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:

 

 

What do I mean by “probabilistically” true?

What do I mean by “probabilistically” true?

I was once again drawn in to a “discussion” on Facebook about global warming with one of my science-denying friends (why do I have so many?!) and while I made some progress – I think – I used the exchange as an opportunity to reflect on the word “true.”

A claim in science has either been proven false, or it has yet to be proven false. This sets up a strange dynamic for the contrarian looking to exploit that space between what we claim to be true and what has yet to be proven false.

You see, science by definition and by the very nature of hypothesis testing is “probabilistically” true. Meaning that there is always a chance that a claim could be proven false. In other words, science always leaves a window open, even if the crack is infinitesimally small, for the potential that new evidence will change our understanding.

For the climate change denier (or evolution denier or vaccine denier etc.), to deny the evidence for human caused global warming, or evolution, or vaccine efficacy at this stage of the research, is simply contrarianism. Therefore, while statistically speaking there is an extraordinarily small probability that any of those hypotheses might be proven false, the practical reality is that there is no factual basis for denying any of them.

The lesson: Do not let contrarians exploit your intellectual honesty.

Happy critical thinking!

Climate Change Denial Hypothesis and Social Media

I think there’s an underlying psychology that each climate change denier displays. It is composed of classic anti-intellectual distrust of expertise and an over-amplified belief in intuition over data and evidence. This results in a huge range of conspiratorial thinking grounded in a devaluing of reason and evidence as good epistemology.

Facebook and to a lesser degree Twitter are two of the few avenues I’ve found that actually lets those of us who promote critical thinking, punch some holes in the confirmatory echo-chambers within which most science deniers live.

For example, a couple of times lately I’ve seen statements to the effect of, “the climate has changed in the past” as if that somehow obviates the fact that humans are causing the current change:

I’ve blurred Brad’s face and picture because he’s an old friend of mine but Twitter is an open forum so I’ve left that profile unobscured:

That the climate has changed before does not mean that humans haven’t pumped enough CO2 in to the atmosphere over the last century to cause more heat to be trapped (the Greenhouse Effect) which in turn causes the global mean temperature to rise (global warming) which in turn causes the climate to change. This is not a difficult concept.

But nothing beats a face-to-face “intervention.”

Happy critical thinking!

Rediscovering Twitter

It seems like for me, 2017 is starting to develop a trend. And that trend is rediscovery! First it was Dungeons and Dragons (although technically I started playing D&D again in 2016), then it was “nerdom” in general, and now I’ve sort of stumbled back in to Twitter.

I used to use Twitter quite a bit. It was a great platform for debate, discussion, and the occasional narcissistic ego stroke (i.e., Ricky Gervais once liked one of my tweets and Richard Dawkins retweeted me so I saved pictures of both! ohhhh weeee!).

Then I just got burned out. I’m not sure if the platform was just getting too mean, too creepy, or what, but I just backed out.

But over the past few weeks, with the start of my YouTube channel, I’ve been taking inventory of my “social media” and thought, why not? Why not jump back in to Twitter with both feet?! And so I have.

So if you like watching me debate uninformed or misinformed people on any number of topics, including but not limited to: science, evolution, global warming, religion, gun control, LGBT equality, and politics, join me! Good times will be had by all!

Here’s my latest video on How to Play D&D.

 

A brief note on scientific literacy

Just a brief note on scientific literacy that was prompted by the following ridiculous video that showed up on my Facebook feed.

I don’t know who the person speaking in this video is but he is clearly a crackpot. And while ad hominem arguments are normally just lazy, on this I don’t know what else to say. The science is clear. While not all vaccines are 100% effective, and while all medical procedures, including receiving a vaccine, carry a risk, there is no doubt that vaccines are among the most important and impactful public health inventions of human history.

And in general, I hope it’s also clear this is what I mean when I talk about scientific literacy.

I’m neither an MD, a climate scientist, nor a biologist for example, but I trust doctors on vaccines because I understand at a high level how vaccines work and I know their efficacy has the overwhelming consensus of the medical community…just like I trust climate scientists on climate because I know at a high level what is happening with greenhouse gas emissions and I know man made global warming has the overwhelming consensus of the climate science community and just like I trust biologists on evolution, etc. I don’t have to do the experiments or publish in peer-reviewed journals to be able to weigh the plausibility of evidence-based scientific truth claims.

This is what it means to be scientifically literate. The video below is a dangerous example of what it means to be scientifically illiterate.
https://www.facebook.com/LarryCook333/videos/10153748329093589/