Why Atheism Doesn’t Matter, but Skepticism Does.

| April 9, 2008 | 25 Replies

Summer of 2004. I have considered myself an atheist at least since the summer of 2004. For the sake of feeling smart and consistent, I believe I’ve considered myself an atheist for much longer. But I only have documented evidence of such a stance dating back to the summer of 2004.

Did I have some great logical awakening that roused me to critical thinking and clear-headedness? No. I know I did not. I know I didn’t become a perfect bastion of scientific thinking because, in the summer of 2004, I believed in handwriting analysis.

A knowledge-thirsty little 10th grader, I still believed then that if someone with a PhD wrote a book, that book had to contain gospel truth. I didn’t know the difference between bad science and good science. I didn’t even realize such a rift existed. So handwriting analysis, with all of its certain language and its sheer lack of cited empirical evidence, seemed as valid as medicine or geology.

Only half a year or so later, as I struggled to tell a friend that the dominating middle region in her script belied a permanently childish outlook, did I begin to realize exactly how idiotic this whole graphology thing sounded.

Ouch. It still stings to admit. Should I also admit that I used to take multivitamins? That I preferred bottled water over tap? Evidence supports none of these beliefs.

I hope I’ve made my point clearly: atheism did not protect me from having moronic faith in things not supported by evidence. The empiricism I had used to destroy God did not extend automatically to all other silly things settled in my head. I had to force out all of the cobwebs.

Recently, I’ve taken a more active interest in the so-called Skeptical Community, though my personal skepticism began the day I looked for evidence supporting handwriting analysis. I would recommend podcasts like the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and blogs like Skepchick and Science-Based Medicine to anyone, even hardened atheist curmudgeons. As I’ve exemplified, even the curmudgeoniest of us can hold on to empty faith of the less godly sort.

Skepticism differs from atheism because it makes for a much more continuous process. While an ideal atheist would forever continue to examine their beliefs and inspect their logic, most of us do place our lack of faith on a shelf and forget about it for extended periods of time. It becomes static and neglected. Skepticism, on the other hand, requires that we scrutinize scientific claims with the mettle that we once used to tackle claims of God. Do these claims follow valid logical reasoning? Does the evidence support this claim? Does the research in favor of this claim follow proper procedure? Does the theoretical explanation make sense? And so on. And so on.

The atheists and other assorted heathens on this blog no doubt already undergo this process rather often. But despite our well-reasoned positions on God, I suspect we all have “cobwebs”, like mine regarding multivitamins and graphology. Skepticism and the idea of a “community” of skeptics comes in handy for this particular situation. Momentously unscientific claims usually get caught in our conscious attention, as in the case of ghosts or psychics. We don’t need help or a “community” to see the flaws in those fakes.

But the really dangerous claims sound plausible, or have a botched attempt at scientific explanation. These ones slip under the radar. Until looking into the Skeptical Community, I took many of these things for granted. Take for instance this post on Skepchick about the efficacy of different lotions and other beauty products. Yeah, I used to think expensive creams worked better, too.

For this reason, I make my claim that skepticism “matters” but atheism doesn’t. Atheism addresses a fleeting, supernatural belief, and doesn’t have any application to real life. In life and outlook, an atheist and a deist measure up about equally; in the end, that last step of denying a “God” is intangible and largely irrelevant. Skepticism, however, deals with actual practical questions- should I really drink eight glasses of water a day? Should I try that new cancer “cure”? Should I fail to immunize my child out of fear of Autism?

The answers to these questions can directly change your habits, and even your life. Denying the existence of a “God”, no matter how important it sounds or feels, has far fewer real life results. I would more quickly trust the judgment of a skeptical theist than a true-believer atheist. It’s the skeptical approach, which often leads to atheism, that has value. The atheism itself does not.

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Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I totally agree with this.

    Several years ago, Arthur C Clark wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    I wish to pose a corollary: Any sufficiently popularized scientific theory is indistinguishable from religion.

    I have at my desk, a book that foretold an event of global proportions that the author argued would cost millions of lives and return society to the Stone Age. This would begin with a precipitous event that would literally destroy the world’s infrastructure, cause water shortages, crop failures, loss of electric power, loss of life, widespread panic rioting and looting, and the list went on and on.

    The claims were mimed by the popular media and on the internet, where self proclaimed “experts” who had no real knowledge of the validity of the author’s claims. In fact most of the experts were as unaware of the reality that disputed his claims as he was.

    As the date approached, apprehensions grew. many people sold their homes, and moved to remote cabins in the mountains. The few who truly understood the science said nothing would happen, and they were mocked, ridiculed and accused of being in denial by the masses that bought into the hysteria. A few people made a lot of money offers of siege supplies, small arms training, and services to preventatively address the problem before the deadline. Government issued mandates that required some businesses to buy things they did not need, and forced local government agencies to be formed to address this issue.

    The deadline approached, it came and went, and nothing happened!

    The much hyped and dreaded Y2K bug simply did not manifest in the ways predicted. While as recently as 2005, some believed that we escaped worldwide collapse only because all the computers were fixed before the deadline.

    I have a background in science, electrical engineering and computer programming. By 1998, when the book “The Millennium Bug” was published, I had 20 years of experience as a programmer, having worked with mainframe, mini, microcomputers and some embedded microcontrollers. People would ask if I was worried about Y2K.

    When I told them I wasn’t, they would tell me that an expert on some talk show said we should worry, then imply that I did not know very much on the subject.

    I see a lot of the same patterns emerging in the hysteria over the anthropogenic co2 as the sole cause of global change. The subject need serious unbiased study, but since the media, the corporations and politicians got involved, there are 2 major factions and a minority where the topic is concerned. First there are those that are willing to take it on faith that we could stop all industrial sources of CO2, then we will save the planet and mankind from a horrible fate as predicted by Al Gore et al. The second camp are the industrialists that have faith in the belief that global warming is not happening.

    I am in the middle. I want to see the proof that CO2, which is known by climatologists to be an insignificant greenhouse gas, is the major input controlling climate change. I want to see proof from the other side climate change is not happening.

    An old friend of mine had a saying, “While standing on the railroad track watching for a train to come from the south, you might get run over by a train coming from the north.”

    In America, corporate money interests seem to prevail.

    Does a vaccine cause autism? Maybe or maybe not. Government funded research in German, Japan and France indicate that taking multiple vaccines, particularly “attenuated live virus” vaccines at one time increases the probability of autism and various auto-immune disorders. In America, where medical research is largely funded by pharmaceutical companies, any autism researcher that suggests a vaccine-autism link loses research grants and often his/her job.

    Are cell phones safe for constant use? Functional MRI studies done in Sweden and Norway show abnormalities in brain function of teens who use the cell phone a lot, on the hemisphere of the brain. In America, studies commissions by the wireless association say cell phones are safe, and FDA considers the latter as proof of the safety of cell phones.

    Do multivitamins help? Research from Europe says yes, since most people do not get all nutrients from their regular diet, multivitamins can help. In America, the dietary supplement industry says multivitamins are useless.

    We all know how the big benevolent corporations have our best interests at heart. They would never lie to us just to make more money.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika:

    This is a beautiful essay. I found myself nodding affirmatively all the way through. Thank you for taking the time to make your points so personally and eloquently.

    I am convinced that all skeptics (as well as all non-skeptics) harbor lots of unsubstantiated beliefs. First-rate skeptics periodically question those beliefs and periodical toss some of them overboard. First-rate skeptics repeatedly comb through their belief systems to make sure that they are intellectually integrated. This is hard work and it can be terrifying. That’s why most people are not first-rate skeptics. But skepticism is a continuum and many people do have a healthy sense of skepticism. Many of those people claim to believe in “God.”

    It made me chuckle when you mentioned graphology. I studied graphology intensely when I was about 20. I bought about 10 books on handwriting analysis and I “analyzed my friends’ handwriting too. I got “good” at it. I couldn’t believe how much friends and acquaintances believed in my power to interpret their upper loops and their t-crosses. They wanted to believe me. It became something I did for social attention. I still suspect that there are a few things you can tell about a person based on his or her handwriting—very few–but I would never want a graphologist evaluating me to see whether I was qualified for a job.

    I haven’t officially thrown graphology overboard. Maybe it’s time I gave away those graphology books and made that declaration official. It’s time to make official what has long been de facto true. Why haven’t I officially shat upon graphology until now? Why are those books still on my shelf? I suspect that I am feeling an emotional ambivalence.

    This kind of ambivalence is what goes on with skeptical believers, I assume. They are wrapped up in their beliefs for reasons that have nothing to do with the content of those beliefs. They like the music on Sunday and they swim in the social network offered by their church. They like the endorphins that church-going gives them. How do I know that many “Believers” don’t believe? Because they never spontaneously bring up those beliefs outside of church. They never seriously ponder Mary’s alleged virginity. They rarely (if ever) read the “Greatest Book Ever Written.” Imagine a non-fundamentalist Believer at a party saying, “You know, that reminds me of the time that Jesus walked on the water . . .” It just doesn’t happen. They don’t intellectually engage with their religious beliefs (because those beliefs are absurd), but they aren’t quite able to jettison the claim that they believe (mainly for social reasons).

    I think that you’ve put your finger on why I have increasingly written about the need to get past ostensible belief systems and to recognize the extensive commonalities among most non-fundamentalist believers and non-believers. Perhaps the foundation for all of those commonalities is an active sense of skepticism.

    Shouldn’t a religious skeptic just throw away those religious beliefs? In a perfect world, sure. But many believers use their set of ostensible religious beliefs like a flag. They don’t really believe the miracles (you can see the doubt in their faces when you discuss it with them outside of churches), but they wave it around on Sundays because it opens social doors. Their skepticism keeps those religious beliefs at bay most of the time; this is common among thoughtful believers. We all know many Believers who are more skeptical about most things than most atheists or agnostics (except for the things they say on Sundays).

    In refusing to toss ideas that give them emotional comfort, Believers are a lot like non-believers. I’ve repeatedly recognized that many non-believers believe many things they can’t prove. Consider the belief in a free will or the belief that the U.S. is the world’s greatest democracy. Or consider the commonly held belief that everything happens for a reason. Or that everyone who works hard will, in the end, succeed. Or that humans are capable of acting out of pure altruism.

    There one word that best responds to all of these beliefs: bullshit. For most people, the evidence for such claims is as rare as their enthusiasm for vigorously examining these claims. Many non-believers (and Believers too, of course) cling to these sorts of beliefs. It’s difficult for people to unflinchingly dissect their own comforting beliefs. It’s difficult for all of us. Only some comforting beliefs involve supernatural beings. And only some beliefs in supernatural beings are believed literally. The bottom line: many non-Believers are far more similar to Believers than either of them is willing to admit. They need to stop getting caught up on their language differences and focus on how they deal with real world problems, such as how to live sustainably (a problem where many believers and non-believers can both express and healthy skepticism and work together).

    You mention that most atheists put their lack of faith on a shelf and move one. The same thing is true for non-fundamentalist Believers. So let’s all throw away those troublesome religion-labels and create new bonds under the flag of skepticism. Maybe you’ve identified a good way to move forward.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    As regards Erika's comment about expensive beauty products, I've long suspected that the benefits from such products depend far more on differences between how a person uses expensive versus cheap beauty products than on the contents of the bottle. One example of this is almost certainly the many anti-acne products that are hawked by famous celebrities. Shell out $80 for a bottle of face soap, because you want to be as blemish-free as your favorite movie star, and you're probably going to use the stuff religiously…which is exactly how you should use any face soap if you want to minimize acne. Problem solved…not because of the soap's ingredients, but because you're using it.

    Likewise, costly hair color almost certainly does more for a person's insides than outsides. Buy pricy hair color "because you're worth it" means you probably get a boost of confidence and self-esteem after you've bought and used the product — again, not because of the product's ingredients, but because you've mustered the confidence and self-esteem to shell out more money for a premium-priced product…and, let's face it, confidence and self-esteem are attractive qualities. Thus, you believe the product has made you more beautiful, when it is more accurate to say that you've made yourself more beautiful.

    That's the power of wearing your "lucky shirt" on a first date, or donning your "lucky tie" for a job interview, or praying to your "personal savior" before taking an important test: when you believe you will succeed, your odds are much better that you will. It's just another example of the placebo effect.

  4. Erika Price says:

    Niklaus: Your Y2K anecdote also reminds me of the frequent misinterpretations of global climate change. I often hear people attribute a natural disaster, or even a particularly hot day to global warming. I'm no climatologist, but every scientist I've encountered in academia has said that such effects have little or nothing to do with global warming. But people have a hard time conceptualizing long, drawn out, yet still devastating effects. I think this, plus an all-or-none logic regarding climate change leads them to catastrophize.

    Also, I should point out that the "answers" to the practical questions I posed don't really matter either. After all, skepticism relies on its scientific foundation, which means the findings up to this point could always change. Skepticism (and science itself) ideally should have nothing to do with finding a final answer, but with constantly evaluating and probing, establishing greater truth forever.

    But that's so frustrating! People want a yes-or-no answer to live by . Are eggs good for you or not? How is the weather going to be this weekend? No one wants to hear "Well, it depends…"

  5. Ben says:

    Nicklaus, please read:

    "A new study may be the latest nail in the coffin of a theory that draws a link between the mercury-containing vaccine additive thimerosal and autism."

    The research is the latest to contradict concerns over childhood vaccinations as a possible cause of autism — concerns that have gained publicity in the past decade as the number of children diagnosed with the disorder climbs steadily in the United States.

    Because vaccinations are mandatory for all children at a certain age, some parents and doctors believe that the mercury once found in many childhood vaccines may contribute to the development of autism. **However, so far a number of large scientific studies have shown no association between thimerosal and autism.**

    And the most recent research to nullify this association, published Monday in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, reveals that the prevalence of autism for children ages 3 to 12 continued to increase in California even after 2001 — when all but trace levels of mercury had been removed from most childhood vaccines.

    "If thimerosal exposure is a primary cause of autism, then the prevalence of autism would be predicted to decrease, as young children's exposure to thimerosal has sharply decreased to its lowest levels in decades," noted lead study investigator Robert Schechter in the commentary section of the research.

    The findings bolster the position that has been steadfastly held by the Institute of Medicine, and many doctors worldwide, that no link can be established between thimerosal and autism.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/OnCall/Story?id=4099

    "Conspiracy theorists will continue to engage this theory on the link between autism and vaccinations, but hopefully, they will take into account that this idea has been refuted on an international scale, not just by the CDC," said Mark Slifka, associate professor in the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University.

  6. Ben says:

    Nicklaus, to answer your questions about Man-Made Climate Change:

    The "greenhouse effect" refers to the natural phenomenon that keeps the Earth in a temperature range that allows life to flourish. The sun's enormous energy warms the Earth's surface and its atmosphere. As this energy radiates back toward space as heat, a portion is absorbed by a delicate balance of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere—among them carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane—which creates an insulating layer.

    Earth's surface has undergone unprecedented warming over the last century, particularly over the last two decades. Astonishingly, every single year since 1992 is in the current list of the 20 warmest years on record. The natural patterns of climate have been altered. Like detectives, science sleuths seek the answer to "Whodunnit?" — are humans part of the cause? To answer this question, patterns observed by meteorologists and oceanographers are compared with patterns developed using sophisticated models of Earth's atmosphere and ocean. By matching the observed and modeled patterns, scientists can now positively identify the "human fingerprints" associated with the changes. The fingerprints that humans have left on Earth's climate are turning up in a diverse range of records and can be seen in the ocean, in the atmosphere, and at the surface.

    By comparing Earth's temperature over that last century with models comparing climate drivers, a study showed that, from 1950 to the present, most of the warming was caused by heat-trapping emissions from human activities.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/Fing

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    On global warming: The deniers often state correctly that both water and methane are more potent greenhouse gases than CO<sub>2</sub>. In the short term.

    Only so much water can be suspended in the upper atmosphere, and that is how much is suspended. Add more, get more rain, not more greenhouse effect. In fact, if the cloud layer in the lower atmosphere gets thicker, it reflects more (increased albedo), cooling the surface.

    Methane has an affinity for oxygen. It has a very limited life in our 21% oxygen atmosphere. Simply, it burns. Any tiny spark, comic ray, micrometeorite causes CH<sub>4</sub> + 2 0<sub>2</sub> => 2 H<sub>2</sub>O + CO<sub>2</sub>. We're back to carbon dioxide and part of a raindrop.

    One proof that humans are changing the carbon balance is found in carbon dating. Natural atmospheric carbon has a fairly constant amount of radioactive C-14. This is produced by slamming nitrogen (78% of our atmosphere) with cosmic rays or beta particles, flipping a proton to a neutron. Carbon dating shows things getting older as one plots from the mid 19th century to the present. Why? Because we are dumping fossil carbon (long decayed to pure carbon-12) into the air! A living sapling or puppy downwind from a coal, oil, or methane burning power plant can read as old as 50,000 years (the upper limit of the method with that isotope).

  8. That's new to me that multivitamins are useless, but the link goes to a website that discusses the effect of multivitamins on cancer. Does that mean multivitamins are useless for curing/preventing cancer or do they have no worth in general? And yes, I do take vitamin supplement. :D I also have books about graphology, but I'm not sure what to think of it. Spontaneously, I would say that you can make some educated guesses about a person's personality by looking at their handwriting, like, do they tend to be accurate? Or are they sloppy? Are they stable or unstable? Nervous or calm? Are they creative and expressive? My own handwriting is very inconsistent and I think it reflects my personality quite well.

    I saw Catherine Zeta-Jones handwriting in a magazine once and thought it looked so elegant. My mom said it was probably because she went to a Catholic school where nuns taught placing more importance on nice handwriting. In Vietnamese schools nice handwriting is equally important. The girls who went to Vietnamese schools in general better calligraphic skills, while the girls who went to French schools like my mom had less pleasing handwritings, often theirs was more expressive though.

    And I still think the water in the US (or the places I have been as far as now) has a strong taste of chlorine and it's not something I want to drink, despite Erich's strong advocacy. :D (After reading the article I might change my opinion though. E. coli in water? – Eeeeewwwww.) Really, in my experience usually the only tap water I think is ok for drinking is the tap water in Germany and that's what I usually do, because I'm not so fond of carbonated water.

    And yes, skepticism is good.

  9. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Ben.

    First point, I did not make any claim that thymerisol in vaccines cause any problems. The studies done in Tokyo, and the research from the Louis Pasteur Institute and at the Max Planck Institute did not even consider Thymerisol. The mercury theory is most likely a smokescreen tactic to discredit any research that might indicate a link between vacines and autism.

    The Max Planck Institute research even indicated a possible pathology that needs further study. Using immunogold selective staining with a measles virus, to target a specific subtype of seratonin receptor, they determined that the receptor subtype was found in the Purkinje neurons of the amygdala, which autism research indicates is the part of the brain involved with autism.

    Since the German research was only trying to map the serotonin receptors, and not specifically targeting a possible cause of autism, the phramaceutical industry discounts the research as not revalent when they claim no research exists to suggest a link between vaccines and autism.

    The research done in Tokyo came to the conclusion that vaccines should be administered individually with two week to three months allowed between each injection, depending on the vaccine given.

    A statistical analysis of medical recored don in Germany indicated a higher incidence of chronic illness among those that were administered multiple vaccines as compared to those that had individual vaccines at different times. The German recommendation was for the doctors to carefully consider any recent illnesses as a contraindication for multivalent vaccines.

    point number two

    Part of the idea of being a skeptic is to challenge to popular opinion and seen if it the nebulous "they" as described by Jerry Seinfeld actually know the science or if they are just parroting someone else claims.

    Some fact about the Greenhouse effect.

    It is not an insulating layer. and the greenhouse analogy is very flawed. It is the effect by which various atmospheric constituents have the ability to moderate heat loss by radiation by storing and releasing heat. Somewhere between 90 and 98 percent of the greenhous effect is caused by water vapor in the form of humidity, that releases energy accumulated during the day by changin it phase to liquid as the evening cools. the change to dew or even fog release a lot of energy back into the ground and and offsets the heat radiated back into space. CO2 stores and releases much less heat because it doesn't condense anywhere on the planet. Organic atmospheric gases make up less that 5 hundreths of a percent of greenhouse gases and CO2 is something like 1 percent of the organic greenhouse gases.

    Other gross inconsistencies of the anthropogenic theory fo climate change are

    1 According to the ice core data, CO2 levels rice after the climate warms and drop after the climate cools, by an average of 800 years.

    2 The climate models that attempt to prove a cause and effect between CO2 levels and global climate change simply don work and have to be futzed with to get the desired result. This is because there are about 20 other variable that they are modeling as constants.

    3 The estimated anount of CO2 the Global warming supporter claim in going into the air is not being reflected in the actual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is known as the "Missing carbon sink" problem.

    I do not deny that the climate is changing. What I do see is that the political winds are blowing in the direction of using hydrogen as a fuel alternative, which is a bad idea. read this

    http://www.tinaja.com/h2gas01.asp to find out why.

    We are being persuaded by politicians to trust them.. I don't

  10. Dan Klarmann says:

    Govm'nt Hydrogen: Certainly something is amiss there. Methane is a much more efficient fuel for vehicles, safer to transport, and widely available. It is silly that most of the hydrogen produced is done by using energy to strip the carbon out of methane, and more energy to compress the hydrogen, more to transport it in a lossy manner, and then finally it can be used much as the original methane could have been used. And where did that carbon go?

  11. Erika Price says:

    Projekt: Vitamins don't appear to help supplement one's diet unless that person's diet is drastically lacking. Other than preventing long-term disease or making up for a lacking diet, what reason is there to take a vitamin supplement? Since the U.S. has pretty strict rules regarding the nutrition in food, we have a lot of vitamins and minerals already added to what we eat. A food science professor of mine put it this way, "If you eat and you live in the U.S., you are probably getting enough of any vitamin you need." But I'll try to pull up more links to studies on specifically that topic.

  12. Ben says:

    "1. According to the ice core data, CO2 levels rice after the climate warms and drop after the climate cools, by an average of 800 years."

    1. This is an issue that is often misunderstood in the public sphere and media, so it is worth spending some time to explain it and clarify it. At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. These terminations are pronounced warming periods that mark the ends of the ice ages that happen every 100,000 years or so.

    Does this prove that CO2 doesn't cause global warming? The answer is no.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/200

    The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

    2. Climate models DO work.

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/m

    3. New studies have shed more light on the carbon sink issue:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/0706

    Forests in the United States and other northern mid- and upper-latitude regions are playing a smaller role in offsetting global warming than previously thought, according to a study appearing in Science this week. The study, which sheds light on the so-called missing carbon sink, concludes that intact tropical forests are removing an unexpectedly high proportion of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, partially offsetting carbon entering the air through industrial emissions and deforestation.

    and now to vaccines…

    "It's time to talk about the anti-vaccine (or anti-vax) denialists. Considering the Autism Omnibus trial is underway to decide whether or not parents of autistic children can benefit from the vaccine-compensation program, a fund designed to compensate those who have had reactions to vaccines and shield vaccine makers from the civil suits which drove them out of the country in the early 1980s. I think it's topical and necessary to set the record straight about vaccines, their risks, and many benefits. To do this though, we'll have to talk about the history of and resistance to vaccination, the history of autism and the current alleged epidemic of autism, and the denialist arguments used by the anti-vaxxers to suggest that vaccines are linked to the disorder…"

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/06/who_are

    "The evidence is mounting that autism is primarily a genetic disorder."

  13. Marlon says:

    Excellent essay, Erika. It sent me searching through my file of favorite quotes for this:

    In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question

    mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

    Bertrand Russell

  14. Oh, I remember, you even add vitamins to things like flour and milk. The only thing I can spontaneously name where they have added vitamins here are cereals (the sugary Kellog's stuff, not the whole grain cereals). I hadn't been very pleased to see so many vitamins added to the food, because I used to be quite skeptical about vitamins supplement, but also in general I don't think this is stuff that you want to be force-fed with.

  15. lifeformz says:

    Can I be a Christian and a scientist at the same time? Yeah I did only skim through the essay. I really don't want to start a huge debate here either. I also know that I shouldn't reply to a reply. However, I feel the urge to. I'm going to spit some of my "absurd beliefs" onto the table in the form of one quick statement and end with a question. I am a Christian. I am a biochemist. Yes parting the Red Sea is absurd. Yes Jesus walking on water sounds absurd. Yes the idea of a guy in the sky that is in control over the entire universe is absurd. But isn't the fact that we even exist absurd?

  16. Ben says:

    1. "What does the lag of CO2 behind temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming?"

    This is an issue that is often misunderstood in the public sphere and media, so it is worth spending some time to explain it and clarify it. At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. These terminations are pronounced warming periods that mark the ends of the ice ages that happen every 100,000 years or so.

  17. Ben says:

    2. Climate myths: Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/mhttp://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth

    3. Scientists Close In On Missing Carbon Sink

    ScienceDaily (Jun. 22, 2007) — Forests in the United States and other northern mid- and upper-latitude regions are playing a smaller role in offsetting global warming than previously thought, according to a study appearing in Science this week. The study, which sheds light on the so-called missing carbon sink, concludes that intact tropical forests are removing an unexpectedly high proportion of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, partially offsetting carbon entering the air through industrial emissions and deforestation.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/0706….

  18. Ben says:

    "The evidence is mounting that autism is primarily a genetic disorder."

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/06/who_are

    "The benefits of vaccination are clear. But there is a pervasive distrust among some people of medicine, of pharmaceutical companies, and when something needs to be blamed for a child's illness, vaccines seem to be an easy target."

  19. Ben says:

    1. Does this prove that CO2 doesn't cause global warming? The answer is no.

    The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/200

  20. Ben says:

    2. Myth: "Climate models don't work. They don't even 'predict' the past."

    Hansen's model is shown below as the black line. The blue line with stars is the actual temperature data we have. As you can see the model reflects the observed temperature data very well. This is very strong proof that the models do in fact work. What is especially striking is the fact that the models "are not statistical, but are physical in nature." Statistical models use training data to find correlations. For example a batting average in baseball is based off of ones batting history. This can be used as a statistical model to predict the future. A physical model of a player at bat would likely use equations based on the velocity of the baseball, force of the swing, etc and ignore the players batting history. The climate models used by the IPCC and NASA are not statistical models. NASA's climate models make their predictions based off of the laws of physics. Since the models are based off of physics comparing them to the past is almost as good as testing them with predictions of the future. Another advantage of physical models over statistical models is best described by physicist Ulf Bossel: "the laws of physics are eternal and cannot be changed with additional research, venture capital or majority votes."

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/m

  21. Ben says:

    2. Myth: "Climate models don't work. They don't even 'predict' the past."

    Hansen's model is shown below as the black line. The blue line with stars is the actual temperature data we have. As you can see the model reflects the observed temperature data very well. This is very strong proof that the models do in fact work. What is especially striking is the fact that the models "are not statistical, but are physical in nature." Statistical models use training data to find correlations. For example a batting average in baseball is based off of ones batting history. This can be used as a statistical model to predict the future. A physical model of a player at bat would likely use equations based on the velocity of the baseball, force of the swing, etc and ignore the players batting history. The climate models used by the IPCC and NASA are not statistical models. NASA's climate models make their predictions based off of the laws of physics. Since the models are based off of physics comparing them to the past is almost as good as testing them with predictions of the future. Another advantage of physical models over statistical models is best described by physicist Ulf Bossel: "the laws of physics are eternal and cannot be changed with additional research, venture capital or majority votes."

    http://www.logicalscience.com

  22. Ben says:

    3. Scientists Close In On Missing Carbon Sink

    ScienceDaily (Jun. 22, 2007) — Forests in the United States and other northern mid- and upper-latitude regions are playing a smaller role in offsetting global warming than previously thought, according to a study appearing in Science this week. The study, which sheds light on the so-called missing carbon sink, concludes that intact tropical forests are removing an unexpectedly high proportion of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, partially offsetting carbon entering the air through industrial emissions and deforestation.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/0706

  23. Dan Klarmann says:

    Forests are only short-term carbon sinks. A tree might contain carbon for a century or so, in some rare species for up to a couple of thousand years. Then the tree dies, and the carbon returns to the biosphere, troposphere, and on up to the stratosphere. This is because the tree rots (is eaten) or burns and its carbon fuels bacteria, fungi and animals who exhale it. Planting trees can help in the short term, only if they are never harvested.

    True carbon sinks are corals, shellfish, and diatoms that grow shells (carbonate) and then die and sink to the bottom of the sea (limestone). The carbon is not released again until that piece of sea floor is subducted, heated beyond 800 degrees, and the carbon eventually vented from volcanoes.

    100 grams of limestone (30 cc's, 1.1 fluid ounces) keeps 44 grams (22.4 liters, 755 fl.oz, 5.9 gallons) of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

    Venus has no limestone because it is too hot. Once Venus cools below 700 degrees or so, then limestone can form, and the thick CO<sub>2</sub> atmosphere will start to rapidly thin by chemical, and eventually biological means.

  24. Erika Price says:

    Lifeformz: As I see it, of course you can be a Christian and a scientist at the same time. Science can't really make any claims as to the beliefs you listed- you can almost think of them as ascientific rather than unscientific claims. Science deals with observable phenomena, and since a God can't be proven or disproven, where a particular person falls on that issue doesn't really matter. As long as a person realizes this, and doesn't try to infuse science with God, or God with science, I don't think there is any problem.

  25. Ben says:

    Another scientist tells her story. Here's the link.

    "All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God."

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