.

I know people who argue vociferously for the fact of evolution, then claim that astrology predicts the future. Or someone who will accept everything in science, but claim that vaccines are dangerous. My personal favorite are those who proclaim widely that global warming deniers are crazy lunatics, then try to convince us that GMO crops are dangerous, using the same exact tactics and lack of science as the global warming deniers.

I began to wonder where my readers stood on the four major scientific consensuses (I assume that’s the plural of consensus, but it looks weird) that I discuss regularly here. They are:

  1. Evolution, which is supported by the overwhelming consensus of scientists throughout the world.
  2. Anthropogenic (human caused) global warming, which is supported by the overwhelming consensus of scientists throughout the world.
  3. Vaccinations (the safety and effectiveness of vaccines to prevent disease), which is supported by the overwhelming consensus of scientists throughout the world.
  4. The safety of GM (genetically modified) foods, which is supported by the overwhelming consensus of scientists throughout the world.

See what I did there?

In this week’s poll, a double version, first, just vote on how many of these four key scientific principles you accept. Then second, choose which ones you reject. Easy!

Cheerios now GMO free–it’s not what it appears to be

anti-GMO-antiscienceAs we entered 2014, General Mills, the Minnesota-based food processing giant, announced that the breakfast cereal, Cheerios, probably its most popular brand, will be labelled as GMO free. And the anti-science GMO refusers were partying across the land, with the anti-science Huffington Post adding to the Cheerios cheers:

Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen highlighted what General Mills’ decision means in a press release. “Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-GMO and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand,” he said.

Of course, this was a pretty simple move for General Mills. About all it’s really going to cost them is a new box design to promote “GMO-Free”. It’s inexpensive and simple for General Mills because there are no genetically modified oats as of today. So, they don’t have to find new sources for the grain or most of the other components of the cereal. Actually, the only thing they had to do was switch the tiny amount of beet sugar used to sweeten the cereal to another type, something that is ostensibly an easy step in manufacturing. 

Despite General Mills taking a tiny, inexpensive and risk-free step over the line to label GM-free, and going against what the industry has wanted, no labeling whatsoever, really nothing much has  changed. General Mills is still opposed to all state initiatives demanding GMO labeling, which have mostly failed, probably as a result of corporate expenditures opposing these initiatives. General Mills still thinks genetically modified foods are safe and should not removed from the market. But with over 90% of Americans buying into the anti-science activism and believing that GMO’s are dangerous, and 59 percent of Americans now getting their nutritional advice from the internet, it becomes a brilliant marketing move for an aging brand. Instantly, Cheerios stands out in the supermarket aisle as one of the few major brand cereals that is GMO-free. It was a low-risk move that probably had no material impact on either General Mill’s strategies with genetically modified foods or the cost of manufacturing the cereal.

Although I have no evidence confirming my cynicism, eventually General Mills can increase the price of its GMO-free cereal, because demand will be higher for it. Then other oat cereal manufacturers will do the same, and eventually we’ll have more expensive cereal. I’m sure the anti-science GMO-radicals are happy that companies can make more profits for really not doing much. But that’s capitalism for you.

Continue reading “Cheerios now GMO free–it’s not what it appears to be”

Science votes for human-caused global warming in a landslide

climate-change-consensusI don’t discuss anthropogenic global warming (AGW, or climate change caused by human activities) very often, more just in oft-handed ways, lumping anthropogenic global warming deniers into the whole pseudoscience crowd–antivaccinationists, anti-GMO loudmouths, evolution deniers, HIV/AIDS deniers, and other anti-science fads. To be honest, I was scientifically skeptical about global warming, not because of any political motivation, but because the evidence I reviewed seemed weak at best. But I was guilty of my own confirmation bias, and more than that, I was honestly more interested in other current trends in science than climate change. 

Now, I was never a skeptic (kind of improperly used in my case, I really thought I had examined it scientifically) about global warming itself. I observed changes over my long lifetime, including one year in the early 1980’s when ski resorts in Utah were open well into July. And the Great Salt Lake was heading to levels not seen since the ice age. When I was in grad school in New York, it snowed on July 4th. This doesn’t happen much anymore (and it really isn’t evidence of global warming, but it’s always good when my personal anecdotes are supported by good science). Moreover, the real science, the real numbers, showed that the earth was warming up. Continue reading “Science votes for human-caused global warming in a landslide”

Anti-GMO activist changes his mind–what does it really mean?

mark lynas for PMLet’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 evolutiondenialists:

  • logical fallacies
  • pseudoscience
  • hysterical claims
  • conspiracies
  • 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. Continue reading “Anti-GMO activist changes his mind–what does it really mean?”

GMO opponents are the global warming denialists of the left

This article has been updated, revised, modernized, and zombified. Read that one instead.

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. Continue reading “GMO opponents are the global warming denialists of the left”

Recent polling on American views on climate change

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.

via A new poll on climate change | NCSE.

Federal Appeals Court rejects climate change denialism

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.

According to the court’s decision (pdf), 

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. 

via Court dismisses attacks on climate science | NCSE.