Tough Questions Answered

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Are You Skeptical of Global Warming and Evolution?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

A recent NY Times article linked people who are skeptical about evolution with people who are skeptical about global warming.  The author noted that there seems to be a correlation, that if you doubt one, then you likely doubt the other.

This really has me thinking about why that is, as there is no obvious connection between them.  I am a skeptic of both, but for different reasons.

My initial skepticism about evolution came from my religious views, because I was taught that only a young earth (which does not accommodate evolution) could align with the creation accounts in the Bible.  As I researched both biblical interpretation and the science behind evolution, I eventually moved to a new position.

I now believe that the earth is probably old and that this fits with literal interpretations of the Bible.  I also understand, though I don’t necessarily agree with, why common descent (the idea that all plants and animals are part of a gigantic family tree) is the dominant theory of the origins of species: it has a lot of explanatory power and there’s not a more developed contender out there right now.

But I think that the evolutionary community has no idea what the mechanisms are that would modify plants and animals to the massive extent we see.  Natural selection and random mutation just don’t cut it.  Other proposed mechanisms likewise remain utterly unconvincing to me.  Evolutionary theorists constantly provide micro-evolutionary mechanisms as examples of how macro-evolution works over long periods of time.  The extrapolations don’t convince me.

What about global warming?  I started out skeptical of global warming because it was being exclusively evangelized by political liberals, whom I generally distrust as people who value intentions over truth.  I moved beyond that initial skepticism and tried to think about it scientifically.  As an engineer, I understand how to analyze data and how to test models, and I fail to see how it is possible to accurately model the global climate over long periods of time, given the multitude of variables that must go into these climate models and the incredible uncertainty of predicting climate changes in the distant future.

My suspicions about the data have proved to be correct as some brave climate scientists have admitted that their models have failed to predict the flat-lining of global temperatures over the last 15 years. The truth is that models of the climate have a long way to go before we can bet the farm on them.

So, what is the common denominator for me?  I started out suspecting evolution for religious reasons, and I started out suspecting global warming for political reasons.

I am conservative politically and I am a believer in traditional Christianity, but these don’t necessarily go together.  It seems like there must be something deeper.  The author Thomas Sowell possibly offers an explanation.  In his book, A Conflict of Visions, he argues that a person’s view of the nature and capability of man drives opinions about political, moral, judicial, economic, and even scientific matters (see my post on his book).  His theory makes a lot of sense; maybe he has found the common link.

I don’t have any certain answers to this question, but I’m very curious to know what others think.  What about you?  Are you skeptical about both of these issues?  Why or why not?  Please register your vote in the poll below and leave us some comments about your choices.


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Comments

  • http://jamesrountree.com James Rountree

    Great post Billy.

    Here is my view on the issue.

    In regard to evolution, why would you believe in the theory of evolution when it provides no credible explanation for how life began? In addition to that small problem, there is a complete lack of fossil or other evidence showing the transition from one life form type to another. If either of these was a truth, there would have to be more evidence available given the millions of years and resulting millions of potential fossils. I would argue that there is far more evidence for a man called Jesus that lived 2000 years ago than there is for evolution.

    In regard to global warming, I believe that the earth clearly goes through changes in climate. Either you believe there were ice ages or you don’t. Either you believe the historic accounts of a warm period during the 10th through the 14th centuries (when grapes could be grown as far north as Yorkshire, not possible today) or you don’t. If we combine these facts with the understanding that the numbers used to calculate the impact of fossil fuels ignores the very small percentage that fossil fuel use actually represents. “It is about 0.28%, if water vapor is taken into account– about 5.53%, if not.” (http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html) then you have to believe that less than 6% of the world’s on-going source of green house gases is making huge changes in our climate. Not the most convincing argument.

    I don’t believe or have faith in either theory. It is so rarely admitted by proponents that both are no more than theories. It takes far more faith to believe in a theory like evolution or global warming than it takes to believe that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead. However, it is quite common to have someone say “If you don’t believe in evolution or global warming you are just an idiot.” I would suggest that you have failed to apply your God given intelligence when you hold to a theory as a truth when there is clearly a lack of evidence to make it more than a theory.

  • Bill Pratt

    Interesting point about the greenhouse gases. Never heard that before.

  • http://jamesrountree.com James Rountree

    Check out this article: http://www.ecoenquirer.com/EPA-water-vapor.htm

    “The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to classify water vapor as a pollutant, due to its central role in global warming. Because water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for at least 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, its emission during many human activities, such as the burning of fuels, is coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators.”

    And at the end of this article (yes it sounds made up, but it is not)…

    Asked for their position on the matter, Greenpolice spokesperson Rainbow Treetower stated, “Our basic policy is, if it’s good for people, it’s bad for the planet.”

    It sounds like the best policy would be to eliminate people from planet earth and it will heal itself.

    The more you read about global warming, the more you realize that scientist are simply quessing about the impact of GHG our climate. Having a cleaner environment is clearly good for everyone, but not at the cost of complete economic colapse.

    Here is another very interesting site from NOAA about climate change:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/paleo.html

  • Boz

    Without being an expert in either of these two areas, My only recourse is to accept the overwhelming consensus opinion of experts in the field. So, I accept the fact and the scientific theory of evolution, and AGW.

    Bill Pratt, Why do you feel that natural selection and genetic drift ‘just dont cut it’ ?

  • Boz

    haha, James Rountree, you fell for a hoax
    http://www.ecoenquirer.com/EPA-water-vapor.htm

    Here are some hints from that link you posted:

    From the article:

    -White House staffer Lew Moninsky (Sound familiar?)
    -Greenpolice spokesperson Rainbow Treetower (Greenpolice does not exist, suspicious name)
    -some insiders claim that all known chemical compounds are targeted for future regulation
    -”Right now, we are not so concerned about the water vapor exhaled by people. That is low on our list of priorities”, said Mr. Donaldson. “We’ll tackle that manmade source at a later time.”

    From the site:

    Vatican Sued Over Katrina
    Court Orders Fisherman to Apologize to Eagle
    Levitating Islands Captured by Spy Satellite
    Weather Wars and Area 51
    Did Bush Jets Influence Hurricane Katrina?

    -

    Also, that geocraft site where you get your numbers from references the ecoenquirer hoax site.

    A little bit of critical thinking, research and reference-checking goes a long way.

  • Bill Rice

    The idea that me or any of us (except my kids) came from an oozing blob of goo that morphed into every specie on the planet is just, as the french say…RA-TARDED… and these ideas come from some of the greatest scientific minds on the planet. Its mind blowing. The universe has creator written all over it. Just because a giraffe has 7 cervical vertabrae and a human has 7 cervical vertabre make me not a giraffe (he is a bit bigger). Evolution is akin to a tornado running thru a junk yard, tossing the junk up in the air and…. building a harley davidson. Who would buy that?

  • http://jamesrountree.com James Rountree

    My apologies, I did include a link that is a hoax and it is my fault for not checking it closer. I was searching for the EPA report about water vapor in relation to GHG and came across that link and did not check it further.

    That does not change the fact that there is a growing revolt by scientist that no longer support the idea that the minor impact of GHG (while I am not arguing that we should not attempt to limit polution) does not support the idea that human activities are the primary or significant source of climate change.

    How do these articles fit in to your idea of consensus?

    “More than 31,000 scientists have signed a petition denying that man is responsible for global warming.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/2053842/Scientists-sign-petition-denying-man-made-global-warming.html

    “German scientists reject man-made global warming”
    http://www.speroforum.com/a/20054/German-scientists-reject-manmade-global-warming

    “Breaking: Less Than Half of all Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory”
    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=B35C36A3-802A-23AD-46EC-6880767E7966

  • http://jamesrountree.com James Rountree

    Here is a even more recent article that show global cooling is now an issue…

    “The Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat”
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88520025

    “Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling”
    http://www.dailytech.com/Temperature+Monitors+Report+Widescale+Global+Cooling/article10866.htm

    News Round Up: A sampling of recent articles detailing the inconvenient reality of temperature trends around the planet.

    “All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously. A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year time.”

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=B35C36A3-802A-23AD-46EC-6880767E7966

  • Bill Pratt

    There has been no convincing demonstration that these mechanisms can cause the complete metamorphosis of body plans that are necessary, for example, to get from land mammals to sea mammals. These mechanisms are only demonstrated to give very small and incremental changes within a species or genus.

  • Matt Salmon

    What’s shocking to me is that while the scientific community denies the validity of both of these theories, schools continue to teach it as fact. Even if the teacher calls it a theory, less reasoning students would still accept it as fact. therefore it must not even be taught until higher levels.
    I also believe Darwin’s name has been attached to several broad theories which he didn’t support. His work, I believe, only explains microevolution, but Social Darwinism and “Darwinian” Evolution are far exptrapolated from his samples and theories. His name was a way to add scientific validity to pseudosciences.

  • http://aboutjesus.tumblr.com/ Silas

    I’m skeptical to both for many reasons.

    Warming could occur, but I don’t think is has anything to do with us humans, it is just a natural cycle. We have had several warming periods in the last 4000 years, the latest was the Medieval Warm Period, which IPPC didn’t even include in their hockey stick graph and the temperature isn’t even close to what they predicted it would be at this time.

    It’s more politics than science in my opinion.

    Don’t forget we had a global cooling scare in the 70′s

  • Matt

    Hello Bill,

    I know that Christianity and political conservatism do not necessarily go together but they often tend to. There are many Christians who believe in evolution and many nonbelievers who are skeptical of global warming, but when you link the two using large population numbers it makes sense to me that being skeptical of both comes with the Christian/conservative package that many Americans buy into. It’s alarming because both go against the general scientific consensus. The scientific consensus is not always right and can be influenced human bias but so can anything you trust. Simply accusing scientists of being shills for big government schemes simply opens up deniers to be accused of being shills for the oil companies. It creates a motive-challenging stalemate. It would give me great pause to find out that my beliefs about the physical world contradict what the scientific consensus says because I believe that most people (including theologians) do their job honestly and when the vast majority of experts in those fields come to a conclusion I disagree with I should seriously reconsider what I believe.

    One thing about your poll. Most experts I’ve read on evolution assert that it does not account for the origin of life itself but for the diversity of life.

  • Michael Crass

    ” there is a complete lack of fossil or other evidence showing the transition from one life form type to another.”

    A COMPLETE LACK? You’ve got to be kidding me!

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    In regard to evolution, why would you believe in the theory of evolution when it provides no credible explanation for how life began? In addition to that small problem, there is a complete lack of fossil or other evidence showing the transition from one life form type to another.

    One word that destroys any argument against the existence of so-called “transitional fossils:” Archaeopteryx.

    Although if you need some more, here are some examples, taken only from the human ancestral line: primates within any of the following genuses (geni?):

    -) Apidium (exhibiting fused mandibular symphysis, a Scapula similar to modern squirrel monkeys, low rounded molar cusps rather than high cusps such as those of tarsiers and strepsirrhine)
    -) Aegyptopithecus (exhibiting ape-like teeth including broad and flat incisors as well as sexually-dimorphic canines, a low sagittal keel, strong temporalis muscles, and increased size in the visual cortex)
    -) Proconsul (exhibiting a lack of fully-formed tail, 5-Y pattern on the lower molar cusps [as seen in hominoids])
    -) Pierolapithecus (exhibiting a flat, wide ribcage similar to that of great apes [presumably for tree-climbing], a large clavicle similar to that of modern chimps, suggesting a dorsally-positioned scapula)
    -) Ardipithecus (exhibiting reduced canine size but retaining dimorphic characters, dominant hind legs, bipedal locomotion while walking but quadrupedal when climing trees)
    -) Australopithecus (full bipedal travel demonstrated by features such as the knee joints, hips, lumbar curve of spine, feet, and position of the foramen magnum; increase of brain size ranging approximately from 375-500cc, parabolic jaw)
    -) The species Homo Habilis (exhibiting increased brain size from 510-800cc, steeper prognathic face structure, a bulge in the Broca area [thought to demonstrate an affinity for rudimentary speech]; Homo habilis is thought to be one of the first hominids to use stone tools)
    -) species Homo erectus (exhibiting a round, large brain (~900-1100cc), othognathic facial structure, probably lived in bands of active hunters; Homo erectus is thought to have used more advanced stone tools and was possibly the first hominid to create fire)
    -) species Archaic sapiens (ancestral to modern humans)

    And finally, of course, Homo sapiens. So you might even say that not only are all of the above genus(es?) and species “transitional forms” between each other, but also, we are transitional forms.

    There has been no convincing demonstration that these mechanisms can cause the complete metamorphosis of body plans that are necessary, for example, to get from land mammals to sea mammals. These mechanisms are only demonstrated to give very small and incremental changes within a species or genus.

    What do you think happens when small, incremental changes accrue over vast amounts of time? They cause greater change.

    When you break it down, all evolution is (at the genetic level) is a change in allele frequency in the gene pool, due to the effects of random mutation and genetic drift and influenced by natural or artificial selection. At this level, there is no possible way to differentiate between “microevolution” and “macroevolution.” There is no difference between the two. Ergo, if one can happen at the genetic level, then the other can happen as well.

    If you mean to put forth a theory that there is some heretofore invisible mechanism that somehow “stops” genetic frequency adjustment at a certain indiscernable point at the genetic level, then the onus is on you to provide evidence of this phenomenon, not of evolutionary biologists to re-demonstrate what has already been demonstrated ad nauseum.

  • Dennis Bayram

    How do you mean “skeptical”? I’m skeptical of almost everything (If not everything), but that doesn’t mean I don’t accept them as the best current models for the observations available,…

  • Dennis Bayram

    Complete bollocks.

  • Yol9qjps

    Whenever I see one side of a controversy using persecution and ridicule rather than discussing facts I’m skeptical about that side.

    Particularly with global warming, the efforts to hide the original data and the statistical manipulations make me very skeptical. I think it’s possible that agw is true but I don’t believe the science is settled there are too many factors for the models to be reliable.

    The same tactics of persecution and ridicule by materialists supports my belief in intelligent design. I do believe in evolution, to me the evidence from fossils, comparative anatomy, developmental anatomy, and DNA analysis is convincing. However I am skeptical that natural selection is the only means by which evolution occurred. I’m also skeptical that life evolved by chance or that the universe exists by chance. The foundation for my belief in intelligent design is the evidence for the afterlife. That evidence comes from shared NDEs, mediums (ie. Mrs Piper, proxy sittings, walk in communicators, cross correspondences), past life memories in children, multiple witness apparitions, shared death bed visions etc. If there really is a civilization of spirits that use the earth to incarnate for educational purposes, then it is likely the have initiatied and/or interfered with natural evolution for their own purposes. It is also likely that the universe was created for the same purpose.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/ Yol9qjps

    P.S. I’ll just add that if agw is a real factor, it still may be insignificant compared to other factors that effect climate like solar activity. I am also skeptical that the effects of warming, if it is really occurring, are necessarily harmful. Based on history of the planet, (and where I live), there are more likely to be problems with cooling and an ice age than warming.

  • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

    Two points here.

    The first is that evidence for AGW is overwhelming, which is why all – repeat, ALL – major scientific organizations accept it. Only deniers lend support where it has been conclusively shown to be false… like sun activity. By all means be sceptical… but when preponderance of evidence begins to pile up only at one end of the spectrum, it’s time to admit that the probability for AGW vastly outweighs the denial basis for that scepticism. You see, scepticism is already built into the scientific method, so when consensus is reached, you can take it to the bank that the probability that it’s factual is reliable.

    And that raises the second point: either you agree that the scientific method works as well as any method available to us to reveal how the universe operates or you do not. You don’t have the luxury of pretending to trust the method for, say, informing aerodynamics to make travel by air theoretically sound enough for you to get on a plane and trust it will fly but it’s then magically inadequate for creating exactly the same trust in evolution. That’s dishonest. It’s deceitful. Either take the scientific method for all the benefits it produces that works for everyone everywhere all the time or reject it entirely, but don’t think for one second that your belief in this bit or that in any way influences what’s true as arbitrated by reality. Evolution is true regardless of your beliefs. Anthropomorphic global warming is true regardless of your beliefs. And we know this because the best method we have for finding out how reality operates is science and this method has produced overwhelming evidence in support of these two investigations as it has in aerodynamics. You don’t get to pick and choose amongst them to serve your beliefs and pretend it’s sceptical because it’s exactly the same method for all. If you don’t maintain exactly the same kind of scepticism with all science then you are being a hypocrite.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Whenever I see one side of a controversy using persecution and ridicule rather than discussing facts I’m skeptical about that side”

    The ‘skeptical/denier’ side on both the issues of climate change and evolution certainly uses both those methods.

  • Ggodat

    Yes, a complete lack!!! Ever heard of the Cambrian explosian? How does that work into the millions of years of random mutations? Answer, it doesn’t!

  • Andrew Ryan

    Ggodat, it has been pointed out to you before that natural museums are stuffed with transitional fossils. You might as well claim that libraries contain no books.

  • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

    You are ‘skeptical to both’ because you’ve been fooled into believing you have good reasons to be sceptical. You don’t. I know that sounds harsh and too blunt to be effective, but it’s true nevertheless. You have been fooled.

    There are no good reasons you can produce to counter the weight of evidence that stands contrary to your scepticism. None. Not any. This is not a sound basis to maintain scepticism but a position of defiance against compelling evidence… evidence that has swayed all major scientific organizations around the world.

    So unless you honestly think that you have a better grasp of the scientific findings than all of the scientists who compose these august institutions from around the globe do, then perhaps you need to step back from elevating your sceptical position to be equivalently informed.

    Again, to be blunt, what is that they know that you do not? The answer is: a lot. A very great deal more. So although you are welcome to question what it is that they know that you do not, and inquire further into the issue as much or as little as you see fit to understand why there is scientific consensus on both, you have an obligation to stop empowering ignorance and stupidity dressed up as ‘skepticism’. This aids only the denial side of accepting the scientific facts, and you do not have the right or luxury to presume that your willingness to be fooled is somehow an equivalent foundation to seriously judge and find wanting the scientific consensus.

  • Simon

    Common misconception on both sides is to link evolution with origins. evolution has nothing to say about origin, only that species have evolved over time. The big bang is the scientific theory about origins. Coincidentally, this theory agrees with Genesis in that the universe had a beginning.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “In addition to that small problem, there is a complete lack of fossil or other evidence showing the transition from one life form type to another”

    ‘Life form type’ has no meaning in science, so the above claim, rather than being wrong, actually has no meaning at all.

    Fossilisation is a rare process, but as far as ‘transitional fossils’ go we have thousands.

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