A question asked of me by a creationist.
“And by your lights, blindly accepting your word on scientific work is OK.

My short answer.

Hardly. I expect those that read my posts, if they are so inclined, to investigate the content of my posts. The vast majority of evos are quite scrupulous in posting links to sites that contain accurate information and cites to the primary literature. No evo expects you or anyone else to accept what we say ‘blindly’. However, many times we are castigated for the number of links our posts contain so, at least in my case, the number of links has markedly dropped. If you wish to explore paths to the primary literature I suggest you visit PatrickHenry’s home page here or Ichneumon’s home page here.

As stated above I *expect* readers of my posts to further investigate the content, not to accept what I say blindly.

“Maybe Coulter is wrong on this issue – but if “objective” journalism happens to be right about it, it is the merest of accidents. A case of a stopped clock happening to be right for a moment, twice a day. Because “objective” journalism has motive to promote evolution simply because it tears at the reputations of people who oppose cynicism.

That Coulter is in error in her attack on evolution is most assured. That the journalists, whether objective or not, have picked up on those errors and consequently listened to the scientists that actually do the work and know a great deal more than Coulter and her sources, is no accident. In most instances you would be correct about the value of journalistic information, however in this case those in the know have been vocal enough to attract the eyes and ears of journalists. If you doubt those that are refuting Coulter, don’t take their word for it – go to the primary literature.

“And although you may well believe yourself to be smarter than me (and that isn’t impossible), I credit journalism with cunning but not with the ability to understand science better than I do. They make far too many elementary mistakes for that.

My criticism of the content of your original post is not based on my opinion that I am more intelligent than you (I suspect the exact opposite) but on the errors in the information contained by that one site. Everything that I read at that site was a rehash of common creationist/IDist strawman arguments that have been repeatedly refuted in popular science articles written by scientists and based on primary literature.

When speaking to science, the vast majority of journalists brazenly expose their ignorance. No one should ‘blindly’ accept what they say. Fortunately, the Web makes it relatively easy to access the primary literature or at the very least, popularizations of it written by working scientists.

The claim that ‘science’ is suppressing dissent is an argument that pseudoscience presents as a matter of course. In the case of ID the reasons are the same – the work simply is not of sufficient depth and quality to be published by a reputable science journal.

When mutations were originally suggested as the major source of allele variety at the beginning of the 20th century, much the work was rejected because it was incomplete. As the work improved it was gradually accepted. When S. J. Gould suggested Punctuated Equilibrium, his words of dissent were listened to because of the work he and Eldridge put into the theory. Eventually, as the theory fleshed out, more and more biologists accepted it as an evolutionary process. Even today there are not a few that question the role PE actually plays in the overall Evolutionary picture.

Dissent is *not* stifled, if the work behind it passes the various checks and balances built into the methodology. The ID work done by Behe and by Dembski have been reviewed by a fair number of scientists outside of journals and have been shown to be low in quality. One review of Dembski’s work (Elsberry & Shallit) went so far as to provide corrections to the paper.

The majority of work done by the DI fellows has consisted of publicity not science. Any and all of the science that has been produced by the DI fellows that has been published has not been about ID. The only method they have thus far presented to identify and differentiate design in the natural world from the purely undesigned has failed in the very few instances it has been applied.

If the DI and its fellows want to be accepted as science they need to step up to the plate and produce some original, publishable work. Work that necessarily survives the same trials and tribulations that the evolutionary sciences have undergone.

Just ask any working scientist if they have had papers rejected at least once by the journals and I suspect you will find that the vast majority have suffered that embarrassment at some point in their career. I have an acquaintance who is very intelligent (more so than I, I’m afraid) that had one paper returned twice for corrections before it was deemed publishable. Published papers are routinely torn apart by other scientists. The scientific process is very adversarial.

Why should IDists be excused from that process? Should their work not stand on its own merits rather than be promoted through political means?


I’ve been asked by a couple of LGF friends to expound on one of my social hypotheses.

Since I’m in the middle of three rather time consuming projects at work and won’t have an opportunity for a couple of more weeks to start the write up, I thought I would simply re-post a short version, just to give a taste.

There is an unspoken agreement within social groups that can be summarized as ‘you watch my back and I’ll watch yours but if you fail to watch my back or just happen to put a knife into it, I or my kin will take revenge, not just on you but your family. I will also keep a tally of how well you hold up your end of the bargain and I expect you will do the same, so as long as the ratio of favours asked to favours performed stays balanced, we’ll live together with a modicum of friction.

Our current social groups are too large for this kind of personal bookkeeping, so we write laws and develop systems, like governments, NGOs, charities and such to keep track of the ‘who owes who’ and to try to balance inequities.

In the small groups we developed in, usually less than ~100 members and most likely around ~40, any breaking of the contract resulted in almost instantaneous and frequently violent, or costly in some other way, resolution. In large groups the resolution can be so slow, it is almost non-existent, so many ignore it and believe the contract doesn’t exist. Unfortunately for some, even though it can take a long time, it still ends in costly outcomes, just ask Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, and the Russian Tsarist autocracy.

BTW, we still deal with small groups which we tend to matryoshka doll, one group nests within a larger group, so our bookkeeping is made simpler. We deal with our immediate family directly, but in the larger neighbourhood we deal with other family groups rather than the individuals. It just expands outward, with each layer being slightly more removed and less important to us. We protect our family against all others, even close friends. We protect our close friends against all others, except our family. And so on.

Anyway, that is the very short and simple version of my hypotheses. Sort of.

I was going to write a bit about the recent paper on the 2005 rain forest drought, but Tim Lambert of Deltoid beat me to it. It’s a damn good read so I suggest anyone interested in current research and/or denialist tactics pop on over.

I was just told there are people that actually read this blog, so I thought I would take the time to welcome them and express my thanks.

I just hope you don’t become bored with my anti-anti-AGW and anti-creationist rants.

For the life of me I don’t know why I do it. Listen to right wing radio talk shows I mean. They really do elevate my blood pressure, and I’m getting to the age where that kind of stuff matters, but I insist, contrary to my advice, on tuning in and pounding the dashboard.

There are three shows I tend to listen to, John Gormley Live, The Adler Show and Roy Green. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the Gormley show, and at one time had a good relationship with his producer and with John himself. I even respected his opinion somewhat despite disagreeing with it most of the time.

But now… But now, he, along with the other two anti-science bozos, has decided to jump on the anti-AGW bandwagon and put out his opinion, full of sound bites by the likes of Tim Ball, Potty Peer Moncton, and the Aussie hack Plimer, as if it is an informed opinion. Of course his opinion in this is absolute nonsense, but take a moment to call him on it and he’ll push that button. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, he has this little button under his sweaty pudgy fingers that disconnects the phone line. Because of the delay in broadcast he can actually chop off 7 seconds of your comment. Typically he’ll slam that sucker down as soon as he disagrees with you and figures he, despite his obvious lack of knowledge, knows more about the situation than you do, and will then bravely make some totally nonsensical comment when you can’t respond.
It looks like he has convinced himself that his ability to push that button, cut you off, and then offer up his twisted and meaningless opinion, and do so without any rebuttal being voiced, makes him correct.

Obviously if no one rebuts him he’s right, isn’t he?

In his world that works I guess, but not in the real world.

Gormley, instead of having professional denialists do your thinking for you, do a little research of your own, preferably from professional journals known for their integrity. And when someone with more information than you gets on the line, have the guts to argue the points without running to the button.

A good friend of mine just asked when I was going to get this blog going again but I didn’t have an answer handy, which isn’t unusual for me and is perhaps the main reason this blog has lain fallow for so long. It isn’t that I don’t have opinions to argue against, the several talk shows I listen to regularly spew enough anti-science crap to give me a full time job researching and countering their nonsense, and it’s not that I don’t understand the concepts and import of the debate, I do get it. I guess the problem is that I don’t know that I can add anything to the debate. I also don’t really want this to primarily become an anti-Gormley blog.

Since I have a lot of respect for this friend, even though we don’t agree on this particular subject much, I will give this a bit of serious consideration. I may be able to find an half-hour several times a week to add my thoughts to this overly opinionated world.

Thanks SC/PH

Well, John Gormley has done it again, he’s confused himself over weather and climate. Poor bastard.

On top of that he seems to feel his little neck of the woods, his .04% of the world, represents the entire globe, at least as far as temperature goes.

You see the weather around here has been extremely cold of late, sometimes 20C lower than the average for this time of year. According to the infinite wisdom of good old John Gormley, and his rabid right wing sycophantic followers (can’t let them go unnoticed can we?), because Saskatchewan Canada has lower temps than previous years, global warming is falsified.

Geez John, that’s pathetic.

As I’ve informed you before, local short-term variation, such as how cold it is today, is weather. It’s part of the normal variation in conditions found at any given point on the Earth determined by geography, cloud cover, surface water and air flow. Weather is chaotic, in fact the science of chaos comes directly from the attempt to predict weather which has little ups a downs very difficult to predict. Climate on the other hand, is a statistical representation of all of the weather, and the general weather patterns, scattered over the entire globe.

Let’s take an example from statistical mechanics (you’re a big boy, look it up). Take a box filled with gas at thermal equilibrium, the gas doesn’t matter, nor does the density. In that box of gas, atoms and even free electrons, are all bouncing around and vibrating, banging into each other just enough to keep the temperature stable.

We have no way to predict which two atoms will smack together.

If we add a little heat to one end of the box, the atoms at that end will become more energetic and start bumping into more neighbours more frequently. We have no way of determining which individual atoms will take part in the change from a waltz to a polka but we can statistically determine the behaviour of the atoms in the box as a group. The average temperature will go up. We can even calculate what the average temperature will settle to when equilibrium is again reached.

Weather is like those individual atoms, difficult to predict, and climate is like the box of atoms – we may not know which individual atoms will do what, but we can predict the system at large.

You might also consider what an unusually low temperature in .04% of Earthly surface area does to the Average Global Temperature. I hope my emphasis makes you consider the words.

One day’s weather does not make a significant impact on climate, in the grand sceme of things it is just noise in the system. That is why the WMO, even before the inception of the IPCC, determined 30 years of accumulated full globe weather was necessary to tease out a temperature trend.

Natural variability in weather is noise. The trend has to be statistically extracted from that noise. The trend tells us what is happening, the noise doesn’t.