Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Earth's Dynamic Annual Weather

 Contemporary websites report a surfeit of detailed information about Earth’s seasonal weather. For residents in middle latitudes, winter inspires some of their most vivid recollections of memorable weather in personal family history. Family lore produces lurid tales of mighty winter storms from our childhood. The recent North American winter season supplied residents with several highly unusual events which will be recounted for many years to come. The infamous Texas winter storm, unofficially dubbed Uri by the Weather Channel which struck the week of Feb. 13-17, 2021, claimed 57 lives. 

It is likely that memories of deep snows of winter blizzards from our youth have created an indelible impression upon people whose early childhood heights were a fraction of those of their adulthood. It is less likely that long-term droughts produce the same exciting long term memory. One reason may be the unpleasant environmental harm caused by droughts on agricultural crops and food supply. Secondarily, we coped with restrictions on residential water supply, dust, and dried out lawns, to mention a few deleterious effects. Our juxtaposition of blizzards with droughts is a way to enlarge upon our term “dynamic” to develop our description of planetary weather. 

The presence of water on our planet is the single most important factor in producing dynamic weather. We describe dynamic in terms of weather a little later in this post. But for now we cite one of the most fundamental truths concerning our home planet—the unique presence of water as a necessity for life as we know it. Jon Tennant’s blog published in Nature (2013) states, “What we normally consider unique and beautiful about our own planet is its abundance of water, but it may be that in reality our unique trait is not the presence of water, but the ability to have it remain on the surface of the Earth in liquid form for so long. It is this trait that has allowed life on Earth to thrive and diversify…..”

Following is a catalog of generally harsh weather episodes on our home planet. In each event water is present and drives diverse weather conditions directly or indirectly: Blizzard, cold wave, derecho, drought, flood, hail, heat wave, hurricane, ice storm, rainstorm, snow storm, thunderstorm, tornado. 

Evaporation and condensation of water are processes which transport substantial heat energy from place to place on Earth. Often precipitation events follow. These processes, in combination with convection and radiation, drive Earth’s weather. If water were not present on Earth, there would be no weather and no life. Weather events listed above are reminders of the necessity of water distribution on our home planet. Virtually all Earth life depends on water. Moreover, most physiological processes of our bodies rely on the marvelous qualities of water.

When our Creator designed our planet He designed a dynamic system of weather. The components of this system were in place long before the arrival of fully human creatures. This truth is evidenced by the geological record of events occurring on Earth for countless eons. As a “water world” our planet was shaped by energetic, vigorously active, changing systems. Dynamic is an adjective describing these systems.  Media weather forecasters enjoy a much larger audience when they are able to report on dynamic weather events. When we optimistically tune in to forecasters to affirm that our picnics, athletic events, and outdoor gatherings will be blessed with favorable weather, we may agree that dynamic weather is often higher on the human interest scale. This may be because, at some level, we are grateful that precipitation is available to sustain the needs of our gardeners and agriculturalists. Dynamic weather produces a beneficial distribution of necessary water, notwithstanding a few inconvenient or tragic episodes. Overall, the benefits of dynamic weather far outweigh its adversity. Humanity is gifted with wisdom to avoid the most disastrous outcomes.

Readers interested in the role of water and the benefits of dynamic weather systems may refer to our thread of past posts (Feb. 2012) for more information:



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Followers of Science

 Humans have been discussing science—its meaning, its truth, its application to our lives, and how we have benefited from it for thousands of years. This statement justifiably generates some discussion. Some modern residents tend to think we have a sort of ‘lock’ on science. After all, we dwell in the Scientific Age, or, the Age of Science. As we study this phrase, some questions arise. Does this idea trigger profound thoughts about the importance of science in our contemporary society? And does it inform us about the importance of science in centuries and millennia past?

The term science was not commonly in use until about the 15th century. The term ‘scientist” was not used until polymath Willam Whewell (1834) coined it. But the concept of science had been discussed and analyzed in other languages and cultures and utilized for many millennia. Its roots run deep and extend far into the past. 

The Scientific Revolution of four centuries ago was certainly not humanity’s initial venture into what may be regarded as “science.” Francis Bacon (b. 1561) is often regarded as the father of modern science and formal scientific method. Roger Bacon who lived almost 300 years earlier was a polymath and champion of empirical study and experimentation. The great philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) is often recognized for his contributions to modern scientific thought, although he did not propose modern scientific method. His theory of knowledge, whereby all facts are established by observation and reason, are foundational to modern scientific thinking. Aristotle’s articulation of “first principles” is a precursor to sound thinking about intellectual curiosity, knowledge, causes, and predictions. Aristotle thought his brand of science was practical, poetical, or theoretical. If the term scientist had been in common use back then he would have counseled followers to “think like a scientist.” His descriptions of the theoretical come close to our contemporary concept of “scientific.”     

Many ancient philosophers were also scientists in their time. Their science cannot be compared with the achievement of modern scientists, but they laid foundations for establishing modern scientific processes of thought.

*          *          *          *          *         *          *          *          *          *           *  

President Biden in his recent 3-11-21 address to the nation commemorating the official pronouncement that Covid-19 had been declared a worldwide pandemic in 2020, offered his outlook: “On July 4 our nation’s families may be able to enjoy a small group cookout to celebrate. The president said, “Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government…..” Current guidance to keep washing hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks must continue, he counseled.

In our previous post we highlighted the popular current exhortation to “Follow the science” and “Get on board with science.” In all situations these popular encouragements are appropriate and necessary. In countless day to day activities it is incumbent upon us to follow the science. Thereby, we avoid injury. Our most skilled athletic coaches should doubtless be recognized as exceptional teachers of science as it relates to athletic skills. In everyday life scientific principles and laws must not be disregarded lest serious consequences result. In our kitchen, while gardening, driving, or participating in athletics, we are impelled to “follow the science” each day of our lives. We cannot identify any human activity where the principles of science should not be followed. Effects follow causes virtually every moment of our life experience.

There are cases, however,  where simply following the science may result in undesirable outcomes if the motivations of the advisor are inappropriate, misdirected, or incomplete. Following the science is a mantra with many caveats. Do masks retard the spread of the Covid-19 virus? In most cases, probably. Do social distancing, obeying quarantine rules, or submitting to lockdowns diminish the spread? Generally, the answer is yes. But our broad-scope scientific response to the pandemic is not nearly so simple. There have been serious consequences in terms of tragic social isolation and educational deprivation. Alarming statistics affirm this truth. Following the science is not a singular, simplistic solution to the most difficult events facing our modern civilization. The problems of our society, including the current pandemic, could be resolved by application of a broad combination of solutions—scientific, political, social, medical, moral, ethical, and spiritual. This list of solutions is incomplete and far from detailed. We long for a healthy national and international application of divine wisdom in coping with present and future human pandemics holistically. In summary, simple exhortations to “follow the science” often leave us woefully deficient in our search for a comprehensive, meaningful response to a specific problem.

One of our personal favorite scientist/thinkers is Charles Peirce (1839-1914). He is known as the “Father of Pragmatism.” Peirce was a highly creative scientist. He supported a three-pronged method of logical reasoning: deductive, inductive, and abductive (also known as the hypothetical). Deduction, induction, and abduction are gifts of reason and wisdom coming from our Creator. Reason and wisdom are divine gifts of “common grace”—gifts bestowed whether or not the individual is a Christian.    


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Follow the Science

 One prominent catch phrase of the day is “Follow the Science.” The entreaty appears to be a positive exhortation to embrace the most beneficial solutions for modern society’s problems, numerous and varied as they are. Who, then, could object to “following the science” as we strive to overcome the devastating personal health and economic toll on the entire world as a result of the tragic Covid-19 pandemic of late 2019 which persists to the present day? Is “following the science” a magic bullet to solve the complex problems presented by the Covid-19 coronavirus? The popular exhortation is an optimistic commentary on our modern search for answers to complex medical challenges. It possesses a positive ‘ring tone’ for solving specific problems, especially with respect to the national effort to control the effects of the coronavirus.

We live in the scientific age. The root meaning of science is “knowledge.” Our health and welfare are powerfully enriched by advances in science and applied science. The expression “Follow the Science” speaks not only to challenges posed by the pandemic, but also to many elements of modern existence. Scientific claims are often acknowledged to have something extra going for them. Science is perceived to be a knowledge discipline with certainty one of its prominent strengths. But it is possible to have an unwarranted overconfidence in science, notwithstanding the benefits it has provided human society.  

Science is a tool for knowledge discovery instead of a prescription for policy, but scientific decisions are sometimes fraught with subjectivity. When we “follow the science,” we may believe we always follow an explicit recipe for adhering to a proven, unquestionably correct action. Science does not operate this way. Prudent scientific policy solutions to human problems are located along a spectrum.The scientific method is a tested pattern of action—a procedural method of knowledge discovery as we search for better answers to life’s challenges, but the scientific method is an evolving process. Some traditional principles of the scientific method appear to be increasingly outdated. Modeling, simulations, increased reliance on statistics, virtual testing, and virtual evaluation have diluted the confidence of some citizens who were content to “follow the science” in a more traditional manner. In this way many scientific conclusions are increasingly subjective and decreasingly objective. Therefore, some scientific consensus may be open to question.

Apart from the half million US lives lost to Covid-19, another heart-rending phenomenon has been the disruption of our system of education. Many students were locked out of their classrooms, removed from physical contact with their teachers. Was this a scientific decision? To what degree were young school children vectors for the virus? How effective was the virtual classroom and virtual instruction? Did masks prevent significant viral spread among our youngest school clients? Recently cases of Covid-19 and deaths have diminished considerably, but many school districts have yet to return students to normal physical classrooms. Even when students return full time, they will have suffered substantial loss of valuable instructional time. Our nation has suffered in many other ways from the pandemic. National government leadership, politics, leisure activities, sports, interpersonal relationships, and general physical, emotional, and social health have been impacted profoundly.  

Throughout this pandemic we have heard many entreaties to “follow the science.” In many respects we have been exposed to similar counsel for many years. Another well-known catch phrase has been “Get on board with science.” One of our past posts may impart additional insight to the concerns expressed above:

The gift of science has the potential to be misused, distorted, or even abused. Notwithstanding, we continue to promote science as a Creator-enabled gift to enrich man’s existence.