## Thursday, October 21, 2004

### "Consensus" on global warming

The number of comments has decreased, and let me therefore write a politically sensitive article.

Yesterday we received a mail about a special seminar organized by The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Many great scientists, including the Nobel prize winners (and also some string theorists), are active members. This organization is a very clear example of a strong anti-Bush sentiment in the significant part of the current scientific community.

The main document produced by UCS was called

"Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science"

I was not too impressed by this document. Well, maybe it's because I did not read it carefully enough. But the findings described in this text - those that I have read - either seemed relatively unimportant - like the complaints that a title of an article was changed from "summer hotter" in the draft to the final "hotter summer", or something along these lines - or they seemed biased.

My feeling was that a group of people who dislike Bush has simply put together criticisms or anecdotes invented or experienced by all of them, and they converted this conglomerate of random stuff into an important document. But I admit that I was not able to read every sentence of the full report carefully because it looked like a waste of time.

I think that a recent article in the New York Times was much more balanced. The main hero of that article is John Marburger, a Democrat, a physicist, and the president's science advisor. I found his comments reasonable. He explains that many scientists simply feel bitter because they think that their voices should be much more important for policymaking than they are.

He also realizes that science can teach you about some causal relations between different events and phenomena, and it can impose limits on what's possible, but it cannot really tell us what we should do. It's a matter of moral and political values how we decide to behave, given the laws of Nature as we know them - and democratic countries are those in which these decisions are finally made by the people, not by self-declared know-it-all wise men. These political decisions therefore should reflect the results of the elections, and this is a fact that many scientists are unable to accept.

Now it's hard to believe that in the modern world and the world of internet, it is possible to hide an important piece of information completely. I don't believe in all these amazing conspiratory theories that the whole government is controlling all of us and prevents everyone from seeing the truth. In fact, the amount of sensational insights flowing to my mailboxes is larger than what should be appropriate.

I agree with the authors of the text that scientific integrity is important for scientists not only when they actually do research, but also when they're hired as policymakers' advisers. However, I see very different threats than they do. The "twisting" that the Bush administration is accused from simply does not seem serious enough to write another paragraph about it. Consequently, let's focus on the real threat as I see it. Although UCS tries to address virtually all questions in the world (including commercials for condoms), one of the most important goals of UCS are associated with the so-called global warming theory, and let's switch to this topic.

Climate science

A certain powerful, politically organized - and financially and politically motivated - group of scientists (not only UCS) would like to call for "scientific consensus" about the global warming issues. They want all other scientists to confirm that all following points are true:
• their research has rigorously proved that the global temperature grows much more rapidly than in previous thousand(s) of years
• it has been proved that most of this increase is due to human activity
• the research has established that most of the increase is caused by the human-produced carbon dioxide
• science can show that this increase is the cause for the hurricanes and all possible "undesirable" climatic phenomena
• it is known that the future increases of temperature will be drastical and disastrous unless we dramatically change the way how the world economy works
• it has been established that the increase of temperature is even worse than the decrease of temperature, and the animals and plants are unable to accomodate
Well, such calls for "consensus" are absurd, to say the least. There is no consensus. The influential Russian Academy of Sciences called the theories underlying the Kyoto protocol "a scientifically unfounded nonsense". They said that the decision to sign the protocol was "purely political" and "it had no scientific justification". At least one half of my colleague physicists - which of course mostly includes liberals - agree with me that compared to physics, climate science is very shaky and uncertain. And it is just not possible for a scientist to approve something that she or he has not verified. Let me say a couple of trivial observations about the scientific statements:
• the very notion of "global temperature" is problematic. Temperature depends on position, and the best observable we may define is the average temperature. Obviously, we don't want to include the whole mass of the planet into this average because the interior of the Earth has almost nothing to do with the climate. We want some sort of "average temperature of the atmosphere". However, the measurements are usually surface measurements, mostly from populated and industrial areas, and therefore these results are more or less guaranteed to be dominated by the "surface hotspots", and the conclusions about the higher layers of the atmosphere - which are really the relevant ones - and not too justified
• the very idea of global warming is relatively new; in the 1970s, "global cooling" used to be a much more popular catastrophic scenario; other factors (aerosoles) are known to support cooling of the atmosphere
• there are simply too many factors that must be taken into account, and focusing on carbon dioxide only is not enough to get reliable total results
• the historical temperature record of the Earth is a very controversial topic. It is not really known whether the Middle Ages were warmer than the present and I will discuss some stories later
• it is unknown whether the recent increase of temperature is a statistical fluke, or a consequence of human activity
• the mathematical models used to derive the conclusions about the climate have too much arbitrariness (and free parameters) in them, and the models from a similar class can virtually lead to any conclusion we want. The validity of these models is a conjecture without any real justification. We know very well that people are not really able to predict weather for the next week, and multi-century predictions seem like a piece of fantasy
• the link between global warming and a particular hurricane is a speculation. Hurricanes are phenomena affected by a large number of factors, and therefore the link - even if it exists - is statistical at best. It is often the case that the global warming is blamed for increases as well as decreases of temperature; for too big fluctuations as well as too small fluctuations, and so forth. I don't think that this is science
• it is far from clear whether the increase of the temperature, even if we assume that it is true, is bad news. Obviously, some species etc. will benefit from it, and the first obvious intuitive answer is that a higher temperature is better for life
• Nature is able to self-regulate and accomodate to new conditions. The Universe has been doing it since the Big Bang, and life has been doing the same thing for billions of years. It just does not sound good if someone says that such an increase would be a disaster for life, even though the increase per year is smaller than the annual fluctuations by one or several orders of magnitude
• let me not continue with these simple statements; anyone who is able to distinguish reality from "The Day After Tomorrow" (by the way, a horrible piece of propaganda, scientific dishonesty, and stupidity that UCS have no problems with) knows that these environmental emotions have usually little to do with the real laws that govern the climate
I want to say something about the approach of various scientists to the question of the historical temperature record.

Let me start with a not-quite-scientific prejudice. Yes, I believe that e.g. the 13th century was warmer than the 20th century. Finnland is really called this way because it used to be a "wine land", much like Greenland used to be a "green land". There used to be a lot of wine in Prague, too. There are scientific papers that support the idea that this "Medieval Warm Period" was global in character.

The paradigm that the 20th century is unusually hot is mainly supported by a paper by Mann et al. from 1998. The main result of this paper is the "hockey stick" - a temperature graph that shows a nearly constant temperature for 600 years and a sharp growth in the 20th century. A year ago or so, I spent tens of hours with reading this paper, and papers that disagreed with it - namely papers by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas from Harvard, and by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (MM) from Canada.

There have been just too many good contributions in these papers. Although it turned out that there were also some errors in MM, for example, it is clear that MM corrected many problems of Mann et al. - and some of these problems could almost be called "scientific fraud". Don't get me wrong: I would have problems to believe some other papers written by one of the Mc's - for example the paper that proposed that the best formula to calculate the temperature is on the GDP growth and the membership in the Soviet Union, among other factors - but otherwise I was really impressed by their knowledge of math, advanced statistics, and especially by their obviously unbiased attitude to the problem.

I could say similar things about Soon and Baliunas. But of course, I would need to study all of their papers for my statement to be fully justified.

Finally, my impression is that there are some problems with the MM paper, too, and fixing them would lead to a graph not too different from the graph in Mann et al. But MM used the same methodology as Mann et al. and the application of this methodology in this context just seemed rather crazy to me. It is based on the "principal component analysis" which is a method to extract "pattern" from a noise. Imagine a picture covered by dust that makes the picture almost invisible. The principal component analysis can help you.

The application of this sophisticated method to the calculation of the past temperatures seems to assume that there is some nice "pattern" that must be highlighted and isolated. I am not getting it. If we calculate the average temperature, we must treat all reliable data as equally serious, otherwise the results are biased. I don't know why the data should be dividable to "pattern" and "noise". Which part of the data is the "pattern" we're looking for? I think that the temperature graph is obviously a rather chaotic curve, and it is really the noise component of the data that we should extract and calculate because the "pattern" is the unreliable piece.

Moreover, at some points I had a feeling that the method guaranteed that the results for the temperature record would be much more constant than the temperatures in reality - sometimes the method even did not seem to distinguish "warm weather" from "the temperature growth", i.e. a function from its first derivative.

I am sure that some of my statements may sound stupid to the people who have spent much more time with similar statistical analyses. But I still think that most other scientists outside climate science have no idea whatsoever what sort of science supports these statements about the "unusual 20th century", and therefore they cannot be able to support these statements by their authority without crippling their scientific integrity.

OK, so my feeling was that Soon, Baliunas, McIntyre, and McKitrick were doing the type of science that I more or less understand. It's science that can sometimes be in error but whose methods are pretty transparent, they are correctly applied, and we don't assume anything about the result.

I wanted to hear the other side, too - simply because these four people might have manipulated with me, or something like that. So I asked Mann, but also a rather well-known "leader" of the global warming "alarmists". Let me call him SHS from Stanford.

SHS has received an e-mail from a person who is obviously interested in the issue and who has read a couple of papers and who knows something about science and math. Moreover, the person seemed to be open-minded, but inclined to the "sceptics". Would you expect anything else than a reply with a lot of hard data and references to hard work, supporting the "alarmist" viewpoint?

The actual reply from SHS has surprised me, shocked me, terrified me. It was a rather long e-mail, but it contained nothing else than personal insults against the four "sceptics" listed above. The only argument he offered against the MM paper was his opinion that it should not have been published, because it was not refereed by [his friends], but he seemed to have no idea what arguments could be written in such a referee's report. Such a reply from SHS was really surprising because at that moment, I would already have been able to present better arguments against MM than SHS did - at least some minor problems.

Mann's answer was not terribly interesting either, but it was the answer from SHS that I was overwhelmed with. SHS and his friends looked like the Church that used to control everything, and whoever disagreed, had to be destroyed. (SHS is a new-born believer, in a sense, who used to promote the theory of global cooling.) It just seems to me that they have the power to reject any article - a theory or a treatment of data - that they don't like, and the final results are therefore ineviably biased.

My confidence in these global warming scientists and their scientific integrity is tiny at this point. The whole field should either be supplemented by fresh, unbiased, new people, or its funding should be reduced.

Incidentally, the name "Union of Concerned Scientists" sounds ridiculous to me, especially if I try to translate it to Czech. Any translation I've tried so far looks like a cliche from various jokes about the people who try to flatter the Communist Party and to satisfy its best definitions of "moral rules" for a communist.

1. My understanding is that predictions of amount of global warming are suspect, as they are highly model-dependent. However, it seems that the temperature change in the last 300 years is about the same as in the previous 100,000 years or something to that effect. And it also seems to be that of the ten hottest years on record, about 9 of them have been in the past decade. But you rightly point out that definition of global temperature is not precise enough.

However, from what I read (non-scholarly journals), the rate of disappearance of species has been alarming in recent times. Species always do dispappear (average lifetime of species is about 100,000 years), but it is the rate at which they disappear that troubles some scientists. Now THAT is something that can be better defined, than temperature.

Regarding the ill-effects of global warming, as you point out it is not obvious whether it is good or bad. But the rate of change, if true, should certainly be alarming. And yes, Mother Nature will adjust, but not necessarily in our favour :)

I think it would be major effect when the population of India and China start consuming at N American rates. This is evident (anectodally, I agree) when visiting any major metropolis in those countries and comparing the weather there from a few decades ago. And of course, finiteness of resources is definitely an issue, and is definitely unsustainable.

So there may be no ironclad proof, but it seems persuasive enough when looked at from more than one angle.

But you are right though: there is no place for pre-conceived notions in science.

2. Interesting comment. Moreover I agree with most of it - but you must be kidding about those 100,000 years that can't compete with the last 300 years. ;-)

Look at the graphs e.g.

http://www.manicore.com/anglais/documentation_a/greenhouse/past.html

You will see that the maximum-minimum difference of the temperature (in the periods of ice ages) is roughly 10 Celsius degrees, and the last 300 years are negligible. Moreover, the last 300 years are still dominated by the end of the Little Ice Age that obviously had no human generated reasons.

Even the alarmists do not claim that the current deviations of temperature can compete with the influence of the ice age periods (100 000 years and 26 000 years, determined by the motion of cellestial bodies and precession of Earth). They're talking about enormous changes if compared to other *centuries*, not other *millions of years* like you. ;-)

3. I stand corrected.

I miswrote. I believe the correct stat is that the amount of CO2 increase (over 50ppm (not temperature rise!)) in the past 300 years is comparable to the rise in CO2 in (at least) ten thousand years before that. A graph I quickly located (don't know how reliable) is at

http://www.brighton73.freeserve.co.uk/gw/paleo/20000yrfig.htm

4. I see, the sentence with CO2 sounds better. ;-)

But oxygen and CO2 - it's life. We have more life now, and it is good, I think. The trees have more stuff to breath, and so on. ;-)

5. Hi Lubos,

It is unfortunate that most of this debate focuses on complicated aspects of the problem, and ignores the simple facts of the problem. I suspect this is actually a clever tactic which is purposefully employed by naysayers such as you who want to cloud the debate.

I don't wish to debate with you whether the data shows that the earth is warmer than it was 100 years ago or 1000 million years ago. The data are shaky, and even if they were not shaky the conclusion one should draw is not clear.

The following irrefutable scientific fact is NOT complicated:
(1) The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been growing dramatically, as you can see for example here.

Now there are many other questions to raise, and you have a list of them in your post. One important question is probably, what is the Earth's temperature as a function of carbon dioxide concentration? In contrast to the above fact, this is a very complicated question, which involves a combination of many poorly understood phenomena in astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and even economics and politics. I've even seen plausible arguments that the temperature might be a decreasing function of carbon dioxide concentration. Most likely it's a chaotic function in some vast parameter space. It's a very hard problem, and nobody really knows. You are absolutely right to not take seriously anyone who claims to understand how all of these variables fit together.

But none of this confusion casts any doubt on fact (1). Now, if we could cook up a collection of toy Earths in our laboratory, it would be very interesting to do some experiments to map out the vast parameter space and try to understand these complex phenomena.(*)

Unfortunately, we only have one Earth. We don't know exactly what the consequences of (1) will be. Maybe temperatures will rise, maybe they will fall, maybe the oceans will turn pink. I don't know. But it is precisely because the outcome is so uncertain, and because the possible consequences are potentially so devastating, that we really need to take this problem
seriously and do something about (1) NOW.

This is why you should be a concerned scientist, though perhaps you do not necessarily need to be a Concerned Scientist. :-)

In conclusion, STOP TALKING ABOUT TEMPERATURE! The word "temperature" appears in your post 24 times, but "carbon dioxide" only appears twice. Since we don't know what's going to happen if we continue pumping the atmosphere with CO2, let's stop doing it!

People talk about one day trying to terraform Mars, or other planets. We're already terraforming the ONLY planet we have! And we are completely clueless about the outcome...

----

I'd like to change direction a little bit, back to what I said in the first paragraph. It alarms me to see that the way the global warming debate plays out in the media has a devastating effect on the public's faith in science.

Even in string theory, there are many questions or issues which are poorly understood and upon which the experts disagree. Of course we, as scientists, understand that this is not a failure of science. But no problem that we have seriously looked at in string theory even begins to resemble, by several orders of magnitude, the complexity of global warming.

The problem is how this is perceived by the public. If a news channel can bring out one scientist who says X and another who says Y and another Z, it really confuses the public and completely demolishes the ideal we all like to live by which is that "science is about finding truth" or something like that. It gives people the idea that there is no solid foundation at all in science, that it's just a bunch of people sitting in their ivory towers babbling at each other, and that people should not listen science or take it seriously.

I think this attack on science is used to great effect by certain anti-science elements in our society.

----

(*) Some people try to create these Earths in computer models, but I don't have much faith in those. What you get out depends of course on what you put in, and frequently we only put in what we know and omit to put in what we don't know, which is precisely what we're trying to find.

6. Oops, broken link in my previous post!
And even if you fix it, its wrong.
It should be
hereSORRY!

7. I have absolutely no problem with the statement about the obvious growth of CO2, and unlike you, I don't have any problem with the growth of CO2 itself either.

I mean, this is the very effect of human civilization that these things are changing. 10,000 years ago, people started to replace forests by other, artificial types of landscapes.

The alarmists, if they lived 10,000 years ago, could have stopped human civilization altogether, claiming that we are not allowed to modify the structure of forests.

I claim that the absence or irrelevance of these alarmists 10,000 years ago was absolutely necessary for our civilization to develop. It may be equally necessary for us today to get rid of the alarmists, otherwise they will threaten the future of our civilization.

You seem to claim that the growth of CO2 is a disaster that should stop, but you have not supported this statement by any rational argument. The best thing I have to see whether it is a disaster or not is to look around, what's actually happening, and I see no indications that the higher level of CO2 is a looming disaster.

On the contrary, I know many things that the higher concentration of CO2 is good for.

Your proposals for political solutions of this problem/non-problem are totally unscientific. Someone else could argue that the increased concentration of radio waves - and the human civilization has increased the radio waves on this planet by a plenty of orders of magnitude (and the UFOs view as as a superbright radio star) - is a time bomb with unpredictable consequences.

It's just bullshit. We know QED well enough to see that the radio waves do not represent a potential disaster. We are not aware of any transparent enough fact that would tell us that we should abolish all radios and TVs and cell phones. In the same way, you have no experimental support for the statement that our civilization should become invisible as far as production of CO2 goes. We know CO2 well enough to see that it does not kill.

CO2 is not a poison, and I think that there has been too much of stupid propaganda that tries to picture CO2 as a poisonous material.

I think that the protests against all changes that the humans are doing with this planet are hostile protests against the humanity.

8. By the way, I also agree with your observation that if a layman sees contradictory remarks about climate science, she becomes confused and suspicious about science.

Unlike you, however, I think that she is absolutely correct if she becomes suspicious about climate science. This science is suspicious, and the contradictory statements *are* indications that it is suspicious.

Yes, I also think that if people are supposed to believe science more - and know that it is not just a zoo of weird conjectures - we should reduce the amount of controversial topics that can confuse the laymen. This means that we should not pretend that these controversial topics are established science - and climate science is among the first controversial topics that should not be presented as parts of (well-established) science. Simply because they are not well-established.

The laymen should understand the simple fact that these questions can be attacked scientifically and in partial, small, well-defined questions, it has already been very successful, but they should also know that these scientific advances have not given us the ability to actually predict what will happen and whether something is good, bad, or neutral.

The shaky nature of these disciplines damages the reputation of *all* science, which is of course bad.

9. Hi Lubos,

I understand that much of the UCS critique involves more than just global warming (or the lack thereof). For example, the websites of the CDC and Dept. of Health were changed early in the Bush term to remove information about condoms. Likewise a link between aborton and breast cancer was added with no justification.

And then of course there's the whole stem cell issue. And the wasting of vast amounts of money on missile defence.

It's not *just* climate change. The Bush administration is pretty anti-science overally. If your science conflicts with his polictical or religous beliefs they will just ignore it, or worse. And my personal fear is the ever present danger of creationism mandated, which a Bush appointed Supreme court may well uphold.

Chris Mooney's blog http://www.chriscmooney.com/blog.asp documents the failings of Bush's science policy pretty throughly, it's worth a read.

10. Dear Matthew,
thanks for signing yourself.

Sure, I know that UCS fights for virtually anything you can think of.

I have no idea how to decide (right now) scientifically whether there is a link between Aborton and future breast cancer. My *belief* is "yes", based on what I've read, while your *belief* seems to be "no". Even if there is no link, this may be a pedagogical threat, and I have no problems with that because abortions are just wrong, and if they can be avoided, they should be avoided.

Do you think that it is fair for me to say that you know about actual science of aborton-cancer link as much or George Bush or even less? Do you understand that I am highly suspicious if someone claims to understand all existing and non-existing causal relations between condoms, Aborton, breast cancer, stem cells, and so forth? I just DON'T believe that you understand all this stuff, and it is an open question whether someone really knows - with the scientifical meaning of "know" - what the right answer are.

What you say reminds me a very general trend, and I think that all of you are just copying all these statements from each other, and no one has any evidence whatsoever. There is no evidence that you are smarter or more scientific than George W. Bush either. It is just a very emotional type of left-wing religion. There are just so many of you who like to say all this stuff that you have already fooled yourself to believe that these statements are scientifical facts. They're not.

I have no serious problem with missile defense either - even Kerry is gonna support it, I think. It's mainly a question of money. Any well-defined goal that does not violate the laws of physics can become true if you invest enough money. I don't know whether it's the best investment, but I know enough physics to claim that the statements of critics that these things are impossible are just incorrect. By the way, the star wars may have been instrumental for winning the cold war, even before they were really designed. ;-)

We would probably agree that creationism is wrong, but I've seen no increase of creationism during Bush's presidency, and in fact, I don't even know what Bush thinks about it himself.

Best
Lubos

It seems plausible that the adult stem cells can only evolve into the same type of tissue, unlike the embryonic ones - but why should it mean that they should not be studied? It's just much more moral to study them, and it may be enough for many purposes.

On the other hand, it's clear to me that you can't really stop the research of embryonic stem cells, and someone should do it even in the legal sphere - because someone else is gonna do it illegally anyway, if necessary.

But I just find it totally obvious that the morally more acceptable paths of research are preferred.

12. I have no idea how to decide (right now) scientifically whether there is a link between Aborton and future breast cancer. My *belief* is "yes", based on what I've read, while your *belief* seems to be "no".
Well, it's not a matter of belief. You can look at the studies, and the studies support the fact that there's no link.
Aborton, breast cancer, stem cells, and so forth? I just DON'T believe that you understand all this stuff, and it is an open question whether someone really knows - with the scientifical meaning of "know" - what the right answer are.
What's there to know? Condoms prevent AIDS and pregnacy, that's an undisputed fact, which Bush and company tried to remove from or play down on CDCs webpages.

Likewise stem cells. There is no valid reason to not support stem cell research (both adult and embryonic). I understand that the president shouldn't cut off funding to this research in order to pander to religous fundementalists.
What you say reminds me a very general trend, and I think that all of you are just copying all these statements from each other, and no one has any evidence whatsoever.
Sorry to sound snarky, but you do know about footnotes, right? The UCS report has them, and they contain references to the evidence.
I've seen no increase of creationism during Bush's presidency
"Intelligent design" in Pennsylvania

http://ydr.com/story/main/45864/

The grand caynon was created in 7 days

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/US/412_grand_canyon_redux_10_15_2004.asp

Now you've seen an increase :)

But that wasn't really my point. The point is about the type of judges that Bush will appoint. They'll be more likely to attack separation of church and state.

13. Well, I think if your strategy is to write ridiculous rants to get more readers and comments, then you will succeed. But you may not get the kind of response that you want - more likely you will just attract the sort of quacks who post on Woit's blog.

14. Dear Matthew,
your approach just seems far too sloppy to be of any value.

You write that the link is not a matter of belief because "the studies show". If you were able to look around, you would know that some studies support the link, some studies don't support the link.

http://www.abortionfacts.com/breast_cancer_connection/breast_cancer_connection.asp

Your description is absolutely biased, selective, and worthless.

I did not quite understand the goal of your comments about condoms. Do you want to say that Bush believes that condoms never stop pregnancy? Or do you just want to criticize him that he does not support advertisements on condoms? Or do you want to say that anything that can stop pregnancy must be promoted by everyone? It's just not his job to make advertisements for condoms.

Your "proofs" of the increase of creationism are entertaining. I hope that you realize that you have not presented any arguments.

"Bush will appoint..." Whom will he appoint, teachers of biology that will teach creationism? Could you specify whom do you precisely mean? Let me tell you that if you talk about some judges, then their opinions about the origin of the species is not one of the most important things that I look for in these judges.

All the best
Lubos

15. "You write that the link is not a matter of belief because "the studies show". If you were able to look around, you would know that some studies support the link, some studies don't support the link.

http://www.abortionfacts.com/breast_cancer_connection/breast_cancer_connection.asp

Your description is absolutely biased, selective, and worthless."

Well, it appears that Quantum mechanics seems to provide as good a proof of God’s existence as there is.

http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/other_papers/the_metaphysics_of_quantum_mechanics.shtml

Moral:) One can find 'studies' proving pretty much anything; a study of the background of the people behind the study tells which ones to take seriously.

"But that wasn't really my point. The point is about the type of judges that Bush will appoint. They'll be more likely to attack separation of church and state."

What is meant here is judges that the a specific 'God-given' book (The Bible) will be used as a guide as to how laws are made and interpreted --- church in the affairs of the state. You may be ok with that, a lot are not.

16. Fine, we will always agree that there is a lot of crappy studies - but in this case, I gave you a link to an apparently neutral (pro-life vs. pro-choice) web site, and it would be nice if we were able to agree that the two of us don't KNOW which of these studies are wrong. Can we do it? ;-)

17. Your description is absolutely biased, selective, and worthless.
*shrug* I read footnotes, collect evidence and make up my mind. If you think that's a worthless way to go about things so be it.

By the way, that abortionfacts website you linked too,

http://www.hh76.com

From thier "mission" page

"Due to the unstable and uncertain times our world offers we are dedicated to serve the Pro-Life movement with solid and unchanging convictions of the heart."

You'll forgive me if I find your evidence "worthless".

Well, had you read the UCS report, you'd understand what I'm talking about. There is a section in there which details it. I'm not going to do your homework for you.

Your "proofs" of the increase of creationism are entertaining. I hope that you realize that you have not presented any arguments.
That was the point of the ":)" on the end. Still, it's a disturbing trend.

Whom will he appoint, teachers of biology that will teach creationism? Could you specify whom do you precisely mean?
Judges who will vote to uphold the teaching of creationism in the classroom. Right now, the relevent case is Edwards v. Aguillard, in which the court struck down a law mandating that biblical creationism be taught *in*science*class*.

That judgement was 7-2, so, for now, it's safe. But, and this is my point, one of the judges that voted to allow the creationism was Scalia. Bush Sr. appointed Thomas, who we can assume (based on his record, and past agreement with Scalia) would vote for creationism. So as it stands right now, it's probably 6-3.

So what sort of judge would Bush Jr. appoint? Guess who he's held up as his model of a supreme court judge? That's right, Scalia. So worst case scenario, Bush gets three appointments, and the creationism case is now 5-4
for the teaching of creationism.

Granted that's speculation, but it's fairly well founded I think, given that Bush has publicly stated he would like more Scalia/Thomas type judges on the bench. And there's always a chance that one of the other judges on the bench would change their mind.

Let me tell you that if you talk about some judges, then their opinions about the origin of the species is not one of the most important things that I look for in these judges.
Then I guess you're rather short sighted when it comes to protecting science education. These creationist nuts don't want to stop at evolution. They also don't like the big bang theory, particularly the part about the universe being 13 Billion years old.

And this has precisly nothing to do with opinions on the origin of species, and everything to do with separation of church and state. Agian, you may not care about this, I do. And I would suggest anybody that does (and who can) should not vote for Bush.

18. I gave you a link to an apparently neutral (pro-life vs. pro-choice) web site
You don't dig very far do you?

Click on the "sponsored by" link in the top left hand corner.

19. I remember pretty well what was UCS's "finding" about condoms.

A female member of UCS complained that she did not like that CDC (Center for Disease Control) revealed the failure rates for condoms, and that it promoted sexual abstinence.

I totally agree with CDC on both points - that the failure rate should be publicized, and sexual abstinence promoted - and the woman would most likely make me vomit. Between two of us, I would bet she was a feminist.

I have no idea what these people find wrong with these things - at any rate, these people are just annoying. And I would be grateful if you stopped to waste my time with these "findings". The UCS report may be good as toilet paper, but you would first have to print it on paper which would be the primary error. ;-)

Let me give you another work supporting the cancer-pills link:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966977734/

It's a book, it has all the necessary citations, and 19 out of 21 studies made since 1980 found a link between the pills and breast cancer.

I am not sure whether it is true, but what I am absolutely sure about is that your "certainty" only reflects the amount of your blindness and inability to look objectively at the situation.

Best
Lubos

20. "I was not too impressed by this document. Well, maybe it's because I did not read it carefully enough."

No doubt, you twit! The government sponsored a study of whether the climate is changing because of human activities, and the answer came back "Yes!". So the administration deletes this from their report.

The EPA finds that 8% of women in the child-bearing age have excessive levels of mercury in their blood, and the Bush administration has this fact suppressed.

Since studies show that the Bush idea that teenage pregnancy can be reduced by teaching abstinence only is false, by counting pregnancies. Since this does not suit the Bush purposes, the measurement was changed to counting attendance in the program, but not the results (pregnancy rates).

A scientist found airborne antibiotic-resistant bacteria downwind of hog farms. He was prevented from presenting his results.

How is this insignificant?

21. "How is this insignificant?"

I don't know, maybe someone else will find it significant. It's the decision of the government whether they trust the studies they paid, and what do they do with them. There is no rule in science that the president and his team must believe the reports.

I find it much worse if a scientist tries to force other scientists to subsribe to his or her results even though they obviously don't understand it, and some of them clearly disagree with it.

What's an "excessive" level of mercury? In the spring, I was scared for a couple of weeks with these rules about lead poisoning. Some of these rules are just outrageous and they make much more harm than good. Someone defines an "excessive" level in some way, and then she blames others that they don't turn it into a top story?

How is this significant?

Abstinence has already been discussed here, and I know virtually nothing about the percentage of bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant, so your last points are completely uninteresting for me. I don't see your point. It just does not make much sense.

22. Incidentally, Bush is the first president who runs a mercury plan, to reduce the emission of mercury from the power plants by 70% etc.

http://www.georgewbush.com/Environment/

All these criticisms are targeted on readers who have no idea about the basic agenda and policies planned by various politicians, but who can easily convince themselves that they actually know everything.

Feynman called these people "pompous fools". Well, let me repeat him. A regular fool is fine, you can try to think how you could help him. But pompous fools, those who pretend that they are smart, is something that I can't stand.

23. Concerning the judges.

I just have not had any arguments with creationists for 4 years or so. I don't know where they are, and they became irrelevant for my life, it seems. Loop quantum gravity and similar stuff looks like a much more relevant nonsense that can influence physics as we know it.

Concerning hh76.com. I had read their mission, of course, and I called them neutral because they oppose any kind of pro-life or pro-choice violence, and they just want to help anyone to avoid abortions etc. I don't see anything non-neutral about it.

If someone (XY) thinks that the people should be *supported* to make abortions and the organizations like hh76.com should be discriminated against, then there is one word that sounds more apt that "neutral" for XY, namely "criminal".

24. "Concerning hh76.com. I had read their mission, of course, and I called them neutral because they oppose any kind of pro-life or pro-choice violence, and they just want to help anyone to avoid abortions etc. I don't see anything non-neutral about it."Is this a joke, dude?

25. I just have not had any arguments with creationists for 4 years or so.
Again, that wasn't my point. My point was supporting Bush is (in part) supporting his putting more judges on the bench willing to ignore separation of church and state. If you are okay with that, well, fine. But I think, as a scientist, it's extremely short sighted.

Concerning hh76.com. I had read their mission, of course, and I called them neutral because they oppose any kind of pro-life or pro-choice violence, and they just want to help anyone to avoid abortions etc. I don't see anything non-neutral about it.
They sell pro-life trinkets, with pictures of Jesus. And they explicitly say

"Shouldn't we all take a strong stand against abortion?' Of course!

So they're pro-life, and not "neutral". I'm no so sure there is a neutral side, but fortunatly there's a right side (pro-choice), so it doesn't matter.

If someone (XY) thinks that the people should be *supported* to make abortions and the organizations like hh76.com should be discriminated against, then there is one word that sounds more apt that "neutral" for XY, namely "criminal".
Well, I certainly support the availibilty of abortons to women who want them. And I don't think that hh76 should be *discriminated* against. But I would strongly challenge their objectivity.

26. Dear Matthew,

I am simply not afraid of the threat of "re-unification" of church and state in *any* Western country, and all arguments based on this threat are therefore rather unimpressive for me.

Let's agree that we disagree about the abortions, too.

Best
Lubos

27. Any thoughts or string related perspectives regarding Grace, as a tool for climate considerations of the future?:)

TestGRACE, twin satellites launched in March 2002, are making detailed measurements of Earth's gravity field which will lead to discoveries about gravity and Earth's natural systems. These discoveries could have far-reaching benefits to society and the world's population.

28. I am simply not afraid of the threat of "re-unification" of church and state in *any* Western country, and all arguments based on this threat are therefore rather unimpressive for me.
So then you're willing to ignore the actual evidence of a conservative judge (Scalia) voting for allowing states to *mandate* that biblical creationism be taught in school? The fact that you're not "afraid" of it doesn't mean it won't happen.

Seems to me the scientific thing to do would be to actually look at the evidence (rather than just brush the issuse off as "unimpressive"). And the evidence is pretty clear that if Bush gets to appoint 3 Supreme court judges in the next term (which is likely) then the Edwards decision could be in deep trouble. Likewise for the upcoming ten commandments case, the pledge of alligence case, etc.

29. You should live with the fact that this is a matter of democracy and ability of the states to decide about themselves.

If there is a state somewhere in Midwest where all authorities as well as regular people believe the creation in 6 days, I sort of feel that they have the right to put it into schools.

Don't get me wrong: I will still think that they are sort of morons, and the protection of all who want to avoid ignorance for their children, for example, will be more important.

But I don't see any benefits from hiding something from someone. If they think that creationism is cool, then hiding it makes it even more cool - they learn it in the Church anyway.

30. You should live with the fact that this is a matter of democracy and ability of the states to decide about themselves.
Well, no, it's not. That's the point of the 1st amendment, this is not an area where the states get to decide for themeselves. This is why a state can't require a religous oath to hold public office. Or why states can't force children to pray in school.

If there is a state somewhere in Midwest where all authorities as well as regular people believe the creation in 6 days, I sort of feel that they have the right to put it into schools.
Okay, so then, at the end of the day, you don't really beleive in seperation of church and state. *shrug* I guess we will agree to disagree then.

31. Matthew, you seem to suggest that the judges will do something that directly contradicts the US constitution or its amendments, right? Sorry, you won't convince me with this wild speculation. It's exactly the Christian oriented judges who are much more inclined to follow the official documents, even those written by the people.

I believe in separation of Church and state ;-), but it's not my dream to force a large community of people to live in a system that they don't like, so that they would blame me for the situation. I would prefer to teach them the logic behind evolution. ;-)

32. Matthew, you seem to suggest that the judges will do something that directly contradicts the US constitution or its amendments, right? Sorry, you won't convince me with this wild speculation.
Lubos, sorry if this sounds rude, but do you actually read what I write? I specifically cited the Edwards case, where Scalia and Renquehist voted for allowing the states to *mandate* that biblical creationism be taught. So it's not "wild speculation" it's actual fact, backed up with evidence. Now, perhaps Scalia has changed his mind, but I rather doubt it.

Again, please do your own research on this before dismissing it as "wild speculation". Scalia *did* vote for this, Renquehist *did* vote for this. And these are exactly the kinds of judges Bush has said he'd like to see more of.

But if you have no problem with schoolkids being forced to hear religous dogma, don't bother. But don't pretend your for the separation of church and state then.

It's exactly the Christian oriented judges who are much more inclined to follow the official documents
To quote Public Enemy: "don't believe the hype". The conservative wing of the court is happy to be just as activist with causes they like (such as tearing down the church--state wall) as the liberal wing is.

I believe in separation of Church and state ;-), but it's not my dream to force a large community of people to live in a system that they don't like
Umm, that's sort of the point of separation of church and state. That the majority cannot impose their religous views on the minority, no matter how much they'd like to. If you're willing to give that up, for example by forcing kids to pray in school, or forcing teachers to claim the earth is 6000 years old, then you don't actually believe in separation of church and state.

33. What you write, Matthew, implies that the first amendment does not say what you wrote previously, and you were trying to fool me. Elementary knowledge of the way how Scalia thinks and what he finds most important is just enough to reach this conclusion.

If you think that separation of Church and state is the same thing as a ban to teach anything anywhere that an atheist dislikes, then you are very wrong. I am not an idiot that can be fooled by your very cheap tricks.

If a scientific/educational committee somewhere decides that creationism is the correct scientific explanation for species that should be taught, then I may agree with you that these people don't know science, but I will certainly disagree with the statement that their decision to introduce this subject proves that the separation of Church and State was violated.

I know all these fundamentalist left-wing tricks that picture any opposition to their communist goals as a violation of human rights, amendments, and everything else. They're doing it all the time, and in most countries. I am upset with them, it is an annoying propaganda for stupid and blinded people.

"That the majority cannot impose their religous views on the minority, no matter
how much they'd like to."

Is not it exactly what you want to achieve with teaching Darwin's theory at all schools, regardless of the local special features?

OK, I obviously don't believe in the type of separation of church and state that you advocate. If you think that yours is the "official" interpretation, you can try to sue me. I am ready to bet thousands of dollars that I am not violating separation of church and state by any of my statements. Your interpretations are just obviously incorrect.

34. Let me ask you a simpler question, Matthew:

Do you really believe - it seems so - that the first amendment defines which theories about the origin of species (and perhaps other questions in science) are correct, and which of them are allowed to be taught at various schools?

If you're able to distinguish that such a thing is not written there - and it would be a disaster if a constitutional document defined "correct theories forever" - could you explain us why you keep on arguing in such a way that the ridiculous statement above seems to be one of your assumptions?

It's very annoying because it really seems that you have no respect to these important legal documents.

The meaning of the 1st amendment is pretty clear, and it is pretty important, and the garbage that you try to throw on it as an "interpretation" seems as an attempt to discredit these important texts.

Separation of Church and State means that your priest(s) (and perhaps Pope and his boss Jesus or someone like that) only care about your soul, while the political and material questions are being decided people that are chosen in a well-defined democratic procedure.

A violation of this principle would mean that elections, votes, executive decision of a responsible politician etc. would be replaced by a decision of the Church hierarchy - which means a priest, Pope, or directly Jesus Christ using some advanced communication technologies. ;-) Be sure that this is how it worked several centuries ago, but it's not usual today. Nothing else can ever be a violation of separation of the Church and State.

And if some people believe in creationism, it does not matter that their belief is religiously flavored. It is their scientific opinion, and if they have instruments to reflect this belief on something else, they have the full right to do it as long as they were properly elected to their posts. It would only be violation if the people who decide about the curriculum, for example, were chosen by a priest. If they're chosen according to the democratic principles, you must respect it - although you may try to remove these people, or perhaps take their diplomas from them. ;-)

35. Wow, I'm not sure what parts to respond too.

Is not it exactly what you want to achieve with teaching Darwin's theory at all schools, regardless of the local special features?
Umm, no. I want to be sure that kids who *are*not* christians are not forced to listen to religous propangda in Science class.

OK, I obviously don't believe in the type of separation of church and state that you advocate. If you think that yours is the "official" interpretation
Well, mine is certainly the position of groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the ACLU. And, for now at least, it's the basic position of the Supreme court.

you can try to sue me.
Dude, calm down. We're having a little chat, nothing serious is gonna get decided here.

Your interpretations are just obviously incorrect.
Again, I'm arguing for the 7-2 majority decision in the Edwards case. I hardly think that's "obviously" incorrect.

Do you really believe - it seems so - that the first amendment defines which theories about the origin of species (and perhaps other questions in science) are correct, and which of them are allowed to be taught at various schools?
You need to read what I right, I'm not trying to be subtle. Again:

I beleive that the 1st amendment protects schoolkids from having to listen to religous propaganda (i.e. the earth was created 6000 years ago). This is the same as that it protects schoolkids from being forced to pray in class, or federal employees from having to swear religous oaths to keep their jobs.

Is that clear? The 1st amendment means you cannot *vote* to allow these things. Just like you cannot vote to overturn the 5th amendment, no matter how many people might think it's a good idea.

It's very annoying because it really seems that you have no respect to these important legal documents.
Quite the contrary. I have immense respect for the 1st amendment.

The meaning of the 1st amendment is pretty clear, and it is pretty important, and the garbage that you try to throw on it as an "interpretation" seems as an attempt to discredit these important texts.
Again, my interpretation is that of 7 Supreme court justices.

Nothing else can ever be a violation of separation of the Church and State.
Well, that's not true. Read something about Jefferson. He was big on, for example, not forcing people to swear religous oaths in order to hold public office. Likewise, separation of church and state means *the*state* cannot force children to listen to religous propaganda.

If they're chosen according to the democratic principles, you must respect it
So they can overide the 1st amendment? What about the right to a Jury trial? Or protection against search and seizure without a warrent?

I'm no constitutional scholar, but I'm pretty sure the whole point of the bill of rights is to *protect* people against such abuses of state power.

36. Thanks, Matthew. I think that you have convinced me that I do want to support Scalia and similar Gentlemen to be there, regardless of their religious/scientific misbeliefs - because there is obviously a bigger chance that they can interpret the law.

What you call "interpretation of the law" sounds as an obvious nonsense to me, and it is too bad if it is shared by someone important.

37. I'm a couple of years late on this I guess, but I thought it might be worth pointing out that this information appears to be incorrect.

"Finnland is really called this way because it used to be a "wine land", much like Greenland used to be a "green land". There used to be a lot of wine in Prague, too."

The 'fin' in Suomi's exonym 'Finland' most likely comes from a germanic word relating to hunter-gatherers. Also, it most is certainly not the case that all of Greenland was green at any time in the Holocene, as has been determined by icecore studies etc.

And as for wine in Prague - last time I checked, Czech was still a relatively large wine producer.

Of course, none of these points are central to your arguments, but making errors that could be easily checked on Wikipedia does undermine any claims to scholarly rigour that you may be wishing to make.