Attention everybody. I have an important announcement to make. And quiet at the back there.
Apparently, it seems that the debate we were having with the creationists about evolution was nothing but a ridiculous side-show. Yes, I know you will all be disappointed but the news comes from none other than Dr Bill Cooke, Vice-President of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) and Editor-in-Chief of its journal, The Open Society. It looks like we have all been wasting our efforts. That includes Dr Cooke, who has devoted quite a lot of space to the debate in his journal. This blog as well has been guilty of negligence, for thinking that the danger came from some caricature "fundy." Sorry.
Hang on, wait a minute; this can't be right. Has not Dr Cooke missed something here? Yes that's it - the bleeding obvious: it's about Science. This is what the evolution "controversy" and the debate about climate change have in common - they are about the use of scientific information and the reliability of scientific conclusions. The creationists claim that scientists have got it all wrong and use the information that Science has provided, selectively, to support their absurd claims. The climate change sceptics use scientific information (sometimes disingenuously, sometimes not) to argue against the prevailing scientific argument that climate change is caused in part by human actions.
The creationists are wrong, ridiculously so. I think the climate change sceptics are wrong as well. However, more than a few of them are real scientists working in climate science, so they have a bit more mana than the rabble of scientists who support creationism, all but a handful of whom do not work in biological fields. Although as an humble Art Historian I have no specialist knowledge, I think there is enough evidence to say that climate change is being exacerbated by us. However, I think there is room for debate, as there always in in scientific enquiry. Science's conclusions are always provisional. While there is a lot of corporate money going to fuel scepticism and some influential lobby groups are not very honest in their lobbying, genuine scientific argument is going on.
There is another important difference: the creationists are arguing about what has happened, while the sceptics are arguing about what will happen. There are debates among real scientists about how evolution happened but not that it has happened, because the evidence is plain and there is no alternative explanation within the bounds of Science. Climate change is a different matter. Predictions being what they are, we cannot be certain they will happen. So there is scope for differences of opinion.
Dr Cooke, however, feels no need to entertain such subtleties. He is convinced of his own righteousness and rather than engage in an argument, he splutters about a book which makes contrary claims on the grounds that it influenced the owner of an airline for a while. That book makes scientific arguments. If they are wrong they can be countered by better scientific arguments, not by bombast.
Quite why he is so incensed by the Skeptical Environmentalist might be explained by the fact that there is a copy in the NZARH library. Perhaps he has also realised that there are climate change sceptics, including real scientists, among the NZARH membership.
One other important aspect of the climate change debate obviously has passed by Dr Cooke. It is the fundies who are pumping out much of the propaganda against the evidence on this matter. Go to any fundy site and you will most likely find jeremiads about environmentalism alongside the specious drivel about evolution and the dire warnings about homosexualists. They are the ones, after all, who think the world is theirs to do with what they will. Perhaps someone in Dr Cooke's position should be a little better informed about what is going on in the world of religious politics.
Perhaps Dr Cooke has also not considered that all those scientists and science teachers and atheists and humanists who are fighting the battle over evolution are not just involved in a petty squabble. They are fighting for the primacy of reason, for learning and debate on scientific matters to be based on knowledge, not on dogma. We could not even begin to have a debate about climate change without agreeing that only scientific argument counts, so why should we allow scientific education to be contaminated with religion?
So this blog will not be joining the happy band of humanists who are going to save the world with their new and improved World View. I will leave the climate change debate to people who know what they are talking about. Instead I will continue to do what I do best, mock the fundies and frustrate their knavish tricks.
Finally, there is one other small matter Dr Cooke should know before he pontificates about Science. That story to which he refers in his conclusion, the one about the frog which sits in the water as slowly it rises to boiling point: it's not true.