An unquestioned ‘truth’

To earn a degree from Roger Williams University, students must pass a class on science, technology and society. To pass the class, they must watch Al Gore’s global warming movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” When a conservative student asked for alternative points of view — for example, that warming is caused by natural cycles not human activity — Jeffrey Hughes, assistant dean of marine and natural sciences, said there is no legitimate countervailing view.

“After an initial and heated debate, scientists no longer question whether the atmosphere is being warmed due to human activities and instead are increasingly impressed with the speed and impact of the process,” Hughes wrote. “I repeat: there is no doubt that we’re warming the earth and that a continuation of our activities will lead to profound changes.

“Penguins, polar bears and your unborn children have no vote in this. They must live with decisions we make today,” the assistant dean said.

“As educators, we’re charged to encourage your intellectual growth,” Hughes added. “That can (actually, will) be uncomfortable at times, and we’re also here to help you deal with that discomfort. It’s truly what makes being a human such a joy, privilege and challenge.”

Why not make the professors uncomfortable by presenting arguments by scientists who question the majority view? There are such scientists and there is room for intelligent debate on why the earth is warming, the contributing role of human activity and what tactics would be effective to slow or cope with warming.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. wayne martin says:

    Global Warming hysteria has taken on the trappings of a religion.

    There is a set of legitimate scientists who have been arguing against the hysteria for some time now. A British film maker, Martin Durkin, had his film shown on UK TV recently. The following is a link to the 74 minute film:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4499562022478442170

    One error in the film’s information has been identified so far. The film claims that more C02 is released by volcanoes than by man, which is not true.

  2. Hunter McDaniel says:

    I’ve seen the Durkin movie and I felt it was just as propagandistic as Al Gore’s movie. Frankly these movies just reinforce my view that film is a medium designed for emotional impact, and is just about the worst possible tool for teaching students to think about complex and controversial topics.

    My own skepticism on AGW comes from personal experience with computer models, not entirely unlike those used by climate scientists. Such models can be very useful for sensitivity analysis but have much less value as absolute predictors. Plus, any time the bien-pensants in the media start up a constant drumbeat like they currently have for AGW it triggers all of bs detectors.

  3. Science has nothing to do with parroting “what scientists say” or with emotional assertions about penguins. Learning science is about developing the ability to make and follow logical arguments based on observation and on chains of reasoning.

    If this “university” wants to teach a course on climate change, then it should involve an analysis of the data and a review of the models used to project it into the future. Such a course might actually result in students learning about climatology and mathematical modeling, rather than just learning to bow to the assertions of authority figures.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Now we know what a Roger Williams degree is worth.

  5. As predictive tools the climate models are self-evidently inadequate. How much can the results be worth if you don’t have a model of the sun’s future luminosity? And that’s a daily phenomenon appreciable by the entire planet.

    There are other phenomena of indeterminate effect on the climate because they’ve only recently been discovered – megalightning for one – or have only recently been shown to have an effect on the climate – cosmic rays, coronal mass ejections, galactic orbital position to name a few. And this list isn’t comprehensive and doesn’t preclude the discovery or characterization of other phenomena capable of influencing the climate.

    I thought there was a certain propagandistic shadow over the Durkin movie but barely worth noting against the wall-to-wall tendentiousness of Gore’s movie.

  6. speedwell says:

    OK, just like the debate over so-called “intelligent design,” we mustn’t let our brains escape through the hole in our open minds. “Teach the controversy” is only legit if you’re discussing philosophy, not science.

    Science is about questions, not answers. But you have to exercise some workmanlike skill in choosing which questions to ask and how those questions are framed. The scientific method provides a handy way to do this. You don’t just brainstorm freely like a second-rate writers’ workshop.

    An adequate treatment of the subject of global warming will go into not just the consensus and alternate theories, but also into the reasoning behind why each theory is “consensus” and “alternate.”

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    Why not make the professors uncomfortable by presenting arguments by scientists who question the majority view?

    Because:

    To earn a degree from Roger Williams University, students must pass a class on science, technology and society.

    This is the same reason that my wife didn’t challenge her
    Women’s Studies teacher when the teacher asserted as fact
    that women were just as physically strong as men.
    These teachers can and will flunk you if you disagree with
    them. And flunking a class needed to graduate can screw up
    graduation plans.

    -Mark R.

  8. This course provides another example of a phenomenon I’ve mentioned before: the tendency of modern academia (and K-12 education) to turn all disciplines into either “social studies” or “arts & crafts.”

  9. Reality Czech says:

    The makers of The Great Global Warming Swindle have done more than make one error:  they have outrageously quoted a climate scientist out of context to imply the opposite of what he said.  Wunsch also has a personal response.

    When people attack Al Gore’s position but hold up outright frauds in rebuttal, it speaks volumes — nay, encyclopediae — about which side the truth is on.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    The title of this entry made me think of the line from Jesus Christ Superstar, when Pilot says, “We both have truths. Is mine the same as yours?”

  11. wayne martin says:

    > The makers of The Great Global Warming Swindle
    > have done more than make one error: they have
    > outrageously quoted a climate scientist out of
    > context to imply the opposite of what he said.

    It is true that Carl Wunsch has objected to WagTV (the film’s producer) how his views were portrayed in the GGWS, but he did not dispute any of the information presented. He did not claim that the producers had edited his comments in such a fashion that he was presenting material that became false by virtue of editing.

    The following link contains a copy of Wunsch’s letter about his feelings on the matter:

    http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/responseto_channel4.pdf

    The following link is from a radio interview with a Toronto Radio Host with Wunsch, which took place just before the airing of the GGWS:

    Mike Addler with Carl Wunsch:
    http://www.cjob.com/shows/adler.aspx?mc=62757

    If you listen to the interview, and listen to what Wunsch said in his comments in the film, there doesn’t seem to be too much difference.

    After the film aired, at least one of the presenters received death threats. Wonder why anyone would want to kill a scientist who held different views than the “consensus”?

    Also, Wunsch did not explain if he had reserved the rights to “sign off” on the final product.

  12. I would love to hear what the great physicist Richard Feynman would have to say about all this. Not that he was an expert in climatology but he had a lot to say about scientific integrity. I can imagine what he would say about the idea that the “debate is over.”

    Read “Cargo Cult Science” at the following link.

    http://wwwcdf.pd.infn.it/~loreti/science.html

    The following is a quote from the link.

    “Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

    In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.”

    That is the mind and character of a true scientist.

  13. Reality Czech says:

    From the Wunsch PDF you linked above:

    In the part of the “Swindle” film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous—because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important — diametrically opposite to the point I was making—which is that global warming is both real and threatening.

    That’s a dispute of what he was cast as saying and a direct refutation of your claim.

    Regarding “sign off” rights, here’s what Wunsch said on the subject (again, from the PDF you linked):

    There is nothing in the communication we had (much of it on the telephone or with the film crew on the day they were in Boston) that suggested they were making a film that was one-sided, anti-educational, and misleading. I took them at face value—a great error.

    He trusted them and his trust was grossly abused.  This does nothing to excuse the producers.

    Wonder why anyone would want to kill a scientist who held different views than the “consensus”?

    Tell you what.  Let’s suppose I decide to build an alkali plant which will dump its effluent into your drinking water.  I’ll find a scientist who’ll swear that the mercury from the plant is harmless, and we’ll see how much you respect his dissent from the consensus.

    The stakes in climate change are far greater than in a hundred Minimata disasters.

  14. wayne martin says:

    > He trusted them and his trust was grossly abused.

    This is why we have contracts. How someone of the age and purported wisdom of a MIT climate scientist would “trust” anyone defies the imagination. There is nothing in the film that “grossly abuses” Mr. Wunsch.

    Moreover, Mr. Wunsch doesn’t seem to have demanded that his contribution be deleted from the film by the producers, which would seem to be something he would want on the record. There is no statement as to whether Wunsch was compensated in any way, or will share in any proceeds of the sale of this film. He also doesn’t seem to be threatening to sue if the film is released on DVD with his contribution included.

    The claim that there is “consensus” in the scientific community about this issue is bunk:


    http://dpa.aapg.org/gac/papers/climate_change.cfm

    Present Policy Statement:
    Climate Change Policy

    * Download: htp://dpa.aapg.org/gac/papers/climate_change.doc

    The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, an international organization of over 30,000 earth scientists, supports expanding scientific climate research into the basic controls on climate, specifically including the geological aspects of climate change. This research should be undertaken by appropriate federal agencies involved in climate research and their associated grant and contract programs. Such support includes major research efforts into potential effects of decreasing as well as increasing temperatures and the mitigation of such effects. This research is important to sustain the ability of agriculture to feed the growing global population as well as to understand the effects of a colder climate upon society.

    Geologists who study past climate variations understand that current climate warming projections fall well within documented natural variations in past climate. Therefore, for scientific reasons, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists does not support placing a carbon tax upon fossil energy sources as a tool to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, nor do we support any implementation of the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification.

    > The stakes in climate change are far greater than in a
    > hundred Minimata disasters.

    And you provide what evidence to support such a claim? (These sorts of Hellfire and brimstone claims are why I claim that this whole thing has moved out of the realm of science into the realm of the religious.)

    Anyone who has studied geology would probably not be making these sorts of claims without pulling out a chart of the fossil record, and maybe a temperature chart .. before beginning to warn people that they are killing the planet.

  15. Walter E. Wallis says:

    There is big money in warming. Carl Sagan bought ads for his Nuclear Winter lie, practicing scientific lies for a “good cause”. Now it is lies for a grant. This is like tobacco companies hiring scientists to prove smoking doesn’t cause cancer. The goal of the warmies is the same control over the economy that its’ brother communism tried for but failed.

  16. Richard Nieporent says:

    I am sorry Mr. Galileo Galilei but it has been an established fact for over 1500 years that the earth is the center of the solar system. There is no legitimate countervailing view.

  17. Teqjack says:

    As a resident of Li’l Rhody, and with at least some idea of its history, I believe the U’s namesake would vehemently oppose the notion that conflicting ideas (or beliefs) should never be aired. Scoff at them, maybe, but do not silence them.

    “…scientists no longer question whether the atmosphere is being warmed due to human activities…”
    Uh, OK, but a growing number are speaking out against the idea that our contribution is very large let be the only (or even major) factor. It is only very recently that computer models have come close to “predicting” what Assistant Dean Hughes thinks they have, and they have done so by assigning ever-larger values to things like bovine flatulence (seriously!) and aboreal influence (seems that trees in North America actually may be “bad” by causing warming, albeit South American trees may still be “good”).

    For cites, see the multitudinous links at Junkscience.com: sure, he has beliefs, but his links are straight and for both sides.

    Personally, I think warming is happening, but doubt that it is entirely driven by humans: at most, our efforts prematurely tipped a situation in a particluar direction from its precarious stance on a pre-existing knife edge. And yes, change could be catastrophic – humans lived for several thousand years where the North Sea now seperates England from Denmark, and it seems the transition from forested plains to a sea may have taken less than four generations, according to a documentary recently on the BBC.

  18. Reality Czech says:

    Wayne Martin quotes:

    The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, an international organization of over 30,000 earth scientists

    … with no program of research into the atmosphere and climate, and an ox to be gored if fossil fuel use is restricted to protect the environment.  Their objections have nothing to do with the science, only their self-interest.

    Moreover, Mr. Wunsch doesn’t seem to have demanded that his contribution be deleted from the film by the producers, which would seem to be something he would want on the record.

    Strange you should say that, because here’s what Wunsch said about it:

    At a minimum, I ask that the film should never be seen again publicly
    with my participation included.

    Once again you are flat wrong.  Aren’t you even the slightest bit embarrassed?

    And Teqjack writes:

    a growing number are speaking out against the idea that our contribution is very large let be the only (or even major) factor.

    Beware of the out-of-context quote and the fallacy of appeal to authority (as opposed to data).  For instance, the bit about boreal forests is more of a suggestion about how not to respond to AGW, not what’s driving it.

    For cites, see the multitudinous links at Junkscience.com: sure, he has beliefs, but his links are straight and for both sides.

    The “skeptic” site Junkscience.com is run by one Steven Milloy, who has a sordid history of denying the connection between tobacco use and illness before he got into the GW-denial business.

    I am going on vacation now and will not be back to this thread, but I hope that gives you something to chew on.

  19. Cardinal Fang says:

    The American Association of Petroleum Geologists is the only major scientific organization to dispute that global warming is real and caused by humans. And even then, their “current policy statement is not supported by a significant number of our members and prospective members”, and the new draft proposal no longer denies human-caused global warming, merely saying that the magnitude is uncertain and it might cost a lot of money to mitigate.

  20. I would really like to know why the subject of global warming turns otherwise intelligent people into complete idiots.

    Something similar happens with Holocaust denial, bilingual education, IQ and genetics, and evolution.

    It scares me when people reject science.

  21. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Some times you ned to look behind what someone says.

  22. wayne martin says:

    > Once again you are flat wrong. Aren’t you even
    > the slightest bit embarrassed?

    No, I’m not embarrassed at all. Science is about finding the truth—not asserting the truth. Religion is about sin and salvation. Science is about fact finding, and moving on. When someone who works in the sciences makes a mistake, that person generally admits to the mistake, corrects any work linked to the mistake, and moves on.

    It’s up to Martin Durkin to see if he pulls the Wunsch segment as requested.

    >… with no program of research into the atmosphere and climate,

    Excuse me .. and you know what the work of 30,000 petroleum geologists consists of?

    > and an ox to be gored if fossil fuel use is restricted to protect
    > the environment.

    Just like the thousands of “climate scientists” – who have no source of funding other than the government?

    The quantities of oil (and coal) are too extensive, and the economies of the world are too dependent on them, to have their use “restricted”. There are far too many technological solutions possible to simple convert this oil to energy in cleaner ways than is currently the case.

    > Their objections have nothing to do with the
    > science, only their self-interest.

    And you know this how? Most petroleum geologists take degrees in schools that train them for careers in geology—not petroleum geology, per se. There are only so many jobs for geologists, and the petroleum industry hires a goodly number of these folks. A scientist does not forget “science” because he works for a petroleum company.

    This is an absolutely stupid, ideological, claim—but not atypical of the kinds of thinking that an “environmentalist” is likely to promote. By the way, how many “environmentalists” would you guess have hard science degrees?

  23. wayne martin says:

    > The American Association of Petroleum Geologists is
    > the only major scientific organization to dispute that
    > global warming is real and caused by humans.

    I’ve been looking for a list of the scientific organizations and their positions on this matter. Sounds like you have such a list. Would you mind sharing a link, or telling us how to get a copy this a list?

  24. wayne martin says:

    > Something similar happens with Holocaust denial,
    > bilingual education, IQ and genetics, and evolution.

    Holocaust denial is based on politics. Bilingual education was proven to be less successful that single-language instruction. The insistence on bilingual education was political and cultural. Neither of these two topics involves “science”.

    IQ and genetics open an interesting can of worms in some cultural and sociological settings.

    Evolution is generally denied by people for religious reasons. The same people who reject Evolution usually do not reject Newton.

    > It scares me when people reject science

    Science is ever changing. Anyone who took the time to read science texts from as little as a hundred and twenty-five years ago would see a very different view of the world than we see today.

    For instance, geologists were making estimates of the age of the earth at around 100,000-500,000 years. They were using erroneous assumptions and age estimation techniques. It wasn’t until geochronology emerged after WWII, with a merging of physics and geology that folks began to converge on the current 4.5B year number. Up until the mid-1950s, all of the work of geoscience in that area was simply wrong. For that matter, whole new worlds emerged for Biologists after the discovery of DNA by Crook and Watson around the same time.

    Climate science is still very young. As noted by a number of posters, the computer models simply are still too imprecise to be making claims that we have only ten years to “save the planet”. Before you can have a successful computer model, you have to have a fairly good understanding of the physical system you are trying to model. I doubt than any one group current has developed a rigorous mathematical model of the earth and its climate systems.

    —-
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2007050028,00.html

    A NEW worldwide movement backed by celebrities, musicians, politicians and business leaders is aiming to reverse the effects of global warming over the next decade.

    Global Cool launched in London and LA today and is calling on one billion people to reduce their carbon emissions by just one tonne a year, for the next 10 years.

    Now many of these people do you think have actually read the IPPC documentation on this topic, and can explain the science therein?

    IPPC/Climate Change:
    http://www.ipcc.ch/

    Certainly there were people who rejected the “science” of eugenics, or the “science” of Communism. Not certain why anyone should be afraid of these people.

  25. Cardinal Fang says:

    Here’s the list of scientific organizations accepting human-caused global warming: Scientific opinion on climate change from Wikipedia, with copious footnotes and sources

  26. Wayne Martin advises:

    If you haven’t had a chance to watch–

    The Great Global Warmng Swindle:

    take 75 minutes and watch it now.

    But only as an exercise in propaganda awareness.

    TGGWS is full of lies, pure and simple.  The climate scientist who “testifies” in support of the producers’ claims in fact did no such thing; his remarks were editted out of context to imply the exact opposite of what he said.

    And now that I’ve done a quick search, I see that this exact subject was covered here before and Wayne’s exact claims were refuted in detail.  In other words, Wayne knows that he’s peddling falsehoods, and doesn’t care.

    Falsehoods in this case mean lives, possibly millions.  You’re a sick, sick person, Wayne.

  27. Whoops, wrong thread.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Roger Williams University mandates that you learn about global warming from Al Gore. Even better is the fact that if it makes you a little uncomfortable, they’ll provide something “to help you deal with that discomfort” and accept their ideology. If you question the arguments that humans are mostly responsible for the planet’s warming, something I though students were supposed to do in college, they’ll basically tell you to shut up, believe what they say without a second thought and recognize the “joy” and “privilege” in not being able to challenge their views. […]