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Earth Is A Hot Young Thing To Many Republicans

Where I live, it’s bitter cold right now, but I know that this cold snap fits within a larger pattern of global warming that in turn fits within a bigger picture of global climate change. Scientifically gathered and analyzed facts over the last three decades have supported this theory of reality with increasing strength.

Many Republicans don’t see things this way, though. They continue to support alternative theories that don’t match the available scientific data. They’re looking for theories that match Republican political ideology, which holds that there isn’t a need for strong environmental regulation. A persistent Republican core holds on to assertions that fluctuations in the energy coming from the sun are to blame for the climate change of our times.

One of the latest pieces of research on climate comes from the University of Edinburgh, where a team of scientists analyzed temperature data from over the past thousand years, undermines the Republicans’ pet theory of solar-led climate change. The Edinburgh researchers found that, until about the year 1800, volcanic activity and not fluctuations in solar activity best explained climate shifts. At around 1800, this natural chain of causation began to be replaced by what we currently experience, until, a little over 100 years ago, human-created pollution became the dominant force in shaping climate change.

god the sunDon’t expect Republicans to change their tune any time soon about solar activity and climate change, though. Republican politics demands that its followers accept scientifically untenable ideas, and most Republicans are willing to give in to that demand.

A survey recently released by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project indicates that a majority of Republicans now believes that human beings have not undergone biological evolution as a species. This isn’t the number that believes that biological evolution of the human species was led by a supernatural being, such as the Christian god, rather than by natural selection. These Republicans – 57 percent of members of the GOP – believe that human beings have never ever evolved biologically at all, due to any cause.

What’s more, this antiscientific belief, contrary to all the evidence of human evolution that’s been collected over generations, seems to be getting stronger among Republicans. In the last four years, the number of Republicans who believed in the reality of human evolution of one form or another has declined, from 54 percent to 43 percent.

11 comments to Earth Is A Hot Young Thing To Many Republicans

  • Bill

    I wonder whether the rise of anti-evolution sentiment among Republicans reflects an actual shift in people’s beliefs away from rationalism, or whether, instead, it simply reflects the flight of otherwise sensible people from the Republican party. If educated people are becoming less likely to identify themselves as “Republican”…which is to be hoped…then they leave behind them in the party only the flat-earthers and know-nothings, in which case the numbers would suggest growing prominence for know-nothing positions among remaining self-identified Republicans.

    • Bill. First, consider a third option: irrational people entering the party.

      Recent developments in language research propose that humans first learn language based on emotion and only later “translate” our emotion-linked thoughts using reason. As adults, we therefore actually think using emotional drivers, and only secondly, select words that logically tie together. Speech essentially becomes “Single Sentence Logic” (SSL – http://a3society.org/SingleSentenceLogic). The media calls it “sound bites”. It’s the verses of poems and songs, and the explanation for the explosion of rap “music”.

      The second piece to this puzzle is a short history of religion. Early societies typically believed that each “nation” had their own gods. They therefore had their own religion and accepted that others had a different one. Ironically, this created a form of stability because it resulted in minimal inter-religious conflict within each nation. As the modern world advanced in transportation and communication, religions began to overlap WITHIN nations. To avoid internal conflict, the world universally adopted a very simple “democratic” principle: each individual could have their own beliefs!

      This worked well as a principle in 1787, when populations were mostly agricultural, sparse and independent. What a group of Puritans did in Massachusetts had little effect on a Catholic settlement in Saint Augustine. BUT, in a modern, highly specialized, interconnected world, each person having their own beliefs NO LONGER WORKS. To work, COMPLEXITY requires rigid standards, and precision execution. Modern technology is too complicated for most humans to understand. A farmer in 1787 pretty much knew his world. Today, no one is capable of learning it all. So, ironically, we’ve recreated the condition of primitive humans that drove them to religion for answers and clans for protection! Where do they turn? The media? The internet? Out of the pan and into the fire! No. They turn to the seat of POWER.

      Now, add the problem that our current form of democracy preferentially selects political candidates who are exceptional at SSL. The repercussion is our leaders are very poor at systems thinking. They don’t have to be good at envisioning complex systems that can work for a very diverse population, or managing a complex system, like a government. These two points: faults in human language, and the multiple religions problem (http://a3society.org/MultipleReligionsProb), plus option three, explain our legislative quagmire, and answer your original question.

  • While the GOP leadership still blindly holds on to their “6000 year old flat earth” philosophy, there was a major shift in the media which occurred last year. The Koch brothers had been financing Richard Muller, a Berkeley professor, who was a KEY climate change denier. Because of his credentials, his denial of climate change was a major blockade in the science world. When the word got out of Koch funding, there was a lot of pressure for Muller to come clean. To the Koch’s credit, they continued their funding for the largest earth temperature study ever done: http://bit.ly/A3society-Koch-Climate-Study . That study was a major turnaround for him. While the study was released during the summer of 2012, the media kept the lid on it until after the election. When Obama got in, the media also had to come clean. That’s when the “climate change” sound bite became OK for the big guys like NPR.

    I know this because I attended the Northeast Florida climate summit in early 2013. The Army Corp of Engineers made a presentation. While they wouldn’t provide details for not presenting the information earlier, they said they were then (February) allowed to release details of studies they were doing. The key statement was that Florida, due to the physics of ocean currents, would see a larger sea level rise than other places. They were ALREADY measuring 1.5 inches per year sea level rise. No one in the audience seemed to understand the gravity of this. So, I jumped in and asked a question, “1.5 inches doesn’t seem like much. How many years does that take to be 1 foot?” Even the STEM challenged audience figured that out. A lot of them lost a lot of blood from their faces. Right, 1 foot in 8 years; 3 feet in 24 years. The 3 foot number was important. The Army Corp said, at 3 feet, one-third of Miami’s sewers would fail. Again, the audience responded to this. Most of them were young enough to realize they would be swept up in this around the prime of their careers.

  • Tom

    Yeah, well that was then and THIS is now:

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2013/12/50-doomiest-graphs-of-2013.html

    and especially

    http://robinwestenra.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/fukushima-summing-up-2013.html

    Fukushima – A Recap Of its Carnage on Earth

    Now that we’ve learned that for the past 3 years toxic radiation has been spewing into the atmosphere and Pacific Ocean (not to mention all the illegal dumping of this waste into the oceans and seas of the world by other countries all along), watch the cancer rates rise dramatically in the coming years. It’s raining out in all the forms of precipitation and getting into the groundwater, crops and livestock; the fish are already Fuked.

  • Dave

    “… this antiscientific belief, contrary to all the evidence of human evolution that’s been collected over generations…” might be understood in light of two books that made the rounds in conservative circles in the 90’s. Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson and Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe.

    The first of these, written by a UC Berkeley law professor uses a trial lawyer’s viewpoint in a courtroom setting where mankind has been charged with evolving and it must be determined if there is enough evidence to convict. The second is pretty technichal at times, but essentially claims that there is not a preponderance of collected evidence, that the “story” of evolution (minus a realistic understanding of its complexity) was devised before the advent of the electron microscope, and that evidence of mechanisms of evolution is currently zero. As far as I know neither author is particularly conservative politically.

    Not arguing either side here, but I think it is a mistake to assume your political opponents do not have an intelligence at work. Also, I find it is conservatives who seem to be more willing to read on both sides of this belief (with a reputation accruing to them that they are gullible), but most on the left that I know typically have not gone so far, and I don’t see that as a particularly educated stance either.

    • Bill

      Dave: Speaking not in the least as a ‘progressive’ or ‘leftist’, but rather as a card-carrying professional biologist, I have to take strong exception to the books you cite (and the dozens of others like them routinely spun out by flat-earthers).

      “…a trial lawyer’s viewpoint in a courtroom setting where mankind has been charged with evolving and it must be determined if there is enough evidence to convict.” Darwin On Trial was a sad absurdity, because a trial lawyer’s viewpoint (per se) is completely irrelevant. To Pilate’s question we can reply that there are many different kinds of ‘truth’ in man’s world: spiritual truth, experiential truth, legal truth, scientific truth, and on and on. They have vastly different standards of evidence, and apply in completely unrelated domains. Just as a scientist cannot disprove (or even question, really) someone’s spiritual truth using scientific tools, so too an attorney cannot begin to address scientific truth using legal tools. It was a cute book by yet another guy with an opinion, but like they say, opinions are like cowboy hats. He might just as well have written “God On Trial”…equally pointlessly.

      “The ‘story’ of evolution (minus a realistic understanding of its complexity) was devised before the advent of the electron microscope.” Half-wrong, half-right, and completely beside the point. The half-wrong part is the notion that Darwin, Wallace, and the other founders of evolutionary theory lacked a realistic appreciation of its complexity. Quite the opposite, they were painfully and vocally aware that they had no idea how evolution worked at a mechanistic level, but appreciated that the answer must be horribly complex. The half-right part is the charge that evolutionary theory was born before electron microscopes and the other tools which today make the unseen molecular world visible. But the only possible response to this observation would be…”Yeah, so?” Salicylic acid (the parent compound of aspirin) was used to treat fever a few thousand years before atoms were identified and chemistry was born…it was discovered without such advanced knowledge simply because it happened to work…and work brilliantly. Newton solved the mystery of the orbits of the planets hundreds of years before Einstein explicated the basis of gravity in the curvature of space-time; he did so by empirically cobbling together equations that just happened to work brilliantly, even though they offered no mechanistic understanding.

      And this, really, is my whole point: science isn’t based on “preponderance of evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” or any other such nonsense that non-scientists with axes to grind often try to apply to it. It is based on one thing and one thing only: the answer to the question, “Does your theory work?” Does it make accurate predictions? Does it provide coherent and consistent explanations of other, seemingly unrelated and previously mysterious phenomena? And on both these counts the answer is an overwhelming “yes” for the theory of evolution (and a withering “no” for all competitors, including ‘creationism’, ‘intelligent design,’ and ‘gosh, nobody knows nuttin!’).

      Show me a theory that does a better job of accurately and consistently explaining the past and predicting the future than does evolution, and I’ll eagerly embrace it. But good luck with that.

      • Bill

        Briefly, three additional points I forgot to add:

        1. A trial lawyer’s perspective is irrelevant here because a trial lawyer’s job isn’t to discover the truth, but rather to persuade others that his version of the story is true. Two completely different (and frequently opposite) things.

        2. Another example of something that just works even though we don’t begin to understand how/why: general anesthesia. We really haven’t a clue how the common inhalational anesthetics work. So would you choose to forego using them when you go under the knife, until we have a detailed mechanistic understanding sufficient to ‘prove’ the theory of anesthesia? Or maybe go with prayer as an alternative? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

        3. I failed to address your fundamental point, which was “it is a mistake to assume your political opponents do not have an intelligence at work.” Well, not always; it’s no mistake to do so when your political opponents spout anti-scientific nonsense and call it science. I think there’s ample proof out there that the existence of books and arguments isn’t any kind of evidence of intelligence.

        • Dave

          Bill, if I am reading you right and you are saying that opinions of those outside of a particular discipline are generally unqualified, I wholeheartedly agree. Again, not to argue the merits on each side of a “debate” on origins of species, but I believe a healthy scepticism is important to any field of study, even this one, and outsiders, though less informed or informed by other input, can perhaps perform the function of scepticism that is sometimes lacking inside the field by simply saying “convince me.” This, to me, in no way reflects on their IQ, as it strikes me as a reasonable and intelligent thing to say. I still enjoy listening to both sides on this, and it’s as entertaining as a good argument over the Shroud of Turin.

          One footnote: I recently sent for a DVD from The Great Courses on colour. The Professor went on about how humans three thousand years ago could not see the colour blue (we apparently evolved that much in three millenia) and that our circadian rythms developed when we lived in the deep blue sea (but no mention of our daily exposure to a blue sky and filtered sunlight – the more likely culprit) as well as what not to wear to a job interview because we have “evolved” to perceive black clothing as threatening. For some reason. Etc. This is the kind of thing these days that passes for what I often hear spoken of as “overwhelming” evidence, but it is tedious, unscientific bulls@*t, the assumptions of evolutionary “psychology” and conjecture and it has crept into everything. Your example No. 2 above is well taken, though explaining things by using something that cannot be explained could just as well apply to a Theological approach. I am not saying that those who are slow to believe in Darwin are always open to inquiry, but if they do prefer to look inside Darwin’s black box and hope to find some stronger foundations for these things first, I would still classify that as being within the spectrum of pretty smart human activity.

          • Dave

            Thanks, by the way, for your thoughtful comments. In my next life I want to be a biologist.

            • Bill

              Naah, stick with your day-job. TV shows manage to make biology look like fun, but in its day-to-day reality (like most professions) it’s mostly about moving paper from over here to over there. That, plus suppressing your rage when dealing with know-nothings such as creationists, the vaccines-cause-autism crowd, and those who suggest that more CO2 in the air will be super-groovy for plants and, anyway, people exhale CO2 so dumping a zillion tons of it into the atmosphere must be perfectly OK.

          • Bill

            I guess my two major concerns here are nicely captured in your phrase “the ‘debate’ on origins of species.”

            1. It’s not a debate; it’s a one-sided rant. A debate would involve competing scientific theories. Creationism isn’t a theory because it doesn’t explain anything and it doesn’t predict anything.
            Q: How did all these different forms of life get here?
            A: God did it!
            Q: Okaaaay, then how did He do it?
            A: Well, you know, God works in mysterious ways.
            Q: Uh-huh. OK, if I set up this experiment, what outcome will God ordain?
            A: Oh gosh, there’s no telling, ’cause…God!

            Perhaps I should add here that I, myself, happen to be a practicing Christian…I’m not putting down know-nothing religionists out of contempt for religion, but rather out of contempt for know-nothingness. I’m unswervingly confident that God gave us inquiring minds and the ability to discern causes and effects for a good reason, and intended for us to use these gifts.

            2. “Origin of species” isn’t the point. Evolution is the point. Yes, Darwin, struggling to fashion a completely new way of thinking, titled his opus “Origin of Species.” But going from there to demanding to be shown the “origin” of just one species is a lot like critiquing “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” by demanding to be shown the cat. ‘Species’ ain’t what they used to be in Darwin’s day. They aren’t hard-and-fast unique physical realities, like individual atoms; they’re useful human conceptualizations, our names for observable pools in the River of Life. Species don’t have origins any more than a breeze has an ‘origin.’ The real question is whether biological evolution has happened and does happen. At this point in the science, anyone who chooses to answer ‘no’ does so either by choosing to ignore an insurmountable edifice of data, or by simply being ignorant of the science, or by confusing science and faith. Scientists who attempt to disprove the existence of God (and I’ve known more than a few) are simply fools…as are theists who attempt to disprove the existence of science.

            Like I say: show me a better (more successful) theory of how things came to be the way they are, and what should happen when I do this, and then we can have an actual debate. But, failing that, if you promise not to worship in the lab, I promise not to do science in church.

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