Entries Tagged as 'science'

E.T. Won’t Be Phoning Anytime Soon

December 6th, 2011 at 11:28 am 38 Comments

News that astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope had discovered an Earth-like “Goldilocks” planet where liquid water can exist certainly deserves the attention it has received. In fact, evidence of life surviving–and even thriving–in very unlikely places on Earth tempts one to believe that, given billions of years and a decent supply of organic molecules, life (albeit simple bacterial life) will eventually develop just about anywhere liquid water exists.

All that said, even absolute evidence of bacteria or non-sentient animals on an alien world would offer plenty of grist for scientists in certain fields but little that would change the life for most people in the short term.

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No Need for Christians to Fear Science

November 1st, 2011 at 2:00 pm 299 Comments

There was a college media convention in Orlando at the end of October, discount and I was one of the people giving a presentation on how college media and college administrators have some built-in tension with each other. A woman in the audience raised her hand and introduced herself as the adviser to a campus newspaper at a small Christian university in the Southeast U.S.

“Our president told us we couldn’t cover a particular story, ailment ” she said. “He literally told us we would not cover it.”

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Why We Should Still be Sweating Global Warming

October 6th, 2011 at 12:30 pm 136 Comments

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and writer about energy, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal stating “Five Truths About Climate Change.” Some of his assertions are to the effect that there’s not that much that can be done to restrain carbon emissions. That’s a debatable stance, and I will address it. Then I will go on to his fifth “truth,” which has to do with the science of climate change.

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If it’s Perry: Anti-Science Label Sticks

September 6th, 2011 at 11:09 am 26 Comments

If Rick Perry is the nominee, we will hear stepped-up criticism that there is a Republican “war on science,” that the GOP is anti-intellectual and antipathetic to facts and analysis. Such criticism will resonate with many voters, precisely because Perry’s nomination will be evidence that it’s true.

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Call These Scientists Crazy

August 19th, 2011 at 11:47 am 42 Comments

On August 18, a few days after Rick Perry went off on climate scientists as money-grubbing carbon cultists, Jon Huntsman had some craziness of his own to share.

“To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” the presidential candidate and former Utah governor Tweeted on Thursday afternoon.

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Ask About Evolution at the GOP Debate

August 18th, 2011 at 3:12 pm 122 Comments

Jon Huntsman has decided to set himself apart from a large part of the GOP field by affirmatively declaring on twitter that he believes evolution and climate change are real:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

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Summer Reads: Silber on The Great Stagnation

August 17th, 2011 at 12:45 am 12 Comments

FrumForum correspondents and readers are encouraged to blog about the books they are reading this August.  Please send any entries to editor[at]frumforum.com with the subject line, treatment “Summer Reads.”

Being home under the weather for a couple of days gave me ample time to read The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, buy viagra Got Sick, sick and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, by economist Tyler Cowen. Published early this year as an ebook, it proved highly popular and was reissued as a hardcover (the form in which I read it).

It’s perhaps a third to a half the length of your standard non-ebook, and contains much thought-provoking material to richly reward the short read.

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Can Conservatives and Scientists Get Along?

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:24 am 42 Comments

Last week, pilule Chris Mooney, cialis sale science blogger and author of The Republican War on Science, asked David Frum to come on the “Point of Inquiry” podcast to discuss conservatives and science, and David was kind enough to ask that I be included in the conversation. The interview can now be found online here.

The discussion was wide-ranging, dealing with topics including global warming, evolution, vaccines, nuclear power, light bulbs, John Edwards, postmodernism and more. Mooney, who describes his own political views as liberal, showed an interest in discussing not just conservatism’s foibles regarding science but what blind spots the leftward side of the political spectrum may have on such matters.

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Extreme Weather: A Climate Change Wake Up Call?

May 31st, 2011 at 9:50 pm 18 Comments

Bill McKibben, cure founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, health recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!

Using rather effective sarcasm, McKibben makes the case that the spate of recent extreme weather events should be a wake-up call on the urgency of addressing climate change. He correctly points out that climate scientists have been predicting for years that carbon loading in our atmosphere will create droughts, floods and other extreme weather events.

Does that scientific concurrence absolutely prove cause and effect? No, but it does distinguish McKibben’s hysterics from those of climate deniers who point to every cold snap or snowstorm as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

Because “climate” represents long-term trends, and day-to-day weather relies on multiple variables, it is wrong to say that any one weather event or abnormal season either proves or disproves climate change. However, weather trends that are demonstrated over time, and that track with other well-documented scientific evidence, should indeed be a wake-up call. We ignore them at our own peril.

The more important question that McKibben’s op-ed begs is: How much evidence will it take to convince the American public and its elected representatives that action on climate change is warranted?

It is hard to imagine that most Americans who have been watching news reports over the past few months of numerous extreme weather events—the unusually powerful tornadoes wreaking havoc across much of the South and Midwest, the record-breaking flooding along the Mississippi River, the extreme droughts in the Southwest, and the record snowfalls in the Midwest and Northeast—have not begun to suspect that something is amiss and that climate change may be responsible.

The problem is that action to address climate change not only requires the belief that it is happening; it also requires the belief that we can do something about it. This is where the climate change deniers—along with some narrowly focused folks in the oil and coal industries—do their most damage.

As the deniers’ assertion that climate change is a hoax begins to falter under the weight of reality, they have begun to pivot to the argument that climate change is a natural occurrence that mankind cannot alter, only adapt to. It is an argument designed to lull people into a state of complacency—similar to the tactics totalitarian regimes use to lull their subjects into passivity and government dependency.

Perhaps President Reagan recognized such tactics when he rejected the arguments of those who were trying to forestall action to address another climate problem, ozone depletion. He consulted with climate scientists, looked honestly at the evidence, accepted mankind’s role, and took prudent action to solve the problem.

Reagan faced ozone depletion with the same clear-eyed realism that he faced the threats posed by the Soviet Union and communism.

In an interview last year, Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz recalled that the President believed action on ozone depletion was necessary because he recognized the huge potential for damage. Shultz noted that Reagan viewed acting on the best available science in the same light as taking out an insurance policy.

Reagan’s leadership resulted in the Montreal Protocol Treaty, which began the phase out of chlorofluorocarbons.  Today the threat from ozone depletion is greatly diminished and our stratospheric ozone layer is healing.

Reagan once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

With today’s climate threat, let’s hope that like Reagan, we are wise enough to face the facts honestly—and courageous enough to accept our responsibility to act.


Vaccine Denialism Finds a Home on Left and Right

David Frum April 21st, 2011 at 3:40 pm 30 Comments

The story of Andrew Wakefield administers a sharp reminder of how inadequate our ideological map can be.

Wakefield (profiled this weekend in the New York Times magazine) is the British medical researcher who has charged that autism can be traced to childhood vaccinations. His research has since been debunked as not merely fallacious, but fraudulent. His own medical license has been removed because he violated UK ethics rules by failing to disclose that his research was financed by plaintiff lawyers who wished to sue drug makers.

Wakefield’s bad science had tragic real world consequences: a noticeable decline in measles immunization.

About the ethical and scientific story here, there is a great deal to say.

But there’s also a political angle. Anti-vaccination thinking flourishes on the far right and the far left ends of the political spectrum.

Chris Mooney has an interesting blogpost here on left-wing vaccine denialism.

I want to further explain my assertion that vaccine denial “largely occupies” the political left. It arises, basically, from my long familiarity with this issue, having read numerous books about it, etc.

First, it is certainly true that environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities have been the loudest proponents of anti-vaccine views. To me, that is evidence, although not necessarily definitive. So is the fact that we see dangerously large clusters of the unvaccinated in places like Ashland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, which are very leftwing cities.

What’s tricky is, there’s not a standard left-right political ideology underlying this. Rather, it seems more associated with a Whole Foods and au natural lifestyle that, while certainly more prominent on the bicoastal left, isn’t the same as being outraged by inequality or abuses of the free market.

Yet it’s also true that anti-vaccination views show up on the political right, among politicians like Rep. Dan Burton and popular commentators like Melissa Clouthier.

You see as much enthusiasm for homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal remedies and other forms of folk medicine on the far right as on the far left, and for the same fundamental reason: distrust of expertise, of the scientific method, and of the good intentions of the authorities. The American political landscape is shaped in much weirder ways than Beltway debates over taxes and spending usually allow.