What Fascinates Me About the Climate Change Conversation

…is how the whole thing is conducted, not in the language of science, but in the language of religion. My primary interest in the climate change debate is, if you will, “work-related” as a Catholic writer. What strikes about the whole thing is twofold. First, as somebody whose job is working with words, my alarm bells always go off when the language makes regular changes. So when we move from a war to eliminate WMDs to a war for Iraqi Freedom, I smell BS. Similarly, when we pass from global warming to climate change to global climate disruption, I smell a rat. The smell gets stronger when you get multiple cases of fraud and “You can’t see my data” from climate scientists.

But that said, I don’t claim to be a climate scientist and will bow to what the experts say when they get their story straight. Meanwhile, what fascinates me, not as a reader of science news, but as somebody who writes about religion, is how routinely the language of faith is used to discuss climate change. I am perpetually asked if I “believe in” climate change. Nobody asks if I believe in cosmic radiation, or Bernoulli’s principle or atomic fission or Carbon 12 or electrolysis. These are dealt with as matters of data. But climate change is dealt with, constantly, in the language of faith–or in the language of heresy. I find that fascinating.

So, for that matter, is one other “scientific” matter: evolution. People perpetually use the language of faith and heresy to discuss it, and attach all sorts of moral opprobrium and approval to beliefs about it. Nobody gets morally outraged if, say, a mismeasurement of the amount of hydrogen gas in Alpha Centauri occurs. You adjust your figures and move on. But massive religious significance is invested in evolution, as in climate change, and so the whole discussion becomes one about faith, not the measurement of time, space, matter and energy.

  • keddaw

    This is not strictly true, those who don’t believe in evolution also don’t believe in the many of the findings of cosmology, geology, petrology, astrophysics, radio-isotope dating, palaeontology etc. etc. basically anything that interferes with their 6-10,000 year old earth narrative.

    Unless you’re a scientist working in a particular field you only ‘believe’ in it – or in those telling you it’s true. So you and I actually do ‘believe’ in cosmic radiation, or Bernoulli’s principle or atomic fission or Carbon 12, but not electrolysis since I have done this personally.

    • Carbon Monoxide

      Um….no. Every other field (other than evolution or climate change) requires confirmation through a series of well designed experiments. When I defended my Ph.D. thesis in X-ray crystalography, I could not just stand up and state that it appears that the atoms in this material are in this particular arrangement. I had to produce the crystal structure, measure the location of the atom in the structure and demonstrate that by varying the composition, I could affect the location of the atoms. No one (that I know of) has carefully changed the conditions of the atmosphere and demonstrated a change in temperature. No one (that I know of) has ever bred one species from another. If they have, it was probably bacteria or something extremely simple. So both evolution and global warming remain THEORIES that one may believe or disbelieve.

      • kenneth

        Gravity is just a theory too. There is nothing we take for scientific truth that is not a theory, a construct which explains what we observe in nature and in the lab. The strength of a theory depends on how well it explains the underlying phenomenon and how consistent that holds up over time. Gravity and evolution both hold up very well in that regard, and explain things infinitely better than the alternatives that have been offered.

        • R.C.

          Watch out. There’s no such thing as “just” a Theory. That’s a mis-use of the term “Theory.”

          Please see my longer comment on this topic, below.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Your theory of theories is theoretically just a theory.

      • Ted Seeber

        Uh, actually, changing the composition of an atmosphere in a glass case with a heat lamp to show that carbon dioxide (and other gases such as methane) retrain heat is pretty much a high school level physics experiment these days.

        What they never seem to discuss is the fact that far more species than man and other natural processes such as volcanic action and rotting plant life *also* produce atmospheric carbon chains- and at certain tipping points, release far more gas of worse effect into the atmosphere of the planet than anything mankind does (melting tundra, Bermuda Triangle Methane Bubbles, etc).

    • ivan_the_mad

      Your statement in syllogistic form works like this:

      P1. Bob doesn’t believe in evolution.
      P2: Those who those who don’t believe in evolution also don’t believe in the many of the findings of cosmology, geology, petrology, astrophysics, radio-isotope dating, palaeontology etc. etc. basically anything that interferes with their 6-10,000 year old earth narrative.
      C: Bob also don’t believe in the many of the findings of cosmology, geology, petrology, astrophysics, radio-isotope dating, palaeontology etc. etc. basically anything that interferes with their 6-10,000 year old earth narrative.

      Yeah, that’s totally not the fallacy of begging the question. Your conclusion is contained in one of your premises. Even if it weren’t, P2 is BS. Find someone who isn’t a creationist, or “doesn’t believe in evolution” but “believes” in the rest and the whole thing falls apart. Or how about P1? What does it mean to not believe in evolution? Reject the whole thing? Take issue with parts of it? Because abiogenesis totally isn’t just a hypothesis; Miller’s “successful” experiment totally didn’t involve conditions that are a hypothesis to begin with, so you totally couldn’t take issue with parts of the theory without rejecting it out of hand.

      • Jmac

        I’ll give you that “someone who doesn’t believe in evolution” is too broad, but when it’s applied to the nontrivial population of young-earth creationists, it’s absolutely true. Because to force an explanation based on an extremely literal reading of Genesis absolutely requires tossing out the vast majority of our current understanding of “cosmology, geology, petrology, astrophysics, radio-isotope dating, palaeontology etc. etc. basically anything that interferes with their 6-10,000 year old earth narrative.”

        • ivan_the_mad

          I don’t care about young Earth creationists per se. I’m taking issue with Keddaw’s categorical statement. P2 assumes that only people who don’t “believe” in evolution, among other things, are young Earth creationists. P2 is a bad premise because it asserts that the same population that doesn’t “believe” in evolution are young Earth creationists. He doesn’t say “some” who don’t believe, it’s a categorical “those” who don’t believe, meaning “all”.

          To reiterate, I don’t care about what creationists believe, it doesn’t impact the fallacy of keddaw.

          • Jmac

            Works for me, but I can understand why he made the mistake, considering that they are the largest creationist group out there. Old-earthers and ID people don’t have nearly as much of a presence. Theistic Evolutionists are certainly pretty big, but I wouldn’t count them as “creationists” in the sense the word currently has.

            • ivan_the_mad

              So can I, especially considering what we can infer of his prejudices from his comment. But it was still thoroughly unscientific of him ;)

          • keddaw

            Fine, throw the word “many” in there. It wasn’t intended as an absolute logical proof that everyone must follow what I was saying, it was a knockdown of Mark’s original point that evolution was a) dubious science and b) one of the few, perhaps only, sciences that either requires belief or is subject to disbelief.

            • ivan_the_mad

              No, even throwing the word “many” in there, it’s still a fallacious and ridiculous statement that serves as a diatribe rather than a knockdown of points that don’t exist in the OP.

              His original point concerns how the language of faith is used to discuss evolution and climate change. Nowhere in the OP did he claim “that evolution was a) dubious science and b) one of the few, perhaps only, sciences that either requires belief or is subject to disbelief.”

              • keddaw

                Scare quotes round scientific?
                Read the last paragraph and tell me it doesn’t call into question the scientific validity of evolution (that’s certainly how I read it) or that the use of the phrase “one other” doesn’t lump it in with climate science as requiring belief in it as separate from other sciences.
                Perhaps I’m reading too much into it and it’s the moral impact of accepting (believing) in evolution that is similar to climate science that he was getting at.

                • ivan_the_mad

                  I can see how you could read them as scare-quotes but I don’t think that’s how they’re being used here. Given the context of this post, I’m certain that the quotes are around it to highlight what follows, contrasting science as properly understood with “science” as quasi-religious.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Another aspect of this is broadening the definition to where the term is virtually all inclusive. Who doesn’t believe that evolution (change) takes place or that the climate changes? This general agreement is then used to establish that there is also universal agreement on what specific changes have, are or will take place, what their causes are, whether or not they are desirable, what to do about them and what to teach the captive school kids about them.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I’m often struck by those who go further and say they believe in science. I’m not sure what that even means.

    • DTMcCameron

      A weird sort of Enlightenment-era Reason/Intellect worship.

    • kenneth

      What is meant by that is whether or not a person believes, as scientists do, that the world can be understood, even in an approximate way, by observation and rational thinking. It is a belief in the ability of the method to produce explanations of nature in terms of natural causes. Those who don’t believe in science, ie creationists, believe that nothing can be know from our senses and that only mystical and supernatural explanations can supply truth.

      • godescalc

        “Those who don’t believe in science, ie creationists, believe that nothing can be know from our senses and that only mystical and supernatural explanations can supply truth.”

        Have you ever met a creationist who would describe themselves in terms like that? Have you ever met a creationist, for that matter?

        • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

          That is a Hollywood caricature. A ‘creationist’ is a broad term. On one hand, I’m a creationist – I believe the universe was ‘created.’ I know those who say they believe in Genesis, but that’s not to say they believe the world was made in 6 literal days. They would also call themselves creationists. I’ve known a few 6-day creationists in my life, too. And I don’t think any would fall into that description. They simply believe that God is dynamically and actively involved in creating from the beginning. They see that all modern evolutionary theory exists apart from allowing God’s direct intervention into the equation, so they reject it outright, and everything that comes with the assumption that God was not actively involved in a direct, spectacular way in bringing about the world as we know it. That’s not to say I agree. I don’t, at least with most of it (I accept God creating). But it’s also to avoid the media stereotype so often applied to creationists of any sort.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        Funny, I’ve never seen it as that profound. Usually, when I hear it mentioned on news debates or similar outlets, I hear it as a way of saying “I’m smart, and if you question what the right scientists who agree with me say, you’re dumb.” I’ve always wanted a news host to ask people to unpack what they mean by such a statement, or ask someone who says they believe in evolution just what it is they believe, and to cite actual data to back up their belief. I’d love to see what they would do. Maybe they would say it as well as you did. But I can’t help but doubt it. As it stands, it appears more likes a nice little jab, and not much more. A way to gain the upper hand when there might not be a reason to gain it otherwise.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Hm. I guess you could say that I “don’t believe in evolution” in that I don’t buy into all elements of the Standard Evolution Narrative (TM), or more precisely, I’m not convinced that the totality of elements of the Standard Evolution Narrative gives us a complete understanding of what was happening on the ground during the time that God was in the process of the Universe, this planet, and everything that lives on it.

    The amount of hydrogen on Alpha Centauri is a piece of raw data, a fact. Evolution and Climate Change, i.e., anthrogenic Climate Change are not data. They are theories, stories, if you will, constructed by men and women of science to explain an amalgamation of seemingly related facts. And to predict additional facts which may present themselves in the future. They are models of reality, not reality itself. As tinker toy models of boats, cars and spaceships can become more sophisticated representations of the real things they image, the models of our understanding of complex realities have needed to grow, change, and evolve and will continue to need to do so, as more facts, more data become available.

    Science is still rather young. There’s still an awful lot we don’t fully understand. There’s no point in asserting that the Theories of Evolution and Anthrogenic Climate Change are facts, when they are not facts, but narratives attempting to explain data. They both do a fairly creditable job of explaining a great deal, and a so-so job of predicting much of anything. They may be the best we’ve got for now, but like the man who attempts to change a flat tire with a pair of a pliers while his buddy goes off in search of a tire iron, we should just wait: there may be much more useful variations to these narratives down the road.

    • Andy

      I agree with everything you said, and it would be funny if it weren’t so sad – a theory as you said is a plausible explanation for observed data or observed phenomena. I learned this in 10 grade science oh so many years ago, yet now when in the classes I teach on research I have to “unteach” the idea that theories are the same as accepted laws. This is not because the students I teach are less bright, it is because we spend to much time looking for certitude – a problem I think of our culture. Evolution, Anthrogenic Climate Change are plausible, the offer insights, they may even statistically offer some view of the future, but they are not immutable. By the way I blame the media, all media for this – when reporting a theory they write about it as it were a law (accepted truth) when indeed it is not a law.
      I do like the way you explain theory as “stories constructed by men and women to explain and with your permission I would like to use it in my research class.

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        It is my pleasure to give permission for you to use anything I have written . . . no need to ask, really.

        I am far from being a trained scientist myself; if anything I have to say about science is worthwhile, it is only because of years of long, pleasant hours listening to my late Dad, a physicist and a pioneer in computer science, hold forth on his favorite subject.

      • keddaw

        Theories and Laws are the same thing. The nomenclature doesn’t matter, law is rather antiquated. There is NO law>theory>hypothesis>guess (okay, law=theory>hypothesis>guess).

        Newton’s LAWS of motion are good approximations but nowhere near as good as Einstein’s THEORY of relativity.

        The germ theory of disease is about as well attested as it is possible for something to be, but it isn’t a law, just a theory.

    • Jmac

      Just wanted to throw my two cents your way, but you are correct in saying that Anthropogenic Climate Change and Evolution are not and will never be “facts” However, in the hierarchy of scientific knowledge, theories rank above both facts and laws. A theory is an explanation of facts and laws, and is intended to be falsifiable. Based on the evidence available, evolution and anthropogenic climate change are the best explanations for the phenomena we currently observe, but they most certainly are falsifiable. Evolution, for instance, would be turned on its head if, for example, you found a modern rabbit fossil in pre-cambrian strata, or uncovered a species that is extremely unlikely to form given its evolutionary history, like for instance a dragonfly with a cell wall, or a mammal that can use photosynthesis.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Eh, minor objection: Law and theories are both “above” facts, but the difference between law and theory isn’t a difference of degree but of kind. Laws make analytical, formulaic statements. Theories attempt to explain the “why”. Laws aren’t inferior to theories, they have a different use. A NASA engineer might use Newton’s law of gravity to do some calculations; he might have a harder time plugging numbers into Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which explains why things fall lol!

        • Jmac

          … yup that’s totally correct. Time for more coffee.

  • http://ecben.wordpress.com Will

    Not to mention those who proclaim that “Science says” such-and-such, without saying anything about WHICH of the sciences or how “it” was proved.

    A hypostatisized “Science” is the real established religion today.

  • http://www.hwaetglennabolas.com GAB

    Actually, this is not so strange. Both evolution (which seems to have become shorthand for the ’13.5 billion years old’ version of the history of the universe, of which evolution actually occupies a remarkably small part towards the end) and anthropogenic climate change offer grand narratives. Both of these narratives are in conflict with the narratives that were the consensus before their advent. Both narratives are still questioned and opposed by groups of people large enough not to be easily ignored. The amount of hydrogen in Alpha Centauri is a piece of data, not a narrative, and it has, to my knowledge, never been used to support any kind of grand narrative.
    The reason why these aspects of science are spoken of using religious language is because religions also deal in grand narratives. I suspect that it is nothing more sinister than that. I also suspect that, if either of these scientific theories reached a point where they were the unquestioned consensus (i.e. a future world where there were no creationists and Waterworld had become a reality, hopefully minus Kevin Costner), they would still be spoken of using religious language. It’s just the nature of what they offer.

  • Carbon Monoxide

    Take for example, the Archer Fish. The Archer Fish obtains its food by spitting water at an insect it sees hovering above the water or on some overhanging vegetation. To assume this fish evolved into this mode of obtaining food something akin to the following narrative would have to occur:
    1. An Archer Fish ancestor would need to accidentally spit water on a regular basis.
    2. This water would need to accidentally hit an insect that is suspended above the fish in the air.
    3. The Archer Fish ancestor would need to accidentally do this dozens of times per day over the course of its life to give it a competitive advantage over the Archer Fish ancestors who do not go around accidentally spitting into the air.
    4. This behavior would have to be passed on to the Archer Fish ancestor’s descendents, who would also need to derive a similar benefit.
    5. This new found skill would at some point need to become the Archer Fish’s sole means of obtaining food as the fish doesn’t now just go around spitting randomly.
    6. Somehow, the fact that the difference in the indices of refraction that make objects appear in a different location than they actually are in the air, when viewed from under water, would have to be bred into the fish and accounted for in his strategy for spitting.
    7. The fish would also have to take into consideration that changes in temperature will change the apparent position of the insect and this would have to be bred into the fish.
    Or you could say “God made the fish”. I ask you, which is most likely?
    Every time I have mentioned this to an evolutionary disciple, they begin screaming at me and calling me a (pick one) Neanderthal, flat-earther, racist, sexist, and above all….irrational.
    And I “believe” in evolution, more or less. I just like to raise questions about it from time to time. However, you are not allowed to question evolution.

    • Sal

      This is one of the reasons why, if asked, I explain that I’m a creationist- the sheer weight of numbers and permutations and combinations involved make my head hurt.

    • Jmac

      In fact, I can say “The fish evolved” and “God made the fish” and not need to incur any sort of doublethink. I don’t know if there’s an evolutionary scenario for the Archer Fish, since it’s not really my area of expertise, but given the massive preponderance of evidence for evolution everywhere else we look, I’m inclined to think that you don’t have an appreciation for the massive time scales evolution has to produce structures like this. Even if, at the end of the day, there is no satisfying explanation for how the Archer Fish evolved, the most scientists can say about it is “We don’t understand this yet.” And yet I can accept that while presupposing God made the fish as he made everything else, which as far as I can see hasn’t involved any acts of spontaneous creation.

      • ds

        Say word, J-Mac, say word!

        I am an evolutionist and a creationist, and I have no doublethink. Natural selection, including random processes, along with possibly other currently unknown factors are what God used to evolve life, in my opinion.

        The argument carbon monox proposes about the archer fish is the classic creationist argument from lack of imagination. (Perhaps more formally the argument from incredulity? Not as up on my fallacies as I should be.) I can’t imagine how that could have evolved, so God must have done it. This is God-of the Gaps reasoning, and fairly well refuted (note I do not by say definitively) Aquinas (I will also note I am nor Thomist scholar, to say the least (if not less)). If God wanted to he could give matter the power to evolve into life, and then evolve into different forms of live, in order to evolve man, fill the world with beauty and witness to His greatness, then he could. Creation is simple, and all is created by God, God is not limited in his own creation such that he needs to step in along the way and do extra creative events.

        Facts vs Theory: as others have covered, facts are individual events while theories explain the facts that are observed. As I read (I don’t remember where) it explained: a theory does not become fact when there is enough data to support it. This would be like saying if you record enough base hits, this collection will become a baseball team.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Uh huh, Jmac, ds. I see what you’re doing there, reconciling faith and reason. NOT ALLOWED! But why not? BECAUSE THEY’RE INCOMPATIBLE! Why is that? BECAUSE THEY AREN’T! But that’s just a tautology and doesn’t explain – SHUT UP!

          • Jmac

            Thank you for saving me from the pit of heresy, sir. Now I’m going to go ask some biologists why monkeys still exist. :D

        • The Deuce

          I don’t think ds made a creationist argument. He said at the end that he generally believes in evolution, but entertains doubts that the mechanistic theory we have accounts for everything about life that we’d like to explain, as you yourself acknowledged under “other currently unknown factors”. In any event, I can’t think of any other area of science where “you need a better imagination” is considered a reasonable defense against skepticism that some proposed mechanism offers an exhaustive explanation of something. As for “random processes”, if God used them to do what he wanted, then they weren’t objectively random, but at best seemingly random to us, since God using them to achieve some desired end implies that he knew what they would do.

          • ds

            God created all, and his wisdom dwarfs our foolishness. I see no reason why random processes could not have achieved God’s goals, while still being objectively random. God didn’t guide them, just created them as random, knowing how they would proceed, because he views all from eternity, and not some point in time. God could see all time as he created time, it’s not like God made creation ever so long ago, and just watched it spin, thinking “I hope this random event thing gets where I want it, I might have to guide it/not let it be totally random/fix it later.” God created everything, and sustains it now and always, outside of all time.

            • The Deuce

              It’s pretty much a difference of semantics here, I think, but the definition of “random” you’re giving tortures the language, imo. If God knew how events would proceed, and created/creates them because they would proceed how He wanted, then they’re not objectively random, no matter how you slice it. Consider: He could have made/upheld a different universe, with different “random” causes and events, but He made *this* universe, with *these* “random” causes and events, because these particular ones fulfill His goals. So they’re not really, objectively random, but chosen for particular ends, even if it’s beyond our ability to correlate them. The fact that God, being outside time, actually creates the universe at every single moment, rather than it being a one time thing He did in the past, actually makes that point stronger, because it means He chose all events at once for exactly His purposes, rather than merely predicting them.

              • ds

                Well, except He gave humans free will, while not exactly “random” our actions ares not God’s choice strictly theologically speaking. He did not choose the events of human decisions, those are our own, but everything works to his end.

                I do think we aren’t really arguing, but agreeing on different terms. When you start talking about God, eternity, and existing outside of time you are getting into metaphysics and the nature of cause and effect that dictates randomness, causation and intention starts to not make sense to our understanding.

                However, one problem with saying “He chose all events” is that if he chose everything we ultimately have no choice over our decision to believe, and now your getting into Calvinist territory.

    • kenneth

      Of course you are allowed to question evolution, but questioning things in a scientific way requires that you actually do the science, frame an alternative hypothesis in a way that can be tested and disproven, and then make the case for your explanation based on the data. The “refutations” of evolution offered by creationists/ID folk are nothing more than heckling. Arguing that something seems irreducibly complex to you and that therefore its evidence of supernatural intervention, is not science.

      • Carbon Monoxide

        “frame an alternative hypothesis in a way that can be tested and disproven, and then make the case for your explanation based on the data. The “refutations” of evolution offered by creationists/ID folk are nothing more than heckling.”
        I have framed an alternative explanation. It’s just one that you don’t like. So, just like most dogmatic evolutionists, you immediately begin casting aspersions on the intellect of those you disagree with. I’ll wait for the name calling in 3…2…1…
        Perhaps God seems irreducibly complex to you. Don’t worry, old boy, He does to me as well.
        BTW: I am an internationally respected scientist in my field with nearly 100 publications. What’s your curriculum vitae look like?

        • Jmac

          Except you haven’t formed an “alternative explanation”, you specifically avoided explaining anything by saying “I don’t know how this works, so God did it.” If this is intended as a scientific explanation then how do I test it? What predictions can I get from this? What are other biological conundrums we can explain with “God did it?” And, to address my and Ted’s objections again, what’s the difference between “This evolved” and “God did this” again?

          Also, what’s your field and what are some of your publications? After the last Nigerian Prince failed to make me filthy rich, I don’t trust unsubstantiated internet claims.

          • Carbon Monoxide

            How do you test the evolutionary explanation? You require of me what you, yourself, are unwilling to provide.

            • Jmac

              From an earlier post of mine: “Evolution, for instance, would be turned on its head if, for example, you found a modern rabbit fossil in pre-cambrian strata, or uncovered a species that is extremely unlikely to form given its evolutionary history, like for instance a dragonfly with a cell wall, or a mammal that can use photosynthesis.”

              There are plenty of ways to falsify evolution. We’ve found exactly no reason to doubt it yet. And the table-turning trick is getting really old.

            • ds

              Your condemnation of evolution on the basis that it cannot be held up to experimentation is false, and also is a wimpy blanket denial that also excludes many other fields of science. We cannot make sedimentary rock in the lab, so geology is false. We cannot create a star in the lab so astrophysics/cosmology is false. We cannot (currently) travel at speeds approaching light and measure mass, relativity is false. There are a lot of fields that all of or aspects of them cannot currently be tested in the field due to time constraints and the current limits of experimentation. This does not make them non-valid science, it just requires a different kind of validation.

        • ds

          I’m not internationally known, but I’m known to rock the microphone.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m sorry, what’s the difference between steps 1-6 and God Made The Fish again? As a faithful Catholic who agrees with the Vatican that guided theistic evolution makes the most sense (that is, that God not only controls the genes of the fish, but also all of the coincidences/miracles of natural selection that makes evolution true) I see no problem with steps 1-6 AND God Made The Fish being true.

    • keddaw

      CM, I have read through all your comments (and their responses) and since your argument from incredulity is strong I’ll posit an example of how such behaviour ‘could’ have (but almost definitely didn’t) happen, I’ll try to follow your 7 points:
      1. An Archer fish’s ancestor (since there are a few species they are likely to have a common ancestor) had a technique for stunning nearby prey in the water by shooting a jet of water which would stun or disorientate them. (Asking how it did this is like asking how dolphins have sonar, or bats have echolocation – I can’t take the story back to the first replicating molecule…)
      2. Some of these fish developed a technique of coming at prey from below, as that limited the opportunities for the prey to escape. Some of these fish actually found that coming from below allowed them to escape the water and take low hanging insects.
      3. The two species diverged into those that would take prey in the water (later died out) and those that would leap out. On leaping out it was advantageous to also fire a stream of water which made insects’ wings much less use and also made them fall into the water should the fish miss on the leap (some archer fish do leap out the water!).
      4. This behavior would have to be passed on to the Archer Fish ancestor’s descendents, who would also need to derive a similar benefit. Since the behaviour is partially learned and partially genetic this would be the case.
      5. This new found skill becomes the Archer Fish’s sole means of obtaining food as there is/was competition for the prey in the water, but this is now a specialised area only this fish is adapted to utilise.
      6. Some fish used less energy by not jumping to reach the insect but almost exclusively by spitting from a lower jump. This small efficiency, over time, allowed this strategy to out-compete the higher jumpers (could take more shots, more often, for less energy expenditure). Over time the jumps got lower and a strategy of rapid shooting from the surface was more efficient.
      7. Those with an inbuilt ability to learn (young fish often miss) about refraction, i.e. how to aim where the insect doesn’t appear to be, were better at hunting and, therefore, reproducing.
      Or you could say “God made the fish”. I ask you, which is most likely?

      Incidentally, as to your possible incredulity of getting used to refraction and shooting where the insects don’t appear to be, I’ll say this, we see things upside down!

      Your lack of imagination does not a disproof of evolution make, nor is it a proof of god.

  • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com Ben of Two Men

    I wonder about climate change arguments because of “data sample size”. We have about 150 years of data at best to judge if a temperature change is a normal or abnormal variation over billions of years of earth history. It is like judging the history of the Stock Market based on the past few minutes. Should I draw conclusions & change strategy based on the past few minutes?

    • ds

      They also have atmosphere composition data from antarctic ice cores going back thousands of years, but the sample size of that might be awful small.

      (BTW “Ben of Two Men” sounds super gay)

      • ds

        (not meant as a criticism, just an observation. But hey, at least your website isn’t called “ChicagoBoyz” (eesh, closet much?).

        • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com Ben of Two Men

          It distinguishes me from other “Bens”, it has a ring to it and relates back to my blog. As an added bonus, it keeps people guessing!. ;-)

    • ds

      Oh, and I like your post about Benedict XVI and modern physics. I also heard that as a cat lover he is proposing a change to Schrodiner’s cat. Instead of a poison released by the radioactive isotope, a partition is opened, availing to the cat a plate of delicious sardines. It is thus impossible to know if the cat is hungry or sated, and thus must be both at the same time.

  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

    There is today (and may well have always been) a general lack of attention to the basis for our thoughts, a failure to distinguish between knowledge, belief, opinion, and druthers. We use language, not for logical precision, but for rhetorical effect — and the language of belief is very powerful rhetoric.

  • Gege

    “…is how the whole thing is conducted, not in the language of science, but in the language of religion. ”
    yes, and from both sides !

    It is the same for exotic or pseudo scientific medecine : people say : “Do you believe in homeopathy? Do you believe in Transcendental meditation? etc… ”
    A wrong question…
    The problem is that the problem itself is not righlty exposed.

  • R.C.

    Would folks please get their terminology straight on one particular distinction?

    The words “only a Theory” don’t make sense, because a “Theory” is about the most exalted, sure-fire status a Hypothesis can attain in scientific lingo.

    A lot of folks who say “only a Theory” are really thinking “only a Hypothesis,” but because they get their terminology wrong, folk with more scientific backgrounds hear the misuse of the term “Theory” and naturally assume ignorance and discount what the first group are saying.

    So let’s go over this. Everybody, pay attention:

    A Hypothesis is proposed. It is testable, meaning repeatable experiment could possibly show it to be wrong.

    Right now, it’s an Untested Hypothesis.

    After many well-documented and repeatable experiments, no experiment proves the Hypothesis wrong. (We do not say that an experiment “confirms” a hypothesis; only that no experiment has yet falsified it.)

    At this stage, it’s still a Mere Hypothesis.

    After many attempts to design new experiments which could prove the Hypothesis wrong, people run out of new experiments to challenge the Hypothesis…and it still hasn’t been proven wrong.

    At this state, it’s a Well-Tested Hypothesis.

    Meanwhile, by assuming that the Hypothesis is true as a working premise, lots of creative people are doing new experiments and developing new technologies, and finding that the Hypothesis has opened up whole new worlds of fruitful investigation and innovation, all of which would fail if the Hypothesis were false.

    Some of these new worlds of fruitful investigation and innovation produce NEW hypotheses, which start from the assumption of the first hypothesis being true, and would fail if it weren’t. These NEW hypotheses go on to survive every possible experimental challenge, and open up new worlds of fruitful investigation and innovation. A whole framework of thinking about things is now based on the original Hypothesis, and seems to be working well and consistently.

    Okay, only at THAT point, in scientific jargon, does the FIRST hypothesis graduates from “Hypothesis” to “Theory.”

    This is why “Theory” is a fairly exalted term. It tends to be used only of things about which it’s inconceivable that it could be wholly wrong…because wholly wrong would mean a lot of technologies you see around you couldn’t possibly exist.

    That’s the current status of the Theory of Relativity (for all predictions outside of those few extreme situations where quantum weirdness causes the equations to blow up), the Quantum Theory (which handles those extremes), and (sorry, Young-Earthers) the Theory of Evolution.

    A theory, in short, is something you can pretty much take to the bank.

    That doesn’t mean that later experiments might not unexpectedly produce new data which require the theory to be tweaked. That famously happened when Newtonian gravity was “overthrown” by Einstein in the early 20th century. But in what sense was it “overthrown,” really? After all, we still use Newton’s equations for 99% of all orbital mechanics and gravity-related physics questions! The word “Overthrown” is perhaps a bit of journalistic hype to sell newspapers. More realistically, we’d say that Einstein’s deeper understanding produced a “tweaking” to Newton in that Einstein’s equations produce the exact same predictions as Newton’s 99% of the time…but in that 1%, Einstein’s equations produce correct predictions and Newton’s don’t. (Something similar may one day happen to Einstein, when someone figures out how to integrate his theory with the quantum weirdness that emerges in extreme circumstances.)

    Anyway, a Theory is a Very Big Deal.

    But that is NOT the current status of the Hypothesis that Any Existing Computer Climate Models With High Positive Feedbacks And/Or Sensitivity To Human Activity (the kind which justify catastrophic climate change alarmism and interventionism) Accurately Predict The Global Climate.

    THAT remains a Mere Hypothesis, and one with an awful lot of failed predictions and missing data and historical climate data that have more or less falsified it already.

    I can’t call it wholly falsified because the Hypothesis involves a whole family of computer models, not all of which have yet been tried. A bunch of folks keep trying to come up with a magical model that’ll produce predictions that agree with past, present, and future measurements. But it doesn’t look good.

    So. Now you know. No more saying, “Mere Theory.” Say “Mere Hypothesis,” instead, and use “Theory” only when you want to indicate that something is pretty reliable.

    Carry on.

    • Carbon Monoxide

      So, where are these experiments that have raised evolution from a hypothesis to a theory? Where has somebody bred a complex organism using random mutations, where one of the mutations was beneficial to the survival of the species, and produced a new species?

      As far as Einstein’s theories, no one has sent a clock into space and brought it back and compared the time on it to an identical clock left on earth. No one has caused an object to approach the speed of light and observed mass gain. The fact that quantum physics and relativity sometimes correspond to actual observations could be just a happy coincidence. If you read the history of quantum physics, you will realize that a) it is a broad term that covers many aspects of theoretical physics and b) over and over, earlier portions of the “theory” have been found to be incomplete, if not wrong.

      The absolutely egomaniacal thing about “science” is how the little men who are in the field insist that they are “right”. If they are right at all, they are only right until another little man comes along and proves them wrong. Remember how the universe was supposed to expand and contract in a never ending series of big bangs, universe expansions, universe contractions, and another big bang? The math showed it. It agreed with observable phenomenon. Then, another geeky little guy came along and proved it wrong.

      All theories, except for the current batch, are wrong. The current batch just hasn’t been proved wrong, yet.

      • Jmac

        As far as evolution goes: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
        You’ll find much more than that if you spend more than 5 minutes on Google. As far as relativity, do you honestly think there is no evidence for it? It’s one of the best-supported theories, well, ever. GPS satellites need to compensate for relativity constantly, so there’s one practical evidence right there. We’ve seen light bent by gravitational fields, so there’s another. We most certainly can observe time dilation without needing to go to space at all, an airplane works just as well.

        And there’s no living scientist who would turn down the fame of completely revolutionizing his or her field by proving the current consensus dead wrong. I don’t know where this trope about science’s ivory tower came from, but maybe you should try talking to actual scientists and not just cribbing off of Answers in Genesis’ talking points.

  • beccolina

    Dr. Walt Brown gives a good counter-theory to the theory of evolution at this link: http://creationscience.com/onlinebook/
    He also points out the weaknesses and discrepancies in the ToE.

    • ds

      Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood.

      what is this I don’t even…

      • ivan_the_mad

        “Compelling Evidence for … the Flood.” Quick, somebody call the Master Chief!

      • beccolina

        A physicist offering an alternate scientific theory for fossils, etc. Considering the discussions above, I thought some people might find the information interesting. All any one ever seems to hear about is evolution, either by chance or guided by God, or the 6-24-hr-days creation. Dr. Brown offers a scientific theory, of which the flood is an important part.

  • Carbon Monoxide

    Hmmm…. how to show you my list of pubs without revealing my identity and getting my ass fired. Let’s just say (for now) that I work in a place where any question of AGW would be a career impediment because some of the “scientists” I work with might go after me for not agreeing. I’ll work on that, though.

    • ds

      Other scientists would be mean to me if they saw my tinfoil hat. Here’s the world’s smallest violin, etc, etc.

    • Ted Seeber

      How many of the other petty scientists you are working with (are you working in a research lab or in a high school with the mean girls?) read Catholic blogs?

  • Carbon Monoxide

    BYW: You can always publish YOUR vitae. Make me feel guilty and all….

    • ivan_the_mad

      I propose that we have discussions without getting into pissing contests about CVs.

    • Jmac

      FYI, I’m a geeky engineering undergrad with an interest in evolution, and why the anti-evolution crowd is so dang persistent. As a deeply religious science guy, the fact that young-earth creationism still exists is a huge embarrassment to me, and an impediment toward people taking us seriously. I’m not nor have I ever claimed to be an expert on the subject, but I’ve unfortunately read so many bad creationist arguments that I could list them all at least as well as most creationists. This is a subject that resonates deeply with me, and I don’t need a glamorous CV to know that you’re parroting a ton of bad creationist arguments.

      • ivan_the_mad

        I think it’s one of the failings of our times that the supposition exists that only experts in a subject can declaim on said subject. This is a twisted application of an appeal to authority.

      • Carbon Monoxide

        Then propose a mechanism for the Archer Fish. You are just sticking your fingers in your ears and going “la la la la la, Carbon is talking but I’m not listening”. BTW, perhaps you should learn to read. I said I am an evolutionist. I just enjoy watching you dogmatists get all freaky over questioning your religion.

        • Ted Seeber

          I thought you already proposed a mechanism for the Archer Fish. That it is highly improbable does not make it impossible, thus my response that given a God that controls the DNA of both fish and Insect, as well as wind velocities and light refraction through the surface tension of H2O (not sure why that would be a problem given learning ability in organic brains isn’t limited to humans and from the fish’s point of view, he’s spitting at the same location with respect to the insect either way- saw that experiment on the Mythbusters Ninja Episode, only with a blow dart, an underwater ninja, and a breathing tube instead) this simply isn’t the issue you make it out to be.

          However, Mr. Big Shot Climate Change doubter- what do you have to say about my admittedly lay person hypothesis that when it comes to climate change, the antrhopogenic bit is moot either way? As in, I believe the climate is changing, I don’t know what is causing it, but I doubt very much we are either early enough to change our behavior to stop it OR capable of doing anything other than adapting?

        • Jmac

          *facepalm* I told you I don’t have one. I don’t need one and the fact that I don’t know how species X evolved doesn’t worry me in the slightest. Based on the huge amount of evidence for evolution, I’m confident that there’s a reasonable explanation, even if it’s not currently known. If I were actually an evolutionary biologist, then I would be willing to give you a better answer. As it stands, I’m confident in the state of the science and those who practice it. If you have a better argument as to why it couldn’t have evolved as opposed to the millionth iteration of Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity” garbage, I’d be happy to listen.

          And I’m well aware you said that you’re an evolutionist. I was merely stating that most of the arguments you give I’m more used to hearing from young-earth creationists. And I’ve heard a LOT of similar arguments from young-earth creationists.

  • ds

    Mark, climate change debate is not discussed at the level of science in the general public because the general public are not scientists. They don’t understand the exact terminology and data interpretation, so they necessarily have to “believe” or “not believe” some of it. And this making a presumption based upon not being able to understand the depths of the science is somewhat akin to making presumptions like having faith in God, and this is why it sounds like religion to you.

    Nothing nefarious going on.

    • Jmac

      To be fair, it’s been politicized like crazy on both sides, and they’re generally louder than any actual scientists. In that respect, you bet there’s going to be religious-like talk. But the science is there. Don’t expect to understand it immediately though.

  • Carbon Monoxide

    I am just looking for proof that ANY of you are scientists. You’ve demanded my credentials but refuse to offer up yours. And no, “Library Science” is not a science.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Objection: It was you who started demanding credentials above: “BTW: I am an internationally respected scientist in my field with nearly 100 publications. What’s your curriculum vitae look like?”

    • ivan_the_mad

      “And no, ‘Library Science’ is not a science.” I suppose not, if you more narrowly define science to only deal with physical phenomena. But if you consider science more broadly as a systematized way of dealing with large stores of accumulated knowledge or data from which general laws and formulations are deduced, than you certainly could consider library science to be science as such.

      • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

        “No academic field whose name ends in ‘Science’ is a science.”

        It’s a law of nature.

        • ivan_the_mad

          I see what you did there!

    • Ted Seeber

      Software engineer here. I may not be a scientist, but data and data manipulation is my stock in trade, and I do know the difference between hardware and software. I do NOT hide my identity and my resume is available online in several different versions.

      I am a bit of a generalist rather than a specialist- as my resume shows, I’ve worked in health care, government, telecommunications, meta-level high tech, and the hospitality/gaming industries.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “Software engineer here … data and data manipulation is my stock in trade”. I’m assuming your academic background is in computer science. Out of curiousity, I was wondering if you had an opinion on the “computer science would be better named [computational science | informatics” discussion.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Insert ending square bracket above.

  • Mark Shea

    Just so everybody knows, Carbon Monoxide is a genuine bona fide scientist, just as he says. I know the guy. CV as long as your arm. You may now resume your regularly scheduled argument.

    Sincerely, The Management

    • Ted Seeber

      Oddly enough, I agree with the odd point CV was trying to make- that expert does not necessarily mean right. Which is why I asked for his opinion on my hypothesis that while it might have mattered once, now that the tundra is melting and releasing methane like crazy in the summer and the Bering Sea is freezing down to Canada in the winter, it simply no longer matters if mankind did something to trigger it; climate change is happening and we now need to adapt.

  • Carbon Monoxide

    Well Ivan, you and your buds immediately start questioning the intelligence and competence of anyone who disagrees with you. You claim to have sole right to decide what qualifies for evidence for AGW and the sole right to define what is and isn’t science. A theory like “God did it” is not valid just on your say-so. Well, who are you? You all sound like people who took a “history of science” course in college and now you’re all freaking experts. I say that I actually have some expertise in this area; that I actually took quantum physics in college and statistical mechanics in college and I work in the field and you ask for proof. Now, I’ve worked at three national labs and still work in a research institute, and I tell you that most scientists are tiny, little inconsequential people with HUGE egos that need to be stoked. They fight over funding and are willing to lie, assassinate characters, and do almost anything to keep their funding stream intact. Now, you insist on proof and make me the target to avoid the central argument: that no one has proved AGW or evolution; that it is a religion: a set of beliefs, without proof, that many feel explain actual physical phenomena. You can’t answer that and it makes you mad. So, you take it out on me. That’s OK. I’ve had actual scientist yell and scream at me at conferences and I can take it. Sorry I can’t post my resume, it would make you look really stupid, but I have a wife and five kids (yes, I am one of those stupid, practicing Catholics) to support.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I challenge you to quote to me where I, ivan_the_mad, “start questioning the intelligence and competence of anyone who disagrees with [me]“. You’re out of line and being abusive.

      I can certainly quote where you have:
      “I am just looking for proof that ANY of you are scientists.”
      “You all sound like people who took a ‘history of science’ course in college and now you’re all freaking experts.”
      “BTW: I am an internationally respected scientist in my field with nearly 100 publications. What’s your curriculum vitae look like?”

      • Carbon Monoxide

        Nice quotes. The guy’s a genius. Highly paid genius. In the 2%. Now you dislike me for that as well.

        • ivan_the_mad

          I don’t dislike you, I pity you. You’re a very angry person.

    • Jmac

      Actually, I asked you to explain your “God did it” theory, and specifically why it was the opposite of evolution. As Ted Seeber and I both stated, we can say both without contradicting ourselves, but you seemed to think that it was a contradiction.

      In fact, I asked you repeatedly to *demonstrate* that your theory was scientific, and on each and every single one, you immediately turned around and said I was a raving dogmatist. I’m still waiting for an answer on, well, any of my earlier questions. If I’ve been getting more irritable as this conversation enters its nth iteration, I apologize.

      • Carbon Monoxide

        “I’m confident that there’s a reasonable explanation, even if it’s not currently known. If I were actually an evolut ionary biologist, then I would be willing to give you a better answer. As it stands, I’m confident in the state of the science and those who practice it” That is a working definition of faith. You’re confident. That’s nice. You can’t produce an experiment but you’re confident.

        • Jmac

          I told you several ways to falsify evolution. You haven’t deigned to comment on any of them. And I’m only making that confidence statement because of the evidence I’ve seen that points me toward evolution. I don’t now and probably won’t ever have a model for whatever species you currently want me to describe for you.

          But then I’ve said all of this before already. I think I’m done with this conversation now.

      • Carbon Monoxide

        No, I’ve been asked to produce an experiment that “God did it” and I am saying, produce an experiment that evolution or man (in the case of AGW) did it. You have this rediculous faith in scientists, even though each and every one will be found to be incorrect eventually, but you scoff at people who have faith in an all poweful God. You can’t produce an experiment. You can’t produce a study that looks at past trends and can successfully predict future events. It’s all based on faith. “I believe in evolution”. “I believe in AGW”.

    • ds

      A theory like “God did it” is not valid just on your say-so. Well, who are you?

      Oh come on, man. A theory like “God did it” is not valid, not because of our say-so, but because it just isn’t a scientific theory by definition. You find it difficult to explain things in the natural world, so you bring in the supernatural world and call it scientific theory. Science by definition deals with observing and explaining the natural world.

      And who am I? To quote Peter Venkman: “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”

      • Jmac

        Agreed. Assuming that there’s ever an observed phenomenon that the best tools of our current understanding of science are powerless to explain, then the best science can do is state: “we don’t understand this yet.”

      • Carbon Monoxide

        No, your a priori assumption is that God couldn’t have done it. God didn’t do it because God can’t do it. It’s a circular argument. Atheists have been saying this for years. That COULDN’T have been a miracle because there are no miracles. And there are no miracles because……I say so! And then you have the nerve to call religious people illogical when your whole beliefs system is based on a fallacy. Not even a good fallacy but the first one you study in Logic 101.

        • Jmac

          We both said repeatedly that we believe God created everything. That’s our only a priori assumption. Then we said the evidence doesn’t incline us to believe in the more narrow assumption that species were specially created outside of evolution. You keep trying to force a false dichotomy on us here.

          • ivan_the_mad

            I wouldn’t bother. CM has been so combative and nonsensical that it leads me to suspect him of being a troll.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    The biggest problem I have? To paraphrase Longshanks from the movie Braveheart: the problem with science is, it’s full of scientists. I don’t know the science, I can only trust the scientists to explain it to me. And knowing what i know about human nature, I find it very, very difficult to believe one side of the argument is where the pure and sinless dwell, and the other is filled with vile and evil mad scientists who are part of some conspiracy or work for some clandestine organization. So I figure wait, and see. I can’t help but guess that 500 years from now, people will look back and see most of what we thought to be true as flawed as what we see when we look back 500 years ago. But that’s just me.

  • Nick R

    Yes, it annoys me as well when people say they “believe” in evolution or global climate change, because both are generally accepted scientific fact, supported by a plethora of scientific papers based on solid arguments.

    This seems to be an issue of “holier than the Vatican”
    Pope Benedict, 2007:
    “Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called “creationism” and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.”
    (Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/july/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070724_clero-cadore_en.html )

  • klem

    “Yes, it annoys me as well when people say they “believe” in evolution or global climate change,..”

    But the belief part is different for each of them. Evolution is believed to be a naturally occurring phenomenon, but anthropogenic climate change requires a different belief. It is supposedly not naturally occurring, but rather man-made. When they say they ‘believe’ in global climate change, they are saying they believe it is anthropogenic. There is no claim that evolution is man-made, if there were they would call it anthropogenic evolution. But they believe climate change IS man-made.

    If evolution were believed to be man-made, entire industries would emerge which are based on addressing the wrongful sins of anthropogenic evolution.

  • Nick R

    Sorry, perhaps I should clarify. I object to calling something “belief” when it is founded sound experimental evidence. For example, how can you say you “believe” in evolution because it’s been done in a lab (Soucre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment ). This to me is akin to saying you believe in the sun because you see it everyday.
    Belief should be reserved for things we have faith in, like the mystery of the Trinity.


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