Denials and Deceivers

December 22, 2008 | By | 19 Replies More

I ran across this interesting post recently on Deltoid concerning a list of (supposedly) 650 “scientists” who deny Global Warming is real (or at least, that it’s our fault in any way).  Inhofe, of course, is Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, champion of one of the brightest red states in the union.

As it turns out, the “list” is padded by many nonprofessionals and, as pointed out in the post, many names are repeated.  Five of the names show up on the Discovery Institute’s list of Evolution Deniers.

One could probably, if enough digging were done, find lists of supposed scientists who would deny the validity of anything contemporary science has to offer.  Certainly some people pick their favorite bit to trounce, but I do believe that they are only expressing themselves on that issue because it resonates in particular ways with them.  In reality, we’re looking at people who distrust or avidly hate science.

Here’s a peculiarity I find fascinating.  Take the anti-evolutionists, who for the most part base their rejection on religious grounds.  “It didn’t happen that way because—” insert Biblical passage, statement of faith, dogmatic assertion, what have you.  Here’s what I don’t get:  why not look at what has been discovered (like many, many other religious people do) and say “Gee, look at that!  Isn’t it amazing how god did that?  That’s really clever.  I guess god is even smarter than I thought!” and then revel in the derived fuzzy warmth of recognizing an aspect of “creation” that people hadn’t seen before but makes it all so much more amazing.  You would think it would be a bonus.  Instead, we get a reaction that goes something like “Genes and proteins are not mentioned in the Bible, therefore they have nothing to do with how we came to be!  It says nothing in Scripture about dinosaurs or intermediate and transitional forms, therefore they have nothing to do with life as we have been told about by the word of god!  Evolution is a lie because it is not consistent with the Word.”

I made a remark about this in a comment to another post:

My point is [concerning the use of icons and symbols] that some people—possibly very many if not most—can’t make the conceptual leap [from something they can see and touch to a “pure” idea]. It’s not that they refuse to embrace the larger idea, but that it is beyond them. Therefore, if you take away their symbols, they have nothing. This was the error of the iconoclasts in the Reformation, the Clunaics, the Puritans, all of them. The symbols came to be the only way many people *could* come to god, because they simply lacked the imaginative capacity to go beyond it. What did they do in place of pretty pictures and icons? Elevated the Bible to that position. Which brings us to the whole phenomenon of religious fundamentalism that cannot accept the idea that the text is not the thing and that interpretation is not blasphemy.

Science, among other things, is the tool of interpretation.  But not just any interpretation.  It’s focus is on fact, what something tells us about how matter is.

I don’t intend to rehearse here the nature of science and the world.  I am interested in the psychology of those who refuse to accept its conclusions.  Who fervantly wish there to be no truth in what science tells us about the universe, about the Earth, about ourselves.

Basically, they don’t want anything to be different.

Not really,  Oh, it would be nice if crime would go down and they’d like it if more people go to church and why can’t those gay people over there stop touching each other Down There, but by and large the science haters like the idea of the world they have from the Bible.  Why?  Because it makes their lives meaningful.  Or, conversely, because it gives them explanations for why things are unchangeable.

Because if things are actually changeable, then there’s no good reason for them to be as they are, and suddenly that feels uncomfortably close to responsibility.

And the primary thing that would require change first?

Themselves.

This isn’t something that frightens me.  A pain and a bother, perhaps, an annoying necessity when it becomes apparent that who I am and how I think is lacking in certain utility or grace or just plain justice.  But frightened?  No.

(Back in my early post-adolescence, when I began to consciously realize that many of my attitudes about women—mostly derived from old movies, bad novels, and the back alley conversations among frustrated mysoginists—were fundamentally wrong, it made me angry that I’d been duped.  It didn’t frighten me to start seeing women as Persons.  It was hard to do and I went through a long period of clumsy “refitting” but it was, in retrospect, fun.  I have, however, encountered many men my age who never accepted that reassessment.  It was too difficult for them to admit first that they were wrong and second to admit that women couldn’t be repositories for their cliched frustrations and third that women could very well directly challenge whatever importance these men held as their “right.”  It scared them to coinceive of a world where everything they’d been taught before the age of 18 was nonsense.  They didn’t want to change.)

It is reasonable to ask, if you want me to change, what is it you’re asking me to change to.  In other words, if you’re going to tear down my world view, what are you offering in its place?  That’s not only reasonable, it’s fair, and it is part of the core of the debate with the science deniers.  Every time a scientist answers a question with “I don’t know”, while this is an asepct of integrity based on good science, it is one more mark against science in the mind of the denier, because there is nothing being offered in place of the belief that is being challenged.  So when evoilutionary biologists answer the question “How did life begin?” by saying “We have no idea”, while that is irrelevant to many of the specific questions (for which they do have answers) of evolution as we know it, it is like saying to those most threatened that “There is nothing to know, there is only abyss, and it is shapeless, formless, contentless.”  Just at a guess, I’d say this is like saying to them “There is no heaven.”  And while I certainly believe that to be the case, I can understand how that can be a terrible, wrenching idea to some people.

My sympathies.

But things do change.  When the ancient Hebrews came out of the desert and starting warring on people who worshipped other gods, feeling they had a mandate to “throw down false idols” they must have taken a similar position.  Things change and if an idea is wrong, it must go, whether it makes you feel good about it or not.  They were uncompromising in their monotheism and a lot of blood was spilled over the question of what consistuted a “factual” interpretation of the world.  It didn’t matter to them that they were tearing down whole world views and that this was calamitous to the losers.  (You know, I sometimes wonder, given how often the Hebrews ended up enslaved by larger, more powerful nations, if perhaps there was a bit of policing going on.  I mean, say you’re the king of the Babylonians and you get reports of this band of zealots who keep murdering tribes who may be worshipping Baal, or any other god not their own.  You send emissaries to talk it over, but to no avail, these Hebrews intend to overthrow every religious system that disagrees with theirs.  This is not good for trade, it’s lawlessness, and horribly destabilizing.  These guys are like little kids who can’t be trusted out with the family car.  So you seize them and bind them in servitude, just so they stop making so much trouble.  Maybe, while they’re in custody, they’ll learn some tolerance.  Never happens, of course, because you can’t force tolerance down someone’s throat, but you have to wonder…)

I have posited this before.  The evolution deniers are frightened, whether they recognize the source of their fear or not.  Evolution is scary because it means that we, homo sapiens sapiens, have no particular claim to special treatment at the hands of nature.  In the vast landscape of biological history going back a couple billion years, our manifestation isn’t even a noticeable hash mark on the scale.  We have found evidence of extinction after extinction, tremendously successful forms that one day became expendable.  It means that we can be replaced.  We’ve painted our self-portrait for several thousand years as the top of the food chain, the ultimate flower of Creation, but evolution comes along and says, well, no, not really.  We have a big brain, but other than that, we’renot so special.  We’re place holders along the continuum.

If science is right about Global Warming and evolution, then god ain’t gonna make everything all right.

Which brings me back to that big brain.  Turns out that if we actually use it, we have a shot at extending our tenure.  That we have the potential to be an even more successful form, and have a little longevity.  We might even last as long as the dinosaurs, assuming an asteroid doesn’t smack into us.

Which means We have to do the work.

And that’s really a bother.  A pain.  A nuisance.

But there’s no point in denial.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Current Events, Education, Environment, Evolution, global warming, Good and Evil, History, ignorance, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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  1. ThinkingMeat · Why deniers deny | December 22, 2008
  1. Erik Brewer says:

    You wrote “I mean, say you’re the king of the Babylonians and you get reports of this band of zealots who keep murdering tribes who may be worshipping Baal, or any other god not their own. You send emissaries to talk it over, but to no avail, these Hebrews intend to overthrow every religious system that disagrees with theirs. “

    There are so many parts of this that I can argue against but I would like to point this one out first. Have you ever read how those Baal worshipping tribes were treating human life, sacrificing children to their god (much like America today, sacrificing innocent babies who cannot protect themselves in the name of “choice” or better said “liberalism”. What an age of enlightenment we live in with our great morals). They were also raping men, women, and children (again much like America today, promoting homosexuality and not punishing rapist and murders). Since you are so interested in facts why don’t you pay more attention to that Text that you seem to hate so much!!!

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Mark, global warming is a major politicized issue and there is plenty of fraud on both sides, just as in any political issue. Many members of the ICCC are not scientists, and many of the IPCC scientists are not climatologists.

    Many of the proponents of the anthropogenic carbon theory of global warming simply cite and recite the theories and opinions of other proponents, and consider the theory to be the one and only, and accuse any and every one that questions the yet unproven theory.

    So far the proponents have attempted to forecast the change through computer models, and so far the models have failed, requiring continual adjustments to match the real world data. It's kind of like firing a random shot, finding the bullet hole and paint the bullseye on after the fact. That's not the way science is supposed to work.

    When it was pointed out that water vapor is a much more significant and plentiful greenhouse gas that CO2, the AGW people start claiming that CO2 has an amplifying effect on the water vapor.

    All in all, most of the AGW proponents have little to no understanding of climatology or meteorology and are just believing what they want to believe.

    "When you believe in things that you don't understand,

    Then you suffer" -Stevie Wonder

    Regardless of what you believe of want to believe, there is one undeniable outcome of AGE theory. The creation of "Carbon credits " as a commodity to be traded and the inclusion of CO2 credits into the commodities markets. How is CO2 reduced when a major industrial nation simply buys the excess CO2 credits from a non industrial nation? Nothing changes in the environment, but a few people make a lot of money by helping to maintain the status quo. What better reason to deceive that to make a profit.

    Instead of regurgitating the claims of those that agree it is much better to search for the flaws in the others armor. a good place to start is by analyzing the raw data for yourself. much of it is available from NOAA for free in CSV format. You may have to take time to understand what the data means, before looking for trends. There is one major fact in the raw data that disproves CO2 levels as the cause climate change. See if you can find it.

    I don't deny global warming. I find it extremely unlikely that an insignificant part of a very complex system is the sole controlling factor of the climate, and after seeing the raw ic core data I am quite sure that it can't be.

  3. Vicki Baker says:

    Erik, if you read the Bible critically, and study world civilizations, you will realize that many, many tribes, have called themselves "chosen people" and called upon their god or gods for aid in slaughtering other people. In the Bible, you can see the ancient Israelites' progress in developing an idea of universal justice around the time of the prophets. But through most of the OT, Yahweh is a tribal god battling for supremacy with other gods, and authorizing some pretty horrific slaughters of innocent non-combatants along the way. As far as human sacrifice goes, Yahweh authorized at least one, of Jephthah's daughter.

  4. Erik writes:—"Since you are so interested in facts why don’t you pay more attention to that Text that you seem to hate so much!!!"

    I don't hate it. I find it useful as part of a larger tapestry of historical texts, some better than others. I often find it irrelevant.

    Look (oh, I know this is pointless), but the Hebrews did a lot of killing and raping on their own, sometimes at the behest and with the blessing of Yahweh. They wrote down their version of things, with an obvious emphasis on how great they were, and naturally the rest of the peoples around them wrote down their version, likewise with a slant toward how great they were. Somewhere in the mix is something like what actually happened.

    You need to get over this idea that the Hebrews were such wonderful folks. They were just like anyone else at that time, looking for some land, trying to have a bit of an empire, and generally being bastards to anyone who disagreed with them.

    And Erik—for the last time. I have read the damn thing, three or four times. You may think it's the greatest book (actually collection of books) ever written, but I find it largely irrelevant. So much of it was borrowed from earlier cultures, retrofitted, edited, redacted, or just plain made up that it would, in some ways, qualify as an early example of a fiction anthology. (The earliest novel would be Gilgamesh.)

    So let's get it straight—I'm not excusing anybody, the Hebrews or the Babylonians. They were both out for their own and in their own eyes they were the good guys. Now consider—someone comes knocking on your door and tells you that by law you're gonna have to worship some other god than the one you do, what would your reaction be? It doesn't matter which god is at question, what matters is that the person telling you to change your faith does not have the right to do that. Period. Whether you're worshiping Yahweh or Baal.

    Now as for human sacrifice, you don't even have to get into religion to argue against it.

    As for abortion, let's get that straight, too—without a personality, there is no person. A fetus doesn't have a personality. (Some people who are ambulatory don't either, but that's just me being snarky.) I do not believe a fetus is human in the same way that I am. I really do believe that birth is a transitional event and before that happens, it's really none of my business whether a woman keeps or gets rid of it. I REALLY don't think it's any of your business, either.

    Nuff said.

  5. Niklaus.

    Please note, that I did not take a position on AGW. My post is about fraud and the tendency of deniers to perpetuate fraud and the possible reasons for this. For the record, I consider human activity a contributory factor, not the sole factor. A significant one, since elevations in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be traced along a line paralleling the industrial revolution. Just the act of burning things contributes, and humanity presently burns a very great deal to do what it does.

  6. Erik Brewer says:

    Wow your bias really comes out in what you write, where are your sources other than what you come up with out of your own speculations. By the way, the Scriptures, if you would pay attention, do not gloss over the bad side of the Israelites. We see them warts and all. God told them that if they acted like the pagans then they would be punished like the pagans and they were. Amazing how things work the way that God says (even when some do not believe it and ignore the facts or try to explain everything away with their own version of things).

    No one ever said that the Hebrews were wonderful folks. Again, read the Bible a little more carefully (I guess you rushed through those 3 or 4 times when you read It). God calls them a stiff-necked people over and over again because of their lack of disobedience. I guess you are just not interested in the details though (typical). You already have your mind made up about things without looking at the facts. By the way, you seem to be tough on the people of the past, being barbarous and such. Have you considered the way that we murder over 1 million innocent babies every year in this country? I guess that does not bother you!!! As to borrowing, you are right about borrowing just wrong about who borrowed from whom. Check the facts (pay attention to the details for once). Without personality there is no person, get real man, from a medical pov it is proven that a fetus meets the requirements to be a living thing yet people want to follow 19th Cent forms of medicine saying that a fetus is just a blob of tissue. Please step into the 21st Cent. Murder is murder, I know that you will agree with that so to calm your conscience you want to call a baby a fetus/blob of cells. Redefining reality does not change reality. A life is a life (inside or outside of the womb). By the way, are you not glad that your mother did not consider you a blob of cells not worthy of bringing into this world?

  7. Alison says:

    So, Erik, what you're saying is that no amount of research or reading can possibly be enough unless it results in an opinion identical to yours? If Mark had a PhD in theology and had been a minister for 20 years, I'm sure you'd still be able to conclude that his disagreement with you was the result of some insufficient or incorrect study of the bible, because it's an argument used over and over. It actually supports his point, because you have thrown so many unrelated issues into a single package that it would be impossible for any explanation to cover them all. When you can say that global warming is wrong because it doesn't explain the origin of the universe, rape, homosexuality, or abortion, you have protected yourself against the threat of having to change your mind.

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Mark, I did not mean to get into such a rant about AGW , I've been a data analyst for many years and I get really irked when data is ignored because it doesn't jive with the current popular belief. True application of the scientific method would seek to reconcile the differences by amending the theory and devising a means of testing the amended theory in the real world, not in an artificial construct such as a computer model.

    Good science is both self critical and self modifying. A natural phenomenon is observed. A hypothesis is developed and means of quantifying measurement of the phenomenon are devised. Measurements are taken and analyzed to create a theory that supports the hypothesis. The theory is then tested by determining if the behavior of the natural phenomenon can be predicted within measurable parameters by application of the theory.. Deviations from the predicted result indicates a flaw in either (or a combination of) the hypothesis. the method of measurement, or in the testing method, and these must be modified and the cycle repeated until the deviations can be reasonable for.

    When the collective social egotism we call politics get involved in scientific endeavors, it interrupts the cycle by dismissing data that doesn't support the political hypothesis. For example:

    AIDS.

    AIDS was observed as early as 1970, and because the earliest cases were homosexual men and heroin addicts, preacher/politicians rallied for public support against AIDS research by claiming that AIDS was "God's punishment" of "those people" for their "wicked ways". So during the 10 plus years that AIDS was ignored for political reasons, HIV spread through the population through tainted blood donations.

    BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalophy a.k.a. "Mad Cow Disease )

    Politic within the scientific community delayed finding a cause due to the fact that the person who suggested the concept of the prion and the pathological agent, was not a a highly paid medical research associate, but a high school teacher.

    Infantile Autism:

    This is the name for the increasing number of cases where children develop normally for 18 to 24 months before rapidly regressing into autistic-like behavior. In the US, England, Australia and Tasmania, where much of the medical research is privately funded by pharmaceutical companies, research into the pathology of infantile autism is active squelched. But the search for a specific "Autism gene" is being promoted. However, in France and Germany, research into the pathology behind infantile autism is indicating a combination of a genetic deficit of an immune system protein, and the interaction with a class of virus hat triggers an autoimmune reaction to the Purkinje neurons in the amygdala

  9. Erik writes:—"Have you considered the way that we murder over 1 million innocent babies every year in this country?"

    By the light of your concept of original sin, there's no such thing as an innocent baby.

    "You already have your mind made up about things without looking at the facts."

    Look in a mirror, man.

    "God calls them a stiff-necked people over and over again because of their lack of disobedience."

    Lack of DISobedience? In a bit of hurry there, Erik? Getting worked up, are we? You don't even proof read your own posts.

    This is my last response to you. You can't seem to step outside your own obsessions long enough to consider that another point of view might—MIGHT—have something of merit. Have a nice life.

  10. Niklaus writes:—"When the collective social egotism we call politics get involved in scientific endeavors, it interrupts the cycle by dismissing data that doesn’t support the political hypothesis."

    I'm right with you on that. Politics, while in some ways "the art of the possible" is also the art of reassurance. Upsetting applecarts leads to a displeased constituency which leads to threat to the power structure.

    Which was kinda the point of my post. A very influential group wants Global Warming to not be true, regardless of the cause, because it threatens their sinecure. They prey on the desire of the general populace for it to not be true, and the debate gets confused to the point where nothing can be said or done that is in any way constructive.

  11. Erik Brewer says:

    I am not sure that I follow you Alison. You have a misunderstanding of the Scripture. If you look at different interpretations you will see a commonality among them all, that being a misunderstanding of the Scripture in the light of Its context and simple inductive study techniques.

  12. Erik Brewer says:

    Way to avoid the controversy. Place the focus on something else so you do not have to answer the question at hand

    You know what I meant regarding obedience/disobedience but if it helps you feel better you can make fun, my skin is thick.

  13. Mobius 118 says:

    Pay no mind to Erik. He's just blowing a lot of hot air, in an attempt to intimidate us into thinking like him. After facing years of religious intimidation, I'm immune to the words of blowhards like him.

    But he's not what this post is about.

    Those who choose willful ignorance are no better than livestock. They want to be free of responsibility, with all the good things coming to them in the end, as if they deserve it. They ruin it for the rest of us, who happen to want the world to advance, so we all don't suffer.

    Ahh, but as long as they have their god/games/football/beer they're content.

  14. Erik Brewer says:

    Mobi

    Free of responsibility? Are you kidding? Who wants to be free of responsibility? Would it not be those who murder unborn babies bc they do not want them? Would it not be those who want divorce on demand? Would it not be those who teach kids false hope with "safer" sex practices yet do not care about the damage that this teaching causes? Would it not be those who promote homosexuality and then leave you out to dry when your life falls apart after living as a homosexual? There are tons of other liberal examples that I could bring. So, who is avoiding responsibility? Show me how I avoid responsibility (bring some real evidence instead of your empty words).

    By the way. I do not like football or beer. What do you mean by games?

  15. Alison says:

    Nothing new from Erik.

    Mark, one of the things I've thought about a lot is that we, as a species, are actually >lowering< our fitness in many ways. Defects that used to prevent reproduction are now anywhere from common in the population (blindness, deafness, for example) to temporary obstacles (infertility, treatable genetic defects). People who used to die from diseases or stillbirth or other medical conditions are now being saved by medical science long enough to pass on the genes that made them susceptible. People who might have had trouble finding a partner over the course of history (like the blind and deaf I mentioned, and even those with mental issues who are still high-functioning in society) have no trouble meeting and mating. Were we, as a population, suddenly put into a survival situation without the benefit of our protections, our numbers would drop dramatically in very little time. No climate controlled buildings, no manufacturing, no medical devices or treatments. . .it would certainly bring about a realization of how much like the rest of Earth's animals we really are.

  16. Alison,

    That is very close to the argument made by the Eugenicists. I think our helplessness would be more from our dependence on technology (cultural) than on any decay from passing along bad genes. I think the genome is too complex and "chaotic" to be so simply divined. While certain traits (eyesight, hearing loss, etc) may well be unfortunate by-products of increased breeding opportunities, other traits passed along by just these groups may have long-term positive impacts. (I won't speculate which.)

    In this sense, the genetic advantage we make for ourselves through our technology would seem to be just as "natural" as one tribe of cro-magnons stealing the water of a spring by virtue of a crude dam from another group, perhaps even a group of Neandertals. Nature doesn't care how the advantage is gained, only that it is.

  17. I find it highly irresponsible when the Pope condemns birth control in developing countries and then leaves the families on their own with a dozen children, unfed and with no chance for a proper education.

  18. Alison says:

    Mark, I don't look at it as an idea that supports eugenics, but simply as evidence that adaptations can decrease fitness as well as increase it. our technology has changed our environment and made it so that more people survive that might not have without it. If that technology did not exist or suddenly disappeared, many genetic lines that depended on it would significantly reduce or die out. I feel that it illustrates how even humans evolve by adapting to environmental changes, as well as showing that evolution is not a progress towards perfection, both of which are misunderstood by creationists.

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