Saturday, April 26, 2014

Oversimplified Cause

As a science teacher my challenge was helping students realize science subject matter connected with many events in their lives. Some students regarded science as their favorite course, possibly because they were able to connect science subject matter with their total life experience. Their comprehension of the world became broad-based and exciting. Students who envision science only as a topic of narrow investigation find the least enjoyment in their studies. Interested students not only experience fascination with specific classroom experiences, but also extend those discoveries to perception and enjoyment of their world.

We used the term “narrow investigation” in our opening paragraph. In explanation, climate change has become a cause célèbre for many politicians and environmentalists. Climate change enthusiasts tout “science” as a primary support pillar of their argument. What does the “science” tell us? Since the Industrial Revolution atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased roughly 40%. The greenhouse gas (GHG) qualities of CO2 are blamed for increasing Earth’s temperature. We do not deny some truth to that precept. Carbon dioxide gas may act as a lid to entrap Earth’s heat from the sun instead of letting it reflect back into space. Carbon dioxide is widely recognized for its qualities as a GHG. Other atmospheric gases are also GHGs, including water vapor and methane. Together, water vapor and methane are far more significant GHGs. Climate change enthusiasts’ intonation of “settled climate science” has forced our climate discussions to become exceedingly narrow in scope. The trace gas carbon dioxide has assumed front and center position in the discussion.

Let us enlarge upon the narrow scope. Most of the “blame” for climate change is assigned to production of the greenhouse gas CO2 from the consumption of fossil fuels according to the proponents of fear. Climate change enthusiasts cite an accelerating concentration of this trace gas. Fear of future climate disaster has resulted and now grips large segments of our populace. National and United Nations politicians have fomented this fear along with urgent proposals of expensive remediation such as reduction of petroleum and coal usage and intensive promotion of wind and solar power.

Some unchallenged science students in my classroom were unable to envision science in the broad picture. Their picture of reality was too narrow. Had they been able to look at the subject in its broad scope, their enjoyment of the subject would have expanded. Most climate change worriers investigate a narrow scope of climate and weather science. Is knowledge about carbon dioxide a significant topic of climate science? Yes, it is, but its importance should not be overstressed. Climate science is exceedingly broad in scope and complexity. The science of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse effect, and the effects of other far more plentiful GHGs is only the beginning of our study of short term weather and long term climate. Variable solar output and its impact on cloud formation, numerous recognized atmospheric and oceanic oscillations, and longer term collective changes in earth’s orbital and axial variations known as Milankovich cycles, affect Earth’s climate far more than the trace gas CO2.

Natural climate variability is hardly ever discussed or assigned explanatory power by climate change enthusiasts. For example, our current 17-year cycle of Earth cooling is unexplainable in terms of the GHG carbon dioxide. It is easy to denigrate climate change deniers by casting them as science illiterates or calling them members of the “flat earth society,” particularly when the case for climate change becomes difficult to make.

Kenneth William Samples in his volume A World of Difference presents one chapter called “Straight Thinking.” He lists “Oversimplified Cause” as a betrayal of straight thinking. Samples says, “This fallacy occurs when an effect has multiple causes, but only one cause is identified.” Another caution Samples offers is the “Domino Fallacy,” whereby, “…someone asserts that a particular action or event will set off a chain reaction of events ultimately leading to devastating consequences.” The strident voices of climate change enthusiasts have provided cause for review of the principles of effective argument and straight thinking.

Our blog on the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute (ATRI) website commenced in 2007.  Until 2012 we did not comment on the issue of global warming. Of late the climate change issue has become ever more strident. The drought of 2012 triggered our first venture into the topic. The severe winter of 2013-2014 inspired us to renew our attention to the issue yet again. Earth’s climate is ultimately God’s gift for the physical sustenance of the human race. To close this series of climate posts, we offer a reprint of our 4/29/2013 post. It was appropriately titled “God’s Climate System:”



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Assurance or Anxiety?

Do the events of weather inspire assurance and reverence for the Creator who designed Earth’s climate system for human thriving? Or contrarily, do weather and climate events conjure up feelings of anxiety and unease? Humanity is gifted with the ability to appropriate either positive or negative emotions. A search of numerous stories on your favorite internet home page will affirm human desire to consume diverse types of journalistic accounts, from triumph to tragedy and every location between. In our modern information-saturated society journalists have considerable power. Our ability to be selective in the choice of subject matter viewpoints is severely tested in our modern society.

In the sphere of weather and climate, consider who controls the journalistic microphone. Passive consumers should be aware of the power of the press. In college I recall the warnings of several instructors cautioning students to avoid perceiving all information in printed media as truth. Obvious as this warning seems, we note the dangers of biased, agenda-driven political journalism. The freedom of journalists to express editorial opinions extends increasingly to ordinary reporting.

A tragedy of our time is the fear engendered by the climate change lobby. For many, public attitudes have shifted since 1988 when global warming became an important topic du jour. Sadly, a significant body of our populace now perceives weather and climate as a disaster “poised to strike.” Some politicians hyperbolically proclaim climate change “the worst problem facing the world today.” We do not decry ordinary journalistic reporting. For example, when occasional natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, or droughts occur, media reporting is wholly appropriate. 

Viewers of The Weather Channel may be fascinated by the weather network’s “Storm Story” features. Weather Channel is free to offer the programming of their choice. Likewise, viewers are free to select programming of their choice for personal viewing. In our country freedom of the press is a cherished value but discerning viewers must exercise freedom to accept or reject media bias. This applies not only to those who relentlessly promote anthropogenic climate change (formerly called anthropogenic global warming), but also to those who deny any human induced influence on global temperature no matter how insignificant.

In our previous blog post entitled Weather Wonders, we highlighted several scripture passages describing startling weather events. We list the scriptures below. In each of these passages, mighty weather events were described. Should these scriptures produce assurance or anxiety? From a study of each chapter, we hope readers identify the voice of a benevolent God. Anxiety and fear are not mentioned as an outcome of these mighty weather phenomena. Quite the opposite, these events highlight God’s glory and wisdom.

Job 37: This chapter describes frigid cold conditions, perhaps rivaling the harsh US winter of 2013-2014. Consider these descriptive terms to describe the frozen wonder and various other mighty weather scenarios described in Job 37: marvelous, majestic, wonder, splendor, justice, and righteousness. Here is the link to our March 7, 2014 post:

Psalm 29: The Psalm provides an almost certain description of a tornado which breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon, shakes the Desert of Kadesh, twists the oaks, and strips the forests bare. The two most destructive fatal tornadoes in the United States occurred in 1925 and on April 28, 2011 in America’s deep south. Nevertheless, Psalm 29 uses strength, splendor, and power to describe the tragic events. Our April 30, 2011 post put several natural events in sobering perspective, including tornadoes:

Jeremiah 10: In our interpretive freedom, we may imagine a mighty flooding event   described by thunder, roaring of the waters in the heavens, lightning with the rain, and wind from His storehouses. Wisdom and understanding characterizes the reaction of Almighty God as he observes his creation. The July 2, 2008 post highlights a modern flood which engulfed the church attended by our son in Iowa:

Acts 27: Did hurricanes or storms of similar intensity occur in Bible times? This chapter contains a description of a Mediterranean storm called Euroclydon. The Apostle Paul was aboard a ship headed to Rome. Detailed narrative of the long-lasting storm consumes most of the lengthy Acts 27 passage. An angel of God instructed, “Do not be afraid.” The Father has a higher purpose in occasionally allowing human tragedy associated with weather events:   

The Creator’s higher purpose is evident in Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” We extend the meaning of this verse to Earth’s weather and climate system. Man’s desire for perfect, anxiety-free weather and climate would not be in man’s best interest. But we may rest securely in assurance that God’s higher purpose is superior to human purpose.                    

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weather Wonders

Contemporary weather discussions often revolve around awe-inspiring events. Today’s conversations often join with the current climate buzz where startling weather events (effects) are linked with our modern obsession to explain the “why” of those events (causes). Some alarmists may be turning from wholesome fascination to fear owing to our current societal fixation on potentially disastrous effects of climate change. Perhaps we recall our own childhood experience of fear during a violent thunderstorm or windstorm. We may have experienced flooding close to our homes or shared the anxiety of farmers in our region when a drought struck the area. Rural inhabitants may have experienced greater apprehension because they were closer to nature. On the other hand, the joy of refreshing rains falling on their regions and the pleasure of living in open country made their experience more satisfying.

One irony is that extended cloudless, rain-free weather replete with gentle breezes and mild temperatures may not be of benefit to humans in the long run. We may hold our scheduled athletic contests and bask in outdoor splendor at our picnics, but is this set of weather conditions really most desirable and beneficial? We propose that such ideal weather is the least interesting and beneficial in the long-term. In the early months of 2012, the US midwest experienced a mild, snowless winter. March 2012 felt like May with the forsythia blooming and daffodils emerging early. The warm summer of 2012 brought a severe  drought. An unfamiliar explanation called the Arctic Oscillation (AO) was to blame, we were told. Comparisons to the drought conditions of the 1930s appeared. After a while many residents realized colder and snowier may be better.

The good news follows: In 2013 the rains returned long before dust bowl conditions recurred and this short term but severe drought was largely forgotten. During the drought supermarkets remained stocked with plentiful bounty. Other regions of the nation had fine growing weather. Prices did not spike significantly. The drought did not result in social upheaval. Any sojourn to the supermarket resulted in a blizzard of opportunities to purchase virtually any food product we desired. I have called such visits a “worship” experience. If we contemplate deeply, we may worship the Creator and His ability to provide our Earth’s climate system, in place since man first appeared on this planet.

Embedded in this climate system are multiple current weather events which may trigger alarm in our hearts. In any given calendar year, weather reporters could easily compose a catalog of attention-grabbing stories. Historic events may intensify our wonder and in some cases, our fear. Shallow thinkers may become alarmed unless they make an effort to place Earth’s climate and weather in perspective. When we study God’s climate system, we may acquire appreciation for a variety of life-sustaining weather on this planet. We may understand complex atmospheric and oceanic oscillations. Holy Scripture contains several passages exalting the power and majesty of God manifest in Earth’s weather. We have selected four passages in which many of our planet’s most startling weather events are highlighted. We quote phrases from Job 37, Psalm 29, Jeremiah 10, and Acts 27.

Job 37: “Listen to the roar of his voice…God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways…He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’…The breath of God produces ice…The tempest comes out from its chamber…”

Psalm 29: “The God of glory thunders…The Lord thunders over the mighty waters…The  Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon…The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare…The Lord sits enthroned over the flood…”

Jeremiah 10:12-13: “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the earth by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes the clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

Acts 27: (A fear inspiring adventure of the Apostle Paul on one of his missionary journeys) “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘Northeaster,’ swept down…When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Many Old Testament passages discuss droughts and resulting famines. Many of these events were long term droughts. Earth wide, droughts are often relieved by intense storms referenced in these passages. In the Bible rains were seen as God’s provision. Droughts were a sign of God’s judgment in selected cases but weather events are mostly part of beautiful natural cycles. In all cases weather events embedded in our climate system indicate God cares for this planet and is ultimately the Master of our physical environment.

These passages describe thunderstorms, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and the harsh effects of winter. Of course, multiple scriptures also communicate the many blessings of our weather system including God’s provision of crop-sustaining rain. We must avoid envisioning our climate as a cruel master. Our climate system displays God’s glory. For this we are thankful.         


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Settled Climate Science

On February 20, 2014 Charles Krauthammer submitted a highly popular column to the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Myth of Settled Science.” Public reaction was both predictable and surprising. Both sides of the Climate Change debate are searching for ammunition to strengthen their own cache of artillery. The warfare imagery is an appropriate metaphor. Climate change doubters do not believe the science on the issue is settled. On the opposite side of the battle lines anthropogenic climate change supporters verbalize their support for the “settledness” of the climate issue. After considering an additional blog to review the evidence supporting our skeptical view of anthropogenic climate change, we opt to wind down this series with a different perspective on this lively issue.

When we first began to study science in early grades, perhaps we learned the definition of the “scientific method.” This Oxford English Dictionary definition still holds sway among laypeople if not among professional scientists of our day. The dictionary posits that Scientific Method is “A method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Today this traditional view of the scientific method has been broadened far beyond the initial definition we learned. The mastery of this definition was initially required of science students years ago. It was learned, recited, and demonstrated almost like a verse of biblical scripture.

In the present day scientists argue that the Scientific Method is no longer one uniform method. It is now an “accumulated structure,” utilizing a broadened collective knowledge and expertise. One writer calls science “…our most potent invention because it has given us a method to keep reinventing it.” In the early days of the Scientific Revolution the traditional scientific method dealt more frequently with what we now term “hard sciences” such as physics and chemistry. It was thought such topics lent themselves to more empirical rigor. These sciences required more controlled experiments, more testable predictions, and more objectivity. Climate Science trends away from rigid hard sciences.  

In the last two hundred years we have broadened the scope of science from its  primarily empirical emphasis. The scientific method is stereotyped to apply more appropriately to experimental science. Over many years, however, observational and historical science have become recognized as fully “scientific.” Sometimes observational and historical science are recognized as one and the same. There is overlap among the different types of science—experimental, observational, and historical. Conclusions of observational and historical science rely more heavily on multiple events we infer to have occurred. Generally, laboratory experiments do not demonstrate truths of historical science. We accumulate knowledge in a different way. The conclusions concerning past climate changes on earth or what occurred to affirm the proposed scenario of evolution fall into a different category than lab demonstrations designed to answer questions such as, “What happens if…?”

Traditional Scientific Method is often described as the “hypothetico-deductive method. It has proved useful, but not fully adequate. It was an expression of the traditional “Scientific Method.” An improvement was born with the idea of “multiple competing hypotheses,” in which truths of historical geology, for example, were built from a more complex model. One overwhelming idea is refined by a series of proposals to help explain a more complex model of reality. 

We now focus on the title of our blog. Is Climate Science “Settled Science?” Perhaps climate change enthusiasts, with some degree of awareness of the history of science, easily envision Climate Science as an outgrowth of traditional Scientific Method, in which truths about our natural world are reasonably simple and easily identified. The science of climate change, formerly known as global warming, is envisioned by many laypersons and politicians as securely resting in the confident pronouncements of a select group of scientists who have assumed control of the public microphone. Seldom do we hear agenda-driven climate change activists, politicians, or national and world government leaders instructing us concerning the historical and current complexities of one of the most broad-based subjects ever to grip the attention of humanity.

Are the important issues of Climate Science settled? Are the intricacies of acquiring our belief system settled? Are the nuances of how we develop our world view settled? When the buzzwords of climate change are bandied about, we must be aware that discovery of, “What is climate truth” is an important quest for our civilization. Are we satisfied to rest our case with a list of “settled science” buzzwords on the vital issue of Climate Change? The vital quest for truth should guide us more powerfully than the search for “settled science.”        


Friday, April 4, 2014

Climate Change Consensus

The most recent segment of the 5th IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) assessment report has been released. The IPCC is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. The most recent report is attracting attention for its renewed strong warnings of dire climate change “risks” supposedly agreed to by the “scientific consensus.” This consensus loudly proclaims that warnings of impending planetary tragedy is settled science. Some studies appear to raise questions concerning this claim while other studies flatly contradict it.
Responses to the claim of consensus with respect to the impact of anthropogenic climate change are worth examination on several fronts. One study is cited repeatedly to affirm belief that scientists agree on the risks of climate change. Peter Doran and Kendall Zimmerman have received prominence for reporting on two brief questions posed to 10,257 Earth Scientists in 2009 representing a broad array of science specialties. 3146 responded. Even the climate skeptics of today agreed with their responses: (1) 90% felt, compared to the pre-1800 level, earth’s temperature has increased, and (2) 82% agreed human activity is a significant factor in changing mean global temperature. There is virtually no disagreement with these statements. Of what, then, does the consensus consist?

The most shocking fact concerning the derivation of the frequently quoted “98% of scientists are in consensus on climate change” comes from the following statistic derived from the Doran and Zimmerman report. A select subset of 77 scientists chosen from the 3146 respondents had more than half of their professional papers accepted by peer-reviewed climate science journals. 98% of these (75 of 77) voiced strong support for human influence on climate. This is where the popular 98% figure originated. The Wikipedia link “Surveys of scientists views on climate change” reports similar conclusions on consensus in their reporting of other polls in recent years. Specifically, however, they report more skepticism from climatologists and meteorologists on the “climate change” issue than from the broad range of scientists in other fields.

Senator James Inhofe, ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, has placed these statements in perspective: “The notion of a consensus is carefully manufactured for political and ideological purposes. Its proponents never explain what ‘consensus’ they are referring to. Is it a ‘consensus’ that future computer models will turn out correct? Is it a ‘consensus’ that the Earth has warmed? Proving that parts of the Earth have warmed does not prove that humans are responsible.”

The Wikipedia footnote on the Doran and Zimmerman study contained one citation. Doran and Zimmerman cited their own study: “It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” We sincerely ask, “Exactly what does the footnote drawn from Doran and Zimmerman mean?” This study has been relentlessly cited in connection with the figure of “98% agreement from scientists.” Agree with what? The authenticity of global  warming is not in question. All heat added to the atmosphere since man first inhabited the earth has contributed to “climate change” more or less. Rather, the world wonders about how extensive and how harmful the global warming may be. The answers to this question are incessantly supplied by agenda-driven alarmists. We are “at risk for worldwide disaster,” they intone. We ask readers to study the plentiful data and complex climate change issues and make their own informed analysis.

One Wikipedia graphic from the above-cited link “Surveys of scientists view on climate change” featured a graph colorfully displaying eight prominent bars, each reporting on a separate survey of scientists, depicting a range of 82% to 98% agreement that climate change is “Largely caused by humans.” Another graph displayed eight barely visible bars from 0% to 6% purportedly representing numbers of scientist skeptics who believe man has “Little or no effect.” Use of this graphic to illustrate “consensus” or to imply the climate question is “settled science” betrays the meaning of consensus and falsely misrepresents the power of science.

We decry the irresponsibility of reporters inflaming the most worrisome potential climate change scenarios among the public. The reported figures from the selected poll sample by Doran and Zimmerman do not begin to communicate the truth concerning historic and contemporary trends of our climate system. Man must strive to understand the issues even better. Earth’s climate and its weather system sustains over seven billion souls. God has plentifully supplied our planet with agricultural resources during the last 200 years of Earth’s dynamic population growth. Beyond the provision of food, humanity has developed technologies for discovering and tapping abundant energy riches to sustain modern manufacturing, communications, and transportation. Earth’s resources, exemplified by its divinely authored climate system, are provided for the benefit of the human race, to be understood and managed with wisdom plentifully supplied from the Creator of humanity and everything in existence.