Class Warfare Blog

April 10, 2014

Evolution: This is a Test, This is Only a Test,…

In last night’s first episode of “Your Inner Fish,” on PBS host Neil Shubin described the discovery of the transitional fossil called Tiktaalik. This was one of the, if not the, first walking fishes. While I thought I could hear the anti-evolution crowd grinding their teeth while this was airing, I think they probably missed the big picture. It is worse than they thought.

Neil Shubin, a paleobiologist at the University of Chicago, described his team’s thinking; it went like this: there seemed to be a gap in the fossil record between fish and walking tetrapods (land creatures). Since they believed evolution theory to be true, there had to be organisms to fill that gap (as that was too big of a gap to jump in a single mutation, etc.). So, he and his partner, a geologist, decided to go looking for fossils of those animals. And, they accept the theory of evolution as being correct. If it is then such animals had to have existed and, if they did, there might be fossilized remains to be found (fossil creation is rare and haphazard). Since they had dates for the two fossils on either side of the fossils they wanted to find, they went to geological maps and located three areas of rock that were of that age and one of them was largely unexplored, so they chose that site to look in. They then got grant funding, a great deal of grant funding, to explore that site which was in a remote area in northern Canada (no roads, no towns, no people, that kind of remote). This was no small undertaking. It took years, and as I said much money, to do this “experiment.” They then applied principles of geology and geography to locate the best possible places to look in and eventually, they found Tiktaalik, at least the fossilized remains of it, the organism that they were looking for.

“In this case it is all support for the theory of evolution: check, check, and check.”

This is how a theory is tested. If it is true then predictions can be made that should also be true and will then be subject of experiments that either support or undermine that theory. In this case it is all support for the theory of evolution: check, check, and check. Not only did they find the predicted organism, but they found it in time where it was expected to be. And this is one of myriad examples that have been similarly documented. As time went on, minor tweaks were made to make the theory more accurate and voila, you have “settled science,” science that no one disagrees with any more.

Now, if evolution were a hoax, would scientists be dumb enough to get funding for an expedition involving polar bear dangers, shotguns, extreme weather, isolation, etc. all for something they don’t expect to find in the first place? Would granting agencies provide hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding for such enterprises if there were not a good chance of actually furthering scientific knowledge or are they “in” on the plot, too?

The whole idea that major concepts like evolution (Where are the transitional fossils?) and climate change (It is all a hoax!) are bogus is ludicrous and is indicative of a bankruptcy of better ideas. These claims are just props for the confirmation biases of the fellow travelers of the people in these “anti” camps. They don’t really mean what their words are saying, in fact there is a good chance they don’t even understand what they are saying (like the guy who wanted to see the fossil of a creature half monkey and half fish). These are just campaign slogans they have learned to repeat.

The trouble for the anti-evolution crowd is that young people are growing up and deciding on their own whether there is evidence to support these scientific theories and the people opposing them appear to them like people  who insist today that the Earth is flat or that the Moon is hollow appear to us: batshit crazy. And, when you get tagged with that label, your credibility on almost everything else goes with it. So, you religious out there, do you want to lose the ears of the younger generation altogether? If not, you might want to find a way to accommodate sensible positions on scientific discoveries and theories. Good advice for Republicans, too. How many young people will listen to your “Evolution is a lie straight from the pit of Hell” bullshit?

February 5, 2014

When Scientists Think They Know Something, They Try to Prove It

According to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute “a grass called teosinte is thought to be the ancestor of corn, but it doesn’t look much like corn at all. Scientists were surprised to find that teosinte planted in growth chambers under climate conditions that simulate the environment 10,000 to 12,000 years ago looks more like corn. This may help to explain why early farmers chose to cultivate teosinte and lends support to the idea that teosinte was domesticated to become one of the most important staple crops in the world.

‘We grew teosinte in the conditions that it encountered 10,000 years ago during the early Holocene period: temperatures 2-3 degrees Celsius cooler than today’s with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at around 260 parts per million,’ said Dolores Piperno, senior scientist and curator of archaeobotany and South American archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, who led the project. ‘Intriguingly, the teosinte plants grown under past conditions exhibit characteristics more like corn: a single main stem topped by a single tassel, a few, very short branches tipped by female ears and synchronous seed maturation.

After the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide rose to today’s 405 parts per million, the level in the control chamber where teosinte plants look like plants in the wild today – tall, with many long branches tipped by tassels and seed maturation taking place over a period of a few months.”

What they also showed, but didn’t mention, is that the atmospheric CO2 level does have significant effects upon the environoment, contrary to what Climate Change deniers state. They claim that Climate Change is a hoax because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible and they have faith, once again proving that faith is “pretending to know things you do not know.”

January 18, 2014

Climate Confusion: There is No Debate!

In an opinion piece in today’s New York Times (If You See Something, Say Something), Michael E. Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and the author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines stated: “The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.”

So far so good, but he then goes on to state:
“Until the public fully understands the danger of our present trajectory, those debates are likely to continue to founder.” (He goes on to encourage scientists to engage in the “debate.”)

Arrrrghhh! There is no debate. The public understands.

“This is the only problem—it is called corruption.”

The core of the problem is that Washington politicians and many state politicians have been paid large sums of money to take positions in opposition to the reality of climate change. And you don’t have to discuss the merits of solutions if you don’t recognize there is a problem—stalemate! The Fox (sic) News Channel reinforces those ideas because it has received large amounts of money for doing so. No reputable news organization opposes the science of climate change.

This is the only problem—it is called corruption, political corruption. It’s base is that we allow corporations that are regulated by government to give money to those politicians regulating them, even when they are not running for office. From then on it is the Golden Rule (Them’s that has the gold makes the rules!)

November 1, 2013

Psst … Pass It On!

I just read an essay about climate change deniers and the approach most “science types,” including me, take to refute them. We science types assume that this is a scientific debate and that what is in dispute are the facts or the interpretation of the facts. The essayist argued instead that the vast majority of deniers are quite unfamiliar with the facts and are even more unfamiliar with the interpretations. Instead they are operating in a world in which they are receiving a meme (from politicians, Fox (sic) News, etc.) that they are being fooled by people with an axe to grind. Socially, there is little cost in believing such memes because if they are wrong, well those individuals could really do nothing about solving that problem anyway, but if one confronts ones peers about the meme, they could lose social standing or even contact with their group.

Even as a science type, this sounds like a quite valid argument to me, so in an attempt to shift the debate I offer the following:

Psst, You Are Being Manipulated, Pass It On
You’ve all heard about climate change and are wondering whether or not it is real. I am writing this to confirm that you are being manipulated, used as a pawn in this debate.

On one side of the debate are all of those scientists who make a sort of okay living doing science on the atmosphere. Apparently 98% of them are in agreement that we all are part of the problem. On the other side are a group of very rich individuals and corporations that make money, very large amounts of money, creating carbon based pollution that is causing the problem.

Now, I know you are being manipulated, but I am not sure by whom: do you think it is the bunch of scientists from all over the world or a bunch of rich people and corporations who don’t want to pay for changes in the way they do business.

Which do you think it is?

August 12, 2013

Climate Change, A Scientific Conspiracy?

According to conservatives who get their information from Fox (sic) News, Climate Change is a global conspiracy of scientists, apparently to ensure they get a continuous flow of grant funds to study something that doesn’t exist. If that sounds incredibly stupid, let me explain why.

Let’s start with a small test. Question 1: Name a global scientific conspiracy or a continental one, or even one confined to a single country for that matter. All you need is one.

Okay, time is up. What did you come up with? Nada, zip, zilch? I suspect so because such a thing has never happened and it never will. The reason is simple. Such a thing could not happen because of scientific arrogance. (Trust me on this, I am a scientist.) Most scientists think their competitors, that is the other people in their field, are mental midgets whose limited capacity to think scientifically has probably been further impaired by taking too many drugs. None of the others can hold a candle to this individual. And if a conspiracy were to be considered, it would have to me (no me, No, Me!) who puts it together as those others are obviously ill-equipped to do so. And they all think like that.

Such a thing as a global scientific conspiracy has never happened and it never will.
The reason is simple. Such a thing could not happen because of scientific arrogance.
(Trust me on this, I am a scientist.)”

Scientists can only agree when there are no alternatives left. Only when the data have become completely iron-clad will there be any consensus and, even then, a few scientists will nurse their pet (though wrong) theories over in a corner somewhere. (Think of the discussions (aka wars) surrounding Climate Change for the last 40 years.) Consider what happens when any scientist publishes anything novel (and publishing is required). In phase one the knives come out. The ideas are attacked. The scientist is attacked. The sanity of the funding agency behind the research is questioned.

These are people who don’t “like people” in the first place and like competitors to their own glory much, much less. Most of them, had they any people skills at all, would have gone into a field where they could have made some real money.

I once saw an open letter in the Journal Physics Today from one Nobel Prize winning physicist to another Nobel Prize winning physicist acknowledging that he had lost a $10 bet. The bet was that the second physicist wouldn’t hold a good position any time in the previous decade. And these guys were considered “friends.”

So, is Climate Change the first global scientific conspiracy, involving the cooperation and ego sublimation of thousands of scientists? Only an idiot who has never met a real scientist could believe this. And only the anti-scientific idiots at Fox (sic) News could come up with such a vacuous idea.

July 31, 2013

Our Post Apocalypse Future Sans Apocalypse

I discovered speculative fiction as a child (then it was merely science fiction) and have been reading it for over fifty years now. A staple of the genre is set in the post-apocalypse future. Back then the apocalypse was often nuclear war, but overpopulation was also a major theme (think Soylent Green). The point being was we had to cope with a dismal future of our own making.

What I never considered, nor did anyone else I believe, that a dismal future would come from willful action of business men. Consider the deniers of climate change in this country. Very wealthy men (not women) who make their money in industries that will be affected by any reduction in carbon emissions are waging a well-financed campaign of disinformation and bribery. Political commenters (see Fox (sic) News) who don’t have enough brain cells to understand the data have come to the conclusion that “climate change is a hoax.”

“What is going to happen when they are proven wrong and their perfidy is exposed.
They cannot claim that they had made “honest mistakes” as their political contributions
and benefactors are too well known. Is the Republican Party committing suicide?”

Will ignoring climate change result in a dismal future? I can’t answer than question because the effects of climate change can’t be accurately predicted, but the speed of the changes seems to be faster than the direst of the predictions. This is a concern, because ecosystems are not fast responders. Look at what happens during a drought. The local flora don’t just adapt by becoming more drought tolerant, they die and are replaced by more drought tolerant species (typically known as weeds).

But 99% of climate scientists say climate change is real and 99% of the bought and paid for politicians say it is a hoax. Who would you bet on? Especially when the politicians are almost uniformly Republicans, the Party of ___ _____ (fill in the blanks; if you didn’t come up with “Big Business” or something similar, you are brain dead).

On the shorter term, those same bought and paid for politicians, are denying that government spending will bring us out of the Great Recession. Instead they want to cut government spending. This is madness. Every example of governmental spending as a response to a recession has backed the Keynesian model which is to spend our way out at least in those cases in which there is a lack of demand for goods and services as there is now. So why would these reality deniers say otherwise? Possibly because they are paid to do so by big business interests. With the teeth of the unions pulled, the only agency in position to oppose the will of the corporations is government. Hence there is an orchestrated effort to convince the people that they cannot trust their own government at all and if funding can be reduced, then also the sphere of the governments actions can be also.

I never anticipated that a post apocalyptic future could arise without a cataclysm. I guess I never have thought like a businessman … or a Republican. What is going to happen when they are proven wrong and their perfidy is exposed. They cannot claim that they had made “honest mistakes” as their political contributions and benefactors are too well known. Is the Republican Party committing suicide?

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