Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stolen but wonderful explanation of Global Warming...

The Original Article may be found here. Give Credit where its due!

Climate Change for Idiots

On September 11, 2001, our world changed forever.

And not just because of the obvious. For three days after the attack on the World Trade Center, all commercial aviation came to a standstill in the United States. For the first time since 1914, when Tony Jannus piloted a wooden, open-air Benoist XIV biplane in the first commercial passenger-carrying airline flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida, traffic in the friendly skies above the amber waves of grain came to a screeching halt. And in those three crucial days, our entire understanding of global warming underwent a fundamental transformation.

But this literally earth-shattering revelation has not been getting a lot of press since that horrible day. Public interest in climate change is dwindling into either resigned apathy, or growing skepticism about the risks of global warming; a 14 percent decline in people who believe the earth is becoming warmer. At the current conference in Copenhagen, the emphasis has shifted away from what the hell are we going to do to save the planet before it’s too late to world leaders bickering and squabbling in an unseemly power struggle over who gets to pollute the most. And while the talks are failing as politicians shuffle carbon credits around like magicians with a deck of cards, global warming deniers are busily promulgating ever more heated and bizarre conspiracy theories.

Climate change is a hoax, they’re shouting from their soap boxes. Agenda 21 is just a smoke screen designed to enslave the Third World, and global warming is fraud, a steekin’ fraud, I tells ya, run by the Illuminati and the Rothschild dynasty and aliens from Alpha Centuri in a vast conspiracy with Big Business and Pharma and corrupt politicians to control the world’s resources in a scam for world domination! Global warming is a natural phenomenon, they’re insisting, 30,000 scientists have iron-clad proof (and leaked emails) that it’s all been propaganda designed to frighten us. CO2 is caused by tectonic plate shift, or the earth’s axis tilting, or sun spots, or Urban Heat Island effects, or water vapor, or cows farting. (Actually, the last one does have some validity; livestock ‘byproducts’ account for 32.6 billion tons of CO2 per year, or 51% of annual global GHG emissions.) It’s a natural cycle – we went through a Little Ice Age in the Holocene then global warming in the Middle Ages (actually, we didn’t), and volcanoes spew out more CO2 than humans do (again, uh-uh, human activity releases more than 130 times more CO2 than all our current active volcanoes combined). Anyway, modeling the environment is too vast, too vague, too complicated, not even scientists can agree with one another; we just aren’t capable of adequately simulating the atmosphere or understanding climate change.

Besides, why should we care how much we pollute the planet, since India and China don’t give a damn…?

So… a bit of Climate Change for Idiots to aid those of us who feel like we’re beating heads against the wall arguing with friends and relatives frantically denying The End is Nigh, all while driving their SUVs through the nearest McDonald’s drive-in, those poor benighted souls too obtuse to realize the causes of global warming are myriad, and that while – yes, they are correct, Big Biz and First World greed are busily maneuvering and dodging and scheming over who gets to profit the most from climate change – that doesn’t mean it’s not real. We’re too focused on the looters to realize that the city is burning down around us.

Climate change is complicated, but not impossible to understand. Anyone with a driver’s license for that SUV isn’t required to know that d = V /(2g(f + G)) ; drivers instinctively know enough physics to apply the brakes long before the car needs to stop. The reaction time for a driver to start applying the brakes is 1.5 seconds. In terms of climate change, we’re in that reaction phase – and we’d better start thinking about stomping on the brakes pretty damned soon. A driver who doesn’t care about braking before they crash is either stupid, suicidal, or crazy.

Let’s break this down into more easily digested morsels so that even those suffering from the current deficit of basic science in American school systems that their grasp of geological history is closer to The Flintstones than Charles Darwin can get a grip.

Dick and Jane are in a jet, flying over Kansas. Look, Jane, look! The jet is leaving a contrail behind us. See the contrail form cirrus clouds. Contrails last up to eight hours, says Jane, and only half a dozen of them are needed to grow and form a cloud the size of the entire state of Massachusetts. That’s really big, says Dick. Woof, says Spot, shivering down in the baggage hold.

Now for some basic math, something else that seems to be lacking in our classrooms these days:

Five thousand planes, give or take a few, are in flight over the United States at any given moment. In a single day, more than 87,000 are leaving contrails all over those friendly skies. On average, 64 million jet planes take off and land somewhere in the States, leaving behind contrails. Divide six cirrus clouds the size of Massachusetts into 64 million contrails, and that’s a lot of clouds. All this cloud cover is bouncing the sun’s energy back into space, keeping our planet cool in what’s been called ‘global dimming,’ which should be a good thing, right?

Um, not really. Now we need some chemistry… yeah, yeah, I know. They don’t teach much of that in schools anymore, either. But let’s give it a shot, anyway.

What exactly are contrails? Contrails and clouds are similar, made up of condensed water vapour freezing around small particles. Clouds form from ice crystals and other natural particles, like dust blown into the atmosphere by wind. Ice crystals melt into water, while dust, being generally inert, falls back to earth where it came from. Contrails, on the other hand, form around aircraft exhaust, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, and hydrocarbons such as methane, sulfates, soot and metal particles. The clouds formed by these exhaust particulates has another difference to ordinary clouds; ice crystals and natural dust is larger than hydrocarbon particulates, which form much smaller water droplets. Smaller water droplets reflect back more sunlight, but don’t grow heavy enough to precipitate as rain. Pollution-derived clouds actually decrease rain, adding to drought conditions.

Now add this in to what is known as the Asian Brown Cloud, a thick layer of smog covering a huge area of southern Asia and the Indian Ocean formed by combustion pollution, wood fires, garbage fires, burning fossil fuels in cars, industrial factory emissions, the usual culprits. In the monsoon months, rain washes this massive toxic cloud out of the air – and into the soil. But while this lethal crap is floating around in the atmosphere and causing droughts, floods, and killing two million people a year, it also is contributing to ‘global dimming’, masking its own impact on atmospheric warming. And before anyone gets too smug that the so-called ‘Asian’ Brown Cloud is all India and China’s fault and therefore their problem, it’s not unique to Asia; hotspots popping up in Europe, South Africa, South America, and North America – in other words, everywhere.

In September of 2001, we got our first real glimpse of what happens if we aren’t pumping vast quantities of particulate crap into the air alongside all the carbon dioxide waste. Current climate change forecasts only take into consideration CO2 emissions, which predict a maximum warming of 5 degrees by the end of the century, plenty of time to ‘do something’, everyone can relax, sit back, wait for scientists and politicians to come up with the answers all in the nick of time, don’t worry, be happy.

But climate change forecasts haven’t been factoring in global dimming. We don’t have a hundred years to come up with a solution – we’ve got about twenty to apply those brakes before it’s too late. Cooling particle pollution is already dropping off while the CO2 warming pollution is continuing to rise, which means a doubled accelerated warming - reducing cooling and increased heating at the same time. With the dual effect of global warming/global dimming, temperatures could rise twice as fast as previously thought, global warming exceeding two degrees by around 2030, at which point the Greenland ice sheet would melt, causing irreversible damage.

Once the Greenland ice cap begins to melt, nothing will stop it. After Greenland, the world's tropical rain forests will start to die off in the heat. By 2040, with only a four degree rise in global temperature, the Amazon Basin rain forest becomes unsustainable, subjected to devastating fires (think - Australia right now), all of South America turns into one vast savannah and ultimately desert.

As rain forests die and burn, those fires will release even more CO2 into the atmosphere, driving global warming still further and faster. In just a century, rather than five degrees hotter, the world could easily be twice that, which would be a warming more rapid than any other at any time ever in Earth’s history. Bar none.

Most European and northern plant species will not survive in a North African climate. But while a ten degree warming in Europe in a hundred years is merely catastrophic, a ten degree warming in an already hot country makes it completely uninhabitable. Life on earth begins to starve and die, which includes us.

And now for the coup de grace at the end of this chain of effect: a ten degree warming will lead to the release of a vast natural store of greenhouse gas bigger than all the oil and coal reserves of the planet. Methane hydrates store ten thousand billion tons of methane, a greenhouse gas eight times stronger than carbon dioxide, at the bottom of the ocean in a kind of frozen form, known to be destabilized by warming. Once these gasses start to be released, no matter what was done at that point to curb emissions, it would be too late. Ten thousand billion tons of methane, which would have twenty-five times the impact on temperature than a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years, would be released into the atmosphere, the Earth's climate heading towards temperatures unseen in four billion years, with no way to stop it. All life on earth would become extinct. It’s the end of the world. And we're only talking two hundred years, tops.

But, yeah, those deniers are completely correct about one thing - the earth has been here before. Back when the only life capable of surviving in such an atmosphere and climate was precursors of bacteria. Totally natural, ya betcha. If we're really lucky, the earth will recover on its own, just like it did the first time around... in another four billion years.

Welcome to Venus, folks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pat Condel has something to say...

This plays a "small" part in the discussion we had Friday night. Are the "new atheists" hostile? Intolerant? Ranting? In my opinion Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris are docile pussies. 2:55 - 3:30 hits the nail on the head. How does one differentiate the religion from the dogma? I remain unconvinced that one can. Calling one mythologically dead ideology a "religion" as an example of the non-effective is silly. Anamism with NO human following, is useless when there is nothing ceremonial, or derivative to its antecedents and consequences.

Just sayin' (perhaps antagonizing)

HH =)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Holidays.

I just love this one.

HH =0)

Monday, November 09, 2009


the world has gone completely kooky. up is down... down is up... cats are sleeping with dogs... real Armageddon stuff.

Not really. For the fundies reading... I fart in your general direction.

It does seem, however, that the variable nature of life-as-a human is kicking in. My son has a B in his physics class. He has "A"'s on all of his assignments, and an "F" on his surprise quiz last Friday. Am I being too harsh that he got caught with his pants down? Am I being Hypocritical given that my GPA was lower (at the same point educationally) than his? Am I just too fuckin' uptight about pushing him farther than my parents could push me? Is my comparing him to my same-aged self even appropriate?

Being the parent of a 16 (almost 17) year old young adult sucks! I will trade anyone for a rambunctious lapdog.

I ran into an old elementary-school chum today. I was walking, just feet from my office door, when I heard, "Travis? Is that you?"
I turned to see a friend I had not seen in 20 years (Holy Shit that is a long time). He smiled and it took me 5 seconds to recognize him. He was taller, less-old, and more delightful than I.

He married my first high-school girlfriend. She is now a principal at an elementary school just 2 blocks east of my high-school house. Just one block from her childhood home as well. Yes... Utah is sometimes full of people who are NOT smart enough to move the HELL AWAY!!!

My chum and I sat in my office catching up. He is an Architect who works in offices just blocks from my own. The parallels of our lives are almost freaky. HI parents divorced, his father dated my mother (once), we both dealt with the fallout of divorced parents in similar ways, we both dated his wife, we both rebelled against our parents idiocy, and have distant relations with our families. He is close to his in-laws. I am close to mine.

I think of my childhood and he was a part of the happiest part of it. Now, he is a good father of two kids (boy and girl), happily married to a wonderful woman (same one we both dated), and went through hell because of his parents vast quantity of "dumb." That we would meet each other today, after all these years apart, but just feet in distance, is (to my mind) extra-ordinary. The odds were low, but not impossibly so.

So... today is a mixed day. I am furious with my son. I am hopeful about a childhood friendship that just seemed to fall back into place.

HH =)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pale blue dot...

This is a classic from Carl Sagan. It reminds me of an Einstien qoute:
"I ponder the vastness of the universe, and I see the smallness of mankind. And it makes me happy." Letter to his wife.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

HH =)

Friday, October 09, 2009

My thoughts on Feyman Extended...

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them." -- Albert Einstein

In such company... Can't wait for "hell."

HH =)

Sunday, September 27, 2009


My son went on his first official formal date last night. He went to the homecoming dance. This is him and his date below:

They were very cute. I am often being surprised lately by how many "firsts" I am experiencing as a 43-year-old human on this planet. There has been such a long pause between my "first" child, and now.

There is the "first" understanding of elderly frailty. My parents are getting older and the thought of "death" is just beginning to take on a new meaning for me. I, frankly, used to long for them to be dead. I have a conscience mind you... just longed for the freedom to be free from their incessant judgments, and moral platitudes. Now that I have an "adult" relationship with them, I find that their "peculiarities" have become somewhat charming.? The thought of them not being around to wisely smile, as I deride my teens for their lack of judgment, will be a bit... errr... unusual.

My teen daughter and I, just finished a discussion about why arguing with dad is pointless. "Sometimes, it would take hours..weeks...days...months... years... for her to understand all the little steps between "why" and "ought". There are just times in which we come to understand that others simply understand "more." And we ought to accept their understanding at face value. Those others may be right, and they may be wrong, but they have "more" experience qua experience to make such decisions.

I think that the truly wise find out when they have more knowledge to make a "better" decision than some others. Either way... my boy had a great time. He danced. He cuddled. He savored one of life's most rich experiences. And, is the better for it.

HH =)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Some decent news

Utah gets a "B" in science education. Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and West Virginia really need to up the standards there. Of course, they are that states that put "Evolution is a controversial theory. Alternatives are taught." Funny how creationists, and thier lack of scientific literacy, are the greatest evidence any possible intelligent design.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Look out... Militant Atheists on the prowl.

Too true. There have been a number of screeds, of late, stating that the "new atheists" are harsh, militant, even "violent." Yes, we dare say that religion is a bunch of ridiculous nonsense which has no scientific, rational, or factual basis; and THIS is militancy? I wonder what a society made up of the philosophies of the likes of atheists such as: Bertrand Russell, Thomas Jefferson, PZ Meyers, Dan Dennett, Gora, Gandhi, Spinoza, Sam Harris, Shane, Ron, and Shelly would look like. I am sure that such a politic would surely invade other nations "preemptively", put believers to death, ignore treaty's, pollute the environment, preserve ignorance while ignoring modernity, support drug cartels just to say drugs are illegal, etc.

As far as I can tell "militant" atheism in practice is only arguing fervently for your beliefs. Would it be nice if other "isms" would take such a militant course.

HH =)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Co2, data and global warming..

This recent post on a blog I follow hits the "data," that I so love, regarding global warming and CO2 emissions. I urge any, and all, readers to go HERE:

He offers no judgments, no conditions, no political agenda. Just good old fashioned numbers. The conclusions are simply objective if trends continue.

Here is a YouTube Video that climate-change deniers tried to have banned at YouTube (pay careful attention at 2:21... trust me it may make you chuckle):

I have been spending some of my Summer researching this issue. There is much that is clouded with dogma and agendas. I have concluded that if trends do NOT change in our energy consumption habits, my children (and grandchildren) will live on an Earth that reflects the ignorance and hopelessness of my forefathers, father, and me. It may damn well kill them. This is not alarmist rhetoric, it is simply my conclusions based upon multiple data sets which achieve, for me, a high standard of convergent scientific research.

To do list:
1. Plant more trees,
2. Walk anytime possible,
3. Vote the environment,
4. Hug my kids and apologize for what will surely happen (much less what may well happen with no changes),
5. Pay more for energy alternative devices whenever available, and
6. Talk about it whenever the opportunity arises.

SH (Serious Heretic)

Those LIberal fools in the Netherlands.

They have fallen into chaos with thier leaglized pot, brothels, and gay marriage. America is SOOOOOOOOOO much better:

America: land of the stupid.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not sure I shouldn't be worried here:

My son is the killer:

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

HH =)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I am always intrigued when observing a radical change in behavior when context and "discriminative Stimuli" change. BF Skinner inferred from his data that when Antecedents and Consequences change, so does the response rate.

For example, when a pigeon pecks a disk on an VR (variable reinforcement) schedule with a "green" colored disk, and then the color of the disk is quickly changed to "blue", the pigeon simply stopped pecking the disk. However, when the disk was gradually changed from green to blue the pigeon continued to peck for much longer without any additional reinforcement.

This is illustrative of a human analogue. When context slowly changes (say one peer addition, or graded environmental changes) over time, behavior remains remarkabley consistant. However, when the context changes to quickly (say "sunday" church, to gathering at the local brew-pub) then the rate of reponse stops akin to the pigeons.

Is human behavior (e.g., overt muscular twitches, and covert {thinking/cognitive}) really that evolved compared to other organisms?


We are highly skilled with verbal behavior (talking, writing, "manding and tacting" {shane and ron-- I am being deliberately unfamiliar} *wink*) because our environment demands it. But we really have no special endowment on this planet when it comes to complexity, genius, etc. The Following video is illustrative:

How many of us were intelligent enough to learn this before seeing the model provided by a more "primitive" species? I will never peel a banana the same way again.

My ethical conundrum is this... Is it less moral to change ones responses under differing conditions, or are both simply outside the moral scope of questioning? Under the first condition (gradual change) the behavior is consistent. However, under the second (radical change of SD) human behavior looks somewhat hypocritical. For example, take religious bashing behavior. If someone is verbally critical of religion in one context (say a brew pub), and religiously sensitive in another (say a pubic forum), some might say the persons behavior reflects "hypocrisy." However, under a behavioral paradigm is is perfectly lawful, and judging it without analyzing the antecedents, consequences, and learning history is prejudicial.

So there is the "explanation", and "description" demanded by science. So what of "prediction" and "control"? I should be able to predict that if I am able to put one context starkly over another in time and space, without gradual "drift", then I would see a very different set of behaviors from my subject. Indeed I have. I will hold back the data for reasons of my own.

Finally, there is the control aspect of the phenomena. First, why should I want to control it? What is in it for me, the other person, or anyone else for that matter? In my most recent case, there is nothing to gain for anyone. Therefore, I left it alone (the variables controlling my behavior are not contingent enough to warrant a response change in my behavior). However, now that I know the controlling variables I could quickly manipulate that variables analyzed to measure the effect (if any).

This is behavioral science. Not perfect (due to limitations in measuring technology), but certainly scientific (not scientism). This can be replicated, and falsified.

It has often been the criticism that behaviorism turns people into response machines. But what is often overlooked is that behaviorism includes the fact that the environment is collaterally changed by the organism. The "operant" is a relationship between the behavior pattern and the environmental variables, not a cause-effect. Further, that the subject of study is NOT static, but dynamic. Thus, measurements must match the subject under study (rate of change versus punctate measure).

Of course you may pour a few beers down my throat and watch my smart-ass arguing behavior increase. But, what's in it for you???

HH =)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Richard Feyman on Doubt, Uncertainty, and Religion.

One never expects Feynman to sound like a New Yorker. Yet...

Its fun to have opinions which are consistent with those who have proven to benefit the world through their work.

HH =)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vacation heaven...

Okay. Watch, dream, let the jealousy ensue... ;)

Wish I were HERE (forever):

The kids were resistant at first, but the reality of paradise eventually sunk deep into their sad little heads.

I hated to come home... no really... hated it. Still a little bitter about coming back to the late drizzle of Utah.

On another note... Father's day was nice. I received two hummingbird feeders from the family. Can't wait to hang them (need a little additional hardware to get things going), and let those high-energy birds have at 'em. Pretty cool.

HH =)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

For your viewing pleasure...

Drifters of the deep from Eugenia Loli-Queru on Vimeo.

I was awestruck by the beauty. Can't wait to snorkle in the Carribean in a week.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stephen J. Gould. Just a refresher...

YOu can find this article here. Read on....

Evolution as Fact and Theory

by Stephen Jay Gould

Kirtley Mather, who died last year at age ninety, was a pillar of both science and Christian religion in America and one of my dearest friends. The difference of a half-century in our ages evaporated before our common interests. The most curious thing we shared was a battle we each fought at the same age. For Kirtley had gone to Tennessee with Clarence Darrow to testify for evolution at the Scopes trial of 1925. When I think that we are enmeshed again in the same struggle for one of the best documented, most compelling and exciting concepts in all of science, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

According to idealized principles of scientific discourse, the arousal of dormant issues should reflect fresh data that give renewed life to abandoned notions. Those outside the current debate may therefore be excused for suspecting that creationists have come up with something new, or that evolutionists have generated some serious internal trouble. But nothing has changed; the creationists have presented not a single new fact or argument. Darrow and Bryan were at least more entertaining than we lesser antagonists today. The rise of creationism is politics, pure and simple; it represents one issue (and by no means the major concern) of the resurgent evangelical right. Arguments that seemed kooky just a decade ago have reentered the mainstream.

The basic attack of modern creationists falls apart on two general counts before we even reach the supposed factual details of their assault against evolution. First, they play upon a vernacular misunderstanding of the word "theory" to convey the false impression that we evolutionists are covering up the rotten core of our edifice. Second, they misuse a popular philosophy of science to argue that they are behaving scientifically in attacking evolution. Yet the same philosophy demonstrates that their own belief is not science, and that "scientific creationism" is a meaningless and self-contradictory phrase, an example of what Orwell called "newspeak."

In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is "only" a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

Moreover, "fact" does not mean "absolute certainty." The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolutionists have been clear about this distinction between fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory—natural selection—to explain the mechanism of evolution. He wrote in The Descent of Man: "I had two distinct objects in view; firstly, to show that species had not been separately created, and secondly, that natural selection had been the chief agent of change. . . . Hence if I have erred in . . . having exaggerated its [natural selection's] power . . . I have at least, as I hope, done good service in aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations."

Thus Darwin acknowledged the provisional nature of natural selection while affirming the fact of evolution. The fruitful theoretical debate that Darwin initiated has never ceased. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Darwin's own theory of natural selection did achieve a temporary hegemony that it never enjoyed in his lifetime. But renewed debate characterizes our decade, and, while no biologist questions the importance of natural selection, many doubt its ubiquity. In particular, many evolutionists argue that substantial amounts of genetic change may not be subject to natural selection and may spread through the populations at random. Others are challenging Darwin's linking of natural selection with gradual, imperceptible change through all intermediary degrees; they are arguing that most evolutionary events may occur far more rapidly than Darwin envisioned.

Scientists regard debates on fundamental issues of theory as a sign of intellectual health and a source of excitement. Science is—and how else can I say it?—most fun when it plays with interesting ideas, examines their implications, and recognizes that old information might be explained in surprisingly new ways. Evolutionary theory is now enjoying this uncommon vigor. Yet amidst all this turmoil no biologist has been lead to doubt the fact that evolution occurred; we are debating how it happened. We are all trying to explain the same thing: the tree of evolutionary descent linking all organisms by ties of genealogy. Creationists pervert and caricature this debate by conveniently neglecting the common conviction that underlies it, and by falsely suggesting that evolutionists now doubt the very phenomenon we are struggling to understand.

Secondly, creationists claim that "the dogma of separate creations," as Darwin characterized it a century ago, is a scientific theory meriting equal time with evolution in high school biology curricula. But a popular viewpoint among philosophers of science belies this creationist argument. Philosopher Karl Popper has argued for decades that the primary criterion of science is the falsifiability of its theories. We can never prove absolutely, but we can falsify. A set of ideas that cannot, in principle, be falsified is not science.

The entire creationist program includes little more than a rhetorical attempt to falsify evolution by presenting supposed contradictions among its supporters. Their brand of creationism, they claim, is "scientific" because it follows the Popperian model in trying to demolish evolution. Yet Popper's argument must apply in both directions. One does not become a scientist by the simple act of trying to falsify a rival and truly scientific system; one has to present an alternative system that also meets Popper's criterion — it too must be falsifiable in principle.

"Scientific creationism" is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs. Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science. Lest I seem harsh or rhetorical, I quote creationism's leading intellectual, Duane Gish, Ph.D. from his recent (1978) book, Evolution? The Fossils Say No! "By creation we mean the bringing into being by a supernatural Creator of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation. We do not know how the Creator created, what process He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe [Gish's italics]. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." Pray tell, Dr. Gish, in the light of your last sentence, what then is scientific creationism?

Our confidence that evolution occurred centers upon three general arguments. First, we have abundant, direct, observational evidence of evolution in action, from both the field and laboratory. This evidence ranges from countless experiments on change in nearly everything about fruit flies subjected to artificial selection in the laboratory to the famous populations of British moths that became black when industrial soot darkened the trees upon which the moths rest. (Moths gain protection from sharp-sighted bird predators by blending into the background.) Creationists do not deny these observations; how could they? Creationists have tightened their act. They now argue that God only created "basic kinds," and allowed for limited evolutionary meandering within them. Thus toy poodles and Great Danes come from the dog kind and moths can change color, but nature cannot convert a dog to a cat or a monkey to a man.

The second and third arguments for evolution—the case for major changes—do not involve direct observation of evolution in action. They rest upon inference, but are no less secure for that reason. Major evolutionary change requires too much time for direct observation on the scale of recorded human history. All historical sciences rest upon inference, and evolution is no different from geology, cosmology, or human history in this respect. In principle, we cannot observe processes that operated in the past. We must infer them from results that still surround us: living and fossil organisms for evolution, documents and artifacts for human history, strata and topography for geology.

The second argument—that the imperfection of nature reveals evolution—strikes many people as ironic, for they feel that evolution should be most elegantly displayed in the nearly perfect adaptation expressed by some organisms—the camber of a gull's wing, or butterflies that cannot be seen in ground litter because they mimic leaves so precisely. But perfection could be imposed by a wise creator or evolved by natural selection. Perfection covers the tracks of past history. And past history—the evidence of descent—is the mark of evolution.

Evolution lies exposed in the imperfections that record a history of descent. Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor? An engineer, starting from scratch, could design better limbs in each case. Why should all the large native mammals of Australia be marsupials, unless they descended from a common ancestor isolated on this island continent? Marsupials are not "better," or ideally suited for Australia; many have been wiped out by placental mammals imported by man from other continents. This principle of imperfection extends to all historical sciences. When we recognize the etymology of September, October, November, and December (seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth), we know that the year once started in March, or that two additional months must have been added to an original calendar of ten months.

The third argument is more direct: transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. The lower jaw of reptiles contains several bones, that of mammals only one. The non-mammalian jawbones are reduced, step by step, in mammalian ancestors until they become tiny nubbins located at the back of the jaw. The "hammer" and "anvil" bones of the mammalian ear are descendants of these nubbins. How could such a transition be accomplished? the creationists ask. Surely a bone is either entirely in the jaw or in the ear. Yet paleontologists have discovered two transitional lineages of therapsids (the so-called mammal-like reptiles) with a double jaw joint—one composed of the old quadrate and articular bones (soon to become the hammer and anvil), the other of the squamosal and dentary bones (as in modern mammals). For that matter, what better transitional form could we expect to find than the oldest human, Australopithecus afarensis, with its apelike palate, its human upright stance, and a cranial capacity larger than any ape’s of the same body size but a full 1,000 cubic centimeters below ours? If God made each of the half-dozen human species discovered in ancient rocks, why did he create in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features—increasing cranial capacity, reduced face and teeth, larger body size? Did he create to mimic evolution and test our faith thereby?

Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.

I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record—geologically "sudden" origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis)—reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond. It represents much less than 1 per cent of the average life-span for a fossil invertebrate species—more than ten million years. Large, widespread, and well established species, on the other hand, are not expected to change very much. We believe that the inertia of large populations explains the stasis of most fossil species over millions of years.

We proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium largely to provide a different explanation for pervasive trends in the fossil record. Trends, we argued, cannot be attributed to gradual transformation within lineages, but must arise from the different success of certain kinds of species. A trend, we argued, is more like climbing a flight of stairs (punctuated and stasis) than rolling up an inclined plane.

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. Yet a pamphlet entitled "Harvard Scientists Agree Evolution Is a Hoax" states: "The facts of punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge…are forcing Darwinists to swallow fit the picture that Bryan insisted on, and which God has revealed to us in the Bible."

Continuing the distortion, several creationists have equated the theory of punctuated equilibrium with a caricature of the beliefs of Richard Goldschmidt, a great early geneticist. Goldschmidt argued, in a famous book published in 1940, that new groups can arise all at once through major mutations. He referred to these suddenly transformed creatures as "hopeful monsters." (I am attracted to some aspects of the non-caricatured version, but Goldschmidt's theory still has nothing to do with punctuated equilibrium—see essays in section 3 and my explicit essay on Goldschmidt in The Pandas Thumb.) Creationist Luther Sunderland talks of the "punctuated equilibrium hopeful monster theory" and tells his hopeful readers that "it amounts to tacit admission that anti-evolutionists are correct in asserting there is no fossil evidence supporting the theory that all life is connected to a common ancestor." Duane Gish writes, "According to Goldschmidt, and now apparently according to Gould, a reptile laid an egg from which the first bird, feathers and all, was produced." Any evolutionists who believed such nonsense would rightly be laughed off the intellectual stage; yet the only theory that could ever envision such a scenario for the origin of birds is creationism—with God acting in the egg.

I am both angry at and amused by the creationists; but mostly I am deeply sad. Sad for many reasons. Sad because so many people who respond to creationist appeals are troubled for the right reason, but venting their anger at the wrong target. It is true that scientists have often been dogmatic and elitist. It is true that we have often allowed the white-coated, advertising image to represent us—"Scientists say that Brand X cures bunions ten times faster than…" We have not fought it adequately because we derive benefits from appearing as a new priesthood. It is also true that faceless and bureaucratic state power intrudes more and more into our lives and removes choices that should belong to individuals and communities. I can understand that school curricula, imposed from above and without local input, might be seen as one more insult on all these grounds. But the culprit is not, and cannot be, evolution or any other fact of the natural world. Identify and fight our legitimate enemies by all means, but we are not among them.

I am sad because the practical result of this brouhaha will not be expanded coverage to include creationism (that would also make me sad), but the reduction or excision of evolution from high school curricula. Evolution is one of the half dozen "great ideas" developed by science. It speaks to the profound issues of genealogy that fascinate all of us—the "roots" phenomenon writ large. Where did we come from? Where did life arise? How did it develop? How are organisms related? It forces us to think, ponder, and wonder. Shall we deprive millions of this knowledge and once again teach biology as a set of dull and unconnected facts, without the thread that weaves diverse material into a supple unity?

But most of all I am saddened by a trend I am just beginning to discern among my colleagues. I sense that some now wish to mute the healthy debate about theory that has brought new life to evolutionary biology. It provides grist for creationist mills, they say, even if only by distortion. Perhaps we should lie low and rally around the flag of strict Darwinism, at least for the moment—a kind of old-time religion on our part.

But we should borrow another metaphor and recognize that we too have to tread a straight and narrow path, surrounded by roads to perdition. For if we ever begin to suppress our search to understand nature, to quench our own intellectual excitement in a misguided effort to present a united front where it does not and should not exist, then we are truly lost.

[ Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory," Discover 2 (May 1981): 34-37; Reprinted here with permission from Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, pp. 253-262. ]

Friday, May 22, 2009

Materialism captured brilliantly...

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. ”

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The illusion of "ownership" is what our democratic/republic is now based upon functionally. If true, then our very socio-political order, is absurd. When does the delusion fall? What will those results entail? I think nothing good.

HH - entering his dark phase...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Post for Ron

Jennfer Hecht does an interview here. Give it a listen. Very Kewl.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dr. Ken Miler on the death of "Creationism"

This is one of the most comprehensive arguments to examine the scientific viability of "intelligent design"/"irreducible complexity" ever. It is 2 hours long and worth every minute.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The case of the disappearing son's blog.

I was beginning to wonder why my boy hadn't posted anything since November of last year. Turns out he created another few blogs. I just stumbled across his latest one today. I urge you to check it out. Gets his skills from the wife's side of the family.

Ron's recent post on depression has got me thinking. Need to mull it over for a while.

The sun is shining and the temperature is above 50 degrees. I need to get outside.

HH =)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Please post this on your blog. Make go viral.

Curbing the freedom of speech is unacceptable. I am going to HULU until the JREF account is re-instated.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

John Stewart..

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not to brag but..

Please... somebody... make her stop growing up. ;P

Its not easy beating the chicks off with a stick.

Yes They are mine.

Its good to be the king.

HH =)

Friday, January 16, 2009

TAG... from Darci's blog (cut, paste, and answer)

Five names you go by:
1. Travis 2. T-Bone 3. Doc 4. Trav (I hate this one) 5. Daddy (said sweetly by my dughter)

Three things you are wearing right now:
1. Jeans 2. Shirt 3. Socks

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
1. Pastries 2. neo-conservatism gone!

Two people who will probably fill this out:
1. Lisa 2. My mom

Two things you did last night:
1. Drank more than was wise 2. Helped my girl with her homework

Two things you ate today:
1. Bacon 2. Chicken Strips

Two people you last talked to on the phone:
1. A Special Education Teacher 2. Another Special Education Teacher

Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
1. Shop for groceries at 5:30 am 2. Think about buying a scooter

Two longest car rides:
1. Home to Baptism at 8 yrs. old 2. Logan to San Fransico

Two of your favorite beverages
1. Bud Light Lime 2. TAB (yeah I wrote it... I'm a dude and I LOVE TAB... Get over it or defend yourself!).

Now, complete this list on your blog

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Drive by posting...

A message for someone (you know who you are)...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Going offline.

Going offline for a while. Work is a firestorm and I need to keep up.



Saturday, January 03, 2009

Politicization of GLobal Warming and Anti-Scientism

Gotta love "Democracy Now"!

To human-caused global warming deniers: Why has the political establishment taken such effort to filter the scientists, within our own system, from communicating their findings??? As you may notice in the YouTube video it occurred under democratic and republican administrations.

To those who envision science as another social construct (albeit a useful one): Why would a social structure (scientism) continue that, based on its very purpose, is used to objectify, and cast doubt on social constructs themselves? Wouldn't science, then, be self-eliminating?

Just fodder for discussion.

HH =)