Let’s change the rhetoric. Evolution and climate change as belief systems?

Mar 13, 2014

We must stop talking about facts in science as belief systems. It is said; all to often by educated or enlightened people in the media that they believe in climate change and the same rhetoric is often used for evolution. There is a problem with the public understanding of science and because of this lack of understanding, certain religious people have been allowed to use science (sic) as a tool for proselytising their faith to audiences that do not know better. To hear educated and enlightened people in the media say they believe in evolution or climate change; or they believe the earth is 4.54 billion years old is at best disappointing and at worst defeatist because we know these things to be facts. To say that you believe in evolution etc. gives those who do not understand a counter argument, a freedom of ignorance almost, it gives them the option to not believe; and this is part of the problem.


Scientists know that evolution is a fact and we use the term theory to mean a well-substantiated explanation of facts. The same can be said of climate change and the age of the earth for example. To hear someone say they believe in climate change reduces its importance and puts it on par with pseudo science and silly ideas like creationism, it gives people like creationists the idea that they can debate real science against made up ideas of how they think the universe works or was formed and this gives them the opportunity to invoke a god into the argument; it gives them the idea that there is a choice between what is real (science) and what is not (creationism).

 

As a scientist (Geologist) I take every opportunity to point out that science is not a belief system, once we know something and can prove this knowledge through experimentation, observation and rigorous peer review, we can eventually understand it to be true. We have to get away from the idea that science is a belief system we have to teach the idea that what we strive to find in science are facts about the way things work or do not work; not beliefs in how we think things work. And we have to help people understand the meaning of the word theory and its difference to hypothesis.

 

Geologists understand the age of the earth extremely well and it has taken years of observation and experimentation to prove as fact the ages of rocks either by radiometric dating, observation or a combination of both.

 

One does not even have to understand the science in order to understand the facts. Take for example the two pictures below, the pictures show the pattern of growth or sutures on the shells of two ammonites (a type of squid with a curled shell, similar to a nautilus). The first picture shows an ammonite suture from the Jurassic and as you can see the suture is fairly simple; as ammonites evolved the sutures from these ammonites became much more complex, look at the second picture, this shows an ammonite from the cretaceous; as you can see the suture is much more complex. The reason the ammonite shells became more complex was mainly for buoyancy control, those ammonites with simpler sutures were very strong whilst those with more complex sutures were relatively weaker. The ammonites with simpler sutures lived deeper in the water and could withstand higher pressures, those with complex sutures lived in shallower waters and were better swimmers, this shows that as environments changed the animals adapted to those changes or evolved.

We know the changes in the shells are a result of evolution from direct observation of the ammonites and the age of the rocks from which the fossils were found.

 

Fossil1Fossil2

 

The fossilised tree rings in the picture below can illustrate another example that everyone can understand without knowing the science. This piece of fossilised wood was found on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic; even though it is 40 million years old the tree rings on the fossilised wood are clearly visible. During the early Cenozoic, the Palaeogene period (65 million years to 23 million years ago) the continents were very close to the positions they currently occupy, Ellesmere island is virtually in the same place it is now, high up in the northern hemisphere within the Arctic circle. This piece of fossilised wood shows something incredibly interesting, the tree shows widely spaced rings separated by very thin rings; this means two things: One is that the tree the fossilised wood came from had a very long annual growing season (summers of continuous daytime) shown by the thick rings with the thin rings representing a winter of darkness over a number of years. Two: the climate was very warm during the period that the tree was growing there and this shows that climate changes are indeed very real.growing. Fragments of an extinct turtle were also found along with the fossilised wood. We know where the continents were located during the Cenozoic from our knowledge of plate tectonics, we know that the fossilised wood is Palaeogene in age (around 40 million years old) and with this evidence we also know that the climate of the earth was very different, as we all know and can observe currently, it is cool in the Arctic, there are no tall trees currently

Fossil3

These are just two examples of facts, things that we can actually prove through the science of geology; we do not blindly accept that these things are true, there have been years of research and observation to prove that these things are true. We know that the Arctic has been very cold over the last 10,000 years; we know the last ice age was real, so the question has to be asked; how did this tree grow in the Arctic with summers of daylight and winters of total darkness before the ice age if the world was only made 6,000 years ago? The answer is simple and obvious to anyone that can ascertain facts from fantasy.

 

So lets change the rhetoric, let us all stop saying that we believe in climate change, that we believe in evolution, science should not be viewed as a belief system. We have to stop people like Ken Ham and his silly creationist museum debating belief against truth and we have to make sure we keep stupidity out of the science classroom, lets leave the next generation of children with a legacy that will help them move forward and evolve rather than stunt their education (after all, people like Ken Ham would prefer it if our children did not evolve). It would be grossly unfair and irresponsible to the next generation of children if we were to allow creationism into the classroom or indeed view science as a belief system that does not require proof. I believe god did it is never an acceptable answer and from now on should not be thought of as so.

 

Edwin Layzelle is an English exploration and mapping geologist based in Canada his work has taken him all around the world including the high Arctic in both Canada and Siberia and his published work includes dating diamonds using K-Ar isotopes and the halogen composition and evolution of the earth.

Written By: Edwin Layzelle

54 comments on “Let’s change the rhetoric. Evolution and climate change as belief systems?

  • 1
    AdOculos says:

    As an atheist I agree with most of what you write.
    Evolution is a fact which should not be treated as a belief system.
    It has been proven to be true by the scientific method – empirical observations which led to the formulation of a theory which has been shown to be predictive and does not break down when subjected to experimentation.
    However, I think your argument is flawed when you write that climate change is a fact which is not open to discussion.
    (I assume you mean man-made climate change)
    While accepting that man-made warming is a likely cause of any rise it is far from proven in my opinion.
    The empirical evidence exists that the climate has changed slightly but the Earth’s climate is a chaotic system in relation to the Sun and recent predictions have shown to be flawed with regard to the rate of warming.
    The theory is post hoc at worst and incomplete at best.
    The climate has been warming since the ice age and the Sun is a variable star.
    For a theory to be considered as a fact it has to be predictive and open to experiment and review.
    Climate change theory is currently not predictive enough to be considered complete.
    I have to repeat that I am not denying that man-made climate change is occurring only that the theory is incomplete.
    Any discussion should be based on science rather than uninformed opinion but we should continue to refine theories until they are beyond reproach.



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  • 2
    Stuart Coyle says:

    In reply to #1 by AdOculos:

    As an atheist I agree with most of what you write.
    I have to repeat that I am not denying that man-made climate change is occurring only that the theory is incomplete. Any discussion should be based on science rather than uninformed opinion but we should continue to refine theories until they are beyond reproach…

    I wonder if you think the amount of evidence for climate change is enough at this point that we should be taking some positive action to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses? Or would you prefer to wait until you were really sure, and it is too late?



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  • 3
    Ergewirtz says:

    In reply to #1 by AdOculos:
    I must respectfully disagree with you. As an atheist and historian (particularly of medieval Europe) the Little Ice Age was a definite cooling off trend. Most of the causes of the Little Ice Age are better explained by scientists, however following the bubonic plague, the dramatic decrease in population and ostensibly overgrowth of foliage soaked a great deal of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Scientists believe this could have a cooling effect.

    The restoration of population took 300 years. The cooling took effect 200:years after the plague. So beginning in the mid sixteenth century and lasting well into the 19th there was significantly cooler and more erratic weather. Obviously during this time, man lacked technology to impact weather.

    Furthermore the slightly more inclement weather beginning in 1300 was a reversal of the warmer temperatures seen in the 13th century perhaps due to deforestation, perhaps volcanic activity or perhaps combination thereof.

    My point is that man is a part of a large but delicate ecosystem and what we do, whether it be cutting trees down or not keeping them in check, whether it be burning fossil fuels so that we artificially put CO2 into the atmosphere or whether volcanic activity does it naturally the climate is exponentially warming and all evidence shows it is our actions causing it.

    As an atheist I agree with most of what you write.
    Evolution is a fact which should not be treated as a belief system.
    It has been proven to be true by the scientific method – empirical observations which led to the formulation of a theory which has been shown to be predictive and does not break do…



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  • 4
    AdOculos says:

    I think you have missed the point of my argument.I think that we should as a matter of principle reduce all forms of pollution and emissions wherever practical.However this does not mean that the argument is proved one way or the other.This is not how science works.If scientists were to accept only the received wisdom then Einstein would never have formulated his theories and Newton’s theories would never have been shown to be incomplete.I have faith in science but theories always have to be able to be shot down if a better theory comes along.In reply to #2 by Stuart Coyle:

    In reply to #1 by AdOculos:

    As an atheist I agree with most of what you write.
    I have to repeat that I am not denying that man-made climate change is occurring only that the theory is incomplete. Any discussion should be based on science rather than uninformed opinion but we should continue to refi…



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  • 5
    aquilacane says:

    Not only belief but intent. We need to stop talking about evolution in a manner that is suggestive of intent. “The polar bear evolved hollow hair so it could survive in the cold climate” – versus – “The polar bear can survive in the cold climate because it evolved hollow hair.” Two very different statements, one has intent the other does not. I always hear in nature shows and read in articles the intent version. Giraffes have long necks and legs so they can reach the tops of trees. No they don’t. Giraffes can reach the tops of trees because they have long necks and legs. Why do giraffes have long necks and legs? Because giraffe ancestors with short legs and necks died out, perhaps from hunger or the lack of sexy long legs.



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  • 6
    AdOculos says:

    I have read these arguments before and they may very well be correct but again they are Post hoc.You write that they are beliefs and that there may be natural causes then write at the end that all the evidence points to the warming being man-made.Again, this is not how science works-theories and hypotheses have to be tested and reviewed not accepted just because a majority think that way.Accepting something without question is equivalent to religious faith.In reply to #3 by Ergewirtz:

    In reply to #1 by AdOculos:
    I must respectfully disagree with you. As an atheist and historian (particularly of medieval Europe) the Little Ice Age was a definite cooling off trend. Most of the causes of the Little Ice Age are better explained by scientists, however following the bubonic plague, the…



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  • 7
    veggiemanuk says:

    In reply to #6 by AdOculos:

    Again, this is not how science works-theories and hypotheses have to be tested and reviewed not accepted just because a majority think that way.

    Just how much testing and reviewing do you need?



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  • 8
    mikfrmoz says:

    Seems to me that taking hundreds of millions of years worth of stored carbon and cycling it back into the atmosphere in just a few hundred years would change something . Is a no brainer.



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  • Maybe we need a new work to replace Believe. I suggest that, instead of saying “I believe evolution”, we say “I abote evolution”. Abote = Accept Based On The Evidence, or, to be pedantic, I pabote evolution. Pabote = provisionally abote.

    SIlly ?



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  • 10
    Red Dog says:

    So lets change the rhetoric, let us all stop saying that we believe in climate change, that we believe in evolution, science should not be viewed as a belief system. We have to stop people like Ken Ham and his silly creationist museum debating belief against truth and we have to make sure we keep stupidity out of the science classroom, lets leave the next generation of children with a legacy that will help them move forward and evolve rather than stunt their education (after all, people like Ken Ham would prefer it if our children did not evolve).

    So what are we supposed to say instead exactly? I think arguments like this are pointless. The author seems to think that we can change a few words in the way we talk and magically transform people who are irrational into critical thinkers. We can’t. It’s why I think the people who were outraged over Nye debating Ham have it exactly wrong. You don’t win with people like that by taking principled stands that keep you above the fray. You win by getting into the trenches and dissecting their arguments and showing they are full of BS which is what Nye did and good for him.



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  • 11
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    Call people out when they say something is their “opinion”. There is no such thing as an opinion about the natural world.

    In my opinion, the new Star Wars movies suck. Some one can disagree, and neither of us are wrong. Disagreements is science and engineering are not opinions. Often when people interject the concept of opinion, they are appealing to a kind of democratic epistemic nihilism, what Orwell called “collective solipsism”. All opinions are equal, true. The process of metabolism is not a matter of opinion.



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  • 12
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    In reply to #10 by Red Dog:

    So what are we supposed to say instead exactly? I think arguments like this are pointless.

    I disagree. I think you are missing the point. When we say we “believe in evolution” to people who have a worldview based on unsubstantiated beliefs, we are conceding something huge, something that we should never concede: the notion that science is a “only another belief” that just happens to be different from theirs. We unwittingly validate the false equivalency between a worldview based on fact and one that is based on lore and superstition.

    The author seems to think that we can change a few words in the way we talk and magically transform people who are irrational into critical thinkers. We can’t.

    I agree. In fact, no amount of words can ever convert irrational, unthinking people simply because such people do not listen. But that’s not what the author wrote and I doubt that’s what he meant. The words we use DO matter. Human beings are complex emotional creatures and words are charged with underlying meaning to which even the most unsophisticated among us react to. Words are tied to things like confirmation bias and mental images which have deep roots into the psychological makeup of our being.

    It’s why I think the people who were outraged over Nye debating Ham have it exactly wrong. You don’t win with people like that by taking principled stands that keep you above the fray. You win by getting into the trenches and dissecting their arguments and showing they are full of BS which is what Nye did and good for him.

    I was against Nye debating Ham at first. But he showed a lot of composure and he did a great job so with hindsight, I’m a bit divided about it. However, I reject the idea that you can “win with people like that”, you simply can’t because even if they listened (which they don’t), they will cheat and bully you before they concede anything at all. They want to win/save face at all costs especially when they realize you’ve proven them wrong.

    So I think what the author meant is not that changing our rhetoric will make us win arguments with creationists, but it will change the way we “carry ourselves” through the battle. The point is, win or lose, do not concede ANYTHING to those buggers and do NOT give them ammunition by using words that feed their confirmation bias.



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  • 13
    cindyeby says:

    Words are important. Just ask any advertising specialist.
    I suggest “I accept evolution as fact.” rather than “I believe in evolution.” Or change the conversation by responding to a declaration of faith or belief in god with “Your belief does not change the facts. Evolution is a fact.”



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  • 14
    ate.berga says:

    Being an insomniac, agnostic, dyslexic, abouliatic, I stay awake at night wondering if there is a dog or not? Brilliant article, I was a “believer” but now I know! Great insight, thank you.



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  • 15
    aloctavodia says:

    Science is a belief system. The differece with other belief systems is that scientific beliefs are based on evidence. In science a belief can be changed, modified, updated whenever we found new evidence. When in science we say something is True, we say so because the amount of evidence we have provides a high degree of trust in that statement. In science we have four basic ways to deal with evidence, theorization, experimentation, observation and simulation. Religion on the other side is based mainly in “revelations” and their belief system is not updated based on evidence. I think this discussion will be better framed using the results of Bayesian statistics and it philosophical/epistemological consequences.



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  • 16
    NoKiddingMan says:

    Exactly Prof Dawkins! I always emphasize to those who debate me about the religion that I have no beliefs. I accept any phenomenon/existential claims as most likely reality based on evidence. The existence of gravity is the most likely fact based on evidence (its not being real is likely by a probability lets say 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%).



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  • I totally accept the message of this piece, but I am very disappointed by how badly written it is. The problems range from an overall inelegance of the writing to run-on sentences to weird placements of punctuation marks, especially semi-colons. Even the author’s bio consists of one long run-on sentence. This poor writing is especially jarring on a site named after such a great writer as Richard Dawkins.



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  • 18
    henrycavanagh says:

    I have been saying this kind of thing for a long time. Nowadays it is fashionable for people who deny evolution or climate change to accuse ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ (as if there were only one flavor of either) to be part of a ‘belief system’. What this does is expose the fact that they acknowledge, without saying it, that THEIR belief system is questionable and definitely falsifiable. So, their egos bruised and battered, they want to put modern thinkers in science into the same boat, to give themselves a boost egotistically, to give them some veneer of intellectual cachet that their arguments simply do not have.

    A great great problem with communicating evolution, as Richard Dawkins has pointed out and as I’ve felt for decades, is the use of metaphorical speech to simplify the explication of a particular phenomenon to lay people. So we might see something like “Birds developed wings in order to fly”, which is patently false. They did nothing “in order to” anything. But the sentence, a shorthand of, say, “Some dinosaur species had populations that were born with rudimentary structures that enabled them to glide in the air from tree to tree and these populations were more successful at getting food than others of their line and so evolved wings for flight” or something like that….even that sentence uses ‘evolved’ in a kind of articulation of a living organism’s ‘desire’ to fly or whatever. My point is that science writers need to expound more without letting easy metaphors inject misunderstanding under the radar.



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  • To say that “water consists of hydrogen and oxygen molecules” is to state a clear and simple fact with no ramifications. To say that “I believe in God” is to state a fact with many ramifications. To say “I believe in evolution” is to state a fact with many ramifications. To say “Evolution is a fact” is to state something that is true to a degree but has many ramifications. You can not simply say “Evolution is a fact” and leave it at that. In the end there has to be room for a discussion.



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  • When asked if I believe in evolution I always say it has nothing to do with believing in it. It is a fact and because it is a fact leaves no room for discussion about whether it is a fact or not. The scientific peer reviews have been over on evolution a long time ago in the same way they are over for the molecular structure of water. The debates have been over on this a long time ago. Creationist are irrational people who live in an imaginary world and that is also a fact.



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  • 21
    mason.kelsey says:

    Believe/Belief are two words that if one uses you accept equal status to any belief. So stop using the word. The solution is that simple.

    At first you will find it awkward to not use the word but after a few time you will realize how to restructure your words to avoid the word. Don’t even use it in the most innocent of situations. The word is thoroughly corrupted.



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  • 22
    quistlau says:

    I am a professional forester – so I deal with the natural world and how we classify it and manage it – and I’m also a believer that there is God/ spirit. I agree that we should not use ‘believe’ in discussions of the natural world and things of science. In forestry we deal with uncertainty and variation regarding vegetation growth and succession, and also how animals use the various types of forest. But we don’t say “I believe moose will…” we say, “best available science/experience indicates that moose will…”
    **** I have often heard in churches, especially Pentecostal, the exact same exhortation not to use the word “belief” because it implies there is no actual basis in reality. St Paul wrote “If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then your faith is in vain.” i.e. facts matter. I’ve heard in a sermon, “If there was a rope bridge across a deep canyon, and you said ‘I believe the bridge can support my weight’, but it can’t, then all your belief won’t save you. Likewise, saying ‘I believe in the Buddha’ or ‘I believe in xx so my belief will get me to whatever heaven there is’ will not save you if God is judging by another standard. So you must know what actual facts of the spirit world are, and what God expects of you.” That is why they study the Bible. – to know, not just to believe.
    It seems few scientists debating Christians realize that Christians themselves understand the important difference between facts and belief. It would help!
    CS Lewis explained well the use by Jews and Christians of the phrase “to have faith in x” and why it causes so much strife with others.



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  • 23
    Mr DArcy says:

    It’s a fact that I always hated “I Believe” by The Bachelors !

    Cringeingly servile lyrics with the deadly smell of the RCC behind them, plus a dud tune and the fact that it became a big hit in Britain, (& the USA where another group did it),the song reeks of everything the likes of Ken Ham loves.

    The author of the article certainly has a point. Let’s separate fact from fiction, and then we can have a proper discussion.



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  • 24
    lyonheat says:

    I agree with this posting 100%. I do also feel the need to point out that I frequently want to repost/share articles such as these but unfortunately the grammatical errors give my educated Christian friends fodder against us. Remember, authors, not to split infinitives and check your semi-colon usage!



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  • 25
    manumaid says:

    Probably because Germany is a rather secular place, we simply teach “evolution” as part of our biology curriculum. And we do so several times in a pupil’s life. And we treat it as a common phenomenon. Just as much as I don’t talk to my school kids about “hey, I believe in these chairs, so can you please sit down on them. And let’s not forget the theory of gravitation, so that we don’t float away during lesson”, I don’t talk about Evolution in such a complicated way. Why should I? School -at least in my country -is a place and time relatively free from religion. I don’t have to defend well-established theories such as that of gravitation or evolution. They are scientific theories which means that it would be quite impossible for one of my pupils to find evidence against them. Except one of them floated away or proved to not possess a human brain. So we talk about “evolution”, “gravity”, “climate change”. Cool, ey!?



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  • 26
    manumaid says:

    Edwin Layzelle creates another, in my view BIGGER problem, when he writes in his article with reference to the different ammonites that “This shows that as environments changed the animals adapted to those changes or evolved”. Aaaaarrrrg! This is damaging in two ways: 1. it contains a causational fallacy (AS the environmant changed, the animals ADAPTED), which reminds of Lamarck (BECAUSE the giraffes wanted to eat leaves from the tree tops, they GREW longer necks). 2. people will simply NOT understand the principles of natural selection in any way!!!!

    I teach biology at a traditional German grammar school and always make sure NOT to present causal relationships where there are none. [Removed by moderator.] I explain in plain English words how evolution/natural selection work, WITHOUT over-simplifying scientific facts. The problem is often that we use scientific language in every-day contexts, or that we make mistakes if we try to express scientific phenomena in every-day language. Be aware of that!



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  • 27
    AnieLin says:

    Someone once responded to discovering my Atheism with a single question. “So, do you believe in evolution and that we came from monkies?”

    My respones was “I understand evolution. And we don’t come from monkies, we are related to them.” I then gave a quick but thorough explanation about how we evolved and how other primates evolved differently alongside us. It shut her up.



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  • 28
    Marktony says:

    That is why they study the Bible. – to know, not just to believe.

    It seems few scientists debating Christians realize that Christians themselves understand the important difference between facts and belief.

    I guess most scientists just don’t share your view that bible study can be helpful to understanding the difference between facts and beliefs.

    In reply to #22 by quistlau:

    I am a professional forester – so I deal with the natural world and how we classify it and manage it – and I’m also a believer that there is God/ spirit. I agree that we should not use ‘believe’ in discussions of the natural world and things of science. In forestry we deal with uncertainty and varia…



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  • 29
    annette williams says:

    Thank you for your article. Just a wee point of usage. One cannot proselytize one’s faith. One can proselytize for one’s faith.



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  • Hang on, I think I can see an image of jesus in those fossils, and in the clouds above, correct me if I’m seeing things, but there must be some sort of correlation…



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  • 31
    SaganTheCat says:

    am I wrong here but that picture of tree rings incorrect? I always thought thick rings were winter when the tree does most of its growing and thin ones were summer when it makes blossom and leaves and fruit etc?



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  • 32
    rocket888 says:

    Of course it’s a matter of belief – for the layperson! After all, the layperson has not done the experiments, the observations, or even studied what is necessary to make an educated guess about such issues as climate change. What museum can one visit to see all the fosils of climate change. There’s the La Brea tar pits which I’ve visited to see all the skeletons of animals trapped in the tar; there’s all sorts of places I have gone to see dinosaur bones. I can understand how the bacteria in and around me have evolved to become resistant to the drugs I used to be able to take when I was 10 years old.

    But for climate change (especially the variety caused by man) I have only reading material and other media. And for every 10 articles about how this or that is the proof that the climate has gotten hotter, I can find a few claiming it has not (at least in the last 10 years). I see photos of ice melting; then I see photo’s by NASA showing the growth of ice in the Arctic. I read about data that has been manipulated by scientists to push their agendas. When I was younger, it was said we were entering an ice age. I’ve read about climate changes that could not have been caused by the current suspects and I’ve seen reports that co2 is the result of warming rather than the reverse.

    So, as a layman, how can you describe my feelings about this issue by anything other than a “belief”. What I also believe is that money talks and there’s lots of money to be made by claiming to be doing research into climate change – especially with governments that bellieve there’s nothing at all wrong with creating money from thin greenhouse gases.



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  • 33
    quarecuss says:

    In reply to #2 by Stuart Coyle:

    In reply to #1 by AdOculos:

    As an atheist I agree with most of what you write.
    I have to repeat that I am not denying that man-made climate change is occurring only that the theory is incomplete. Any discussion should be based on science rather than uninformed opinion but we should continue to refi…

    for this kind of discussion it’s always good to bring out the old chestnut by Christopher Hitchens

    “The argument about global warming is not whether there is any warming but whether or not and to what extent human activity is responsible for it. My line on that is that we should act as if it is, for this reason, which I borrowed from Jonathan Schell’s book on the nuclear question, The Fate of the Earth: We don’t have another planet on which to run the experiment. Just as we don’t have a right to run an experiment to run an experiment in nuclear exchange on this planet, we have no right to run an experiment in warming it either. So if it turned out to be that there was no severe global warming threat or that it wasn’t man-made, then all we would have done would be make a mistake in analysis – which we could correct from. But if it turned out that there was and we didn’t do anything about it, then it would be too late to do anything at all. And that would lead to disaster.”



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  • In reply to #32 by rocket888:

    Of course it’s a matter of belief – for the layperson! After all, the layperson has not done the experiments, the observations, or even studied what is necessary to make an educated guess about such issues as climate change. What museum can one visit to see all the fosils of climate change. There’s…

    I disagree. It’s not a matter of belief for the layperson. I’m a layperson. I’m an extremely layish person:) I know very little science. But I DO know that accepting what the scientific consensus is on any matter is just that. I “accept” the scientific consensus, I don’t “believe in” the scientific consensus. I am “confident” in the (any) scientific consensus because of it’s highly successful track record.



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  • In reply to #32 by rocket888:

    Of course it’s a matter of belief – for the layperson! After all, the layperson has not done the experiments, the observations, or even studied what is necessary to make an educated guess about such issues as climate change. What museum can one visit to see all the fosils of climate change. There’s…

    I don’t “believe in” what surgeons do to the human body, I accept that what surgeons do works by the evidence (that it does work).
    It’s not the same as accepting Climate Change, but it is the same in that it is not a belief but an acceptance.



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  • 36
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    In reply to #32 by rocket888:

    What I also believe is that money talks & there’s lots of money to be made by claiming to be doing research into climate change.

    Hi Rocket. Then there’s the other side of that opinion: “What I also believe is that money talks & there’s lots of money still being made by denying all the research into climate change.”



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  • 37
    mary margaret says:

    I believe there is no such thing as a creationist or a climate change denier or a religious person for that matter. They all belong under a definition of scientifically illiterate. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to keep the information flowing, especially to the children who need to see and understand that they are special by their existence not their creation, that questions are answered by science not by fairy tales, and that great deeds are accomplished by doing, not by praying to the non-existent.



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  • 38
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #32 by rocket888:

    Of course it’s a matter of belief – for the layperson! After all, the layperson has not done the experiments, the observations, or even studied what is necessary to make an educated guess about such issues as climate change. What museum can one visit to see all the fosils of climate change. There’s the La Brea tar pits which I’ve visited to see all the skeletons of animals trapped in the tar; there’s all sorts of places I have gone to see dinosaur bones. I can understand how the bacteria in and around me have evolved to become resistant to the drugs I used to be able to take when I was 10 years old.

    You do not need to visit a museum! The information is on the internet. The global trade-figures for burning billions of tons of carbon (oil, coal, gas) adding CO2 to our atmosphere are readily available. The survey 12.000+ peer-reviewed science papers is readily available.
    Skeptical Science Study Finds 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature

    But for climate change (especially the variety caused by man) I have only reading material and other media. And for every 10 articles about how this or that is the proof that the climate has gotten hotter, I can find a few claiming it has not (at least in the last 10 years).

    You are clearly reading low-grade publications. The actual survey figures are:-
    for every 13,950 REVIEWED SCIENTIFIC articles about how this or that is the proof that the climate has gotten hotter, they can find 24 claiming it has not. –
    or more accurately the 24 claim that the billions of tons of man-burnt carbon are not responsible.

    The increasing global temperature measurements from so many independent sources, are now beyond dispute.

    I see photos of ice melting; then I see photo’s by NASA showing the growth of ice in the Arctic.

    You are clearly reading nonsense from incompetent and dishonest writers. The figures from NASA and the other space agencies are unequivocal about the overall loss of ice over the longer term.

    Greenland’s coastal ice is disappearing fast enough that at its current rate of decline it will contribute to a rise in the world’s oceans of a little less than a centimeter in the space of a single human lifetime. That’s the finding of new research conducted by experts based at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. Flying a specially outfitted P-3B aircraft across the Danish territory, they used a laser to measure ice thickness there. By comparing changes in ice thickness taken in 1999 to measurements made earlier in the decade, they concluded that the continent is giving up nearly 50 gigatons–that’s 50 billion tons–of water per year, with greatest losses coming from the eastern coast. http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/stories/greenland/

    I read about data that has been manipulated by scientists to push their agendas.

    I have read this too – on dishonest denialist web-sites, in trashy news reports, and from paid propagandists using the disreputable tobacco strategy of disinformation and doubtmongering .

    In an effort to deceive the public about the real-ity of global warming, ExxonMobil has under-written the most sophisticated and most successful disinformation campaign since the tobacco indus-try misled the public about the scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease.
    As this report documents, the two disinformation campaigns are strikingly similar. ExxonMobil has drawn upon the tactics and even some of the organizations and actors involved in the callous disinformation campaign the tobacco industry waged for 40 years. Like the tobacco industry,
    ExxonMobil has:
    • Manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence.
    • Adopted a strategy of information laundering by using seemingly independent front organizations to publicly further its desired message and thereby confuse the public.
    • Promoted scientific spokespeople who mis-represent peer-reviewed scientific findings or cherry-pick facts in their attempts to persuade the media and the public that there is still serious debate among scientists that burning fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and that human-caused warming will have serious consequences.
    • Attempted to shift the focus away from meaningful action on global warming with misleading charges about the need for “sound science.” http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global-warming/exxon-report.pdf

    When I was younger, it was said we were entering an ice age.

    There was indeed rubbish of this nature in low-grade sensationalist news-papers and TV reports.

    I’ve read about climate changes that could not have been caused by the current suspects and I’ve seen reports that co2 is the result of warming rather than the reverse.

    This is the sort of wilfully misleading rubbish which I have shown in the links above.

    The physics of the greenhouse effect of CO2 is not controversial, and the trade figures of global tonnage of carbon burning are available.

    It is not rocket science!

    So, as a layman, how can you describe my feelings about this issue by anything other than a “belief”.

    Denial is a belief. Global warming from greenhouse gasses is a fact which is massively supported by evidence from a huge range of independent sciences.

    What I also believe is that money talks and there’s lots of money to be made by claiming to be doing research into climate change –

    If you believe that, it is because you have uncritically accepted lies from the very lavishly funded disinformation propagandists. Honest research work is generally poorly paid.

    especially with governments that bellieve there’s nothing at all wrong with creating money from thin greenhouse gases.

    This is just confused nonsense copied from low-grade dishonest sources! The costs of ignoring climate change and being caught unprepared, for storms, floods, droughts, and crop failures, are enormous!



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  • 39
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #31 by SaganTheCat:

    am I wrong here but that picture of tree rings incorrect? I always thought thick rings were winter when the tree does most of its growing and thin ones were summer when it makes blossom and leaves and fruit etc?

    That depends on the local climate.
    In sub-tropical areas where there are winter rains and summer droughts, you would be correct that the trees grow in winter.
    In temperate areas where growth is in summer and trees shed their leaves in the winter, the thick growth rings are formed in summer.



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  • 40
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #37 by mary margaret:

    I believe there is no such thing as a creationist or a climate change denier or a religious person for that matter. They all belong under a definition of scientifically illiterate.

    Unless you mean “wilfully scientifically illiterate”, this is not correct. Wilful refusal to learn is quite different from honest ignorance.

    Therefore it is incumbent upon us to keep the information flowing,

    The information has been freely flowing in many countries for decades. It is the indoctrination calling for rejection of it which is the problem.

    especially to the children

    State scientists evaluation of valid curricula and imposition of honest teaching is essential in preserving and developing advanced societies. Expert opinions need to trump asserted ignorance. – Not vice-versa!



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  • 41
    kenny77 says:

    There is a fundamental difference between a belief , and ‘faith’ .

    A belief is simply something you hold to be true. There’s nothing wrong with it on it’s own :
    We believe that our family members love us. We believe that those numbers on our bank accounts are actually worth something, we believe that we will be paid at the end of the month,etc…

    Without those beliefs, we simply couldn’t function ( at the very least life would be much harder ).
    However, those beliefs function only for as long as we have evidence that they do : if tomorrow the banks decides to zero all bank accounts, this would destroy the trust in the entire economic system.

    In the same way, scientists believe that their methods ( the scientific method, peer review ) are the right way to discover the truth.

    Also, scientists will accept theories from scientists in other fields, based on the belief that the peer review process will weed out mistakes.

    However, if it was discovered that certain scientists faked data, and found a way to circumvent the peer review process, I’m sure this would cause a serious trust problem within the scientific community.

    The result would undoubtely be a review of the methods and peer review process, in order to prevent this from happening again, thus restoring the trust in the methods.

    A belief is fine as long as it can be questioned. The problem is faith, which is unquestionable belief.

    So instead of not using the word ‘belief’ , we should point out the difference with faith. Don’t allow the religious to twist words to their advantage.

    As a wise man once wrote : “Words are our servants, not our masters” .



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  • 42
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #41 by kenny77:

    There is a fundamental difference between a belief , and ‘faith’ .

    “Words are our servants, not our masters”

    But not so useful when they become the servant of two masters. Confusion and hilarity ensue.

    I use neither “faith” nor “belief”. An “informed confidence” (or similar) makes a stand-out distinction and well worth the effort.



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  • 43
    AdOculos says:

    I agree that there is a big difference between belief and faith. I believe that there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe but I have absolutely no evidence to back that belief up and it is therefore moot until we get undisputed proof. To have faith means that you have no doubt about your position regardless of any lack of evidence.In reply to #41 by kenny77:

    There is a fundamental difference between a belief , and ‘faith’ .

    A belief is simply something you hold to be true. There’s nothing wrong with it on it’s own :
    We believe that our family members love us. We believe that those numbers on our bank accounts are actually worth something, we believe th…



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  • 45
    AdOculos says:

    I don’t want to be pedantic but “I frequently want” is a split infinitive is it not?In reply to #24 by lyonheat:

    I agree with this posting 100%. I do also feel the need to point out that I frequently want to repost/share articles such as these but unfortunately the grammatical errors give my educated Christian friends fodder against us. Remember, authors, not to split infinitives and check your semi-colon us…



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  • 46
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #45 by AdOculos:

    I don’t want to be pedantic but “I frequently want” is a split infinitive is it not?In reply to #24 by lyonheat:

    I agree with this posting 100%. I do also feel the need to point out that I frequently want to repost/share articles such as these but unfortunately the grammatical errors give my educa…

    I wish grammar nazis would read some Steven Pinker. It’s all just (fairly arbitrary and constantly changing) conventions; not holy dogma passed down from the Grammar Gods.



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  • 47
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to #45 by AdOculos:

    I don’t want to be pedantic but “I frequently want” is a split infinitive is it not?In reply to #24 by lyonheat:

    No, a split infinitive occurs when an adverb is placed between the marker to and the bare form of the verb. To boldly go is a split infinitive for this reason, to go being the infinitive form of the verb go. I frequently want is fine.

    In reply to Red Dog. I dislike grammar bullies too. The split infinitive is a bit archaic and doesn’t really serve any purpose. In fact, in the famous example from Star Trek I just mentioned, I think it sounds more elegant than the alternatives, To go boldly, Boldly to go. This doesn’t mean all grammar is arbitrary though: double negatives have the same affect in the English language as they do in the universal language of mathematics.

    I wish people would learn the difference between your and you’re, its and it’s and so on, because it’s elementary stuff, but I would never criticize someone in an online discussion for committing such errors.



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  • 48
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #47 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #45 by AdOculos:

    I don’t want to be pedantic but “I frequently want” is a split infinitive is it not?In reply to #24 by lyonheat:

    No, a split infinitive occurs when an adverb is placed between the marker to and the bare form of the verb. To boldly go is a split infinitive…..

    The split infinitive is one of the sillier ideas allegedly drawn from Latin. Given the singularity of amare “to love” the particle and the verb are deemed together to actually be the verb. Why this shouldn’t also apply to the pronoun and verb when we write for amo, I love, I have no idea.



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  • 49
    AdOculos says:

    Yes , you are right. I stand corrected.In reply to #47 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #45 by AdOculos:

    I don’t want to be pedantic but “I frequently want” is a split infinitive is it not?In reply to #24 by lyonheat:

    No, a split infinitive occurs when an adverb is placed between the marker to and the bare form of the verb. To boldly go is a split infinitive for this reas…



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  • I disagree. Although the word ‘opinion’ is rhetorically weaker than ‘fact’, it is in fact more accurate.

    The scientific process is an ongoing quest for evidence based on verifiable observations and experiments. While, practically speaking, opinions are often accepted as facts, if something you consider a fact is challenged what standard do you require for such a challenge to be successful?



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  • In reply to #2 by Stuart Coyle:

    “I wonder if you think the amount of evidence for climate change is enough at this point that we should be taking some positive action to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses? Or would you prefer to wait until you were really sure, and it is too late?”

    Of course the future is unknown, but I suspect that no matter how rigorously human activities impacting climate change are regulated, climate change won’t be reversed during the lifetimes of today’s young people. IMHO, the most likely future scenario will be increased controls on every aspect of people’s lives, which still however won’t achieve the promised results.

    By far the most considerate course of action people could accomplish in the foreseeable future to improve the lot of their children appears to be off the table as public policy; a radical reduction of the world’s population to mid-20th century levels at most.



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  • In reply to #33 by quarecuss:

    for this kind of discussion it’s always good to bring out the old chestnut by Christopher Hitchens

    “The argument about global warming is not whether there is any warming but whether or not and to what extent human activity is responsible for it. My line on that is that we should act as if it is, for this reason, which I borrowed from Jonathan Schell’s book on the nuclear question, The Fate of the Earth: We don’t have another planet on which to run the experiment. Just as we don’t have a right to run an experiment to run an experiment in nuclear exchange on this planet, we have no right to run an experiment in warming it either. So if it turned out to be that there was no severe global warming threat or that it wasn’t man-made, then all we would have done would be make a mistake in analysis – which we could correct from. But if it turned out that there was and we didn’t do anything about it, then it would be too late to do anything at all. And that would lead to disaster.”

    Climate changes constantly recur in cycles over time. The limits of the current climate change cycle resulting from present conditions, including human activity, are unknown.

    An ongoing worldwide natural disaster would most probably accomplish greater rebalancing of the earth’s ecosystems than all but the most tyranical of (worldwide) dictatorships could expect to accomplish. Humankind may end up dealing with nature on nature’s terms and the experience could reshape humanity in ways yet unforeseen. Extinction isn’t impossible, but is unlikely.

    Unfortunately knowledge of deaths and hardships resulting from two world wars plus countless other conflicts resulting from competing belief systems as well as recurring regional plagues, floods, drought and famine haven’t accomplished much!



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  • In reply to #9 by oddsox:

    …Abote = Accept Based On The Evidence…
    …Pabote = provisionally abote…

    SIlly ?

    I suppose you mean well, but IMHO, yes, silly! But feel free and do your thing!



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  • In reply to #17 by fcdyer:

    I totally accept the message of this piece, but I am very disappointed by how badly written it is. The problems range from an overall inelegance of the writing to run-on sentences to weird placements of punctuation marks, especially semi-colons. Even the author’s bio consists of one long run-on sentence…

    Syntax is a problem, but commenting on it here is at best a distraction.

    (Perhaps a colonoscopy would provide clarity? An elusive rumor has actually been reported alluding to climate change being caused by all the hot air being continually produced by discussing it endlessly.)



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