McCain Will Deliver Speech for Creationists

Republican presidential-hopeful Senator John McCain is going from bad to worse. Think Progress is reporting that McCain will deliver the keynote address for the Discovery Institute, the most vocal anti-evolution pro-creationism organization in the country.

…on February 23, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country. The Discovery Institute, a religious right think-tank, is well-known for its strong opposition to evolutionary biology and its advocacy for “intelligent design.” The institute’s main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, “a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.”

The Think Progress article points out how McCain stated as recently as last year that he believed in evolution and that creationism should not be taught in science classes. Apparently his beliefs are whatever is politically expedient for him at the moment.

Richard Dawkins Discussing Atheism on CNN

Richard Dawkins is interviewed by Paula Zahn on CNN, as a response to an earlier story about discrimination against Atheists.

Evil “Deniers” Frustrate Global Warming Hysterics

Those evil “deniers“, the atheists in the greenhouse gas church of our lord Al Gore, persist in their skepticism of environmental catastrophe despite the personal and professional scorn heaped upon them. The latest scientist to speak out for the dark side was none other than the former editor of New Scientist, Nigel Calder.

When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works.

At issue is newly published research by Danish weather scientist Henrik Svensmark that implicates the interaction of cosmic rays and cloud clever as the main effector of climate change and relegates man-made causes to a less significant role. (Alarmist criticism of the theory is here.)

A few Indian scientists are creating a stir as well reports the Hindustan Times:

Some experts have questioned the alarmists theory on global warming leading to shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers. VK Raina, a leading glaciologist and former ADG of GSI is one among them.

He feels that the research on Indian glaciers is negligible. Nothing but the remote sensing data forms the basis of these alarmists observations and not on the spot research.

Raina told the Hindustan Times that out of 9,575 glaciers in India, till date, research has been conducted only on about 50. Nearly 200 years data has shown that nothing abnormal has occurred in any of these glaciers.

It is simple. The issue of glacial retreat is being sensationalised by a few individuals, the septuagenarian Raina claimed. Throwing a gauntlet to the alarmist, he said the issue should be debated threadbare before drawing a conclusion.

Those darn contrarian Indians. Perhaps for more serious science we should return back to the United States where a joint study between University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center and University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory is concluding that two of Greenland’s glaciers are melting variably and not at an increasing rate.

So rather than being an open and shut case as the catastrophists claim, it looks like the debate concern global warming continues whether they like it or not.

The Man Who Changed My Mind About Global Warming

If you were thinking Al Gore then I guess you would be half-right. Like many, I internalized the idea of climate crisis from seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Keep in mind that I was no fan of Al Gore and I voted against him the last time he ran yet I found the ideas and arguments he presented in his documentary so compelling that I came to be utterly convinced of the reality of man-made global warming.

I was wrong and so is Al Gore.

The man who changed my mind is University of Pennsylvainia geologist Bob Giegenback, affectionately referred to by his students as “Gieg.” In an interview with Philadelphia Magazine, Giegenback – a political supporter of Al Gore – takes Gore’s vision of global warming to task:

He has described Al Gore’s documentary as “a political statement timed to present him as a presidential candidate in 2008.” And he added, “The glossy production is replete with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, and appeals to public fear as shamelessly as any other political statement that hopes to unite the public behind a particular ideology.” This from a guy who voted for Gore in 2000 and says he’d probably vote for him again.

Ouch. If Gore’s contention that rising carbon dioxide is causing rising global temperatures is wrong then what is actually going on? Giegenback explains:

The professor hits a button on his computer, and the really long-term view appears — the past 650,000 years. In that time, the Earth’s temperature has gone through regular cycles of rise and fall. The best explanation of those cycles was conceived by a Serbian amateur scientist named Milutin Milankovi´c. Very basically, Milankovi´c said this: The Earth’s orbit around the sun is more or less circular, but when other planets align in certain ways and their gravitational forces tug at the Earth, the orbit stretches into a more elliptical shape. Combined with the tilt of the Earth on its axis as it spins, that greater or lesser distance from the sun, plus the consequent difference in solar radiation that reaches our planet, is responsible for long-term climate change.

But what about Gore’s graphs where he mapped carbon dioxide levels to global temperature?

To determine temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in the distant past, scientists rely on what they call the “proxy record.” There weren’t thermometers. So researchers drill deep down into the Antarctic ice sheet and the ocean floor and pull up core samples, whose varying chemical elements let them gauge both the CO2 levels and the temperatures of the distant past.

Gieg clicks a button, and three charts come together. The peaks and valleys of the Milankovi´c cycles for planetary temperature align well with the ocean-floor estimates, and those match closely the records of carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature indications from ice cores. So, the professor maintains, these core samples from the polar ice and ocean floor help show that the Earth’s temperature and the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been in lockstep for tens of thousands of years.

Of course, that was long before anybody was burning fossil fuels. So Giegengack tells his students they might want to consider that “natural” climatic temperature cycles control carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around. That’s the crux of his argument with Gore’s view of global warming — he says carbon dioxide doesn’t control global temperature, and certainly not in a direct, linear way.

Well what about the rising sea levels and the millions of climatic refugees Gore warned us about?

“Sea level is rising,” Giegengack agrees, switching off the sound. But, he explains, it’s been rising ever since warming set in 18,000 years ago. The rate of rise has been pretty slow — only about 400 feet so far. And recently — meaning in the thousands of years — the rate has slowed even more. The Earth’s global ocean level is only going up 1.8 millimeters per year. That’s less than the thickness of one nickel. For the catastrophe of flooded cities and millions of refugees that Gore envisions, sea levels would have to rise about 20 feet.

“At the present rate of sea-level rise,” Gieg says, “it’s going to take 3,500 years to get up there. So if for some reason this warming process that melts ice is cutting loose and accelerating, sea level doesn’t know it. And sea level, we think, is the best indicator of global warming.”

Gieg has something to say about science and politics too.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a rational discussion of this question in the present environment,” he says. “The scientists are mad because they think nobody in Washington is listening to them. So it’s all either apocalyptic disaster or conflict of interest. If you suggest that we’re not going to hell in a handbasket because the rate of global warming is low compared to so many other environmental issues that we’re enduring, then you’re accused of being in the employ of the oil companies and you’re labeled a Republican.”

It’s hard to disagree with Geig on that last point. In just the past few weeks we’ve seen a call from a Weather Channel meteorologist in her blog that meteorologists who deny man-made climate change be decertified by the American Meteorological Association. We’ve seen governors move to unseat state climatologists who are skeptical of global warming and the blogosphere is saturated with accusations that any scientist who is skeptical of global warming is in the pocket of the Republican Party and Big Oil. Even Nuremburg style trials for climate change skeptics are not off the table and why shouldn’t they be? The prevalent labeling of climate change skeptics as “deniers” draws an obvious and purposeful parallel to holocaust revisionists and the last I checked they were throwing those guys in jail. I find these calls for the supression of scientific dissent extremely disturbing. If scientists such as Giegenback are wrong then let the science evince their errors. Equating a scientific opinion about climate with holocaust denial is absurd and the quickness with which people are willing to join the witch hunt lemming-like and add their shouts of “burn them at the stake” is an unsettling testament to our herd mentality.

A tip of the hat to Al Fin for bringing the Philadelphia Magazine interview needed attention.

Islamic School: Jews are monkeys, Christians are pigs

The Guardian reports about an Islamic school in London that uses textbooks that describe Jews as monkeys and Christians as pigs:

Teaching materials used at the King Fahd school in Acton, west London, translated from Arabic for an unfair dismissal claim against the school, say Jews “engage in witchcraft and sorcery and obey Satan”, and invite pupils to “name some repugnant characteristics of Jews” and to give examples of worthless religions, such as Judaism and Christianity.

I guess it’s acceptable to demonize (pardon the pun) your religious opponents as long as things don’t get violent, right?

Colin Cook, 57, a British convert to Islam who taught English at the school for 19 years until he was dismissed last December, said pupils had been heard saying they wanted to kill Americans, that 9/11 was good, and that Osama bin Laden was a hero.

But wait! I thought that Islam was a ‘religion of peace‘!

I have two words for the apologists for Islam and religion in general: Sam Harris

Sam Harris at Idea City 2005

Sam Harris gives a brief speech of the ideas expressed in his book, The End of Faith.

McCain the E-tard

Crazier-than-batshit Senator and Presidential hopeful John McCain is up to no-good again. Mr. “Iron Triangle” is once again embarking on a quest to protect teenagers from the evil internet. How is he going to do this? By introducing legislation that is impossibly expensive for ISPs and content providers to comply with, the cost of which will of course be passed on to the consumer. Declan McCullagh from CNet reports:

A forthcoming bill in the U.S. Senate lays the groundwork for a national database of illegal images that Internet service providers would use to automatically flag and report suspicious content to police.

The proposal, which Sen. John McCain is planning to introduce on Wednesday, also would require ISPs and perhaps some Web sites to alert the government of any illegal images of real or “cartoon” minors. Failure to do would be punished by criminal penalties including fines of up to $300,000.

Why should we be worried?

Civil libertarians worry that the proposed legislation goes too far and could impose unreasonable burdens on anyone subject to the new regulations. And Internet companies worry about the compliance costs and argue that an existing law that requires reporting of illicit images is sufficient.

The fact that this man is a Senator is disturbing enough. The possiblility of him being elected President is downright frightening. If the worst does happen then we can only hope that he’ll blow a head gasket during one of his infamous temper tantrums. That and hopefully that he picked a decent running-mate.

ISP Snooping Law Revived by Republicans

Bad legislative bills don’t die they just wait a year.  Declan McCullagh reports at CNet:

All Internet service providers would need to track their customers’ online activities to aid police in future investigations under legislation introduced Tuesday as part of a Republican “law and order agenda.”

Employees of any Internet provider who fail to store that information face fines and prison terms of up to one year, the bill says. The U.S. Justice Department could order the companies to store those records forever.

“Law and Order” is legislative code for bend over and take it like a citizen.

John McCain’s Double-Talk Express

Saw this over at CrooksandLiars. Priceless video of presidential hopeful Senator John McCain flip-flopping on various issues.

The FBI’s Vacuum Cleaner Approach to Internet Surveillance

Declan McCullagh at ZDNet reports on the FBI sucking down large amounts of internet traffic data and databasing it for later mining. This new method is even more indiscriminate and intrusive than the Carnivore system that stirred a backlash from privacy advocates years ago. The Carnivore system at least used a filter to try and limit data collection to interesting sources while the new system just takes everything on the pipe and archives it.

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI’s Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what’s legally permissible.

Read the entire ZDNet article here.