In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

US Congressman Opens Climate Change Denial Confrence With Rant Against Water Fluoridation

Here at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, an aging crowd has gathered for the largest climate change skeptic conference in the world. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute—an oil and gas industry-funded think tank famous for its 90s-era role in taking tobacco money to deny the health risks associated with smoking—speakers at the opening session last night stressed that despite being well outside the scientific mainstream, their beliefs will one day win the battle of ideas on climate policy.

Then, things quickly got weird when the most prominent speaker of the evening opened his mouth…

Political, Religious Identity More Influential Than Scientific Literacy

Belief appears to trump fact and reason, which is why dealing with anti-vaxxers, creationists, or climate change deniers can be such a rage-inducing experience. This news is also a bit disheartening, as changing minds is not as easy as explaining the facts. What can we do to combat the fact that scientifically-literate individuals are turning their backs on facts in order to toe the line for political party or religious sect?

Wyoming chooses fossil fuels over science education

Last week, Wyoming succeeding in blocking public school students from learning about science — or at least the science that state politicians and the fossil fuel industry don’t believe in. Gov. Matt Mead (R) approved a budget amendment that prevents the state from implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a multistate effort to combat ignorance and promote interest in science, so that more students might choose to pursue it in college. A big reason for doing so, right-wing groups made clear, was the standards’ treatment of climate change and evolution as fact.

ted:

To really understand climate change, we need to see the big picture. This beautiful globe is an animated climate model, made to help scientists figure out what the eff is going on.

This particular model (which you can see in all its mesmerizing glory at 8:33) shows many atmospheric particles moving around the globe. The reddish-orange is dust streaming off the Sahara; the white is pollution from burning coal and volcanoes; the red dots are fires; and the blue swirls are sea salt whipped into the air by the wind.

All those swirling particles affect our climate. “There are so many different factors at work,” says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt"Everything from how light travels through the atmosphere to how the winds move the ocean around to how rain hits the ground has an effect on what actually happens on Earth both now and in the future."

Watch the full talk here »

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): Climate Change Debate


“Do owls exist? Are there hats?” Comedian John Oliver joins Bill Nye to put the disparities between scientific understanding of climate change, popular opinion, and outlier contrarianism into perspective. Featuring a mathematically representative climate change debate, with the help of special guest Bill Nye the Science Guy, of course.

christiannightmares:

Pat Robertson says fighting climate change will ‘destroy America’ (Found at Right Wing Watch; For a related video, click here http://christiannightmares.tumblr.com/post/46194848732/pat-robertson-says-environmentalists-may-cause-the)

Your old road is rapidly aging, Pat. Get out of the new one if you can lend your hand.

The best thing about Pat Robertson is the fact that he’s almost dead, and so are the great majority of his viewers.

5 Easy Tips for Denying Scientific Consensus

Faced with unfortunate facts or inconvenient truths? Tired of closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and screaming “LA LA LA LA LA LA?” Well, simply read RealClearScience’s handy guide for denying scientific consensus. It’s 100% proven to work against a variety of well-substantiated topics, such as:

Drinking Water Fluoridation
Global Climate Change
Child Vaccinations
Evolution
The Link Between HIV and AIDS

I’m sure you’ve got a long day of crafting aluminum foil hats ahead of you, so let’s get going!

Tip #1: Claim a conspiracy. Feel like the whole world is against you? Well that’s because it is! Scientists, politicians, journalists: they’re all in collusion! Take climate change, for example. It’s obvious why all those scientists “agree.” They’ve been paid off by Big Solar and Big Wind, and are probably throwing lavish parties, complete with dancers that jump out of giant cakes shaped like beakers.

Tip #2: Use fake experts. The other side has their experts, so you need to get some, too. Finding somebody with respected credentials will be difficult, so to make up for it, just dress whoever you select in a white lab coat. If you can recruit a celebrity, do it! The public already trusts them. (Note: The more attractive the celebrity, the greater is his or her credibility.) To the anti-vaxxers out there, I recommend Jenny McCarthy.

Tip #3: Cherry-pick scientific data. Every once in a while, a scientific study will be published that supports your claims. When this happens, latch on and don’t let go (despite it’s obvious errors)! After all, the key to convincing others is simply to repeat your message more often than your opponents repeat theirs. If you’re opposed to genetic modification, allow me to recommend a 2012 study by Gilles-Éric Séralini which found that genetically modified corn causes cancer in lab rats. Never mind that it’s been universally denounced and recentlyretracted. The public doesn’t need to know that.

Tip #4: Create unrealistic expectations of the evidence. Science is inherently uncertain; even scientists admit that! What can they ever really prove? Nothing! Climate change deniers, take Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee’s advice and “point to the absence of accurate temperature records from before the invention of the thermometer.”

Tip #5: Employ logical fallacies. Straw men, red herrings, false analogies: all of these are your friends. Misrepresent the opposition! Change the subject! And here’s a foolproof false analogy for evolution deniers: “As the universe and a watch are both extremely complex, the universe must have been created by the equivalent of a watchmaker.” Deep, isn’t it?

Okay! You’re ready to go!

But first beware: there’s a guaranteed side effect of utilizing this guide. You’ll look like a total dunderhead.

But hey, it sure beats sticking your head in the ground.

Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)

(Source: alwaysmoneyinthebnanastand)

The Debunking Handbook

This guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download. 

Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas who encounter misinformation.

The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as:

-The Familiarity Backfire Effect
-The Overkill Backfire Effect
-The Worldview Backfire Effect

It also looks at a key element to successful debunking: providing an alternative explanation. The Handbook is designed to be useful to all communicators who have to deal with misinformation.

It’s 8 pages and a must read for anyone who cares to correct misinformation and debunk myths in themselves and others.

The Debunking Handbook

This guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download.

Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas who encounter misinformation.

The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as:

-The Familiarity Backfire Effect
-The Overkill Backfire Effect
-The Worldview Backfire Effect

It also looks at a key element to successful debunking: providing an alternative explanation. The Handbook is designed to be useful to all communicators who have to deal with misinformation.

It’s 8 pages and a must read for anyone who cares to correct misinformation and debunk myths in themselves and others.

Sir David Attenborough: Enough With the Creationists and Climate Change Deniers!

“To simply say that you must accept unquestioningly what you learned at your mother’s knee is not the act of an intelligent person”


…You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”…

The Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist

Believe me, I sympathize. You are in possession of a truly incredible breakthrough that offers the prospect of changing the very face of science as we know it, if not more. The only problem is, you’re coming at things from an unorthodox perspective. Maybe your findings don’t fit comfortably with people’s preconceived notions, or maybe you don’t have the elaborate academic credentials that established scientists take for granted. Perhaps you have been able to construct a machine that produces more energy than it consumes, using only common household implements; or maybe you’ve discovered a hidden pattern within the Fibonacci sequence that accurately predicts the weight that a top quark would experience on Ganymede, expressed in femtonewtons; or it might be that you’ve elaborated upon an alternative explanation for the evolution of life on Earth that augments natural selection by unspecified interventions from a vaguely-defined higher power. Whatever the specifics, the point is that certain kinds of breakthroughs just aren’t going to come from a hide-bound scholastic establishment; they require the fresh perspective and beginner’s mind that only an outsider genius (such as yourself) can bring to the table….

…Happily, we are here to help. It would be a shame if the correct theory to explain away dark matter or account for the origin of life were developed by someone without a conventional academic position, who didn’t really take a lot of science classes in college and didn’t have a great math background but was always interested in the big questions, only for that theory to be neglected because of some churlish prejudice. So we would like to present a simple checklist of things that alternative scientists should do in order to get taken seriously by the Man. And the good news is, it’s only three items! How hard can that be, really? True, each of the items might require a nontrivial amount of work to overcome. Hey, nobody ever said that being a lonely genius was easy..

1. Acquire basic competency in whatever field of science your discovery belongs to.
2. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.
3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

climateadaptation:

Obama’s science advisor describes the #PolarVortex and climate change. Seriously! Check it out.

President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, explains the polar vortex in 2 minutes—and why climate change makes extreme weather more likely going forward. Learn more at http://wh.gov/climate-change.

Climate Change: The Moral Choices - MIT Technology Review

confrontingbabble-on:

"One of the defining characteristics of climate change is poorly appreciated by most people: the higher temperatures and other effects induced by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will persist for a very long time. Scientists have long realized that carbon dioxide emitted during the burning of fossil fuels tends to linger in the atmosphere for extended periods, even for centuries. Over the last few years, researchers have calculated that some of the resulting changes to the earth’s climate, including increased temperature, are more persistent still: even if emissions are abruptly ended and carbon dioxide levels gradually drop, the temperature will stubbornly remain elevated for a thousand years or more. The earth’s thermostat is essentially being turned up and there are no readily foreseeable ways to turn it back down; even risky geoengineering schemes would at best offset the higher temperatures only temporarily.

It’s a shocking realization, especially given how little progress has been made in slowing carbon dioxide emissions. But it is precisely the long-term nature of the problem that makes it so urgent for us to limit emissions as quickly and radically as possible. To have a decent chance of meeting the widely accepted international goal of keeping warming at or below 2 °C, emissions need to be cut substantially over the next few years. By 2050 they must be reduced by half or more from 2009 levels.”

Read http://m.technologyreview.com/review/513526/climate-change-the-moral-choices/

See Also “Climate Change Worse Than We Thought, Likely To Be ‘Catastrophic Rather Than Simply Dangerous’” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/climate-change-worse_n_4523828.html

Further “How the Religious Right and the Corporate Right are Joining Forces to Fight Environmental Protection” http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/the-green-dragon-slayers-how-the-religious-right-and-the-corporate-right-are-joining-fo

Billion-dollar climate denial network exposed

wilwheaton:

A network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible.

An extensive study into the financial networks that support groups denying the science behind climate change and opposing political action has found a vast, secretive web of think tanks and industry associations, bankrolled by conservative billionaires.

"I call it the climate-change counter movement," study author Robert Brulle, who published his results in the journal Climatic Change, told the Guardian. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

His work, which is focused on the United States, shows how a network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible for conservative opposition to climate policy. Almost 80 percent of these groups are registered as charitable organizations for tax purposes and collectively received more than seven billion dollars between 2003 and 2010.

This isn’t really surprising, and it’s one of those things we all knew but couldn’t prove until now. I’m not holding my breath while I wait for the charitable status of these front organizations to be revoked, though.

jtotheizzoe:

What if all the ice melted?

The ocean holds most of Earth’s water. After that, it’s ice. 5.7 million cubic miles of the stuff.

What if, thanks to natural and man-made climate change, it all melted? What if, by burning enough deep-Earth carbon (dead dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, or as we call it… fossil fuels) we raised Earth’s average temperature to around 80˚ F?

Thanks to National Geographic we know: This is is what 216 feet (66 meters) of sea level change looks like.