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Skeptic Summary #326

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/11/2011

Critical thinking, scandals, subtleties, challenges, climate change and more!

Week ending April 09, 2011 (Vol 8, #14)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Critical thinking - It’s what we’re all about!

Scandal in the skeptic community - Invoking science doesn’t make it science.

Subtle(astral) bodies compatible with materialism? - The thread that never had a ghost of a chance.

Editor’s Choice: ID challenge - Step right up, folks!

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Climate change: A guide for the perplexed — There are two reasons why I picked this site this week in particular. And they are both because of recent happenings in the world of Republican politics. While I usually don’t go to politics in my review of websites and my reasons for picking them, as is the case with creationism, it sometimes can’t be avoided. It’s just a fact that it’s predominately conservatives and libertarians who are refusing to accept what an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists are telling us.

First there is the tale of Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a reliable climate change skeptic, who was called before a committee of Republicans who wanted his testimony in support of their view that man-caused climate change isn’t happening. That didn’t go so well for the Republicans because Muller’s research has changed his mind and he has concluded that it is indeed happening, much to the embarrassment of the committee members who immediately tried to distance themselves from him and his conclusions. Paul Krugman writes about the affair in a fine April 3rd editorial for The New York Times called The Truth, Still Inconvenient. He covers the meeting and its aftermath, including some of the players and background material. Good stuff!

Krugman opens:
So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What’s the punch line? They were three of the five “expert witnesses” Republicans called for last week’s Congressional hearing on climate science.

Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a physicist who has gotten into the climate skeptic game, has been leading the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort partially financed by none other than the Koch foundation. And climate deniers — who claim that researchers at NASA and other groups analyzing climate trends have massaged and distorted the data — had been hoping that the Berkeley project would conclude that global warming is a myth.

Instead, however, Professor Muller reported that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

The deniers’ response was both predictable and revealing; more on that shortly…
Read on.

Next is the rider that house Republicans attempted to add to the budget bill. It would have barred the EPA from regulating carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases.

Say what?

From the Christian Science Monitor comes an article titled “House votes to strip EPA of power to curb carbon emissions”:
Defying a veto threat by the White House, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to permanently eliminate all authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

Despite Washington’s preoccupation with devising a budget resolution to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner brought to a vote a largely symbolic bill aimed at curbing EPA regulatory authority on climate change.

That might seem strange given that the bill — approved 255 to 172, with votes falling mostly along party lines — is not expected to become law…
That happened on Thursday, April 7th. The rider was axed in the compromise that kept the government from shutting down on Friday night, but it was there, and it will come up again. One can only assume that many people in the GOP do not take climate change seriously, or that they are in outright denial that it’s happening.

This graph speaks for itself.

Which brings me back to my pick, Climate change: A guide for the perplexed, from NewScientist, the online news and information site about, well… science! On its own, NewScientist is a great resource. But I digress.

The page is well laid-out and easy to follow. The menu categories are:
  • What is happening now?
  • Does CO2 cause warming?
  • Why should I worry?
  • Is the sun to blame?
  • What happened in the past?
  • What is going to happen?
  • Can we trust the science?
Under each of these categories are sub-categories that go into some depth on the subject of climate change. I’m not going to link to them because this pick growing too long and you get the idea.

Here’s how they introduce the page:
Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.

Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the most common climate myths and misconceptions.

There is also a guide to assessing the evidence, as well as a blog looking at the history of climate science. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.
It must be obvious that there are many people out there who know little or nothing about climate change, or worse, repeat the lies they have been told by those with a political agenda having much more to do with money than science. Climate change: A guide for the perplexed is a good place to find evidence-based refutations of many of the claims made by those who are selling and those who are buying climate change denial.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
— John F. Kennedy

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: We started out praising google translate, for reading web pages that aren’t in English. It’s lacking in idioms and proverbs though. We agreed that surfing Facebook from work is a bad idea, but on the other hand, we also agreed spicy food is a good idea. Some people calling themselves skeptics have blind spots where no critical thinking is applied, and members shared stories of such people. Reminiscing about the 9/11 Total Truth Takeover attempt. Finally: The scandal in the skeptic community.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
doctor gachet

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
7 Basic Things You Won’t Believe You’re All Doing Wrong

12-Year-Old Genius Jacob Barnett Sets Out to Disprove Einstein

Global Warming Skeptic Changes His Tune — By Doing the Science Himself

Homeopathy Not All It’s Quacked Up to Be

Martin Rees nabs Templeton; I respond in The Guardian

Michele Bachmann Lies About Her Own Family History To Sound More Iowan

Neanderthals: Bad luck and its part in their downfall

New Muscle Programming Method Uses DNA To Turn Blood Into Beating Heart Cells

New Type Of Polymers Seek Out And Destroy MRSA Superbug And Leave Healthy Cells Alone

Press bandwagon on antidepressants makes for depressing reading

Rape is not an “adaptation”

Rights and Wrongs

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #126

Skepticality #152 — Catastrophes!

Surge in Satanism sparks rise in demand for exorcists, says Catholic Church

This Week in Intelligent Design

The Truth, Still Inconvenient

What’s New by Bob Park

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth, by Eric Pooley.

“In The Climate War, Eric Pooley — deputy editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek — does for global warming what Bob Woodward did for presidents and Lawrence Wright did for terrorists. In this epic tale of an American civil war, Pooley takes us behind the scenes and into the hearts and minds of the most important players in the struggle to cap global warming pollution — a fight in which trillions of dollars and the fate of the planet are at stake.

Why has it been so hard for America to come to grips with climate change? Why do so many people believe it isn’t really happening? As President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren has said, ‘We’re driving in a car with bad brakes in a fog and heading for a cliff. We know for sure that cliff is out there. We just don’t know exactly where it is. Prudence would suggest that we should start putting on the brakes.’ But powerful interests are threatened by the carbon cap that would speed the transition to a clean energy economy, and their agents have worked successfully to deny the problem and delay the solutions.

To write this book, Pooley, the former managing editor of Fortune and chief political correspondent for Time, spent three years embedded with an extraordinary cast of characters: from the flamboyant head of one of the nation’s largest coal-burning energy companies to the driven environmental leader who made common cause with him, from leading scientists warning of impending catastrophe to professional skeptics disputing almost every aspect of climate science, from radical activists chaining themselves to bulldozers to powerful lobbyists, media gurus, and advisors in Obama’s West Wing — and, to top it off, unprecedented access to former Vice President Al Gore and his team of climate activists.

Pooley captures the quiet determination and even heroism of climate campaigners who have dedicated their lives to an uphill battle that’s still raging today. He asks whether we have what it takes to preserve our planet’s habitability, and shows how America’s climate war sends shock waves from Bali to Copenhagen. No other reporter enjoys such access to this cast of characters. No other book covers this terrain. From the trenches of a North Carolina power plant to the battlefields of Capitol Hill, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street, The Climate War is the essential read for anyone who wants to understand the players and politics behind the most important issue we face today.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Funny FAILS
  2. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  3. The Supper
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Bills planned to legalize abortion murders??
  6. Ozone
  7. Shadow Matter, Psychic Phenomena and Possible Survival of Human Personality
  8. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  9. Subtle(astral) bodies compatible with materialism?
  10. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Skeptic Summary #325
  5. Cold Reading
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  8. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  9. Miracle Thaw Tray
  10. Scientific Truth
There were 6,514 daily visitors this week.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2011, all rights reserved.

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