Don’t ‘teach the controversy’

Oklahoma students and teachers would have a right to explore scientific controversies, under a bill proposed in the state legislature, reports the Oklahoman. It appears to be an attempt to introduce “intelligent design” into biology classes on evolution, writes Dan Willingham. In any case, it’s a waste of class time

Why shouldn’t science teachers “teach the controversy?” Isn’t it the job of teachers to sharpen students critical thinking skills? Isn’t it part of the scientific method to evaluate evidence? If evolution proponents are so sure their theory is right, why are they afraid of students scrutinizing the ideas?

Imagine this logic applied in other subjects. Why shouldn’t students study and evaluate the version of US history offered by white supremacists? Rather than just reading Shakespeare and assuming he’s a great playwright, why not ask students to read Shakespeare and the screenplay to Battlefield Earth, and let students decide?

. . .  Not every theory merits the limited time students have in school. There is a minimum bar of quality that has to be met in order to compete.

Modern scientists think all theories are open to emendation, improvement — and falsification, Willingham writes. In addition, g

ood scientific theories “change in the face of new evidence” and “continue to spawn new and interesting hypotheses.” While “evolution has been remarkably successful on this score for over 100 years,” intelligent design has been “static and unfruitful.”

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Comments

  1. While I’d not being in favor of spending much class time on Intelligent Design, which fails to be a serious scientific theory on so many levels, what of the immense amount of time being spent of AGW?

    No matter how much the green/left faction wants to claim ‘settled science’, the increasing divergence between predicted and measured temps makes the whole thing pretty suspect. If one should not be taught, neither should the other without pointing out the huge holes and cherry-picking of data that support AGW.

    • The point that’s missed in such discussions is the essentially political nature of public education which allows for nonsense like intelligent design and anthropogenic global warming to be taken seriously in the assembly of a curriculum. They’re the trees that obscure the existence of the forest.

      As long as there’s a public education system the temptation will always be there to try to use it to secure tomorrow’s political victories by molding minds today.

      • Anthropogenic global warming from added atmospheric greenhouse gases is an obvious deduction from the fact that Earth has a greenhouse effect in the first place.  The claims that there is no greenhouse effect on Earth are so ridiculous, they can’t survive “peer” review from moderately educated people in widely differing fields (including me).

        Evolution was pretty obvious from what was known of extant life and the fossil record at the turn of the 19th century; all Darwin did was provide a plausible mechanism for it (like plate tectonics provided a mechanism to explain why all Earth’s continents are shaped to fit together like puzzle pieces)

        • You really ought to familiarize yourself with the scientific method.

          “Obvious” isn’t the standard when it comes to determining which hypothesis gets elevated from that unvarnished state to the status of a theory. Neither is peer review. The first is a conceit that the scientific method deals with by giving it no cognizance and the second’s a beauty contest which is irrelevant to the scientific method.

          If the proponents of either wish to see their fervently-held beliefs considered scientifically valid then a falsifiable prediction ought to be forthcoming. Otherwise they’re just fervently held beliefs and of no value to science and, ought to be of no interest to the educational community. Alas, what’s of interest to the educational community is whatever’s enjoying popular support. In some neighborhoods that’s anthropogenic global warming and in other neighborhoods it’s intelligent design.

          • You really ought to familiarize yourself with the scientific method.

            I’m as familiar with it as anyone who’s not a working scientist can be; your arrogance suggest that you are not.  The equations for details like optical depth are well-tested in use, since the pioneering IR transmissivity work of Tyndall in 1861.  The uncertainties are in things like the effects of feedbacks (esp. water droplet sizes in clouds, which is affected by the number and type of condensation nuclei) and other emissions, such as aerosol-forming compounds and black carbon.  There are substantial error bars on the measured influence of these things, which means the accuracy of the SCIENTIFIC conclusions that can be drawn is not as precise as the soi-disant “skeptics” claim to want to accept.  The bulk of them aren’t skeptical; there is no evidence they will accept.

            “Obvious” isn’t the standard

            When it comes to something as fundamental as optical depth, it is.  Of all the outcomes, “no effect” is not on nature’s list of possibilities.  There’s a pause in (our measurements of) surface temperature, but there is heat accumulating in the deep ocean; that accumulating heat is from the excess trapped by the atmosphere.  Eventually the oceanic heat reservoir will be full, and the heat excess will cause the surface warming to resume.

            If the proponents of either wish to see their fervently-held beliefs considered scientifically valid then a falsifiable prediction ought to be forthcoming.

            How about “as the thermal IR opacity of the atmosphere increases, the temperature lapse rate with altitude decreases until it reaches the limit of convective instability”.  Tested and verified daily, by every weather model in the world.

            Remove the beam from your own eye.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I think allen agrees that as CO2 in the atmosphere increases, less infrared is able to get out into space taking thermal energy with it, and, other things being equal, temperatures would increase. I certainly hope so.

            I think he is saying that he is not convinced other things are equal. Why not? Well, because he thinks the fear of global warming is being used as a power grab by people he thinks will screw up the economy of the world.

            And because none of the models predicted a pause in global warming. I think that’s where he’s going when he talks about scientific method. If a model had said 15 years ago that for 15 years, excess thermal energy would go into the deep ocean rather than manifesting as atmospheric temperature increase, the people who built that model could say, “See, we told you so.” But adding that on to models that predicted significant warming in those years seems to him like improper ad hocery.

            It would be like taking a model that said Romney wins the presidency and adding, “if he never mentions the number 47.”

          • he thinks the fear of global warming is being used as a power grab by people he thinks will screw up the economy of the world.

            Well OF COURSE IT IS.  This is only possible because half the political spectrum has ceded all the policy ground back to “do nothing”.  If the Republicans were serious about opposing the power-grabs they’d just say “okay, let’s reform our nuclear regulatory apparatus and go whole-hog for uranium as we were doing in 1970″, but sales of coal and natural gas causes too much money to change hands for the pols to go with that.  Even Obama eliminated any mention of nuclear power from the SOTU address; he is beholden to many of the same interests.

            none of the models predicted a pause in global warming.

            Changes in ocean circulation are one of the big unknowns.  Of course, something that can switch on in 5 years and upset your projections might shut off just as fast, or faster… or something else might appear which accelerates the trend.

            There’s an on-going buildup of heat in the oceans.  How much are you willing to bet that it and its root cause are benign, and always will be?

          • “I’m as familiar with it as anyone who’s not a working scientist can be;”

            Oh gee, do you have to be a “working scientist” to understand the scientific method? Naw, I don’t think so so let’s just toss that silly attempt at ponderous authority aside as it properly deserves.

            Also, save all the technicowocal jargon for someone more easily impressed then I. I know a blizzard of B.S. when I see it and I see it.

            As Roger Sweeney pointed out, if you don’t have the supportive results of an experiment or observation in hand whatever pursuit you’re engaged in the one thing that’s certain is that it isn’t science. That is, in essence, what I wrote and to which you have so far made no substantive reply preferring instead to engage in the usual, tedious displays of intellectual muscle-pumping which signify nothing so much as the utter drought of support for the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming.

            Roger, I won’t agree that as CO2 in the atmosphere increases, less infrared is able to get out into space. The atmosphere’s far too dynamic a system with far to many ill-defined or even undefined factors in play to for that sort of simple relationship to be predictive.

            It is true for an Erlenmeyer flask filled with CO2 but the atmosphere’s not an Erlenmeyer flask so any attempt to extrapolate from the one to the other is the tactic of a sophist, not a scientist.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            allen,

            I was unclear. I was trying to say that, *other things being equal*, an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere will cause less infrared to get out into space. The increased CO2 will absorb more of the infrared, and some of what is absorbed will be re-radiated back to earth. So there will be less energy going off into space. I don’t think anyone disagrees with this. You should check with people you trust and see.

          • No, you were clear Roger. It’s just that all other things are never equal.

            An Erlenmeyer flask may be an acceptable container when you’re measuring the infrared absorption of CO2 but that’s not what you, and Engineer-Poet are doing. What you, Engineer-Poet and the throngs of fans of anthropogenic global warming are doing is assuming, and demanding others accept your assumption, that the outcome of shining infrared light into an Erlenmeyer flask is exactly what will occur when you shine a sun’s worth of infrared light into the Earth’s atmosphere.

            Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Either way it’s not my job to do any disproving. It’s your job to *demonstrate* the relationship within the context you assert it exists. That would be the Earth’s atmosphere not a lab flask.

            Asserting isn’t good enough and sneering condescendingly, as Engineer-Poet seems to prefer, also isn’t good enough.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            allen,

            Perhaps I misunderstand you but I am not “assuming, and demanding others accept your assumption, that the outcome of shining infrared light into an Erlenmeyer flask is exactly what will occur when you shine a sun’s worth of infrared light into the Earth’s atmosphere.” In fact, I am not talking about IR from the sun at all. I am talking about IR from the earth.

            All objects that are not at absolute zero radiate away energy. The hotter the object, the more that radiation will be high frequency. So the sun predominately radiates in visible light and ultraviolet. The earth predominately radiates in infrared.

            Almost all energy that enters or leaves the earth is in the form of electromagnetic radiation (light, etc.). Energy comes in from the sun mostly as visible light and ultraviolet. Energy leaves the earth mostly as infrared.

            Like most scientific theories, the theory of global warming began with a few simple ideas:

            1) Various gases absorb and re-radiate infrared. The most important is water. On clear nights, lots of thermal energy is radiated off into space. TV weather people will talk about “radiational cooling.” Visitors to deserts are often surprised by how quickly things cool off. Other gases that do this include methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). If everything else stayed the same, an increase in any of these gases would cause the atmosphere to become more “opaque” to infrared radiation, keeping more heat in the atmosphere and raising the average temperature.

            2) The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about one and a half times more than it was before a few centuries ago. Burning coal, oil, and natural gas produces lots of CO2; using them at present rates will increase the amount of CO2 in the air.

            3) Therefore, the odds are that continuing “business as usual” will increase average temperatures.

            Of course, everything else does not stay the same. So 3 does not necessarily follow from 1 and 2. And even if 3 were true, “how much” would matter. However, I think just about everyone accepts 1 and 2. Even people who get smeared as “deniers” do. Check with your favorite skeptic and see what they say.

          • Leaving aside the pointless and patronizing pedantry, there is no theory of anthropogenic global warming. There’s a hypothesis. If you’re going to presume to lecture make sure you understand the terms you’re using.

            If anthropogenic global warming were a theory there’d be experimental or observational verification. There isn’t any, therefore anthropogenic global warming is a hypothesis. Hypothesis may enjoy the support of various factions but once the evidence is in there’s no competition.

            1)

            2) Feel free to point to the research that proves that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is due entirely or in part to human activity. Just to preclude the predictable reply, “it’s obvious” isn’t evidence.

            3) “the odds are”? I think something in the way of evidence is called for and “the odds are” doesn’t qualify as evidence.

            And now that we’ve drifted away from the central point I’ll just chart a course back.

            The reason there’s a controversy is because of the public education system’s political nature and the value of controlling the public education system to advance your dearly-held beliefs. That political nature means scientific validity is irrelevant. Only political power matters and that’s why intelligent design folks and anthropogenic global warming folks have any input to the question of what’s taught.

            Neither has the scientific stamp of approval and the supporters of both sides couldn’t care less. Both assume they’re right and both want the opportunity to make sure the next generation is blessedly free of all this contentiousness on their own, precious subject. A pox on both your houses.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Actually, there was a point to my pretentious pedantry (love the alliteration). The point is that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is a plausible story. It rests on physics and facts that everyone agrees on. Seriously, nobody disagrees with anything I said in 1 or 2 in my most recent post. Check with your sources if you think I’m exaggerating.

            Now, plausible does not by any means mean true. But add in temperature records, glacier recession,
            earlier springs, and a number of other things and lots of people, in good faith, have come to believe that people have indeed raised the average global temperature. Many believe that there are enough independent bits of evidence that the “burden of proof” has now shifted to people who say that humans have done nothing to raise temperatures.

            For them, plausible story plus evidence equals theory. You can define “theory” any way you want but lots of people who consider themselves scientists don’t have the same vocabulary standards you do.

            That still leaves a lot unsettled. Even if humans have raised average temperatures, how much will human activity raise it in the future (what is called in the jargon “climate sensitivity”)? As you point out, the earth is tremendously complicated. There are feedback mechanisms that amplify warming but there are also feedback mechanisms that work against warming. Nobody knows enough to say exactly what will happen.

            And the even bigger question is what to do. There is a lot of wishful thinking there, much of it dangerous. If it were convincingly shown that humans have not raised average temperature, all that dangerousness would go away. But I very much doubt such a convincing showing will be made. The policy dangerousness has to be fought directly. Otherwise, you marginalize yourself and aren’t listened to.

          • Thanks. I considered rewriting the alliterative stuff but what the heck, this isn’t a paying gig.

            I really don’t much care who agrees with what you’ve written. There’s a reason for the tiresome rigidity of the scientific method and that’s that self-interest, self-delusion, conceit and error don’t get the brass ring. That’s reserved for those who make a prediction which validates their guess – hypothesis – and that’s why science has the credibility that those who fervently believe in anthropogenic global warming would like to borrow by sounding like, looking like and acting like they’ve produced a theory, the scientific brass ring.

            Apparently, you’d like to believe that a sufficiently large number of true believers is an adequate substitute for verification.

            It isn’t.

            At least not if the scientific method is your guide. If politics is your playing field then a sufficiently large number of similarly inclined people is as good as verification since by the simple expedient of disallowing disagreement the views of those with the political power can silence the voices of those who insist on the pursuit of knowledge.

            The public education system plays into that scenario by helping to ensure that the right views are held previous to the development of those critical thinking skills that purveyors of edu-fads claim are so important. That’s a real win if your interest is imposing your views.

          • All I can say for “allen” is that he has problems, starting with a lack of reading comprehension.  That may be the root cause of his scientific denialism:  nothing makes sense because he doesn’t read deeply.

            Oh gee, do you have to be a “working scientist” to understand the scientific method?

            You might have noticed my nom de plume.  I am not a working scientist.  People who are, tend to internalize the habits of thought more than others.

            You obviously haven’t internalized them.  You appear to have rejected them.

            save all the technicowocal jargon for someone more easily impressed then I. I know a blizzard of B.S. when I see it and I see it.

            If you bothered to look up terms like “optical depth”, you’d see that working scientists use them to describe exactly the phenomenon whose existence you deny.  It’s no wonder that you are repelled by them, because if you understood them you would have to reverse your position on the issue.  Your position is more important to you than the facts.  Why?  I suspect that it’s because you’d lose your social standing.

            If you look at that radiance graph, you’ll see a set of Planck curves drawn over it.  If you can explain the significance of those curves and the way the radiance graph follows different ones at different wavelengths, I’ll consider you informed enough to have a valid opinion about the climate change issue.

            if you don’t have the supportive results of an experiment or observation in hand whatever pursuit you’re engaged in the one thing that’s certain is that it isn’t science.

            If you deny the huge corpus of experiments and observations which confirm the increase in atmospheric IR radiance measured at the surface, among other things, it’s for certain that you have neither knowledge of nor respect for science.

            Roger, I won’t agree that as CO2 in the atmosphere increases, less infrared is able to get out into space.

            See?  Flat denial.  Even direct measurements would be denied.

            It is true for an Erlenmeyer flask filled with CO2 but the atmosphere’s not an Erlenmeyer flask so any attempt to extrapolate from the one to the other is the tactic of a sophist, not a scientist.

            “Your lab isn’t the atmosphere, so nothing measured in your lab can be extrapolated to the atmosphere.”  This is awfully close to the post-modernist claim that objective facts don’t exist; it has the same epistemic closure.  Of course, “allen” is also denying the measurements of atmospheric IR radiance measured at the surface (linked above) and IR transmission/radiance measured by a balloon-borne spectrometer.

            Deny, deny, deny.  That’s the only thing you can do in the face of incontrovertible evidence without changing your mind.

          • (this is part 2, part 1 should be immediately ahead of it. If not, it hasn’t gotten out of moderation. Make sure you read it.) Now “allen” gets down to questions which have long since been answered:

            Feel free to point to the research that proves that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is due entirely or in part to human activity.

            The atmospheric CO2 increase tracks the measured consumption of fossil fuels.  There is an independent check on this; the ratio of C-12 to C-13 is higher in plant matter and everything derived from it (including coal, oil and all but small traces of natural gas) than in inorganic carbon stores like carbonate rocks (which provide the CO2 belched by volcanoes).  The atmospheric C-12/C-13 ratio has been increasing, proving that the source of the additional carbon is organic (not volcanic).  There’s a detailed primer which collects the various lines of evidence on this, which allen will no doubt reject because of the site it’s on.

            The reason there’s a controversy is because of the public education system’s political nature and the value of controlling the public education system to advance your dearly-held beliefs.

            Maybe there’s a “controversy” because there’s a lot of money to be made digging up and selling fossil carbon (just like there was a lot of money selling tobacco).  There was no real controversy over the Montreal Protocol to eliminate HFC’s because the patents had all expired and there wasn’t much money in commodity refrigerants any more.

            Nuclear power can replace the major use of coal (making steam), and you’ll notice that there has been a massive controversy over it as well.  The first commercial nuclear plants were cheaper than coal-fired plants (and their record has been much safer), but the “controversy” led to the NRC and its regulatory ratchet which drove costs into the stratosphere in just a few years.  This controversy is on-going, showing the power of fossil fuel interests.

          • And all I can say for “Engineer-Poet” is that I hope you’re a better engineer then a poet because if you’re not then when the bridges, or whatever you design, fail you won’t even have the excuses that Leon Moisseiff and Clark Eldridge had when their bridge fell down.

            This is awfully close to the post-modernist claim that objective facts don’t exist; it has the same epistemic closure.

            …in response to…

            Your lab isn’t the atmosphere, so nothing measured in your lab can be extrapolated to the atmosphere.

            Oooh, “epistemic closure”. The phrase has such a rarefied feel to it. Just the sort of phrase someone of vast education and weighty accomplishments might use. Sadly, it doesn’t answer the question posed which, I suppose, was the point of the use of the phrase. But then there’s hardly anything unusual about proponents of either intelligent design or anthropogenic global warming engaging in all sorts of rhetorical and intellectual deceit to impose their views on others.

            But the fact remains that what’s true of the contents of a flask in a lab may, or may not, be true of the atmosphere as a whole. Making the connection between the two is the job of those who are convinced of the worth of the hypothesis they champion. That would be you.

            But you reject the disconnect between the two preferring instead to throw up a cloud of misdirection while engaging in name-calling.

            The atmospheric CO2 increase tracks the measured consumption of fossil fuels.

            So atmospheric CO2 rises and falls that predate that “measured consumption of fossil fuels” are due to what? Similarly, atmospheric warmings and coolings that predate that “measured consumption of fossil fuels” are due to what?

            It’s a refusal to answer questions like that, questions the answers to which might buttress your hypothesis, that have resulted in a waning public interest in the assertion of catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming and the concomitant draconian measures to prevent that warming.

            You warmies haven’t proven your case nor are you particularly interested in doing so and that lack, in the court of public opinion, is in the process of resulting in an adverse judgment. That’s why you have to try to ram your views down the throats of children which is one of the purposes of the public education system.

          • Oooh, “epistemic closure”. The phrase has such a rarefied feel to it.

            It concisely describes the phenomenon for which you’ve become the poster child, yes.  Anyone who searches for its definition will be enlightened.

            I challenge you again:  if you think the term is inaptly applied to you and yours, show me that you actually understand the questions being addressed by climate scientists.  Show me that you understand the meaning of things like the radiance data I linked above.

            But then there’s hardly anything unusual about proponents of either intelligent design or anthropogenic global warming engaging in all sorts of rhetorical and intellectual deceit to impose their views on others.

            Psychological projection.  I’ve given you all sorts of IR spectral data to chew on, just for appetizer.  You’ve given me… baseless accusations and complaints about highfalutin’ language.  I think we can see who’s behaving more like the Discovery Institute.

            the fact remains that what’s true of the contents of a flask in a lab may, or may not, be true of the atmosphere as a whole.

            MAY or MAY NOT?  You obviously don’t know.  You must realize that the argument from ignorance is a fallacy… or maybe you don’t.

            Perhaps if you did something like… ACTUALLY LOOKING TO SEE HOW A GAS COLUMN IN A LAB BEHAVES LIKE THE SAME GAS IN THE ATMOSPHERE… you might come up with something worth saying.  Scientists have been studying such things since John Tyndall around 1860.  They’ve been publishing for over a century and a half now.  You ought to be able to dig up some information, both for your own education and to share.  That is, if you actually care about information, instead of confirming your prejudices.  Which is it?

            But you reject the disconnect between the two preferring instead to throw up a cloud of misdirection while engaging in name-calling.

            Says the guy who hasn’t posted a single hyperlink in this whole discussion thread.  Hint:  it’s not name-calling if it’s true.

            So atmospheric CO2 rises and falls that predate that “measured consumption of fossil fuels” are due to what?

            Other things, of course.  Cold water holds more CO2 than warm water.  Vegetation captures and fixes carbon when it grows, and releases it when it decays or burns.  Weathering of rocks converts silicates to carbonates.  Volcanoes put carbon from subducted carbonates back into the atmosphere.

            Past changes in atmospheric CO2 on the order of 100 ppm took thousands of years.  The current shift is not only far outside any territory seen in the last 3/4 million years, it’s happening in decades.

            It’s a refusal to answer questions like that

            Your questions have been answered, multiple times.  You refuse to acknowledge that.  Perhaps you’re so blinded by your ideology that you can’t see the answers AS answers, but that’s a moral failing at least as bad as lying.

            You warmies

            Who was complaining about name-calling again?  What a hypocrite.

            haven’t proven your case nor are you particularly interested in doing so

            Given the aggressive ignorance of the talk-radio audience in general and you in particular, convincing you that the proof exists is like getting an illiterate Bushman to understand that oxygen is a chemical element.

            that lack, in the court of public opinion

            You’re right back to post-modernism, as if public opinion created the laws of physics via “social construction”!  Scientists have been trying to teach the public what’s going on since before I was born (anthropogenic climate change has been an issue of concern and analysis since the 1930′s and earlier).  It’s the people who make money from digging up carbon who want to keep “public opinion” on their side.  Heaven forbid, for example, that people realize the entire anti-nuclear movement is a sock puppet of Big Coal (and likely Saudi Arabia is getting in on it too).  If folks realized that a double-handful of uranium dioxide pellets had as much useful energy as an entire train-car of coal and has never polluted anyones air, flooded their homes with slurried ash or killed anyone at a grade crossing, they might do something unthinkable like putting Peabody Energy out of business.  The mere fact that enriched uranium is about 7/10 of one cent per kWh of electricity means a lot less money changing hands, and the people who get that money today will do anything to protect their niche.

            That’s why you have to try to ram your views down the throats of children which is one of the purposes of the public education system.

            Funny, the creatonuts use almost identical language when the topic is the teaching of evolution in science class.

            I renew my challenge:  tell me the meaning of the radiance graphs, both surface and high-altitude.  If you can, I’ll admit that you are both open-minded and knowledgeable enough to have a worthwhile opinion.  Until then….

          • It concisely describes the phenomenon for which you’ve become the poster child, yes. Anyone who searches for its definition will be enlightened.

            Too bad it has nothing to do with the subject at hand but then a feverish belief in anthropogenic global warming is one of the unassailable hallmarks of the self-identified elevated intellect.

            I challenge you again:

            Of course you do. The specious challenge is design to absolve you of the need to provide determinative evidence of the explanatory value of the hypothesis you so dearly love. Sorry, not my job to prove you wrong. It’s your job to prove you right and so far, as usual, you’re trying ever so hard to obscure the fact that you’re doing a lousy job of proving much of anything.

            Psychological projection.

            Branching to the practice of Internet psychiatry, are you? Might want to change your handle.

            I’ve given you all sorts of IR spectral data to chew on, just for appetizer.

            Should I thank you? Naw. Since that’s not proof of the hypothesis I don’t think you deserve any thanks.

            MAY or MAY NOT? You obviously don’t know.

            Of course I don’t know. I’m not the one asserting that the infrared opacity of CO2 can, without any consideration, be extrapolated to the entire atmosphere as if the entire atmosphere were a giant flask. You’re the one doing the extrapolating and I’m the one calling attention to the fact that what’s true of a small, contained volume of CO2 isn’t necessarily true of a vastly greater volume of CO2 and other gases in an environment as endlessly complex as the atmosphere. Maybe it is but simply asserting it’s so isn’t proof.

            Says the guy who hasn’t posted a single hyperlink in this whole discussion thread. Hint: it’s not name-calling if it’s true.

            Says the guy who seems incapable of finding the proof that turns his hypothesis into a theory. Oh, and that “denialist” tag is name-calling.

            So atmospheric CO2 rises and falls that predate that “measured consumption of fossil fuels” are due to what?

            Other things, of course. Cold water holds more CO2 than warm water. Vegetation captures and fixes carbon when it grows, and releases it when it decays or burns…

            Feel free then to describe the methodology that distinguishes anthropogenic global warming from the heaps of non-anthropogenic global warmings that have preceded this hypothetical cause and effect.

            Funny, the creatonuts use almost identical language when the topic is the teaching of evolution in science class.

            I know. That’s my complaint about them and you. Neither has the proof and neither cares. Both you and the intelligent design folks have determined that you’re correct and are untroubled by your inability to produce the evidence that answers legitimate criticism preferring instead all manner of rhetorical and intellectual gyrations. It’s why you’re both losing which is an excellent outcome from my point of view.

            In any case, this exchange has become repetitive as well as off point. I confer upon your mighty-intellect-containing head the distinction of having the last word.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      AGW is based on models. Correction by looking at real-world facts is simply not done.
      Among other things, there are reports that CO2 concentrations lag temp increases. Post hoc, propter hoc. Learn it, live it, love it.
      Good piece on Watt’s Up With That reprising the global cooling scare of the Seventies. Enter “wuwt”. Also an explanation of “blocking events” once considered normal, now an ominous ominousity, with doom to follow.

      • Correction by looking at real-world facts is simply not done.

        That must be why researchers have re-run their climate models assuming no change in GHGs and compared against the actual temperature record.  Because testing against the real world is “simply not done”.  </sarcasm>  (source article here)

        Good piece on Watt’s Up With That

        Some of Watt’s sources use a tactic I’ve not seen elsewhere; they start off logical, but after a while progress via non-sequiturs to reach faulty conclusions.  The layman will just assume that they’ve gotten in over their head and not try to follow the logic any further, taking the conclusion as proven.  This is clever.  Wrong, unscientific and morally evil, but clever.

      • Anthropogenic global warming’s based on several tacks one of which is computerized climate models. That they’re garbage as well is deducible from the tight grip the academics who develop the models keep on them. Where climate models aren’t spoon-fed just the right factors so as to produce the predetermined result they inevitable, and usually quickly, go off the rails producing either snowball Earths or Venus-like Earths.

        It’s an understandable shortcoming since the climate itself is so poorly understood. Basic climatic factors can’t be modeled because we didn’t even realize they existed until too recently to have incorporated them into climate models or are too-poorly characterized to enable their inclusion into climate models. It’s a cinch there are factors crucial to an understanding of the climate which haven’t even been discovered yet. How’s anyone going to include them in a climate model?

  2. It’s a waste of time to talk about competing theories? Really? As a science teacher, I think it’s important students understand what theories really are (as in, they are not guesses with no evidence) and how they evolve and change. I spend all year asking kids what their evidence is, so why not teach them to expect that of people who want them to believe “theories” of things?

    While I agree that spending a large amount of time on any ONE theory debate is a bad idea, teaching middle and high school students about theories and some of the controversies in the past is very instructive and teaches students to set a high bar for their acceptance of what they’re told. History is full of riveting examples of changing theories and what it took to change those theories to something new.

    • There’s a difference between a logical hypothesis (“if I drop this bowling ball and feather in a vacuum, they should both land at the same time”) and a hypothesis that’s clearly a waste of time (“if I talk to the bowling ball long enough, will it smile at me and talk back?”) Politicans trying to force the latter is what’s the extreme waste of time.

    • Furthermore, polticians and their pundits use the word “theory” in layman terms – in scientific terms, its meaning is much more serious and precise. A theory in science means that the explanation fits all the facts and has lots of evidence to back it up. It’s only a ‘theory’ in the sense that we literally are unable to create an experiment using the scientific method to finalize the results – i.e., let’s create a Universe and watch it go from time = 0 to time = 15 billion years, and compare those results to our own. Clearly we don’t have the technology to create our own Universe and watch it evolve from scratch as a control group, so it will always be a ‘theory’ in the scientific sense.

      If someone has trouble stomaching the theory of evolution in that sense, offer them another theory that they can feel free to reject: the theory of gravity.

      • Actually, we can and do explore the properties of the very early universe.  The energies of particle interactions in colliders “look back” to the state of matter when the Big Bang was as small as a golf ball.

    • One more note: intelligent design is impossible to address with science, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessarily true. (“The absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence.”) So, while it’s impossible to even hypothesize about scientifically, much less test, we can’t say for sure that it isn’t true – especially with anecdotal noticings like how “fine tuned” the Universe seems to be. Just give pi, or e, or i, a different value, and all the rules of Physics that we know would start to fall apart.

      Finally, as someone who notices the truth of evolution but also believes the Universe to be intelligently designed, why does everyone assume the two have to be mutually exclusive? Why can’t God exist, and created the Universe as astronomers and biologists have learned it to be? Why can’t God have created a Universe that evolves on its own?

      • (Yes, I know this statement might have the “will the bowling ball talk?” example thrown back at me, depending on your point of view. But like Fox Mulder said on ‘The X-Files’, when you realize that the scienfitic and the fantastic can both exist at the same time, you have to make a judgement call on how that is.)

    • That being said, intelligent design has no place in a science class, anymore than sex ed does in a Math class. Again, though, this doesn’t necessarily mean that God doesn’t exist; but simply that the discussion doesn’t belong in that class.

    • D's Squirrel Food says:

      It is true that teaching about competing theories and the nature of science is valuable, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. I’m not strictly against using creationism/ID as a foil for evolution. However, it can be very difficult to fairly address creationism without denigrating students’ religion, so I am more inclined to ignore the religious explanations entirely.

      • If historical examples are going to be used to show the application of the scientific method to controversies, it’s probably best to do the course units on phlogiston and luminiferous ether.  These are well past the invention of the scientific method, but not the least bit controversial today.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Hume’s “Dialogues on Natural Religion” are probably too much for high school students, aren’t they?

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    If evolution can be questioned, what’s next? We could have some smart-aleck kid asking teach about the Holocene Maximum, the Minoan Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, the Dark Ages Cold Period, the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, in the context of fossil fuels. The disappearing ice caps on Mars. What was it, Miss Teacher, that was so bad about the MWP? And what do we do with Climategate and the head of IPCC recently acknowledging the world’s temp has been flat for over fifteen years and the models never prove out?
    No, I don’t think public ed wants to go there.

  5. Schools should teach facts, not fantasy. Evolution is a scientific fact. Therefore, it must be taught, right-wing redneck Bible-thumping religious fanatics notwithstanding.