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  1. “How, then, does Spencer explain the ice ages? He essentially punts, saying he believes the ice core record is “irrelevant”, that “we don’t have a clue” what was causing those climate variations.”

    It might be difficult for a person to give weight on any empirical evidence describing climatic conditions of some pre-historic era, if the person in question doesn’t believe that our Earth even existed that far back in time. I’d be very surprised if someone with such world view would consider the pre-historic proxy data somehow relevant in his/her understanding of the evolution of our climate system.

    Comment by Tuomas — 28 Apr 2011 @ 8:15 AM

  2. Spencer does make a valid point about the potential for bias toward exaggerating problems because it can bring in more funding. We all must be wary of this.

    Haven’t there been quite a few cases already where scientists have been so wary, that they’ve severely underestimated their predictions?

    Comment by Deen — 28 Apr 2011 @ 8:41 AM

  3. AS I understand Spencer’s arguments he does not say that “man’s activities cause weather change” What he says is that CO2 and other greenhouse gas driven warming is likely to be attenuated not amplified by the effects of water vapor and clouds. I think he also makes the point that as measure and model the change in climate caused by greenhouse gas, natural variation is occurring. So that must be taken into account. I read about a paper of his that showed the effect of irrigation on the temperatures in the Central Valley of California.

    [Response: Nobody disputes that natural variations are also occurring. Nor that there are other drivers of climate change. However, it doesn’t follow that just because these things are also going on that climate sensitivity is small. The evidence for a significant climate sensitivity (i.e. > 2ºC) exists and is not affected by anything Spencer has said. – gavin]

    Comment by Buck Smith — 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:01 AM

  4. “it would take only one research study to cause the global warming house of cards to collapse.” is the killer comment for me.

    Suggesting that “global warming” is a collapsible house of cards is a loser on several counts. For starters, the science is that of climate generally. “Global warming” is not a discrete entity or theory. It is a mere subset of general climate theory. If we weren’t adding ghgs to the oceans and the atmosphere at the rate we are, that selfsame science would be devoted to calculating and explaining how, why and where things should cool down in accordance with our current inter-glacial status.

    And the house of cards notion is just silly. All science works much more like jigsaw puzzles than card houses or toddlers’ stacks of blocks. Even radically new notions like Einstein’s relativity or Warren & Marshall’s ulcer treatment or plate tectonics didn’t abolish everything previously known about physics or physiology or the continents. Just better explanations filling in gaps – and that’s where climate science is now.

    There will be astonishing discoveries and better explanations. But they won’t change facts. Plate tectonics didn’t eliminate everyone’s observations that the continents appeared to fit each other despite the great distances – it explains that appearance with a mechanism, which just happens to explain a whole heap of other things. (Including some things about geological release and absorption of CO2.)

    Comment by adelady — 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:36 AM

  5. Deen,

    I know of very few cases of scientists underestimating predictions. Many of the overestimates by 2100 include 2-4C of warming (current trend is 0.6C/century), 20 feet of sea level rise (~3mm/yr is current), disappearance of Arctic sea ice by …. (insert favorite year here. I know of very few predictions which are less than the current trends. Those that overestimate have done climate science a great disservice as people tend to disbelieve other predictions also. Witness the IPCC and Himalayan glaciers.

    Comment by Dan H. — 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:45 AM

  6. Mr. Spencer lost credibility as a scientist long ago…a proponent of ‘intelligent design’ aka: creationism…contributor to the Heartland Institute and Geo. Marshall Institute…both shills for the petroleum industry et al…and on and on. He may have expertise in a narrow topi range, but has clearly fled into the camp of the religious right and the fossil fuel corporate agenda. I’m not sure why we are even talking about him, other than he will be quoted by the Limbaugh’s of the world.
    I despair that humans will get past this kind of fellow’s nonsense fast enough to do any serious repair to our world. Perhaps that is his goal?

    Comment by greyfox — 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:48 AM

  7. It’s very interesting to me, how people like Spencer combine professional competence on a specific topic with complete incompetence and arrogant disregard for the expertise of others on wider issues. You can’t learn to do good work without listening to the people training you. But somehow the ability to respond to evidence and instruction in one area (at least during training) just doesn’t transfer to others. Cheap skeptical maneuvers (it’s all about empirical evidence except when it isn’t) are a dime a dozen, and they take the same general form regardless of the field you apply them to. You would think people who actually do learn how to do good work in one area would recognize and avoid them elsewhere. But (on the evidence) you’d be wrong…

    Comment by Bryson Brown — 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:52 AM

  8. Dan H: That’s a pretty sorry bit of exageration on your part. Why would current trend be the conclusive basis for rejecting a 2-4 degree increase by 2100, when GHG emissions continue to accelerate? And where did you get the 20 feet of sea level rise ‘prediction’? The predictions I see out there range up to 2 meters (that’s about 1/3 your number), though more would be unavoidably ‘in the pipeline’ if we don’t stabilize GHG levels well before then. As for the Himalayan glaciers, that was a simple mistake, not a serious but failed prediction– and the threat to the glaciers is real, even if the timeline is longer.

    Comment by Bryson Brown — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:00 AM

  9. Dan H.

    The himalayan glacier figure (2035) was a typo not an overestimate and it was one error in the roughly 3000 page technical document and NOT in any of the summaries. I’m 100% certain that you did not come across this error in your readings.

    Sea level rise is actually a perfect example of a significant underestimate by the IPCC. Two others are the rate of emissions (higher than predicted) and arctic ice melt (faster than predicted.) I’m sure the more enlightened here can share many more.

    Your use of current trends ignores that these changes are likely to be accelerating. (The basis for my conviction that you have not read very much IPCC literature)

    Those that publish peer-reviewed papers on the subject do a great service to climate science and the public welfare if you care to listen.


    Comment by Nick B — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:01 AM

  10. Tuomas, clever (really) and probably on topic, but mis-characterizes Spencer’s beliefs.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:14 AM

  11. Dan H – can you refer me to a scientific paper where there is a prediction of 20 feet of SLR by 2100.

    Comment by JCH — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:23 AM

  12. Excellent review and criticism… right up until:

    “Spencer does make a valid point about the potential for bias toward exaggerating problems because it can bring in more funding. We all must be wary of this”

    Mention of “potential” is not the same as showing a bias. Spencer is just providing the doubletalk pablum that suffices for the denial cheerleading he offers.

    A better criticism is that climate science has been too quiet, too reticent in speaking out. Given the well-stated risks and the clear science – it seems that funding is radically low. Stupidly low. Funding has been reduced, programs cut, graduate programs eliminated. This is dangerous stupidity that we tolerate. And it is beyond risk. It is blunder

    Comment by richard pauli — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:27 AM

  13. Following on from Barry Bickmore’s posts, these two by Arthur Shumway Smith completely annihilate anything remaining of Spencer’s “model”. It turns out to be fully (and easily) integrable to an analytical solution with plenty of free variables: any competent undergraduate in applied mathematics could derive it in ten minutes.

    Mathematical analysis of Roy Spencer’s climate model
    Roy Spencer’s six trillion degree warming

    The essence of the solution is that T is an exponential return to a equilibrium (which varies over time according to a smoothed PDOI) from some other value. The initial value, the exponential time constant, the equilibrium value, and the PDOI smoothing and variation are all governed by independent free variables. Unsurprisingly, if he sets the equilibrium to current temperatures, the initial value to 1880 temperatures, and chooses the exponential time constant and the PDOI parameters, he can get a good fit to temperatures since 1880, and finds that it projects constant future temperatures (because the exponential vanishes). Of course (a) extending backwards past 1880 breaks very fast indeed, and (b) this shows that the model is totally non-physical.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:40 AM

  14. The subtitle of Spencers book reminds me of some sort of creationists:

    Only misguided researchers take the fossiles as a proof for evolution.
    In fact these silly scientists are fooled by the nature (i.e. by God ore the devil).

    Comment by rv — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:51 AM

  15. Dan H wrote: “I know of very few cases of scientists underestimating predictions.”

    With all due respect, as your comments on this site have consistently demonstrated, what you don’t know about climate science could fill a book.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:52 AM

  16. Dan 5 “I know of very few cases of scientists underestimating predictions.” Well, it seems to me that you just read one right here. That is, if you read Steve’s commentary, and if we treat what Spencer-For-Hire says in his popular writing as estimation/prediction. If I read Steve’s material correctly, I suppose a person can disregard his book, rely on his paper, and say he is in the consensus; or rely on his book and say he is in the underestimation game. It really can’t be both, can it?

    Comment by ghost — 28 Apr 2011 @ 10:58 AM

  17. Perhaps the title is self-referential?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Apr 2011 @ 11:16 AM

  18. Dan H, nice troll. We almost didn’t notice that you jumped from already established under-estimates in past projections to future projections that you consider to be too high (for no reason that you can argue).

    How can it be an over-estimate until you know whether it’s over or not?

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Apr 2011 @ 11:27 AM

  19. Dan H. says, “I know of very few cases of scientists underestimating predictions.”

    Dan, I hope you can forgive us if we decide not to base our conception of reality on what you do or do not know.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Apr 2011 @ 12:15 PM

  20. I think Dan H has a valid point that over-estimations could be problematic.

    However I also believe that many of the perceived over-estimations are misinterpretations of what people have actually said.

    “If A happens then B will happen”. This statement does not predict that B will happen, but when it fits ones political agenda, they will claim that it is a prediction.

    Comment by Pete Wirfs — 28 Apr 2011 @ 12:54 PM

  21. No one even noticed Dan H.’s most egregious cherry pick, using 0.6˚C warming per century by counting from (I’m guessing) 1910 to 2010, rather than restricting his trend to the actual AGW influenced period from 1979-2010.

    Comment by Sphaerica (Bob) — 28 Apr 2011 @ 12:55 PM

  22. 20 Bob Said about not noticing egregious cherry picks:

    There are those of us who cherry pick who we read. I never read anything that guy says because I long ago concluded that he was driven by a political rather than a scientific agenda.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 28 Apr 2011 @ 1:12 PM

  23. #1, #10–

    Just for the record, RodB is right; as I understand it, Dr. Spencer is not a “young earth Creationist” but a proponent of “Intelligent Design.”

    Someone adopting the latter position takes seriously the evidence of paleontology, and so Dr. Spencer does–though not seriously enough, it seems.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Apr 2011 @ 1:34 PM

  24. Typo: “Spencer’s assertion in his book of that there has been….”

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:39 PM

  25. Kevin McKinney, so Spencer is an IDC (ref?). IDC’s can easily be YEC’s in the bargain. In any case they believe in magic. Does not Spencer believe that God will not allow us to ruin His climate?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:44 PM

  26. Coincidentally, Roy Spencer is in the middle of the tornado outbreak that has hit Alabama. Obviously, we hope that he and everyone else affected stay safe.

    Comment by gavin — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:44 PM

  27. Kevin McKinney #23 You might as well say “He doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy, just the bogey man.” It drives me nuts that this man can be financially rewarded for saying things that would land him in prison if he declared them under oath. Time for another audit of bookstore shelves – this one belongs in “Fiction” or perhaps “Spirituality”.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:50 PM

  28. I do wish you all would not spend quite so much energy on obvious trolls. Maybe one or two cogent informational responses, not a swarm?

    These discussions are normally full of nourishment, and despite my fascination with delusionalism, it palls and distracts.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 28 Apr 2011 @ 2:51 PM

  29. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the book market tends to financially reward a bias toward contrarianism.

    This essentially irrelevant and misleading comment is typical of what is a very lazy review. Just another snide dig. Certainly in this part of the world it is virtually impossible to purchase works with an anti-AGW perspective. Mainstream booksellers just don’t keep them. One needs to get on line to find available offerings. One has to know what one is looking for and know where to look. The general public gets very little information about genuine shortcomings in the IPCC line and IPCC interpretations are prominently and repeatedly pushed in MSM outlets.

    [Response: Sure, Plimer’s book didn’t get any Australian media coverage, and I’m sure no-one could find it in bookstores… – gavin]

    Meanwhile Sphaerica(Bob)(#21) refers to “the actual AGW influenced period from 1979-2010.” One might ask why current and recent climate trends aren’t more often analysed in the context of the current cycle, say, 1680 to 2010. Doesn’t suit the narrative, I guess.

    Comment by Patrick Kelly — 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:15 PM

  30. #29 If no-one looks at the long-term data, how do you know this “cycle” of which you speak exists? *cough* paleoclimatology *cough*

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:36 PM

  31. Not sure why this thread is very topical now. I read the book sometime last year and found it unremarkable. Why waste time discussing it now, or did I miss something?

    Comment by Bill — 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:44 PM

  32. So Roy Spencer’s suggestion is that cloud cover changes may drive climate rather than respond to it. -Looking at the Global monthly cloud cover changes since 1983, for example as shown in
    It doesnt seem unreasonable to wonder whether this might be the case, if clouds represent a -18 watt/m2 forcing on average and there was a 5% change in cover, that might lead to a 1.5 Watt/m2 change.
    I understand that ISCCP do a much better calculation, so it would be helpfull to see a plot of their estimates of the change, to understand the effect.
    If the counter argument is that these changes are a response to Global Warming -it would be really good to see a graph showing what the models predicted / hindcast on average for the global cloud cover.

    I am sure that these graphs must exist somewhere , but I havent found them.
    Can you help? Thanks

    Comment by CharlieT — 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:49 PM

  33. Susan Anderson says:
    “I do wish you all would not spend quite so much energy on obvious trolls. Maybe one or two cogent informational responses, not a swarm?”

    Of interest would be if we analyze why this happens.

    Maybe an open raw nerve has been touched which has created a disturbance in the force initiating an auto response?

    Anything else?

    Comment by Titus — 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:03 PM

  34. It’s great news that Spencer, one of the world’s top climate scientists, is alive and well. There are few scientists who understand atmospheric physics like he does.

    [ now now, be nice. – moderator]

    Comment by Steeptown — 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:13 PM

  35. Dan H #5: here’s a big underestimate. Before we had GRACE satellite measurements, the consensus was that the Antarctic would be in mass balance for a long time, with increased iceberg calving offset by increased snowfall in the interior. Wrong. It turns out that the Antarctic is losing ice mass fast.

    Charlie T #32: if cloud changes drive climate, what drives cloud changes? Or is it turtles all the way down?

    I wonder how much value there is in taking people like Spencer on head-on. I’d rather try to get the science into an accessible form, so the average person can take this on themselves. One of my big problems has been that the basic theory is not all explained clearly for the uninitiated in one place. Raypierre’s Principles of Planetary Climate is a big step in that direction, though it is aimed at the scientifically literate.

    I’m aiming when I have the time to post my (I hope) more accessible understandings on my blog every now and then, such as this one on greenhouse spectra. However, it would be even better if people more qualified to do so wrote those articles and posted them somewhere with a high readership, like this site. What I would like to see is a primer somewhere between the materials at the Start here page and a textbook treatment (correction on the Start here page: the Pew Center link is broken; it should be

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 10 May 2011 @ 6:35 PM

  36. “Dr. Spencer is not a “young earth Creationist” but a proponent of “Intelligent Design.”

    Someone adopting the latter position takes seriously the evidence of paleontology” – Kevin McKinney

    No, not at all. The evidence of palaeontology is completely incompatible with “Intelligent Design”, as soon as the latter is given any real content: the evidence shows clearly that evolution does not have the appearance of a planned or directed process. “Intelligent Design” also ignores the mass of evidence from genetics, biogeography, developmental biology and other disciplines. It is, in fact, pure fraud: it was created simply in an attempt to get round American restrictions on bringing religion into public school science classrooms. Google “cdesign proponentsists” on the latter point. Spencer’s support for this dishonest nonsense is indicative of how far he can be trusted on climate issues.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 11 May 2011 @ 6:00 AM

  37. The days are not far what we don’t expect. Ice poles, sea levels, Himalayan etc all are now threatening us. This post again reminds me the global warming effect.These discussions are normally full of nourishment.

    Comment by Kiwpy — 11 May 2011 @ 11:00 AM

  38. #36: The subtitle of Spencer´s book suggests, that there is some “intelligence” that drives the climate and fools the scientists – in the same way as evolution is driven by some intelligent designer that fools the scientist with fossiles indicating that random mutations, change of environment and selection are drivers of evolution.

    It seems that Spencer´s views on evolution and climate are consistent.

    Comment by rv — 12 May 2011 @ 6:31 AM

  39. How is it that so many here think they can encapsulate the concept of “intelligent design” within such narrow parameters. That’s like saying all Libertarians are ex republicans that don’t want to pay taxes. I have great faith in a higher purpose behind what reveals itself in the physical universe and I see no reason for any of it to conflict with my belief in evolution or any other well-vetted “scientific” theories. Muddling up the debate with philosophical interpretations is not science. Stick to the subject.

    Comment by Peter H — 12 May 2011 @ 11:35 PM

  40. Phillip Machanick #35 -Is it really necessary to invoke any turtles at all?
    Whilst it is tempting to imagine that after 4.5 billion years the earth would have settled down, I am not sure it is true.
    Do the ocean currents and gyres now move at an unvarying pace, has the PDO always had the same rhythm – reconstructions seem to suggest that ENSO,at least, has varied over the course of the millenium. Is it unreasonable to think that cloud cover might vary from 68%, without any external forcing?

    Comment by CharlieT — 17 May 2011 @ 2:08 PM

  41. Not to put too fine a point on it, Intelligent Design is a sham and a fraud.

    School districts who have been duped into attempting to injecting ID into science curricula have discovered there is no actual theory, and thus nothing to teach. The scam was revealed in lurid detail in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, in which a Republican, Bush-appointed judge scoffed at the arguments of IDers and as much as called them liars. cf:

    That Spencer is a believer speaks volumes.

    Comment by Adam R. — 17 May 2011 @ 7:56 PM

  42. Adam R, you mischaracterize Spencer. You need to read Peter H’s #39 and accept that creationists hijacked and adopted the term “intelligent design” and it no longer communicates alternative beliefs though still is confusingly used.

    Comment by Rod B — 18 May 2011 @ 12:00 AM

  43. Rod,Spencers belief in ID is germane only in that ID is not and can not ever be a scientific theory. It cannot make verifiable predictions. Failure to realize that calls into question one’s understanding of scientific method.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 May 2011 @ 9:57 AM

  44. @42 Rod B. …accept that creationists hijacked and adopted the term “intelligent design”

    Sorry, but that’s baloney, Rod B. Creationists invented the term “intelligent design”.

    Dissembling by the likes of Behe notwithstanding, ID is and always has been creationism in disguise, as was clearly revealed in the Dover trial. Philip Johnson has flatly asserted that ID is an effort to give a scientific basis to creationism, and William Dembski, author of the spurious “specified complexity” argument, has said ID is “to enable God to receive credit for creation.”

    Comment by Adam R. — 18 May 2011 @ 2:37 PM

  45. Adam, maybe so. The point is that the literal interpretation of “intelligent design” could be very far from creationism ala the bible. But creationists sunk their teeth in and said MINE!, and used it for their purposes as you say.

    Comment by Rod B — 18 May 2011 @ 10:45 PM

  46. Ghan’s assertion is false that decadal variability in clouds can “only” be a response to decadal variability in the surface conditions or atmospheric circulation that drive cloud formation. He ignores the possibility that decadal variability may be caused by external forcing such as cosmic rays which are known to cause increased rates of aerosol nucleation. (

    Comment by Doc Savage Fan — 19 May 2011 @ 8:02 AM

  47. You continue to imply that ID was ever something other than creationism, Rod. This is simply not the case.

    Whoever originated or re-branded the idea of ID, it is still unscientific twaddle. One of its most prominent proponents, Michael Behe, admitted in court that his expanded definition of science that would allow ID also would have to include astrology.

    Comment by Adam R. — 19 May 2011 @ 10:53 AM

  48. “Intelligent Design” originated in the 13th century as the teleological explanation of “Gods creativity” to support biblical creationism. Stop hand waving RodB – some Christian scientists may believe Gods design was limited to first principles, to play out as they would – some folks [including some Christian scientists] may believe Gods design was a finished whole system that humanity has no influence on – Spencer is a Christian, no telling which way he swings, but he really appears to prefer the latter interpretation.

    Comment by flxible — 19 May 2011 @ 3:13 PM

  49. Adam, we’ve probably beaten this horse enough, but many accounts credit Fred Hoyle with the first formal use of the term “ID” in 1982 — and distinctly not meaning creationism. Though there have been more than a few earlier maybe less formal (??) recorded uses as far back as 1847.

    Comment by Rod B — 19 May 2011 @ 9:08 PM

  50. There is a transitional fossil between creation science and intelligent design, it’s called “cdesign proponentsists”. Look it up.

    Comment by Mark G. — 23 May 2011 @ 11:31 PM

  51. Rod,
    It doesn’t matter whether the “designers” in ID are the King of Hosts or little green men. It is anti-science. It tries to explain the unknown in terms of the even-less-known. This is something that is also evident in Roy’s approach to climate science, unfortunately. It calls into question whether he really understands what science is.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 May 2011 @ 7:56 AM

  52. Imagine for a moment……….

    We were incorrect, it was a once in “lifetime” event. Was all of mans efforts worth the struggle, the money expended ?
    Well, lets us look at what is being done in the name of Global Climate Change (GCC)

    Nations are beginning to step away from coal fired power plants, people are making an effort to replant the worlds forest, renewable energy is no longer just for “hippies”.

    As for resources, we are beginning to embrace recycling, design the articles we use to be recycled, many of us are beginning to address water issues, we are coming to a place where we can once again deal with our own “waste”.

    There is a renewed interest in organic fruits and veggies, buying locally, from organic farmers. Some folks are embracing vegetarianism, some have gone whole route to have come to know life as a vegan. Meat does kill, especially through abusive consumption and the water use is excessive.

    Machines are being designed to be more efficient, we now have the opportunity to drive a hybrid or an electric car, soon we will see hybrid trucks. In a few years we WILL begin using hydrogen to power our machines.

    Houses are being designed to be more efficient, using solar and in some cases, wind. Appliances are far more efficient than ever before.
    Nations are beginning to take a serious look at the issue of over-fishing of the seas.

    The only exception to this example, those that would hijack this movement for their own selfish purpose. The growing number of ex-real estate sales agents, used cars salesmen and corporations with no conscience. Their type has plagued man since the beginning of time. Don’t let them get in the way of your success.

    All of the above efforts are what we should have been doing without any perceived threat to the planet.

    Our conversion from being just wasteful consumers, has not been a exercise in futility. To once again take back a degree of control of our own lives, to build a future for the generations to come, now that is exciting.
    Where is the fault in that. Where is the shame, even if we are wrong, we still WIN.

    By the way, when in history has an “event” like this shown such negative results in such a short period of time.

    The Medieval or Little Ice Age, actually it was 3 periods, over the course of 600 years, still nothing pleasant about it for most people. Starting 1250 ad and ending about 1850, more info is available on-line.
    If you look to the paintings of the period and they are numerous, you will find an ever constant depiction of gloom, ice and snow.

    Another episode worth mention is, while it does not have man-made implications, it does illustrate the impact of global disruption.
    The summer of 1816 has become known as the “Year without a Summer”, with eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815.
    That very summer Mary Shelley and her man-friend were spending their time with Lord Byron in Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
    It was from this dreaded summer, that some say the character of Frankenstein emerged in the mind of Shelley.

    Comment by Michael — 24 May 2011 @ 9:04 AM

  53. Ray, Fred Hoyle is anti-science??

    Comment by Rod B — 24 May 2011 @ 9:30 AM

  54. I think Rod B is talking about people like me, I believe and know evolution to be true. I also believe in a creator. But I hate to use the term ID because even though it might be applicable it has too many connotations used by too many religious groups. I think Christians dont give their god enough credit. That is, he doesn’t need to change animals throughout time, at different points in time. When he created the universe why wouldn’t he “know” the right natural laws that would develop into evolution? if he is so powerful he could do it at the beginning before time existed. But this does not mean I believe man has no effect on this planet, I think it would be pointless for us to exist if that were the case. I dont believe the whole Bible story (or any organized religious story) about why we are here. But I do believe that with our brains we are given enough power to embrace life or destroy life.

    Comment by Jriper03 — 24 May 2011 @ 10:15 AM

  55. “Ray, Fred Hoyle is anti-science??”

    He’s dead, but when he was alive he got pretty cranky, especially in his old age. Steady state theory, despite overwhelming evidence against it, comes to mind. Abiotic oil. I think he just liked being a contrarian, for it’s own sake.

    Comment by Robert Murphy — 24 May 2011 @ 10:52 AM

  56. > Rod B
    > Hoyle
    Lovely red herring you have there.

    “… The notion that evolution proceeds in sudden jumps through genetic storms from space—viral infection—is held in ignorance or through denial of the accumulated evidence. A perusal of Molecular Evolution of Life (ed Baltscheffsky, et al, Cambridge UP, 1986) illustrates the acute embarassment felt by the scientific community over the mystical outpourings on this subject by Hoyle and his collaborator. Not one iota of evidence put forward in support of their ill founded hypothesis has held water….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 May 2011 @ 11:16 AM

  57. While there are piles of people who hold Hoyle’s science in high regards, you guys think he’s more of a crank, so O.K. How about Einstein? While not a perfect example as his views differed in detail from this thread and Spencer, he was in the ballpark in his belief in a super intelligent God-like (kinda) being, contrary to other posters here.

    Comment by Rod B — 24 May 2011 @ 2:48 PM

  58. ps, while the thought of Einstein is in the ballpark, his example does miss the specifics of this discourse since, to the best of my knowledge, he didn’t use the exact phrase “intelligent design.”

    Comment by Rod B — 24 May 2011 @ 10:14 PM

  59. 57 Rod B – “Einstein was in the ballpark in his belief in a super intelligent God-like (kinda) being”

    Nonsense. He was an agnostic.

    Comment by Joe Cushley — 25 May 2011 @ 5:30 AM

  60. Remind me again why we care whether Einstein was, or was not, a deist or agnostic?

    I’ve been ‘guilty’ of commenting in this area myself, so I’m in no position to cast (verbal) stones. But maybe it’s time to move on?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 25 May 2011 @ 8:51 AM

  61. While the moderators are apparently permitting some commentary here on “Intelligent Design”, I’d like to take the window of opportunity to observe:

    1. ID begs the question “What is ‘intelligence’?”

    2. ID conflates intelligence with design.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 May 2011 @ 10:08 AM

  62. We’re all off topic, all I was trying to get at was that my belief in a creator does not stop me from understanding the science of climate change, and the fact that we are the major factor in it. So I can see this book for what it is. Now I would love to seriously discuss the meaning of our existence with some of the real hardcore atheist and agnostic scientist on this website but this is not the place. Does anyone know the place ? It’s a lot harder for me to believe in a “god” than not to believe in one, so don’t assume I’m another sheep.

    Comment by Jriper03 — 25 May 2011 @ 11:27 AM

  63. Rod B., Quoting Einstein on Religion is like quoting Jefferson on politics–you can find a quote to justify any position. Einstein most certainly did not believe in a deity that could be comprehended as an “intelligence”. His conception of deity was akin to that of Spinoza–as he said many times.

    That, however, is irrelevant to the fact that explaining the unknown in terms of the unknown is antiscience. We see this throughout the denialist community–an attempt to explain away the crisis by positing a mechanism we don’t yet comprehend well enough to disprove. That is not how science works. You try to explain the unknown in terms of known science. If you fail, you keep working around the edges until you understand the formerly unknown cause well enough that it qualifies as known science.

    Note that by this definition, Pauli was quite correct to be more than a little chagrinned by his hypothesis of the neutrino–despite the fact that eventually, he was found to be correct.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 May 2011 @ 11:27 AM

  64. Everyone is right: this got way off the path. I’ll close with a question for Ray which is kinda back on topic. How does your assertions in #65 et al fit with your implication that Spencer’s goofy (in your and others mind) thoughts on evolution and deity prove he is a bad climate scientist?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 May 2011 @ 12:16 PM

  65. Well Rod B,

    say Spencer thought gravity was caused by invisible space-gerbils pushing on you from above. Would you wonder then about his scientific acumen? That’s not much stranger than the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of ID.

    Just sayin’.

    Comment by MartinJB — 25 May 2011 @ 2:49 PM

  66. Rod, I did not say, nor did I mean to imply that Spencer is a bad scientist. What I said is that I don’t think he fully understands the scientific method. There are many scientists–hell, even Nobel Laureates–who fall into this category (e.g. the example of Pauli’s neutrino hypothesis I cited above). Scientific method is a recipe for avoiding error. One of the ways to do this is to stick to the known when trying to explain the unknown. If one can invoke an unknown cause to explain a phenomenon, then why couldn’t we invoke such a cause to explain the result of the Michelson-Morley experiment and so held onto the ether hypothesis.

    As soon as you start invoking unknowns–or worse, unknowables–to explain the unknown, you’ve stopped doing science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 May 2011 @ 5:05 PM

  67. Ray Ladbury wrote: “As soon as you start invoking unknowns–or worse, unknowables–to explain the unknown, you’ve stopped doing science.”

    I would suggest that what ID does is actually worse than that. It essentially proclaims as an axiom that “intelligence” is unknown and unknowable and outside of nature, ie. “supernatural”.

    In other words, as I wrote above, it begs the question “what is ‘intelligence’?”.

    Presumably, human intelligence is the paradigmatic referent of the word — but we don’t even have a universally accepted definition of human intelligence, let alone a general definition applicable to other contexts.

    What do we mean by “intelligent”? How do we recognize intelligence when we see it? How does intelligence arise in nature? What is the role of intelligence in natural processes? Are chimpanzees intelligent? Are dolphins intelligent? How about crows? Are bees intelligent? Is a bee hive intelligent? Can ecosystems, the Earth’s biosphere, or the process of biological evolution considered as a whole, be meaningfully considered “intelligent” in some sense?

    These are all legitimate, and important, questions for scientific inquiry.

    Ask an advocate of “Intelligent Design” these questions, or simply ask him to define exactly what he means by “intelligent” — and chances are you’ll get a blank stare in response.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 May 2011 @ 6:08 PM

  68. SA, Oh, I agree ID is problematic for a lot of reasons–I’m just trying to avoid the whole theological hijacking that usually results from the topic. My point is that it’s crappy science quite independent of the fact that it’s crappy theology.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 May 2011 @ 8:20 PM

  69. Rod, someone’s fooled you about Einstein; ask their source; consider why you trusted their opinion. Two articles by the man himself describe beliefs, which can’t be reduced to a simple talking point; links in the page here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 May 2011 @ 8:48 PM

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