Letter to the Editor: Trump true to GOP scientific illiteracy

Drought-2-650x435That climate change is beyond the grasp of so many in the Republican Party is not news. Their leaders nearly trip over themselves to proclaim their ignorance of global warming at every possible turn. Louie Gohmert, Lamar Smith, Steve King, my own representative at this embarrassing time in history, Barry Loudermilk, Ted Cruz, Mr. Snowball himself James Inhofe, and the list of Rs who get Fs in science goes on and on; each sounding as vacuous on matters of fact regarding the natural world, as the next.

So it’s also no surprise that the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, sits at the same table of willful ignorance as the aforementioned elected officials.

But Trump, being Trump, adds his own special “flair” when it comes to bragging about being scientifically ignorant.

Trump actually told Californians that they weren’t really in a drought. See the following article for more details:

Donald Trump tells Californians there is no drought

It’s difficult to write about this without devolving in to name-calling, but “boneheaded” just races to the top of my list of adjectives when I think about the sheer inanity of such a statement by a presidential nominee.  Why? Because here’s the science.

In the December 30, 2014 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, Daniel Griffin from the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota and Kevin Anchukaitis from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution published, “How unusual is the 2012–2014 California drought?” In this paper, the two scientists demonstrate that:

“For the past three years (2012–2014), California has experienced the most severe drought conditions in its last century. But how unusual is this event? Here we use two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for Central and Southern California to place this current event in the context of the last millennium. We demonstrate that while 3 year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years. Tree ring chronologies extended through the 2014 growing season reveal that precipitation during the drought has been anomalously low but not outside the range of natural variability. The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures.”

Let me lift a key statement from their study. California was in the most severe drought in the last 1200 years. So whether it’s simply that Donald can’t read complicated things or that he doesn’t understand the scientific method or that he’s just willfully ignorant, the outcome is the same.

Inaction.

If this great orange buffoon (sorry, more name-calling I know) has the audacity to tell Californians to their collective faces that they aren’t in a drought, then we just have to assume that the guy is immune to evidence and reason. While that trait fits him right in with the fringe elements of the GOP, it does the rest of us who are interested in solving problems, no good whatsoever.

Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – Children excited about science is wonderful

Just in case you were beginning to worry that I might only be writing letters to the editor as a means to challenge regressive thinking, I would like to share the following letter celebrating scientific literacy in children! Enjoy!

DEAR EDITOR:

kids-fair-08172011Thank you for the front-page story about Marietta High School science students working with Burruss Elementary School students to help them understand the scientific method (“Scientific Method: 10th-graders guide fifth-graders through biology experiments, MDJ, 11/25/16”).

The young people in both of these schools will hopefully carry with them into adulthood, an understanding of how things work and why we trust the scientific method as the best available means for gaining knowledge about the natural world.

Basic scientific literacy is something clearly lacking in the United States as evidenced by the sheer unwillingness or inability of so many, particularly our elected officials, to understand concepts such as climate change, evolution by natural selection, immunizations, and so on. These are all topics in science. They are all fact-based. They are all underpinned by the work of thousands of highly educated, highly trained scientists using the scientific method. To deny these realities given what is known is to admit willful ignorance of facts.

Reading about these children learning and understanding what so many adults seem to have missed along the way is, to say the least, hopeful. This story and others like it give us something for which to be optimistic! Thank you again.

Ryan Bays

The ages of things: understanding what is true

This post is as much for my benefit as it is anything else.  I’ve spent a couple of hours over the last few days piecing together the various ages of things that I think are pretty darn awesome.  Estimates here are of course based on the latest science as far as I could determine, so being based on good science, they are subject to adjustment with better evidence.

Enjoy!

Please comment below if you see any mistakes or updates that need to be made. Also let me know if there are some really cool events that I may have missed that you think deserve to be on the timeline.

The Scientific Method Isn’t Really All That Difficult

I am an unabashed science fan.  But what makes science so…well…awesome?  In a nutshell, it is the method by which scientists make sense of the world. It’s the most reliable method by which humanity adds truth to our ever-growing understanding of what is actually real. It’s how we learn in a way that makes the knowledge stick!

So how do scientists make it stick? Well, the only way they stand a chance is to use the scientific method.  It’s the method that allows other scientists (or anyone so inclined and so equipped with the necessary expertise) to critique, challenge, replicate, poke holes, etc. in anything new.

So with that, I’d like to present, the one, the only, the scientific method!

Step 1: Make an observation (i.e., grass grows outside)

Step 2: Ask a Question (i.e., I wonder if grass needs sunlight in order to grow)

Step 3: Do Background Research (i.e., Let me learn a bit about what other scientists say about photosynthesis)

Step 4: Construct a Hypothesis (i.e., Only light from the sun can make grass grow)

Step 5: Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment that is Repeatable using Evidence that is Falsifiable (i.e., I’ll grow two pots of grass: one outside in sunlight, and one inside under artificial light)

Step 6: Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion (i.e., hmmm, turns out grass grew in both instances – therefore I reject my hypothesis)

Step 7: Communicate Your Results (i.e., Dear world, grass does not necessarily need sunlight in order to grow)

There it is.  The scientific method.  That’s certainly a ridiculously simple example – but the point is, that’s how scientists do it regardless of what country they’re from or what language they speak.

To make the whole thing work, the results must be shared, the evidence must be falsifiable, or the experiment must be repeatable.  If those conditions are not met, then feel free to dismiss the results as opinion or fiction, with a big skeptical resounding boot to the keister.