Ampyxina bellatula

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Photograph by James Kocher.

Photography Contest, Honorable Mention.

Trilobite
Ampyxina bellatula (Ullrich, 1922) – trilobite, ~475 Ma, Maquoketa Shale, Late Ordovician. Gailey Branch Creek, McCune Twp., Pike County, Missouri.

March for science denial

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Well, OK, it is not exactly a march, but (as Glenn Branch of NCSE informs us) the Discovery Institute is teaming up with the Heritage Foundation for a provocative event in which they will characterize the March for Science as a march for conformity or a march for scientism. In other words, they will describe the overarching scientific consensus on, say, evolution or anthropogenic climate change as mere expressions of scientific conformity or, when all else fails, accuse the real experts of “scientism.”

The principal purveyors of such anti-science will be Stephen Meyer, Jay Richards, and Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute, and Katie Tubb of the Heritage Foundation.

The event, or should I say nonevent? will be live-streamed on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 12:00-1:00 pm, Eastern Daylight Time.

Please feel free to live-stream comments below.

Big Oil exhales tobacco smoke

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I am beginning to smell tobacco smoke, only it seems to be coming from the smokestack of a coal-burning power plant. The Guardian reported a few days ago that the executives of Big Oil knew of the possibility – no, the probability – of polluting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and therefore altering the climate. They did not just keep their collective mouth shut, but rather denied the possibility that humanity was causing global warming. According to the Guardian, a 1968 report by Stanford University, which was recently discovered and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, stated,

Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change. If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.

It is clear that we are unsure as to what our long-lived pollutants are doing to our environment; however, there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.

In a nutshell, Stanford predicted in 1968 precisely what we are seeing today: warming of the oceans, melting of the polar ice caps, a rise in sea levels, and an overall increase in temperature. I have not read the report, but it looks like the only thing they missed was ocean acidification.

How did Big Oil or Big Fossil Fuel or whatever you want to call it respond? Precisely the same way as Big Tobacco: deny, deny, deny. The Guardian further notes,

[The American Petroleum Institute], the peak body for the oil industry in the US, knew about the dangers of climate change at least 20 years before the issue was brought into mainstream public discourse via the former Nasa scientist James Hansen. Former US president Lyndon Johnson also received an early warning about climate change, with scientists explaining the mechanism of the greenhouse effect in 1965.

… ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, knew of climate change as early as 1981, only to spend millions of dollars over the following 27 years to promote climate denial.

Exxon had a dedicated in-house team that established the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, but the company still spent years refusing to acknowledge the issue and funding climate denial activities. Exxon now insists it accepts climate science and doesn’t promote denial of the changes to the planet already under way.

What can I say? Just like Big Tobacco (or Big Sugar, for that matter). Only instead of poisoning some of us, like Big Tobacco, the oil industry decided to poison the entire planet. And, alas, they seem to be succeeding.

Does Granville Sewell's argument make sense?

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As the Panda’s Thumb is not yet fully configured, it has no “sidebar” with links to new comments on old threads. For that matter, past comments from the previous PT platform are not yet restored, so most older threads appear to have no comments. We are assured that the old comments will, in time, be restored.

In 2011, I made a short post on an argument in Evolution News and Views by the mathematician Granville Sewell, who has been arguing that the Second Law of Thermodynamics showed that “order” could not arise by natural evolutionary processes. I had previously posted here twice before (here and here), posts that basically made fun of Sewell’s argument. This time I called his argument “unanswerable” – but only because the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Views posts do not allow comments.

A creationist blogger, Mark Champneys, recently discovered that post and made a comment there, and I have replied. The discussion went back and forth a bit, but it is invisible to all readers of PT unless they receive notices of all new comments. So, with Champneys’s agreement, I am posting here, and both of us hope that the discussion can continue here.