Climate Science Denial on Full Display in Washington D.C.

If you are tired of your hair and would like to pull it out of your head by the handful, then I invite you to watch the video replay of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s full committee hearing on, “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”

First, some warnings. Texas Republican Lamar Smith chairs the committee. Smith is a darling of the climate change denying machine, the Heartland Institute. You can probably guess that this committee’s grasp of the science, among the majority members at least, goes downhill from there. These guys are like a living Breitbart comments section on any article about climate change.

A typical Breitbart comment

The committee invited four legitimate scientists to testify. Three of the four are among a very small handful of go-to climate science denying scientists available for such exercises in cherry picking.  They are former Georgia Tech professor Judith Curry, University of Alabama professor John Christy, and University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr.

Full Committee Hearing- Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method

The fourth scientist, Penn State University professor Michael Mann, rounded out the panel. Dr. Mann was the only voice representing the prevailing scientific community. This stark imbalance was not lost on Oregon Representative, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici who remarked that:

“The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists who have concluded that there is a connection between human activity and climate change so sort of visualize 96 more climate scientists who agree that climate change is caused by human activity…for a balanced panel we’d need 96 more Dr. Mann’s.”

So in effect, it was one against three.

No doubt, Dr. Mann was invited in to the anti-intellectual equivalent of the heart of darkness for a reason. My guess is they wanted to somehow make Dr. Mann look bad. His questions from Republicans on the committee ranged from the bafflingly ignorant to the downright creepy.

My own so-called representative, Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk suggested that Dr. Mann, because he understands the physics, must therefore somehow be a denier of natural change. He also asked him if:

“There could not be no chance that human activity, does not, is not, the major contributor.”

Huh?

There was also a very strange line of accusatory questioning from Louisiana representative Clay Higgins who asked if Dr. Mann could provide evidence proving he is NOT involved with a specific organization. As if Dr. Mann carries the membership lists of every single organization on the planet around with him, just in case he is asked to prove which groups he is not a member of. Bizarre to say the least.

But if the committee’s goal was to somehow make Dr. Mann out to be the villain, which they wasted no small amount of time trying to do, they failed miserably. Despite being outnumbered and surrounded by climate change deniers, Dr. Mann had one thing on his side that will always win out. Reality.

By sticking to facts and evidence, Dr. Mann was able to routinely inform the committee members, both pro and con, regarding the prevailing science. That said, at the end I am reminded of the famous internet meme about playing chess with a pigeon. For most of these science denying committee members, despite being told what is true and what is not, they will no doubt proclaim that they carried the day.

Here is the video in its entirety:

 

 

Thoughts on Neil Taylor and Seamus Coleman

Seamus Coleman being comforted by teammate, Shane Long.

These are the facts. During a World Cup qualifying match between Wales and Ireland, a Welsh player named Neil Taylor left his feet on a tackle and lunged with his leg straightened, his studs showing, into the shin of an Irish player, Seamus Coleman. The contact resulted in the double compound fracture of Coleman’s leg – his tibia and fibula to be precise.

These facts are beyond dispute – the gory result of Taylor’s tackle is on the internet for anyone with an iron stomach to google should they so desire. I will not post the pictures here.

Now for my disclaimer. I have been a Seamus Coleman fan for as long as I have been an Everton fan, which is well over a decade now. I had never heard of Neil Taylor before the incident. Does this fact color my disgust? Possibly. Does this fact change the dismal outcome for Coleman? Not in the slightest.

Now for my admission. I was livid. Fueled by that anger, I am among the so-called “trolls” that took to social media to castigate Taylor for his recklessness.

Now for my perspective. I have played football/soccer as an amateur since I was a small child – suffice it say for over three and half decades now. I know the game. I know how to tackle the football. I know how to hurt an opponent. I know all of those things as an amateur. Neil Taylor is a professional. He most certainly knows how to tackle the ball and how to hurt his opponent.

So is it right for fans (or trolls as the pro-Welsh media seem to prefer) to use social media to vent our anger? I have no doubt Neil Taylor “feels bad” for his tackle on Coleman. You’d have to be a psychopath to not feel bad about breaking someone’s leg. But guess what? Coleman is out of football for at least a year and maybe for his career, while Taylor, feeling bad and all, will get his four or five match ban and be back out on the pitch playing the game we all love. Is that justice? No.

We now live in a world that connects fans with athletes via social media, and with that connection, comes a bit of extra accountability. Should athletes only expect to open their social media accounts to find praise and adulation? Or should they also expect to find criticism of their play where criticism is due?

I am hopeful that the surge of fan disgust at the type of reckless, callous play that resulted in Neil Taylor’s breaking of Seamus Coleman’s leg, will plant a seed in the backs of the minds of everyone taking the field. “What kind of player do I want to be?” For me, Neil Taylor will forever be known as the hack that broke Coleman’s leg. That will be his legacy. That will last much longer than his four or five match ban.

A Lengthy Exchange with Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon and I have gone a few rounds on RFRA, gay rights, and various other social issues. He gained national attention over the last couple of years for his push to pass a RFRA law in Georgia. Josh is a bright, high profile attorney from Columbus,  Georgia and given that profile and his busy schedule, I am always appreciative of the opportunity to trade intellectual salvos with him. We disagree on nearly every social issue we discuss. I think it’s fair to say that Josh is very much influenced by his brand of conservative Catholicism and I of course am very much influenced by my humanism.

Our latest conversation was around anti-LGBT language that had been appended to an adoption bill. As of yesterday, Georgia Voice is reporting that:

That anti-LGBT amendment to a Georgia adoption bill might just be dead in the water. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) announced that House Bill 159 would be sent back to the Judiciary Committee for more work because the bill had become too ‘extreme.’”

Essentially the amendment would let “faith-based” adoption agencies, many of which accept tax dollars, turn away gay couples who were looking to adopt a child. Josh is of course on the side of the faith-based agencies, seeing this refusal to provide a service, as a First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. I see this as people who provide a service, using religion as an excuse to discriminate against a specific group of tax-paying Georgians.

Here is our exchange. It’s fairly long and took place over the course of a couple of days as I stole a few moments to check my mobile from time to time, but I think the exchange was quite interesting. I welcome your feedback and as always, happy critical thinking!

Here comes a pivot.

Yeah I went there. My excuse was that I hadn’t had my second cup of coffee yet!

Here I was finally able to ask a question that started addressing the root cause:

Notice he did not answer the question:

Josh shifted his focus to another person and responded to him with the following. Allowing me one last question which of course went unanswered.

Primum non nocere.

 

On Deepities

I love language. I also love, to borrow from Lois Lowry’s The Giver, precision of language. I have no issue with big words or even long sentences, but I do have a problem when people use big words and long sentences as a means to confound, and inexplicably impress, their target audiences.

Skeptics like Daniel Dennett and Peter Boghossian have charitably called these phrases, “deepities.” Others might just call them bullshit, but for this post we’ll stick with Dennett’s original word, “deepity!”

A deepity is a string of meaningless, often high-sounding words that have no precise meaning whatsoever, but boy do they sound impressive!

There are certain domains of human pursuit where deepities are offered as explanations all the time. Religion and to a lesser extent, philosophy are two such domains. Deepak Chopra is legendary for his ability to weave mysticism and physics terms in to rambling, incoherent nonsense that his fans absolutely eat up!

Below is the tweet Deepak currently has pinned to his twitter feed:

What the heck does that even mean? Consciousness is the constant of all constants? I can almost guarantee that if you asked Deepak to provide operational definitions for his idea of “consciousness” and his idea of “constants,” you would be drawn in to a thirty-minute lecture on quantum consciousness and quasi-God enlightenment paradigms, the conclusion of which would leave you wanting either a cheeseburger or a lobotomy.

Deepities are not limited to the professionals either. Here’s a twitter exchange I had just yesterday. You’ll notice that I use the Socratic method. It’s a very effective technique to cut through deepities.

The C.S. Lewis quote wasn’t a deepity insomuch as it was a claim to knowledge that has no evidence. So I simply responded with a question that targeted the more general question around, “why should we believe him,” rather than target the claim about God and Satan itself.

The deepity came in the answer I received:

“Lewis expressed truths of Scripture uniquely. It’s true.”

Never mind the discussion about what exactly does Pressing On Ed mean by a “truth of Scripture,” and why he thinks it’s a good thing to have to be unique about making sense of something that’s allegedly true? In other words, for something allegedly so important, shouldn’t we all be able to conclude whether or not it’s true without needing a unique translation of English in to English?

But rather than go down that road, I was more curious about how one determines a “truth of Scripture.”

“Personal faith & study by comparing what the Bible says about truth w/ what really happens.”

The next answer I received was a bit more straightforward. We were cutting through the deepities. There were still some nonsensical phrases like “personal faith,” but it sounded like we might be getting somewhere with a testable claim!  Comparing something that the Bible says is true, with what actually occurs in reality, sounds like something we can actually do!

Alas, my request for Pressing On Ed to provide an example of this test has gone unanswered. Maybe he is researching and will get back to me.

Until then, be on guard for deepities and happy critical thinking!

How to Make a Character in D&D 5e – Step 3 Proficiency Bonus

Filling out your first player character sheet in Dungeons and Dragons can be intimidating, so this video playlist is intended to help dispel some of the fear and mystery behind all of those numbers!

This is the third in my series. The first two videos covered selecting your race and your class as well as understanding ability scores and their modifiers. This video I spend some time talking about the proficiency bonus and what it means to be proficient with something or in a given skill.

I hope you enjoy this third video in what I hope becomes a very instructive playlist for the beginning player!

Happy gaming!