Senate Republicans Agree Climate Change Is Real But Continue To Deny Cause

Climate-vote

With Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats are largely limited to symbolic votes. Democrats wanted to attach an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill which would get Republicans on record with regards to climate change. There was little difficulty in passing an amendment agreeing that climate change is real, and not a hoax. Only one Republican, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, voted no. The catch is that, while they agreed that the climate is changing (a fact which some conservatives do deny), they do not accept the view of 97 percent of climate scientists that human action is the cause.

Senator Brian Schatz introduced a stronger amendment: “To express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Under the rules of the Senate, this amendment failed with a 50-49 majority. Most Republicans voted against it, but there were a handful of exceptions–full list here.

I’m not sure what all this proved, but next could we have a vote to determine which Republicans don’t believe in evolution, or that the earth is not flat?

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Republican State Governments Expected To Renew The Culture Wars And Promote Conservative Pseudo-Science On Abortion

Democrats made a tremendous tactical mistake in the 2014 midterms. As the key Senate battles were in red states, Democrats ran as Republican-lite and Obama stayed quiet. As a consequence, turn out was at historic lows as Democratic voters saw no reason to turn out across the country, giving Republicans increased control in both Congress nationally along with in many state governments. (In contrast, once Obama became active after the election, his support shot up in the Gallup poll and multiple other polls).

While many Republicans ran with little talk of their positions on social issues, knowing that doing so might get many more people to turn out to vote against their unpopular views, The Washington Post points out that they plan to pursue conservative goals on social issues now that they are in office:

Renewal of culture wars

A new round of the culture wars is also inevitable in 2015. Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List, said she expects that measures to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy will advance in Wisconsin, South Carolina and West Virginia. Missouri, too, is likely to take up some abortion-related bills.

In Tennessee, voters gave the legislature new powers to regulate abortion, and state House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) has said her chamber will take up three measures requiring mandatory counseling, a waiting period and stricter inspections of clinics.

Conservative efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks are based on ignoring science, just as many conservatives do in denying evolution and climate change. Conservatives make pseudo-scientific claims that the fetus can feel pain at this point, despite the cerebral cortex not being developed until well after this point. There is no real controversy over this point in medicine. Conservatives sometimes twist studies showing simple reflexes as indicating that the fetus is feeling pain. Often they misquote researchers to falsely claim their is a scientific basis for their bogus claims. More on this faux controversy over the science here and here.

The 20 week ban is especially harmful to the rights of women as fetal abnormalities are often not discovered until after this point. It is understandable that a woman who discovers after 20 weeks that she is carrying a fetus which has severe brain abnormalities which would prevent survival might want to abort, but Republicans would deny them this choice by setting an arbitrary limit before such abnormalities are apparent. It is also feared that once they set the line at 20 weeks they will use more pseudo-science to justify moving it up.

Conservatives have also practiced pseudo-science in trying to make the abortion debate over the moment when life begins, when development of the human embryo and fetus is a continuum. Conception is a process without an exact moment at which it occurs, and even fertilization can take twenty-four hours.

If conservatives are really concerned about preventing fetal pain their policies are counterproductive. Late term abortions are very rare in this country, primarily done when the mother’s health is in danger. Another common reason for abortions being delayed until after 20 weeks is the inability of the mother to obtain the abortion earlier, often due to roadblocks placed by Republicans making abortions more difficult to obtain. Of course Republican opposition to contraception further increases the number of abortions. If conservatives were consistent in desiring to prevent fetal pain, they should facilitate the ability of women to obtain both contraception and to obtain early abortions even beyond twenty weeks and before the actual ability to feel pain is present.

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Norm Ornstein On The Republican Battle Between The Conservatives And Lunatic Radicals

While, as should be obvious from the previous post, I am not thrilled by the prospect of Hillary Clinton being president, any Republican alternative would be far worse. With all her faults, Clinton isn’t bat-shit crazy. Norm Ornstein has written again about how extreme the Republican have become. He described the extremists who have become more common in the Republican Party, providing multiple quotations (not even resorting to quoting Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann):

As for the radicals in elected office or in control of party organs, consider a small sampling of comments:

“Sex that doesn’t produce people is deviate.” —Montana state Rep. Dave Hagstrom.

“It is not our job to see that anyone gets an education.” —Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Reynolds.

“I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is not going to save us. We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!” —Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, at a tea-party rally.

President Obama has “become a dictator” and needs to face the consequences of his executive actions, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” —Iowa state Sen. (and U.S. Senate candidate) Jodi Ernst, one of a slew of elected officials calling for impeachment or at least putting it front and center.

“I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change. But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.” —Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (fact-check: the average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees).

“Although Islam had a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology. It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protections.” —Georgia congressional candidate Jody Hice.

“Slavery and abortion are the two most horrendous things this country has done, but when you think about the immorality of wild, lavish spending on our generation and forcing future generations to do without essentials just so we can live lavishly now, it’s pretty immoral.” —U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big-bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” —U.S. Rep. (and M.D.) Paul Broun of Georgia.

“Now I don’t assert where he [Obama] was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t beat the same for him.” —U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

He pointed out some of the less extreme forces in the Republican Party and concluded:

I am not suggesting that the lunatics or extremists have won. Most Republicans in the Senate are not, to use John McCain’s term, “wacko birds,” and most Republicans in office would at least privately cringe at some of the wild ideas and extreme views. At the same time, the “establishment” is fighting back, pouring resources into primaries to protect their preferred candidates, and we are seeing the rise of a new and encouraging movement among conservative intellectuals—dubbed “Reformicons” by E.J. Dionne—to come up with a new set of ideas and policy prescriptions to redefine the ideology and the party in a positive way.

But there is a darker reality. Many of the “preferred” candidates—including Ernst as well as James Lankford in Oklahoma and Jack Kingston in Georgia—are anything but pragmatic.

A few years ago, they would have been labeled hard-liners. (Kingston, a favorite of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was beaten in the Senate primary Tuesday by businessman David Perdue, who has said he would not vote for Mitch McConnell as party leader in the Senate.) It is a measure of the nature of this intra-party struggle that the mainstream is now on the hard right, and that it is close to apostasy to say that Obama is legitimate, that climate change is real, that background checks on guns are desirable, or even that the Common Core is a good idea. When we see presumably sane figures like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shamelessly pander to the extremists, it tells us where the center of gravity in the GOP primary base, at least, is set. Of course, there are still courageous mainstream figures like Jeb Bush who are willing to deviate from the new orthodoxy, and it is possible that he can run and get the Republican presidential nomination, win the White House, and begin the process of recalibration.

But when one looks at the state of Republican public opinion (especially among the likely caucus and primary voters), at the consistent and persistent messages coming from the information sources they follow, and at the supine nature of congressional leaders and business leaders in countering extremism, it is not at all likely that what passes for mainstream, problem-solving conservatism will dominate the Republican Party anytime soon.

Even if the lunatics have not entirely won, they are the ones influencing the views of the rest of  the party. The establishment Republicans have beaten some primary challenges based upon disagreements on tactics, such as no longer wanting to shut down the government, but they have also adopted the ideology of the Tea Party.

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Reality Versus Republicans On The Affordable Care Act

Last fall was a wonderful time for Republicans. Their fortunes changed quickly after it looked like they were in serious trouble over another threat to shut down the government. Then healthcare.gov started out a failure and there were stories about people receiving letters canceling their insurance coverage.

The Republican luck didn’t last. The web site was fixed (with some work still to be done). Most of the people who received cancellation letters were either able to continue their current plans or receive better coverage at a lower rate. The Republicans made further predictions of doom for Obamacare but their predictions failed to come true and the Affordable Care Act is doing better than most supporters predicted. Instead of the unfavorable news headlines of last fall, we are now seeing headlines such as this one at The Hill: GOP struggles to land punches at ObamaCare insurance hearing.

Republicans struggled to land punches against ObamaCare in a hearing Wednesday, as responses from insurance companies deflated several lines of questioning.

Democratic lawmakers were emboldened to defend the Affordable Care Act with renewed vigor and levity, creating a dynamic rarely seen in the debate over ObamaCare…

But Republicans were visibly exasperated, as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee’s allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium.

Four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate.

Contrary to Republican claims that one-third have not paid their premium, reports available so far from insurance companies range from 80 percent to over 90 percent. As payment is not due for everyone who signed up at the last minute, and there is a ninety day grace period, we will not have an exact figure for a while longer. There is enough information to verify the White House claims that at least 80 percent are paying and debunk the Republican claims of only 67 percent.

The fact-checkers continue to demonstrate how Republican campaigns are based upon lies. For example, Glenn Kessler’s column  exposes both Rand Paul and a Nebraska candidate for lying about the Affordable Care Act.

Of course the facts will not keep Republicans from claiming that customers aren’t paying their premiums, denying the number who have signed up, or even denying the benefits of obtaining health care coverage. False attacks on the Affordable Care Act are the same as Republican attacks on Obama’s birth certificate, Benghazi, or the IRS. While all these claims have been shown to be false, Republicans will keep up their lies because they fire up their base to vote, and Republicans have no concern about the facts.

Remember, Republicans are also the party which includes people who deny well-established science ranging from evolution to climate change. The world has probably never seen a more ignorant group in government than today’s Republican Party.

Update: More disappointment for the Republicans reported by The New York Times:

House Republicans summoned a half-dozen health insurance executives to a hearing Wednesday envisioned as another forum for criticism of the Affordable Care Act. But insurers refused to go along with the plan, and surprised Republican critics of the law by undercutting some of their arguments against it.

Insurers, appearing before a panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, testified that the law had not led to a government takeover of their industry, as some Republicans had predicted. Indeed, several insurers said their stock prices had increased in the last few years.

The executives also declined to endorse Republican predictions of a sharp increase in insurance premiums next year, saying they did not have enough data or experience to forecast prices. And they said they were already receiving federal subsidy payments intended to make insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income people.

Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, sounded a bit disappointed at the end of the hearing. He marveled at the subdued testimony and complained that no one at the witness table “wanted to be forthcoming.”

But Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, appeared delighted.

“These companies were not the biggest supporters of the law,” she said. “They still oppose many provisions, but they do not live in a Republican echo chamber. They live in the real world.”

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Cosmos For Creationists II

Cosmos contains facts which some on the anti-science religious right object to, such as discussion of evolution and creation of the universe in the big bang. Last month I posted a video in which an episode of Cosmos was edited for creationists. Funny or Die made their version of an episode made for creationists–video above.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Hannibal; Orphan Black; Doctor Who; Star Trek; Person of Interest; The Americans; Continuum; Fox vs. Kristen Bell; Mad Men; Lost; Creationists vs. Cosmos

Arrow Suicide Squad

I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed by this week’s episode of Arrow, not because it was a bad episode (it wasn’t) but my expectations had been raised so high by all the hype over the introduction of the Suicide Squad. I did like how they tied it to Dingle and his ex-wife, but beyond them there was little time for anyone else other than Deadshot and Amanda Waller. Of course Shrapnel didn’t last very long. (Are we certain he is really dead–we never saw the body.) They probably could have used more time to flesh out the story further, perhaps as a two-part show. Dingle was definitely able to carry the episode as lead and if limited to one episode it also might have been better to just give him the entire episode. Most of the scenes with Oliver and Felicity, other than the final scene, were pretty much filler anyways. I know it is unconventional to leave out two of the biggest stars, but it would have made a stronger episode.

There were two scenes with Oliver worth noting. I have no idea how Slade could have had video of Shadow from the island and suspect this was a case of the writers going for a more dramatic scene at the expense of reality (even within the parameters of this series). I did like the ending, tying into not only Dingle but Oliver, and having a potential new ally against Slade. While she was introduced to the DC world long after I stopped reading Batman comics, I understand that the cameo by Harley Quinn is a huge deal for many fans. Collider spoke with producer Marc Guggenheim about the series and potential appearances from characters from the Batman universe:

How much of the Batman universe can you plug into this show, especially now with Gotham out there?

GUGGENHEIM:  That’s part of the ongoing relationship and discussions that we have with DC.  Things have not really changed with Gotham.  It’s the same thing that it always is, which is that we have an idea, we go to DC, we talk about it, and we find out where the lines are and which characters are available or not available.  I want to manage expectations with respect to Harley Quinn.  She was always intended to be an Easter egg.  I don’t want people to go in with incorrect expectations and walk away from Episode 16 disappointed.  But there is an element to the Easter egg that was not spoiled by the promo, that I think people will find a lot of fun. 

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

Question: There are a lot of people who know Oliver’s secret now.  Is that number going to go down, before the end of this season, or are more people going to find out?
MARC GUGGENHEIM:  I would say that that number is going to go up, before the end of the year.  By the finale, more people will know than currently do.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

GUGGENHEIM:  We talk in the writers’ room a lot about, are there too many characters that know and does it diminish the secret identity?  Where we have come from is the philosophy that, when members of our cast of characters know, it draws them into Oliver’s world and it draws them into the show more.  So, we tend to get more story out of people knowing than people not knowing.  You could say that too many people know, but we always use The Dark Knight trilogy as our compass, and a lot of people knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman, particularly by the third movie, and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of watching those stories unfold.  Obviously, there are different philosophies and different points of view.  For us, as writers, we always go towards whatever gives us more story, and more interesting story.  For now, at least, certain people knowing is more interesting than certain people not knowing. 

Quentin Lance used to be a detective.  How has he not figured out that Oliver is Arrow?

GUGGENHEIM:  Episode 19 pretty definitively answers that question, as far as Lance is concerned.  And the answer to that will surprise you.  It’s not something that you would expect.

I’m happy to hear they are addressing Lance. After a recent episode in which Lance saw Sara with Oliver and with the Arrow in a couple scenes I could not believe that he did not figure out that they were the same person.

More characters from The Flash will also be introduced in episode 19, The Man Under the Hood.

Hannibal Takiawase

Hannibal stressed a couple of themes this week which are pertinent to the series as a whole: death as an escape and unconventional psychiatric therapy. The first involved both the motives of the killer of the week (well played by Amanda Plummer) and a second storyline in which Hannibal was the villain not for committing a murder but for thwarting Bella’s attempt to die on her own terms. If the coin toss went the other way, would he have had Bella for dinner?

For a moment I thought that perhaps Will was going to win over a new ally but instead it is clear that Hannibal is going to have Beverly for dinner. If only she had taken Will’s claims more seriously, refrained from relating any suspicions to Hannibal, had passed on her suspicions to Jack, and had thought to have backup before falling into his trap.

Will might have lost one potential ally, but he is still not powerless despite being locked up, and now better able to play detective with the return of lost memories. As he does every week, Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with AV Club. Here is an excerpt about Will:

AVC: Will is getting his memories back, and you’re filling in some of the gaps in season one. Was that always the plan? Did you have thoughts of what had actually happened when you were writing last season?

BF: There was, once Will says, “The answers are in my head, and I’m going to find them,” I felt like we were obligated to tell that story and to keep peeling back the onion of his memory, or the pomegranate, as it were, peeling back membranes and finding these clusters of bloody seeds that he has to deal with. We did that with the intubation of the ear, and then we did that with the reveal of, on some level of consciousness, he was aware what was going on in Hannibal’s dining room when Gideon was there, and is able to access that it causes him to seek out Chilton, to see if he can help him answer some of the mysteries that are locked away in his mind. It felt like it was a way to keep Will active. He can’t actually go out to investigate things, as much as he can go in and investigate things, so we needed to have some device for him to continue his investigation. To be active while he’s incarcerated and going inside his mind felt like a really strong way to do that.

AVC: Did you struggle with finding ways for Will to be active?

BF: It was always part of the conversations when we were story-breaking. “Okay, Will’s not active enough. Will has to be driving this.” We are telling Will Graham’s story, so it was very important to seek out those ways to keep him active when he’s incarcerated. That was the big thing: We need to get outdoors and see him in his mind palace fishing to give us a sense of the power of his imagination and also the transportive power of imagination in general. I think we hear from survivors of terrible atrocities, and how they survive is their imagination. It’s such a wonderful gift, and there was a line that we cut from an episode where they talk about how imagination is the greatest virtual-reality machine known to man, and it’s between our ears. It’s that kind of, almost, masturbatory transportation where you can go someplace and make it as real as you need it to be in your mind, even though you’re locked in a cage.

Orphan Black insider video with Tatiana Maslany above. We already have a strong set of genre shows airing now with Arrow, Hannibal, Continuum, and The Americans. Orphan Black might be the best of them all.

Mark Gatiss has discussed the return of the Time Lords of Gallifrey to Doctor Who.

Blastr has the first hints about the third Star Trek movie since the J.J. Abrams reboot. I’m still waiting for a movie in which the original Spock recruits the Enterprise crew to fix the time line and save Vulcan.

The Americans had another great episode. Claudia is back, and they are trying to track down the killer from the first episode. I would assume that the couple who intervened in the final scene were involved. Last week Elizabeth used fear to get information from the poor janitor. This week she used other more womanly techniques for interrogation. Paige created problems again, this time by going to church and getting caught reading a Bible. Plus Nina might be in danger because of Oleg, and Martha might place Philip’s identity at risk. Arrow shows what a superhero show should be and The Americans sets a new bar for spy shows. This makes Agents of SHIELD look so weak in both genres.

Person of Interest Root2

I’ve also highly enjoyed the last couple of episodes of Person of Interest. The first was almost entirely flashback, filling in some major holes to date in the back story. It ended with Root in the present, leading into this week’s episode which was more centered around Amy Acker’s character. She can easily carry the show, just as Dingle could carry an episode of Arrow. I was happy to read in this interview that she will probably be in the remaining episodes this season.  It looks like she has her own team to rival Harold’s, with root more connected to the Machine.

In many ways Person of Interest is increasingly reminding me of Fringe. Both started by concentrating more on monster or case of the week episodes, but overtime the mythology of the show took over. The characters have become increasingly compelling as people beyond operatives. Root is by far my favorite to watch, and I enjoy seeing her developing relationship with Shaw (“I love it when you play doctor.”) At least the two get along better than Root gets along with Fusco, who constantly calls her “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I am trying hard to avoid any major spoilers on the season premiere of Continuum. Alec’s decision to use time travel has major repercussions, and is moving the show in a new direction. There is finally an answer to the central question of the show, as to whether the time line can be changed.

Now Fox (the network which says it might take a long time to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 because it took us 2000 years to find Noah’s Arc ) is attacking Kristen Bell for saying rich people should pay more because they can afford it. Incidentally, I received my copy of the script and digital download of the Veronica Mars movie last week after donating to the Kickstarter campaign, but have not had time to watch yet.

mad-men-season-6

Matt Weiner isn’t going to let much out about the upcoming season of Mad Men, but there was a little information at PaleyFest. Here’s what they said about Don Draper:

Don is even more aimless without his job.
Don Draper has had some dark moments, but he’s always had his job to fall back on and obsess over. “His marriage is in trouble, his relationship with his kids is tricky at best, and now work isn’t there,” said Hamm. “Don is trying to process his life and his place in his job, his career, his family, everything.” And he’s made some uncharacteristic mistakes of late, including the disastrous Hershey’s pitch. “That was a completely honest moment for him. He thought, I’m going to try this because it’s a step in the right direction,” said Hamm. “But it was a step in the exact opposite direction.” Don’t dismay, though. Hamm ended on a hopeful note: “There’s one principle to Don: He’s a survivor. He rises to the challenge.”

The Lost show runners discussed the finale at PaleyFest. No, the fan theory which I never believed that they were dead the whole time is not true.

Creationists are angry about Cosmos as Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t providing them with equal time to deny science. Last week’s episode did an excellent job showing how evolution is the foundation of modern biology. As there is tremendous evidence for evolution and zero for creationism, there is no reason to grant the creationists a moment of time (other than perhaps to further debunk their claims).

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Cosmos For Creationists

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A Fox affiliate in Oklahoma cut the only reference to evolution by cutting out fifteen seconds of the premiere episode of Cosmos. Reportedly this was accidental, just like the eighteen minute gap in the Watergate tapes. The above video shows further editing of Cosmos to appeal to the anti-science right.

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Bill Nye and David Attenborough Respond To Science-Deniers on Evolution And Climate Change

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Sir David Attenborough have both worked hard to use the media to provide education on science. This task is especially important considering the vast ignorance of basic scientific concepts found in recent polls, and due to political groups intentionally spreading denial of science. Both Bill Nye and David Attenborough are now taking on attacks on science coming from creationists and climate change deniers.

There is a valid argument that the debate format is the wrong way to confront those who are intentionally giving arguments which are counter to fact, and Bill Nye is far more knowledgeable at science than in political debating. He still deserves credit for seeing the importance of confronting science-denial. I previously looked at Bill Nye’s debate against  Ken Ham on evolution. Over the weekend he confronted a Republican member of Congress on climate change. The video is above and the transcript is here. Coverage from Swampland:

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” told Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to stop questioning the facts behind climate change on Sunday morning, as the Congresswoman said the “engineer and actor” didn’t know enough about climate science to claim authority.

The two sparred over the the most appropriate response to extreme weather events and global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, and disagreed on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

Blackburn maintained that there is no consensus in the scientific community about global warming, pointing to two vocal dissenters, Richard Lindzen of MIT and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who claim that humans are not causing climate change.

“Neither [Bill Nye] nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists,” said Blackburn. “There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Experts say there is still some uncertainty in absolutely linking isolated extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or bad droughts to global warming, but the vast majority of scientists ascribe climate change and the increase in extreme weather to human activity.

Nye responded harshly to the Congresswoman.

“We have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing,” said Nye. “There is no debate in the scientific community. I encourage the Congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are our leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

More at Climate Progress.

Attenborough

David Attenborough has typically stayed out of these debates in the past, but The Daily Beast reports that he is now speaking out:

In the U.S. Attenborough is perhaps best known for the Life on Earth series that was broadcast on PBS in the 1980s, on the other side of the Atlantic he is an institution, recently winning a BBC poll to find the greatest living British icon. His work has often been diluted for an American audience, with his masterful narrations for Planet Earth and Life re-recorded by Alec Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey before they were broadcast on the Discovery channel. There have also been accusations that the U.S. network sought to downplay climate change in the shows.In fact, Attenborough says he has finally grown sick of America’s attitude to climate change. “I think it’s very sad that people won’t accept evidence for what it says—it’s extraordinary that one of the wealthiest, materially advanced societies in the world can support irrational myths in that way,” he said. “That they should do it privately is up to them but since what they do effects that whole world it’s pretty serious that they should not accept that humanity has been responsible for these changes that are absolutely evident to everyone else.”

You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Ignorance of Science In America

Earth From Moon

Last week I wrote about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution versus creationism. Many scientists were justifiably annoyed that this was even a topic of  debate. We are contrasting evolution, based upon a tremendous body of actual evidence, with creationism, a belief lacking any evidence which is based purely upon religious dogma. I’ve noted in the past that a disturbing number of Americans do not accept evolution, which provides the foundation of modern biology. While far more Republicans deny evolution than Democrats and Independents, the problem is not limited to Republicans.

We see ignorance of science in many areas. While the tobacco industry has pretty much given up the battle against evidence that cigarette smoking is hazardous, we see essentially the same type of anti-scientific misinformation being spread by the petroleum industry regarding climate change denialism. The recent death of Philp Seymore Hoffman of a heroin overdose raised the issue that there are people who remain unaware of the science demonstrating that addiction is a disease, not just a bad choice.

Unfortunately ignorance of science is widespread in this country, often impacting views on public policy. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a survey demonstrating this ignorance:

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

The result of the survey, which is conducted every two years, will be included in a National Science Foundation report to President Barack Obama and US lawmakers.

One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.

Nearly 90 percent said the benefits of science outweigh any dangers, and about the same number expressed interest in learning about medical discoveries.

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The Evolution vs. Creationism Debate

Creationist Debate

MacLeodCartoons sums up the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution vs. creationism in the cartoon above. This comes quite close to this summation of an exchange from The Guardian:

What is the one thing upon which you base your belief?

Ham: the Bible. There’s no other book like it. It tells us everything we need to know. Man is a sinner. The Gospel…Jesus died on the cross. Salvation, Jesus, God, God, the Bible. The Bible, the Bible, the Bible. God will reveal himself to you.

Nye: “I base my beliefs on the information and the process that we call science. It fills me with joy. It is a wonderful and astonishing thing to me. If we abandon all that we have learned, if we let go of everything we have learned before us, if we stop looking for answers, we will be defeated…We have to embrace science education. We have to keep science education in science classes.”

Here is another key exchange which sums up the difference between creationism and science in a nutshell. When asked what would change their mind, Ken Ham essentially replied “nothing” while Bill Nye replied “evidence.”

Ham-Nye-debate-in-a-nutshell

A more detailed recap of that portion of the debate:

What, if anything would ever change your mind?

Ham: I can’t prove it to you, but basically, God and Jesus. “The Bible is the word of God.” No one will ever convince him that the word of God is not true. Like, ever.

Nye: “We just need one piece of evidence like a fossil that swam from one level to another.” We would need evidence that rock layers could form in 4,000 years. Bring me any of those things and I would change my mind immediately.

Many things were said without responses. This included Bill Nye asking if Kangaroos got off the Ark in the middle east, why are they only in Australia, and not even a fossil of one anywhere else? I would have liked to hear an answer to that one.

Ken Ham is a young earth creationist, the craziest of the crazies. Even Pat Robertson thinks that young earth creationism is a joke.

More commentary here, here, and here.

Video of the debate here:

Unfortunately many schools which receive public money teach creationism. Slate put together this map as to where they are located:

Creationism Schools

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