Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

25 June 2010

Peter Ward - The Flooded Earth

The July issue of Scientific American recommends the book The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps.  The selections recommended are made by Kate Wong.  She describes Peter Ward as an earth scientist of the University of Washington.  She offers an excerpt describing how in 2135 the Great Valley of California will be largely flooded by the sea and aquifers will be polluted with salt water.  There will be no snow in the Cascade Mountains anymore.  Cars will no longer be allowed on the highways.

When I was about 4, I told my Mom that I did not want her to read fairy tales to me.  I wanted her to read about real things.  Democrats and many environmentalists are those who live still in a world of fantasy and are uninterested in the real world.  This book is one of fantasy and is intended only for the purpose of scaring people out of their wits.  Just as there is more concern spreading that less solar activity may bring on a major cooling with great real hardships for mankind, this drivel and nonsense is still trying to scare us with a melting, overheated world.  These fantasy writers have no shame.  Peter Ward is no scientist.  A scientist is first a careful observer of the phenomena of the real world and then he applies the scientific method to those observations to understand them.  Wild flights of fantasy are not scientific.  Peter Ward is merely a man-made global warming alarmist.

Shame once again on The Scientific American.

3 comments:

T. A. Speaker said...

Actually, Ward is a paleontologist whose interests include mass extinctions. He also writes popular books, one of which, Out of Thin Air is sitting on the shelf in front of me as I write this comment.

Out of Thin Air focuses on changing concentrations of atmospheric oxygen down through the millenia and the consequences to vertebrate evolution. One of the topics treated is the evolution of "flow through" respiration in birds and their dinosaur ancestors. Most land vertebrates have what is called "tidal" respiration — air in on the first breath; out on the second. But in birds, the air goes first to a series of air sacs, then to the lungs, then to another air sacs and finally back out. The result is that each breath (in or out) delivers a mass of fresh air to the lungs. This is more efficient, and it's the reason the mountain climber atop Mr. Everest carries an oxygen pack, while the eagle overhead does not. Ward's thesis is that declining atmospheric oxygen towards the end of the Paleozoic selected for respiratory increased efficiency in the line that led to birds, which thesis bears on the "active dinosaur" question.

Disappointingly, Ward's exposition is poorly referenced. He lists references for each chapter, but assertions in the text are not referenced. That makes it difficult to assess the credence for specific claims.

Back to your article. The problem is not that Ward is no scientist, but that like a lot of contemporary members of the profession, he puts science to the service of ideology. In recent years, this proclivity has become increasingly common. The May 7 letter to Science by 255 mostly non-climatologists defending their climatologist brethren (go here for discussion and links) is a case in point. Likewise, the despicable article by Andregg et al. on the relative credentials of anthropogenic global warming proponents and skeptics. That the latter, which establishes an official "black list" of non-believers, should have been published by the National Academy of Sciences gives you some idea as to just how far we've travelled down the road of politicized science. As noted here, an important contributing factor is money; another, defense of the new priesthood's defense of proprietary knowledge and its claims to secular authority — go here for historical perspective.

Will the climate warm and the ice caps eventually melt? If we wait long enough, the answer is "probably yes." But then the sun will eventually go nova and incinerate the earth. "Long enough" may be a very long time, indeed.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for your comment T. A. Speaker. Kate Wong should be happy that you have corrected her erroneous description of Peter Ward as an Earth scientist. Scientifically minded people much prefer to correct their errors than to persist in them. Unfortunately, people with degrees in science and people earning a living doing science do not always act as though they are scientifically minded. This seems to be a problem of unusually great magnitude for those of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW) persuasion. Your first link provides a number of good illustrations of that problem.

Of course, many AGW enthusiasts have scientific degrees and have done some or lots of good science. Peter Ward may have done some good science. But publishing a book on the flooded Earth at this time can pretty much only be an effort to frighten the public into terrible cutbacks in fossil fuel use, which will set human prosperity and security back greatly with no significant change in the climate. That his book has this purpose is evidenced by his putting the year 2135 into the scenario for the flooding of the Great Valley in California. It has to rather soon to properly scare people. As you noted, the Ice Caps may melt someday and then it may be that the Great Valley will flood. Or, it may also be that the Great Valley will flood due to tectonic plate movements first. But, there is no scientific reason to believe that flooding will occur in 2135 because of man's emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. That proposition is lacking a scientific basis.

Yet this Peter Ward trades on his authority as a professor of Biology and Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington to push an alarmist and unscientific agenda upon the public, most of whom are undereducated in the sciences and therefore vulnerable to his supposed authority. Hmmm... maybe Kate Wong thought he was an Earth scientist because he is a professor of Earth and Space Sciences, as well as of Biology?

This raises the question of when someone who has a scientific degree and has a scientific position forfeits being a scientist due to frequent bouts of unscientific thoughts and analyses. A parallel might be the writer who over time has become such a drunk that he can no longer write. Now, often we are gracious enough to continue to call such a man a writer. But we really are not obliged to do so. Yet, we are generally inclined to be benevolent and we treat the drunk who used to write well with respect for his past achievement and continue to call him a writer. Now consider the AGW alarmist who used to do science, and may still do science on occasion. When he is advocating catastrophic AGW, he is not being scientific. If a sufficient part of his time is spent doing that, then we are not obliged to call him a scientist. We might still be benevolent enough to do so, but for one thing. He is advocating a non-scientific policy designed to do great harm to mankind and each and every one of us as individuals. So, his malevolence negates our general desire to be benevolent and we are justified in striping him of his pretense of being a scientist.

In the end, a scientist is one who thinks scientifically. Ben Franklin had no degree in science, yet Ben was a scientist. Unfortunately, many a man with a degree in science is not really a scientific thinker, making his claim to being a scientist very dubious at best.

T. A. Speaker said...

"Yet this Peter Ward trades on his authority as a professor of Biology and Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington to push an alarmist and unscientific agenda upon the public, most of whom are undereducated in the sciences and therefore vulnerable to his supposed authority."

Agreed. The scientific community has disgraced itself. If the climate cools, and, given decreasing solar output, that's got to be a possibility, these folks will hang from lampposts — metaphorically, if in fact.

"In the end, a scientist is one who thinks scientifically. Ben Franklin had no degree in science, yet Ben was a scientist. Unfortunately, many a man with a degree in science is not really a scientific thinker, making his claim to being a scientist very dubious at best."

You bet, and old BF is a great example. One of my heroes as an undergraduate and a celebrated investigator in his field, had only a master's degree.