Neanderthals Still Walk the Earth: Climate Deniers Don’t Believe in Evolution, either

October 13, 2011

Eugenie Scott in the OC Register: 

Poll scientific specialists on evolution and global warming, and the results are overwhelming: a strong consensus that the scientists say is founded on equally strong data.

But among the general public, the response can be quite different. Eugenie Scott, a science education activist best known for fighting creationism in public schools, says denial of evolution has much in common with the popular backlash against climate science.

Both, she contends, have ideological underpinnings, and both represent a threat to education.

Scott, who is accustomed to stirring controversy, gives a free public talk in Anaheim Saturday: “Deja vu all over again: Denial of Climate Change and Evolution.” She is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland; the talk is part of a biology teachers’ conference at the Anaheim Marriott, and begins at 8:30 a.m.

Q. How did this come about?

A. The National Association of Biology Teachers is the largest group of biology teachers in the country. They usually invite me to speak every few years or so. Clearly, teaching evolution is going to be something biology teachers are going to be concerned about.

Q. Is there concern about the teaching of evolution in California schools?

A. There are concerns about the teaching of evolution and there are concerns about the teaching of global warming, in California schools and all over the country.

We actually are going to be, next month, announcing a new initiative for NCSE. We’re going to be adding climate change to our portfolio of topics that we will help teachers cope with.

Q. Why are you adding climate change?

A. Because we were finding that, as teachers have come to us for years for advice about how to handle the teaching of evolution as a controversial issue, we are now being approached by teachers who are being pressured to either not teach global warming, or teach it only as tentative, even though the scientific consensus on global warming is very, very strong — as it is with evolution. So we see it as a parallel issue.


34 Responses to “Neanderthals Still Walk the Earth: Climate Deniers Don’t Believe in Evolution, either”

  1. omnologos Says:

    OK then I’ll spell it out. Peter wrote that “deniers” don’t believe in evolution. By the same wild generalization given who supports AGW (Manson, Ahmadinejad) “believers” think it’s a good idea to kill people. End of story, everybody’s convinced the other side is full of fraudsters and monsters, etc etc.

    If you don’t see what’s wrong with the above, I better stop here. If you do, we could start comparing American reactions to Darwinism and AGW, the similarities a century apart and why characterizing antievolution Americans as anti-science is like characterizing birds as non-insects. True but pointless.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      Ah, I see the problem now: you’re relying on the headline rather than the content. The article itself makes only two connections between denialism and belief in evolution:

      “Eugenie Scott, a science education activist best known for fighting creationism in public schools, says denial of evolution has much in common with the popular backlash against climate science.”


      “So we see it as a parallel issue.”

      The headline does indeed state flatly that “Climate Deniers Don’t Believe in Evolution, either” But apparently you do not appreciate the differences between a headline and the body of a news item. A headline is intended to grab eyeballs with a stark representation of the story, not to present the story itself. One of the great headlines of newspaper history (which I believe was quoted here recently) was the classic headline summarizing President Gerald Ford’s refusal to bail out New York City when it faced severe financial difficulties in the mid-70s. It said: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”. Now, Mr. Ford never said “Drop dead” to New York City, nor did ever say anything remotely like that. Nevertheless, the headline was acceptable (although admittedly overdone) because it neatly summarized a complicated story.

      There are lots of other examples of great headlines that were literally false yet remained entirely appropriate. That’s because a headline must communicate the essence of a complicated story in just a few words. I challenge you to write a better headline, something that communicates the essence of the content of the story in a few words. Even turning down the temperature of the headline, the best I can come up with is something like “Climate Change Denialism Parallels Evolution Denialism”, which, while more strictly correct than Peter’s headline, lacks the color and punch of Peter’s creation. The only criticism I would offer is that his first clause is unnecessary and diminishes the punch of the second clause.

      If Peter had made the statement in the main body of the story, then you would have a stronger case. But headlines are never meant to present the full content of a story and no reasonable reader takes a headline literally.

      BTW, the art of writing good headlines is a major issue in journalism; whole classes are devoted to it, and when an editor screws up, the results are often hilarious. I have several books presenting such classics; the title of one is “Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge”.

  2. If Mr. Morabito (Omnologos) is still with us, I’d like to ask him, as a scientifically literate person, about his “I expect sensitivity to be between 0.5 and 1.1C” statement. How did you derive that conclusion? And what atmospheric CO2 concentration are you anticipating? As I understand peer reviewed science, the Earth’s surface temperature anomaly is already within that range, and the energy imbalance remains large. The Earth’s heat content anomaly will increase for decades, even without one additional CO2 molecule, until the limiting negative feedback (surface temperature) gains control.

    • omnologos Says:

      Charles – physics says the greenhouse effect exists, paleoclimatology says it never spun out of control, history of science says there’s much more at play than current;y-fashionable CO2, and politics say the effects of the greenhouse effect are wildly exaggerated.

      Take then the IPCC range for warming (1.1-6.4C), associate it to estimated sensitivit (2-4C IIRC), lower that off, and the 0.5-1.1C expectation looks better than most.

      The Earth’s surface temperature anomaly may already be within that range, but I suspect nobody would attribute all increase from the mid-XIX century to today, to CO2 emissions alone.

      As for the headline-content dichotomy, this website is about “crocks” but I don’t think people expect the “crock” to be the title of a post.

      • sinchiroca Says:

        “paleoclimatology says it never spun out of control”

        I can confirm the truth of Omnologos’ statement. Paleontologists have found no evidence whatsoever of any intelligent life capable of or interested in controlling climate; therefore, there was no control to be spun out of. There is, however, ample evidence of much higher temperatures on the earth in previous times, associated with sea level at least 200 feet higher than the current value.

        “history of science says there’s much more at play than current;y-fashionable CO2”

        I can again confirm Omnologos’ observation: a cursory examination of IPCC AR4 WG1 yields hundreds of pages of discussion of factors bearing on climate other than CO2.

        “politics say the effects of the greenhouse effect are wildly exaggerated.”

        This statement I cannot, unfortunately, confirm. I diligently searched the Internet for any expert by the name of “Politics” making such a statement, and was unable to locate such a person. Could Mr. Omnologos supply us with some more information on this expert source, “Politics”?

        Mr. Omnologos’ second paragraph is, unfortunately, undecipherable. He uses the cryptic imperative verb “associate it to”, which of course makes no sense in the English language — perhaps Mr. Omnologos is relying upon some variant of standard English? He is apparently attempting to use two values in some formula, but he does not indicate the formula he is using. Moreover, the verb phrase “lower it off” has no meaning in English usage of which I am aware, nor do I find any explanation of that verb phrase in the OED. His conclusion that “the 0.5-1.1C expectation looks better than most” is equally undecipherable. I suggest that Mr. Omnologos provide us with a syntactically correct statement in English that would communicate his meaning.

        His third paragraph has further syntactic flaws but they are so dependent upon the previous undecipherable paragraph that guessing his intentions would be a fruitless enterprise.

        The fourth paragraph makes no sense whatsoever; it begins by proposing to address the dichotomy between headlines and content, but then segues to an opinion for which Mr. Omnologos provides no substantiation.

        Being charitably inclined, I suspect that Mr. Omnologos might be struggling with the problems that that any user of English as a second language faces. It is, after all, a tricky language, and expressing oneself with precision requires considerable effort. I urge Mr. Omnologos to take the time to carefully compose his statements so that they make sense in this admittedly difficult language.

        • Sinchiroca, You entertainingly and convincingly demolished what Omnologos’ wrote, but then offered him a free pass to redirect by being such a stickler about how he wrote it. Cheers.

  3. omnologos Says:

    Slow Saturday, uh, sinchiroca. The question was why I’m inclined to put sensitivity in a lower range than the ipcc’s and I have answered. But if you prefer to write yourself silly, be my guest. After all you’re the one spending time trying to box people in your own categories.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      “The question was why I’m inclined to put sensitivity in a lower range than the ipcc’s and I have answered”

      No, you haven’t; you’ve written some garbled nonsense. I’m sure that you have some kind of reasoning at work here, but as my freshman English teacher used to say, “If you can’t say it, you don’t know it.”

  4. omnologos Says:

    Charles – You haven’t been that great yourself …first you ask the basis of my opinion then you claim it’s been “demolished”? Well it’s my opinion not yours. Claiming “demolition” is a tad childish. Tsk tsk!

  5. omnologos Says:

    Anybody could respond “you’ve written nonsense” to whatever written by anybody else. Such a reply is by definition nonsensical. And your cop-out on politics is demeaning to you.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      Yes, anybody could write “you’ve written nonsense” — but not anybody can back it up with specifics as I have done. Again, I request that you take the time to write your thoughts in an intelligible fashion.

    • I may indeed be mediocre and childish. “Excoriate” would have been a better word choice than “demolish”. (And I’m guessing that Sinchiroca can probably handle a friendly suggestion.) Dig into the science. Typing “current;y-fashionable CO2, and politics” suggests a lack of objectivity and superficial comprehension about a very complicated subject.

      As we’ve predictably devolved into the equivalent of a fight between adolescent girls, I’m going to check out. Catch you on the next one Sinchiroca.

  6. […] “Neanderthals still walk the Earth:  Climate deniers don’t believe in evolution, either.”  The National Center for Science Education takes on another goblin stunting our nation’s collective mental development. […]

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