Intelligent Design

All Scientists Say “X!” Yawn.

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Check our George Will’s column today, http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will1.asp, where he recounts the “global cooling” hysteria of the early 70’s. Here’s a quote:

“While worrying about Montana’s receding glaciers, [Montana Governor] Schweitzer, who is 50, should also worry about the fact that when he was 20 he was told to be worried, very worried, about global cooling.


“Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” Science Digest (February 1973) reported that “the world’s climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age.” The Christian Science Monitor (“Warning: Earth’s Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect,” Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers “have begun to advance,” “growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter” and “the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool.” Newsweek agreed (“The Cooling World,” April 28, 1975) that meteorologists “are almost unanimous” that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said “may mark the return to another ice age.” The Times (May 21, 1975) also said “a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable” now that it is “well established” that the Northern Hemisphere’s climate “has been getting cooler since about 1950.”

Today, of course, Time magazine tells us the debate is over. Be worried. Be very worried, Time says, because all scientists tell us that the globe is warming.

I am not weighing in on the global warming debate. My point is that “all scientists” today are saying something that is mutually exclusive with what “all scientists” were saying only 30 years ago. No matter which way you try to slice or dice this, the plain inescapable fact of the matter is they were wrong then or they are wrong now. They are caught in the vice of what logic mavens call “the law of the excluded middle.” The earth may be in for a new ice age; the earth may be heading for sauna conditions. Whichever way its going, “all scientists” were wrong – either then or now.

What does this have to do with the ID debate? Everything. When one debates a Darwinist what is almost always the first thing that gets thrown in your face? Yes, that’s right – the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority. Except in this case, “all scientists” say that Darwinism is true. The global warming/cooling debate illustrates why the appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. So keep Will’s quote handy, and the next time the appeal to authority gets thrown at you, use it to illustrate the fallacy.

7 Replies to “All Scientists Say “X!” Yawn.

  1. 1
    russ says:

    I’ve always liked George Will but he seems to have bought into what “all scientists” say about ID:

    “The problem with intelligent-design theory is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable: Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not a scientific but a creedal tenet—a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school’s science curriculum.”
    \
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8358264/site/newsweek/

    Yes, it is true that Will went off the deep end a couple of weeks ago. I think he erred by accepting uncritically our opponents’ criticisms of ID instead of investigating the matter for himself. He is generally a fair and open minded journalist, and I don’t think he would have made such an error if he had investigated the matter for himself. — BA

  2. 2
    jasonng says:

    Ah, yes. The words “The Debate is Over” accompanied by a poll suggesting that 85% of people were aware that the earth was warming. What they tried to mask was that a large proportion of those didn’t believe that humans were the main cause. Those words struck me as particularly pointed, and brings back images of Darwinists trying to quelch debate on Darwinism. Another startling yet undermentioned fact is that the earth has warmed less than a degree celsius according to their data, yet their doomsday scenarios predict the earth’s temperature to exceed 18 degrees celsius. They hype up people’s emotions with a picture of a glacier in an area that obviously warmed many degrees and isn’t representative of the entire planet. I’m not against the idea of global warming, I’m just disturbed that it’s gotten too political.

    Again, I am not weighing in on the global warming debate, though, of course, I have an opinion on that topic. I am trying to demonstrate that an appeal to authority by no means settles a question, because the experts contradict themselves and a consensus can shift radically in a very short time. — BA

  3. 3
    j says:

    FYI: Whether or not the elevated atmospheric CO2 level necessarily causes global warming (on which I take no stand), it looks certain to somewhat increase the efficiency of many food crops:

    All plants must take up CO2 for growth. But CO2 is not always plentiful inside leaves, which have a waxy cover that helps plants conserve water. The CO2 must diffuse in and the O2 out mainly at stomata, which are microscopic openings across the leaf surface. Stomata close on hot, dry days. Water is conserved but CO2 can’t get into leaves. Photosynthetic cells are still busy, so oxygen accumulates. A high O2 level inside leaves triggers photorespiration, a process that wastes fixed CO2 and thereby reduces a plant’s sugar-building capacity.

    Especially in hot weather, photorespiration greatly lowers the photosynthetic efficiency of many…crop plants, including tomatoes, rice, wheat, soybeans, and potatoes. (In some experiments, hothouse tomatoes were grown at CO2 concentrations high enough to eliminate photorespiration. Growth rates increased by as much as five times.) If photorespiration is so wasteful, then why hasn’t natural selection eliminated it? The answer may lie with rubisco, the switch-hitting enzyme that sets the whole process in motion. The enzyme evolved [sic] long ago, when atmospheric oxygen levels were still low and carbon dioxide levels high. Maybe a gene specifying its structure cannot mutate without adversely affecting the vital carbon-fixing activity. Or maybe the pathway that degrades glycolate to carbon dioxide has proved so adaptive that it cannot be eliminated. Glycolate can be toxic at high concentrations.

    Quote above from the (philosophical naturalist) textbook, Biology: Concepts and Applications, by Cecie Starr.

    This is not the global warming debate blog. The topic is the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority. — BA

  4. 4
    rpf_ID says:

    One problem: the appeal to authority is not just a logical fallicy. It is a quasi-logical co-existential argument based on association (Perelman, the realm of rhetoric). In other words it is an association of two thoughts that share some common bond which are then made to sound logical =(Quasi-logical). However, most people can’t see through quasi-logical arguments because they sound so logical but in fact are not.

    Ricardo

    Ricardo, I have rarely found philosophy-speak jargon to be helpful. More often than not it obscures rather than clarifies and can be a way to hide fuzzy thinking. Try this. See if you can say what you just said in words an 8th grader could understand. If you can’t, it is probably because you don’t understand it very well yourself. Read C.S. Lewis; his are some of the most profound words ever committed to paper, but his writing never devolved into jargon. — BA

  5. 5
    j says:

    BA: “This is not the global warming debate blog.”

    Obviously. [I said: “global warming (on which I take no stand)”] Nor is it necessarily a blog for making (funny) lawyer jokes (see comment #1 at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/987 ).

    Just sharing ID-related, global warming-related info that I thought some here would find interesting. That’s all. Sorry.

    (Welcome to this blog, by the way.)

    Sorry — BA.

  6. 6
    j says:

    …see comment #1 at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/988 … (not 987)

  7. 7
    rpf_ID says:

    Dear BA:

    I was making a joke. I don’t think it came across clearly though. Perelman is an argument theorist who actually makes argument far easier to understand. My technical definitions were just to be sarcastic towards those who use such arguments. I apologize if it didn’t come across that way. I actually have read a lot of C.S. Lewis and do think he is wise, but that has little to do with a co-existential quasi-logical argument. 😉

    Appreciate the comments BA,

    Ricardo

    I guess I’m too dense to see a joke when it’s right there in front of me. Thank you for clearing it up. I do value your input. BA

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