Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

21

Atheists are liberal, but liberals are not atheists

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The Audacious Epigone explores the GSS in terms of the relationship between irreligion and politics.  He confirms what I’ve noted before, the data shows that the irreligious strongly tend to be liberal, but liberals only weakly tend to be irreligious.  This makes sense, the set of liberals in the United States is an order of magnitude more numerous than the set of atheists (2-5% vs. 15-30%, depending on how you measure/quantify).  Because most liberals are not atheists, generalizations of atheists do not necessarily apply to liberals.  Atheists tend to be more male skewed than theists, while liberals tend to be more female skewed than conservatives.

There are also trends within the GSS in terms of how religion & politics sort out. The variable GOD is rank ordered 1-6 in the GSS, from those who know God does not exist (1) to those who are totally certain (6).  POLVIEWS is rank ordered from extreme liberals (1) to extreme conservatives (7).  Here are the correlations between these variables taking the numeric equivalents on their face:

GOD-POLVIEWS (blacks) = 0.05

GOD-POLVIEWS = 0.19

GOD-POLVIEWS (whites) = 0.23

GOD-POLVIEWS (whites with college degrees or higher) = 0.33

GOD-POLVIEWS (whites who scored 8 or above on WORDSUM, i.e., higher IQ) = 0.33

As you can see, there’s basically no relationship between religion and politics in the black community in terms of a being able to predict. Most black Americans are Democrats and disproportionately liberal, while at the same time being more religious and theologically conservative than whites.  Among whites in the upper socioeconomic strata is where the relationship between religion and politics becomes a trend worth noting.

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44 comments

  • Donna B. · January 22, 2009 at 1:39 am

    In no way could I be a member of an upper socioeconomic strata. I must ask if the difference be a matter of IQ regardless of socioeconomic strata.

    Reality prescribes that I am of the upper tier of poor white trash trailer house society. Yet… my measured IQ puts me in a different category.

    Which means the most?

    Is my IQ more important than my social background?

  • ◄Dave► · January 22, 2009 at 2:11 am

    @Donna B.

    Is my IQ more important than my social background?

    I suspect so; that is all I ever had going for me. The ability to learn, to think for myself, and the good fortune to have joined the Army instead of going to college in the ’60s. :) ◄Dave►

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 6:14 am

    One of the factors that may be at play here is whether atheists skew their self assessment on the liberal-conservative scale out of repulsion for the latter and not necessarily attraction to the former.

    I believe I am a good example. I’m certain that if you asked me to do a self-assessment on that scale, I would rate more “liberal” that I would if you did an in-depth analysis of many individual issues, ideas and positions.

    The reason for that is when I think on the individual issues, I consider their merits, alone. When I think about the liberal-conservative scale, by contrast, I am so repulsed by some the people running around calling themselves “conservatives” — the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Inhofes, Pro-8 people, etc. — that really want nothing to do with them, and would probably rate myself as far as I could from where I believe that they lay on that liberal-conservative scale.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of nomially conservative atheists out there who vote for Democrats so as not to support the type of Republicans which has made the party so inhospitable to non-religious types.

  • ◄Dave► · January 22, 2009 at 7:56 am

    @Grant Canyon

    I am so repulsed by some the people running around calling themselves “conservatives” — the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Inhofes, Pro-8 people, etc. — that really want nothing to do with them, and would probably rate myself as far as I could from where I believe that they lay on that liberal-conservative scale.

    I hope you can appreciate that it is utter revulsion for the Michael Moores, Al Frankens, Ted Kennedys, and the Pro-NAMBLA ACLU types, which elicits the opposite reaction for this particular godless libertarian. I am thoroughly disgusted with the extremes of both wings of the Incumbrepublocrat Party. The Piously Correct are as irritating to me as the Politically Correct.

    However, when I factor in my preference for capitalism over socialism, for Liberty over collectivism, for sovereignty over world government, and for individual responsibility over victimhood, I nearly always find the lesser of two evils to be on the Right. I could be a Truman Democrat. I was a Kennedy Democrat as a young man; but there is no way JFK could win a Democrat Party Primary today, and I couldn’t possibly support the likes of Pelosi, Reed, or Obama. ◄Dave►

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 22, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Michael Moores, Al Frankens, Ted Kennedys, and the Pro-NAMBLA ACLU types

    Your point is well taken, but I think your examples aren’t symmetrical with Grant’s if you include “Pro-NAMBLA ACLU” ;-) Very few Leftists are pro-NAMBLA. Most Rightists are pro-8. (I don’t think pro prop-8 is in the same neighborhood as NAMBLA in any case).

  • Prof Frink · January 22, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    ◄Dave► :

    ◄Dave►
    @Grant Canyon

    However, when I factor in my preference for capitalism over socialism, for Liberty over collectivism, for sovereignty over world government, and for individual responsibility over victimhood, I nearly always find the lesser of two evils to be on the Right. I ◄Dave►

    Right, well said Dave. It certainly is a strained alliance we have with the religious right. We need to return to areas where we can find common ground.

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    It certainly is a strained alliance we have with the religious right. We need to return to areas where we can find common ground.

    It’s a strange position, I agree. For example, based on evidence and reason, most evangelicals* are 180 degrees wrong on evolution and intelligent design. However, I can sympathize when they get upset with having to pay school taxes so schools can teach their own children this and other less scientific issues. This is why I think they should be given some sort of partial rebate, if not a whole one, if they take care of their children’s education.

    *I say “most evangelicals” so as to exclude the odd Frances Collins type.

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    “However, I can sympathize when they get upset with having to pay school taxes so schools can teach their own children this and other less scientific issues. This is why I think they should be given some sort of partial rebate, if not a whole one, if they take care of their children’s education.”

    How far would you take that? Refunds for people who send their kids to prep schools?

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I think some sort of refund should be in order. This, of course, should provide that the schooling they’re getting meets a certain level of knowledge. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I think that standard should even include the objective facts of Darwinian theory. You don’t have to teach that it’s true, but you should be able to know what it is you’re disagreeing with.

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    “I think that standard should even include the objective facts of Darwinian theory. You don’t have to teach that it’s true, but you should be able to know what it is you’re disagreeing with.”

    The modern synthisis model combining evolution and genetics is “true” in the common use of the word. (That is, it represents the most accurate model of biological history that we have.) I think that it is criminal that parents infect their kids with lies about creationism and ID and the nonsense peddled by groups like Discovery Institute and Ken Ham’s Flinstones Museum down in Kentucky. So I would require that it be tought as “true,” in that sense, otherwise you permit parents to harm their children intellectually by filling their minds with bible-based mush.

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I think that it is criminal that parents infect their kids with lies about creationism and ID and the nonsense peddled by groups like Discovery Institute and Ken Ham’s Flinstones Museum down in Kentucky.

    It isn’t “criminal” at all. They believe it sincerely. They’re wrong, but they’re not act with ill intent. We live in free country, and that means people have the right to be wrong.

    When I went to school in the 80s, we had some fool trying to teach us that any observed difference between men and women was structural. She was teaching it as observed fact, and doing so on the public dime. There we were trapped listening to the most obvious bullshit to ever grace God’s green earth, and our parents had to pay for it. THAT was criminal.

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    “It isn’t ‘criminal’ at all. They believe it sincerely. They’re wrong, but they’re not act with ill intent. We live in free country, and that means people have the right to be wrong.”

    It’s borderline child abuse, in my opinion. Their views are demonstrably false. Whether they believe it sincerely is irrelevant, because their belief is active irrational self-deception. That they choose to actively ignore the facts to hold onto superstition, and then infecting thier kids with that ignorance is all the “ill intent” I need to see. They have a right to believe what they want. I’m not sure they should have the right to infect their kids with the mind virus.

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I’m not sure they should have the right to infect their kids with the mind virus.

    When people start using medical terms to describe opinions, it’s time to worry. An outdated belief is not a virus. It’s an error, and like all errors the truth will eventually defeat it. There’s no need to do far more damage to parental rights for the sake of some Darwinian jihad.

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    There’s no need to do far more damage to parental rights for the sake of some Darwinian jihad.

    When people start using religious terms to describe opinions, it’s time to worry. (And when people can’t see a clear metaphor, it is time for either the writer or the reader to worry. :-) )

    Actually, this particular “error” has been outdated for hundreds of years and it’s still infecting kids every day. Being passed from parent to child, like a virus.

    The question I would raise is “how far do ‘parental rights’ go?” Do you have the right, as a parent, to maim your child and stunt his growth? I think we can all say “no”. Should you be permitted, out of some out-dated religous notion, to stunt your child’s intellectual growth?

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    And when people can’t see a clear metaphor, it is time for either the writer or the reader to worry.

    I know you’re using a metaphor, but the analogy quickly leads one to think of “medical” solutions for “false” opinions. I know you only intend well, but it’s still important to be careful with words, even metaphors.

    Do you have the right, as a parent, to maim your child and stunt his growth?

    I’d say you’re right ceases when you do irreversible damage. A bad opinion on evolution is not irreversible. I grew up a Southern Baptist. It didn’t take. People become adults. They’re then free to look around, or to not look around. Given the advance of knowledge, more and more will look around. Those who don’t, will be marginalized.

  • Grant Canyon · January 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    “People become adults. They’re then free to look around, or to not look around. Given the advance of knowledge, more and more will look around. Those who don’t, will be marginalized.”

    My concern is for those who are marginalized (in whole or part) who would not otherwise have been, had they not been the recipients of this type of bad parenting. (i.e., the experience didn’t psychologically permit them to, when they became adults, to put the childish religious stuff aside.) I don’t know the answer, though.

  • Victoria · January 22, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    “So I would require that it be tought as “true,” in that sense, otherwise you permit parents to harm their children intellectually by filling their minds with bible-based mush.”

    You make it sound as if the precepts that a child is taught are embedded in his mind, heart and soul forevermore. We were all subjected to academic and religious dogma throughout our youth, yet most people move beyond their initial training, as they are exposed to other data and teachings. Probably everyone in this forum can remember dogma, both secular and religious, they once fervently believed, only to be replaced with other beliefs, or with skepticism. As long as the basics of evolution are taught, why get involved in whether or not it’s taught as “the truth?” Why make it a creed?

    “When I went to school in the 80s, we had some fool trying to teach us that any observed difference between men and women was structural.”

    And here’s an example of how our own brains reject stupid, agenda-driven, secular religious crap. Is there anyone who believes that there are no inherent differences between the sexes, in spite of the poisonous feminists who overtook and run certain college departments?

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    My concern is for those who are marginalized (in whole or part) who would not otherwise have been, had they not been the recipients of this type of bad parenting.

    There’s nothing that says any adult has to remain marginalized because they refuse to accept evolution.

    Look, I know you’re not setting down any hard dogma here, but I think it should be acknowledged there’s no way you can stop every fool from being a fool. And there’s no way you can keep fools from passing on foolish ideas to their kids. Seriously, when it comes to things that will ruin your life, creationism is pretty far down the list. Illegitimacy is a much, MUCH bigger concern, but I don’t think you’d be cool with taking babies away from single mothers.

  • Gotchaye · January 22, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    There’s a pretty big difference between stuff your parents teach you as a child and stuff that you’re not exposed to until college.

    Seeing as how we’re mostly nonbelievers here, I imagine that it’s apparent that religious indoctrination is only rarely shaken off, and that most people’s upbringings contribute to making them incapable of seriously questioning those beliefs. In college, students already have a pretty solid belief structure, and they have access to a wealth of contrary opinions in their fellow students. But stuff you’re taught as a child is built on a strong prerational foundation – people can get past it, but it’s hard. Most people -don’t- move beyond their initial training.

    And the reason for teaching evolution as true is that it is. Children deserve more than exposure to true ideas alongside false ideas; they deserve to be taught that the true ones are true. There are worthier causes to fight for, but I don’t see that there’s a moral right to teach your kids falsehoods, even if you believe them. As a practical matter, it’s probably best to leave the legal right, but I’ve got no problem saying that parents that teach creationism are wronging their children.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 22, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Is there anyone who believes that there are no inherent differences between the sexes, in spite of the poisonous feminists who overtook and run certain college departments?

    i think the main difference between this sort of stuff and creationism is that this sort of nonsense dogma often goes against common sense. OTOH, creationism does not, it taps into some real intuitions. so fighting against blank slatism in some ways in easier than creationism; in their heart most blank slatists don’t really buy, though they want to.

  • Polichinello · January 22, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    There are worthier causes to fight for, but I don’t see that there’s a moral right to teach your kids falsehoods, even if you believe them.

    That makes no sense. If you believed them, then you wouldn’t think of them as falsehoods. In fact, if you believe a set of propositions to be true, you might very well have a moral duty to teach them to your kids.

  • Gotchaye · January 22, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    You may believe that you have such a duty, sure. But if you don’t have an epistemological right to your belief, you’re still acting wrongly. No one’s saying that the parents are malicious, but they are wrongly negligent.

  • ◄Dave► · January 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    @Victoria

    Probably everyone in this forum can remember dogma, both secular and religious, they once fervently believed, only to be replaced with other beliefs, or with skepticism.

    This discussion has turned to an area that plays havoc with my libertarian principles. I will admit that I have never worked out to my own satisfaction where I would get a warrant to interfere in how a parent wishes to acculturate his own child. Philosophically, I simply have no such right; but like Grant, I reckon it is child abuse to cripple the mind of a child with “magical” thinking, whether with gods, Santa Claus, or the tooth fairy.

    In my business, I have had the occasional misfortune to have to deal with Child Protective Services. These miscreants are frequently ghastly crusaders who do far more damage to a child’s psyche than even mildly abusive parents. I am usually really conflicted when a situation arises where the law mandates that I report an observation to them.

    There is nothing sacrosanct about science, either. Science is frequently wrong about just about everything, right down to the basics. Name the hypothesis or theory and there are “scientists” who disagree and have a different explanation. Scientists are as “sectarian” over their dogmas as the god folk are over theirs. I was taught electricity flowed from positive to negative, and still remember the day a science teacher had to try to erase that falsehood from our minds and get us to start thinking the opposite.

    AGW comes to mind immediately. I have delved into this issue with an open mind rather extensively. I have concluded that what is being seared into the minds of our children is a political agenda backed by junk science every bit as contrived as ID. There are other scientific debates that have raged for years, which most have never heard of.

    I was taught, and most Americans still believe, that petroleum comes from decomposed biomass. The Russians have known for over one hundred years that oil is not a “fossil” fuel; but a renewable resource, which is created by chemical processes in the mantle of the earth and works its way toward the surface via centrifugal force. If you have never heard of abiotic oil, visit Google for some fascinating reading. “Peak Oil” is bunk.

    Then there is the Plate Tectonics and Pangaea theories. There is an alternative, rather persuasive, theory that the Earth (indeed, along with all planets and moons in our Solar System), is slowly expanding. This battle has been going on for over 75 years. I spent months reading scientific papers on this one, most from Australian geologists, and I am convinced it is not only expanding, it did not begin its existence as a molten blob of primordial soup; but started as a huge clump of asteroids, meteoroids, and space dust. Try Googling “expanding earth.”

    We don’t even know what we don’t know about the “creation” of Earth, and what we think we know is what we were schooled to believe was true; whether in science or religion. Both camps promote their dogma, and are rather intolerant of opposing views from apostates. That is one of the reasons I prefer to think for myself, and have found them both to be grossly in error. ◄Dave►

  • Caledonian · January 23, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Abiotic Petroleum

    That looks like pseudoscience, ◄Dave►. Are you sure you’re not grasping at straws because 1) you ideologically disagree with the people who use peak oil concerns as an excuse to gain control of everything, and 2) you hate the solutions that are proposed to peak oil concerns and want to pretend they’re irrational nonsense?

  • ◄Dave► · January 23, 2009 at 11:34 am

    @Caledonian

    I am not sure how much of that wiki you actually perused, but it is hardly pseudoscience. A glance at the wiki on the Russian chemist who first proposed it should disabuse anyone of that notion. Not only was he a serious scientist who invented the periodic table, what possible motive would someone who had already died by 1907 have had to cook up a phony theory on this subject? There was nothing politically controversial about the subject at the time.

    Yes, I am sure I am not grasping at straws. I think I possess a remarkably open and skeptical mind, when I compare it to most others I have chanced to meet. The older I get, the less sure I am about the basis of my “knowledge,” because I keep discovering the remarkable work product of brilliant minds that I had never even heard of. I never view challenges to conventional wisdom as “junk science,” unless there appears to be a political motive behind it.

    It is my observation that most junk science involves predictions about the future. Another indicator is any attempt to cease debate or attempts to falsify a hypothesis with ad hominem, or other emotional appeals that seem to go beyond reason to defend a pet theory. This appears to be particularly prevalent among the Malthusians; so I will admit to a knee jerk skepticism of their pronouncements, which causes me to pay particular attention to opposing scientific inquiry.

    I will point out there there is no political component to the debate between the expanding earth vs plate tectonics and theories. Yet, the American scientists invested in Pangaea to explain the obvious fact that all the continents were once connected, or subduction to explain how the earth manages to remain a constant diameter given the growth from the the mid-ocean ridges, defend their rather improbable theories with similar zeal and unreasonable emotion.

    Occam’s razor would favor the expansionists, and to me the recent photographic evidence of expansion of our neighboring planets demands that we rethink our assumptions regarding physics and gravity itself. I delve into such things out of pure intellectual curiosity, not politics.◄Dave►

  • Dave M · January 23, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Occam’s razor would favor the expansionists,

    Why?

    and to me the recent photographic evidence of expansion of our neighboring planets demands that we rethink our assumptions regarding physics and gravity itself.

    How so?

    I delve into such things out of pure intellectual curiosity, not politics.

    I appreciate that, but I do suspect you’re in for a nasty shock or two…

  • ◄Dave► · January 24, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Dave, I have neither the time or inclination to debate this issue in this venue. My point was only that scientists disagree over “truth” as much as the shamans. We innocents are frequently fooled by both when we accept their pronouncements as authoritative, without filtering them through our own BS detectors.

    There are all manner of Darwinian and geological mysteries that science has tried to resolve with fanciful theories of wandering tectonic plates, that once had all the continents clumped together on one side of the earth. Then, when they discovered that the ocean floors are nowhere more than 70 million-years-old and spreading from the mid-ocean ridges, they theorized that they subducted back into the mantle again upon reaching the continents, to keep the earth’s diameter constant.

    A much simpler explanation is that the continents were once all together on a smaller earth, which cracked from internal pressure and they are now being spread apart by the growing ocean floors. The only substantial argument I have seen against this hypothesis, is the early proponents inability to articulate a plausible mechanism by which the earth could “create” matter to expand.

    Personally, I don’t think matter is being created; but its density is being reduced by thermal processes within the core of the earth. If so, that would necessitate we rethink some pretty basic assumptions. If the earth is not a cooling ball of “star stuff,” but is instead a thermal dynamic reactor in its own right, a whole lot of our science is based on faulty premises.

    Those capable of having their intellectual curiosity tickled by an unscientific graphic artist, with a rather sarcastic attitude toward conventional wisdom, might benefit from viewing some of the video clips available here. Start with clip #0 and don’t miss clip #2 of Europa made from NASA photographs, which ought to make the most skeptical of geologists take notice and ask themselves if the expansionists might be onto something.

    Please understand that Neal Adams is not a scientist, and I do not endorse his attitude or writings. He is just a graphic artist who happened upon an old hypothesis and applied his considerable graphic talents to test the assertions with fascinating results. His work on Europa was stunning, utterly compelling, and it removed all further doubt from my mind that these Aussies are onto something big.

    I am well aware that the orthodox scientific community will laugh at the notion that a comic book artist could contribute anything of significance to scientific debate; but I reckon he has. If he accomplishes just getting a few bright kids to open their eyes and consider alternatives to conventional wisdom, perhaps some new scientific discoveries I will result in the future. In the meantime, I will standby for the nasty shocks. ◄Dave►

  • Lynn · January 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

    It’s borderline child abuse, in my opinion. Their views are demonstrably false. Whether they believe it sincerely is irrelevant, because their belief is active irrational self-deception. That they choose to actively ignore the facts to hold onto superstition, and then infecting thier kids with that ignorance is all the “ill intent” I need to see. They have a right to believe what they want. I’m not sure they should have the right to infect their kids with the mind virus.

    It’s just one short step from your belief that parents don’t have the right to teach their children their religious beliefs to assigning the right to the state to remove those children.

    Be very afraid of those who make such comments. Your beliefs could be the next to fall from general favor.

  • Joe D. · January 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I find this site interesting, because I am a non-religious conservative. I would hesitate to call myself an atheist though; I do not know that God does not exist. I’m more of an agnostic. I wonder if there could be any interesting difference in the political philosophies of agnostics and atheists.

    I think I am very much a libertarian, but I also support a strong military. I am fiercely a pro-market capitalist, and I am sympathetic to religious views on things like abortion.

  • Caledonian · January 26, 2009 at 6:48 am

    “My point was only that scientists disagree over “truth” as much as the shamans.”

    No, they don’t. There is in fact a remarkable consensus regarding the vast majority of scientific knowledge.

    This is because science pursues objective standards that produce consensus as a side effect, rather than seeking after consensus directly.

  • ◄Dave► · January 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    @Caledonian

    There is a remarkable consensus among thousands of shamans that a runaway Jewish slave named Moses was a prophet and did some miraculous things back in antiquity, including receive the ten commandments directly from their god. There is a remarkable consensus among the vast majority of these, called priests and preachers, accepting the hypothesis that another Jewish prophet named Jesus was god incarnate, and they teach it to their trusting flocks of sheeple… then there are a minority of them, called rabbis, who believe otherwise, and teach an alternative hypothesis to theirs.

    There is a remarkable consensus among geology professors regarding a hypothesis that the earth has always been its current diameter, and they teach it to their trusting students… then there are a minority of them who think otherwise, and teach theirs the hypothesis that the earth is expanding.

    In both scenarios, the proponents are convinced of the accuracy of their convictions, and can cite the authorities and voluminous scholarly works that back them up. In both, their students have every reason to trust their expertise, and generally do. Yet, their is no way both sides of these debates can be correct, nor any assurance that either is. The trusting student is at the mercy of the lottery in life that dictates their teachers, and most will go through life believing and repeating what they learned, even in the face of compelling evidence that they may have been taught rubbish.

    When my science teacher taught me that electricity flowed from Positive to Negative, he was simply teaching me what he had been taught and I had no more reason to doubt it than he did. Yet, the alternative hypothesis must have already been on the table at the time, for it was only a couple of years before a new science teacher taught me the opposite.

    Had not semiconductor research compelled its ascendancy, I might still be walking around with the false notion seared in my mind with utter conviction. For all I know, the first teacher never got the memo and died still convinced he was teaching truth. Naturally, I wonder what else I think I know that just isn’t so. Caveat emptor. ◄Dave►

  • Caledonian · January 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

    ◄Dave►, you accept pseudoscience.

    The whole point of the scientific method is that it makes it possible to distinguish between dogma and truth… eventually.

    You’re trying to pretend that your favorite fairy tale is “just as valid” as our best understanding supported by rational argument and the available evidence.

  • ◄Dave► · January 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

    @Caledonian

    That is a pretty revealing comment, Caledonian. The expanding earth hypothesis is serious science, regardless how many pseudoscience goofballs latch onto it and make fools out of themselves popularizing it. Consensus is irrelevant to science, and those who rely on it for their truth are arguably engaged in pseudoscience themselves. The moment a theory is regarded as not falsifiable, it leaves the realm of science and enters the realm of belief, just like religion.

    The AGW proponents have started a new religion precisely this way. I get sick of the mantras that the “debate is over,” the “science is settled,” and that the thousands of climatologists who disagree with the conventional wisdom are dolts akin to Holocaust deniers. It is pathetic. There are numerous peer reviewed papers that suggest we are entering a new ice age. It is not my field, so I can only look at both sides with an open mind and try to see where logic leads me.

    Whatever man does, the earth will survive just fine and continue to go through its periodic warming and cooling cycles, as it has done for four billion years before man appeared on the scene. I doubt that it would miss us much if we actually did eradicate ourselves, and frankly the tiny percentage of CO2 we contribute to the total isn’t going to make much difference. If it could, and the ice age proponents are correct, perhaps we should all buy a SUV and get our government to mandate that all electricity be produced from burning coal, to “save the planet.”

    I have found the two video clips I linked to above, to be an excellent test for an open inquisitive mind. An open mind viewing clip #0 will get a visual perspective of what these geologists have been saying in peer reviewed papers for over 75 years. Then hearing that, while the continental crust is over four billion-years-old, nowhere are the ocean floors over 70 million-years-old, one is offered a visual of a globe without the water. Noticing that the continental shelves drop off into an abyss two miles deep, one is struck by the question, “If the earth started as a molten ball that is cooling, where did the rest of the ancient crust go?”

    Then, if after viewing clip #2 of Europia, one’s intellectual curiosity is not piqued enough to pursue the subject and read a little about it, one’s mind is not very inquisitive. Obviously, Europa’s crust is much thinner than ours, and it is hard to imagine any other explanation for the photographs than that it is expanding. Why not? We think stars expand; the whole universe is expanding, why do we assume that the planetary objects in it couldn’t be also?

    Some intelligent geology professors, who have spent their lives studying the possibility, think so and have produced peer reviewed papers and books on the subject. You do them an egregious disservice to dismiss their work as a “fairy tale” simply because they are currently in the minority and conventional wisdom is clinging to even more improbable theories about wandering continents and subduction to explain the same empirical data.

    It is not their fault that non-scientists have found their work intriguing and have popularized it outside of science’s vaunted journals. An open inquisitive mind would overlook that, and probably be suspicious of any scientist who defended his own pet theories by using ad hominem against non-players, to discredit the work of other real scientists. ◄Dave►

  • Joshua Zelinsky · January 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Dave,

    The “expanding earth hypothesis” has to be one of the most well-debunked fringe ideas out there. If that’s the best example you can come up with for the idea that science might not always be right then you’re in trouble. And your claim that there are serious scientists who still pay attention to expanding earth ideas is simply false. The last notable scientist who had any sympathy for such ideas was Samuel Carey who stopped doing geology in 1977. Expanding Earth proponents have no explanation for the mechanism of expansion, no explanation for many of the basic geological features we see which are easily explained by standard hypotheses. This is as you acknowledge an idea that would require throwing out much of the science we know in many different different areas (physics, geology, astronomy to name but a few).

    But it also isn’t very relevant since while science often is wrong. The vast majority of the time a useful heuristic is to simply go with what the scientists are saying for determining practical courses of action. The vast majority of the time the scientific consensus will be correct.

  • ◄Dave► · January 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    @Joshua Zelinsky

    Joshua, history is replete with examples of science not always being right. Newton ruled before that pretender working at the patent office wrote that paper on mass-energy equivalence, which was rejected outright by the physics community invested in conventional wisdom. The brash kid was only 25, and as a scientist, Einstein was far from “notable.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanding_earth covers the contraversey better that I would have expected. I hadn’t even realized that Darwin himself appears to be the first to propose such a hypothesis. It may be “fringe” to you, but it existed before the Pangaea theory. As to your suggestion that the last “notable scientist” gave it up in ’77, I could care less how “notable” anyone doing science is, as long as they are doing it right. Most “notable” scientists in history were remarkably unknown until they made a profound discovery. From the above wiki:

    Some additional current advocates[32] of similar hypotheses are James Maxlow,[33][34][35] Stavros Tassos,[36] Weijermars,[37] Michihei,[38] Scalera,[39] Edwards,[40] and Herndon.[41]

    The cites to their work are listed in the Notes.

    I am curious… have you viewed the two clips I offered, or is this just another familiar repeat of the conventional wisdom – that the dissenters of conventional wisdom are “fringe” pseudoscience clowns, who have been thoroughly “debunked?” If you did, what did you make of the Europa photographs? ◄Dave►

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Newton ruled before that pretender working at the patent office wrote that paper on mass-energy equivalence, which was rejected outright by the physics community invested in conventional wisdom.

    this is a really bad example. physical theories fail in very precise circumstances. all current theories fail when pushed to the extremes. so? they’re models. newtonian is fine 99% of the time.

  • Caledonian · January 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

    “the expanding earth hypothesis is serious science”

    Only in the sense that it is a hypothesis that has been considered, examined, and discarded.

    Asserting that it is true does not involve a respect for serious science.

    The same thing goes for the idea that major amounts of oil are derived from abiotic processes. There’s a reason coal and oil are so associated with fossils.

    ◄Dave►, are you against authority because you have actual examples of authority systematically perpetuating errors, or are you against it because current ‘authorities’ aren’t compatible with your favorite beliefs?

  • ◄Dave► · January 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    @Caledonian

    …are you against authority because you have actual examples of authority systematically perpetuating errors, or are you against it because current ‘authorities’ aren’t compatible with your favorite beliefs?

    I eschew the word “belief” in reference to my own mental processes. It conjures up “faith” and “magical thinking” for me. I think, suppose, reckon, ponder, examine, posit, question, challenge, etc.; but you will never catch me say or write that I “believe” something. I recognize no “authority” outside my own rational mind. It conjures up “superior” and “subordinate.” I am the sovereign in my life, and will never be subservient to another. I appreciate, value, admire, and often even revere the work product of other minds; but my own rational mind is subordinate to no other.

    It is my own tool for dealing with reality, not an instrument for others to manipulate. It is very suspicious of conventional wisdom when couched in not to be questioned dogma “revealed” as truth. My mind questions everything; in fact that is its primary modus operandi. While most minds naturally sort for similarities, mine sorts for differences. When presented with a new idea, most will compare it with what is already known, looking for things to like; and naturally ask themselves, “What is right about this idea?”

    My mind, by its very nature, will look for the hidden flaw. Even if it sounds good, my mind will immediately ask itself, “What is wrong with this idea?” We rare “mismatchers” drive the ubiquitous “matchers” we associate with crazy, by frequently pointing out the flaws in a hastily conceived plan that we can see won’t work out as predicted. I am frequently charged with being too “negative”; but I have learned to trust my own mind, and prefer to think for myself – not just accept the conventional wisdom of a consensus of congenial matchers. :)

    As to “actual examples of authority systematically perpetuating errors,” I submit our public school system. Or, how about the arcane seniority rules that congress uses to aggregate political power in the hands of the few? Then, there are the power brokers in the Incumbrepublocrat Party that perpetually dictate which two evils we are permitted to pick the lesser of, when the majority would have preferred a more inspiring choice. How about the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security? How about Keynesian Economics? The United Nations? Personally, I find that examples of misguided authorities perpetuating errors to be legion. ◄Dave►

  • Bill of MD · January 29, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    David Hume:
    “physical theories fail in very precise circumstances. all current theories fail when pushed to the extremes.”

    How does Quantum Mechanics fail?

    “Newtonian [physics] is fine 99% of the time.”
    Newtonian Physics is wrong 100% of the time, but for most applications the discrepancy between the real and the Newtonian result is too small to be significant. But in some cases it really matters, for example the famous case of the non-Newtonian perihelion advance of the orbit of planet Mercury, eventually explained by the general theory of relativity. Astronomers had tried to account for the anomaly by positing the existence of a perturbing extra planet; some even believed that they had observed it; anyone care to guess what they named it? http://tinyurl.com/2xwup3

  • ◄Dave► · January 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    @Bill of MD

    Thanks, that was an interesting read. I have occasionally earned the moniker Spock from less rational associates. :) ◄Dave►

  • Joshua Zelinsky · January 29, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Dave, you seem to be misunderstanding how science works. Scientists are often wrong but at any given point any statement that has a scientific consensus behind it is much more likely to be correct than not so. (And prior to Einstein people understood that something was wrong with their understanding of physics but not precisely what, so it doesn’t support your point anyways)

    Regarding your comment that “It may be “fringe” to you, but it existed before the Pangaea theory”- Whether an idea is a fringe idea has nothing to do with its age. Belief in phlogiston is very old but any current proponent would be most assuredly fringe.

    As to your comment that most notable scientist weren’t notable until they “made a profound discovery” that’s actually false. The vast majority of scientists who make major discoveries have long prior careers of other productive work. This is clear if you just take a glance through the biographies of Nobel prize winners for example.

    Meanwhile the list you copied from Wikipedia are advocates most of whom have done zero scientific work. Hence the citations are to things published by random publishing companies like “One Off Press” not anything resembling scientific journals.

    I listened to the clips you provided (I’ve seen them all before but it is sometimes useful to refresh one’s memory). They are as before standard crankiness. For example, in the Neal Adams clips he repeatedly suggests that scientists don’t listen to him because the idea is too shocking with vague hints of conspiracies.

    The Europa section is frankly even more laughable. You say that what matters is whether people are doing science. I’ve got news for you: science isn’t nice little animated gifs with vague statements and spooky music in the background. Science is about making real measurements suggesting ways your hypothesis can be falsified. As usual there’s none of that.

    Scientists don’t make little videos aimed at the general public where they say things like “speculation as to its surface composition has included ice slushy ice and well whatever”. Scientist don’t cite photographs of planets by simply saying that they are photos released by NASA on the internet. And anyone who thinks that he can say that Europa’s surface isn’t ice because it “doesn’t look like ice to me” isn’t doing science.

    There’s no real argument he’s made other than to point to a zone where ice may be spreading out and then somehow assert that it is due to Europa expanding rather than standard explanations. He well accepted processes (where he literally dismisses subduction by mentioning it as a possibility and then responds by laughing and saying “kidding”). This isn’t science but a poor attempt at demagoguery. It involves about as much of an appeal to emotion as Ben Stein’s Expelled expept that Expelled had a higher budget.

    The bottom line is that expanding earth proponents have no coherent explanation of magnetic striping and no proposed mechanism for earth’s expansion. The best argument expanding earth proponents might have would be if as they repeatedly claim subduction didn’t exist. But this claim is as false as the claim of Young Earth Creationists that we’ve never observed speciation. It is so breathtakingly false that anyone with any minimal background in actual geology would likely simply sputter because it is a claim that it simply demonstrates willful ignorance.

    Furthermore Dave I’m a bit disturbed by your comparison of scientific issues to political ones. The notion that Congressional seniority rules are comparable to scientific hypotheses is simply postmodern junk that I’d expect more so to see on left-wing blogs than on Secular Right.

  • ◄Dave► · January 29, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    @Joshua Zelinsky

    First, I never claimed Adams was doing science; quite the opposite. I took pains to apologize in advance for his sarcastic unscientific approach to the subject, and to acknowledge that he is only a well known comic book author. ALL his clips ever did for me was pique my curiosity to look deeper into the controversy. This caused me to read a considerable volume of the work of Carey and other interesting Australian geologists. I found their work serious, credible, and extremely thought provoking. Frankly, their “debunkers” come off more like Adams in attitude.

    I found that the evidence is overwhelming that the continents were once all joined together. There are two explanations. One is Pangaea, which posits wandering continents that were once all clumped together on one side of the earth. The other is the expanding earth, which Adams clips make a compelling visual case for (OK, mute the speakers). :)

    My mind finds the expansion hypothesis the simpler and more common sensible; and as I have said already, the only credible argument against it I have heard, is the question of a mechanism for expansion. To me, that is a separate issue; but I am guessing it is thermal. One obvious question is, “What is the mechanism that causes the upwelling of new crust mid-ocean and the subduction at the other end of the perpetual conveyor belt?” Something is sure going on down there that has kept this ball from cooling off for at least four billion years.

    I am not an advocate for this hypothesis, only a curious mind at play. But that mind will not be browbeat into accepting the more fantastical hypothesis just to be seen as accepting conventional wisdom, and to avoid ridicule for being open to unconventional thinking. Plate tectonics was met with derision when first posited, too. My initial point was that scientists do not always agree, and it is prudent to be as skeptical of their authoritative pronouncements, as one is of the authoritative pronouncements of the shamans. Others’ mileage may differ, and that is fine by me; as long as they used their own minds to get there, and are not just blindly following the herd.

    You weren’t around when Caledonian and I crossed swords before over my contumacy, so the leap from science back to politics over my rejection of “authority” very well may have seemed incongruous. ◄Dave►

  • Kevembuangga · January 30, 2009 at 2:23 am

    An useful reference for the current discussion about Science: The Crackpot Index

  • Joshua Zelinsky · January 30, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Dave, Having a mechanism isn’t a “separate question” but a massive issue. And saying that you guess it is “thermal” doesn’t help matters much at all. In order to have thermal expansion you need the earth heating up. Given the earth’s composition that simply isn’t plausible. wouldn’t be that much smaller as you can see if you do a back of the envelope estimate. And that’s aside from the the massive internal pressure. Indeed, contrast this to the idea that there is some sort of thermal expansion going on which would require if anything massive heat sources and an initially cold planet.

    In regard to your question that ““What is the mechanism that causes the upwelling of new crust mid-ocean and the subduction at the other end of the perpetual conveyor belt?” This is well-understood. There are internal convection currents. The new heat comes from radioactive material inside the earth. This is well known and confirmed by independent lines of evidence such as seismic readings.

    Re “I am not an advocate for this hypothesis, only a curious mind at play.” Ah yes, the classic I’m just asking questions gambit. Curious, this particular piece of rhetoric seems more common among 9/11 truthers and Area 51ers.

    As to not having your your mind “browbeat into accepting the more fantastical hypothesis just to be seen as accepting conventional wisdom, and to avoid ridicule for being open to unconventional thinking” this sounds if you’ll forgive me like the real issue is that plate tectonics sounds “fantastical” or counterintuitive to you. Humans brains are heavily modified primate brains. We evolved to survive in hunter-gatherer groups not to understand the nature of the universe. It shouldn’t surprise one that the truth is often counterintuitive. One shouldn’t reject a scientific hypothesis simply because it doesn’t meet one’s expectations.

    Of course it is useful to be skeptical of authoritative pronouncements but that’s a triviality. And that’s distinct from rejecting well-understood science simply because you don’t like it and then not bothering to do any real research on the matter.

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