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April 23, 2008

Scientists Gone Wild

Expedition_alaska_179 Discovery has a week-long docudrama about “global warming” and melting glaciers in the Alaskan wilderness. 

Advertisements for the program included cuddly-looking bears and magnificent whales. They shot spectacular footage of three pods of whales munching their way through the sea.   

However, the program was completely ruined by the scientists and other team members bludgeoning viewers with their doomsday rhetoric. The scientists featured in this program repetitively used only a couple of hand-wringing sentences about rising CO2 levels replete with “maybe,” “might,” and “could.”

Is their dire prediction about global warming right, and is it a man-made phenomenon? Should we all start intoning, “Hallowed are the Scientists,” and stop buying cars, light bulbs, and hardwood floors? 

I’ve just received what looks like an interesting book by Lawrence Solomon titled, The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud*: *And those who are too fearful to do so. Solomon profiles a number of experts from different scientific fields, so the book might offer an interesting perspective from what currently passes for free inquiry amongst our scientific community. 

Here's one little tidbit from my very brief skim of one chapter: In 2007 Dr.Zbigniew Jaworowski, an expert in ancient ice cores, states, “The ice-core data from Taylor Dome in Antarctic shows almost no change in the level of atmospheric CO2 over the last 7,000 to 8,000 years.” Golly, the Discovery show states that the CO2 levels are rising dangerously ("maybe," "could," "might").  To illustrate the point, one expert collects gases in plastic bags from a bubbling lake telling viewers that for the bags to light on fire it needs to be composed of at least 10 percent methane gas. The bags, of course, burn beautifully.

Here's a few questions for scientists on this site: how often do gases bubble up from a lake bed, what causes it (generally speaking), do the beds reseal themselves, and is there a constant in the types of gases which forces its way upward?

One last speculation: It seems to me there was a pernicious streak running through this program. Besides bludgeoning viewers with global warming doomsday speculations, commercials for a hybrid car were geared toward children (presumably so they can pressure their parents to purchase one). One was very disturbing. A driver of a hybrid SUV asked the kids how many of them were vegetarians: The percentage was high—say two or three children out of seven. It seems to me the program and its advertisers geared a lot of the program toward changing the minds of children--with the simple theme and advertisements--urging them to jump on the "global warming, eating meat is bad, and humans are the problem" bandwagon.

What do you think?

(Image © The Discovery Channel)

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In high school I was force-fed a story about a religious community who collectively decided that predators were sinful, based on some poor Biblical exegesis. They drove away anything that preyed on other animals - all dogs, cats, snakes, bears, and so on - and were promptly overrun by rats, whereupon they had to abandon their town.

This was held up as an example of religion that brainwashes one into short-sighted and self-destructive behavior. The strong inference was that scientific thinking was a reliable shield against such folly.

As for "cuddly-looking" bears and "magnificent" whales, well, there's that "inconvenient truth" that sin has had its impact on the world... http://www.ibiblio.org/Dave/Dr-Fun/df200108/df20010823.jpg


I completely agree with you! I was so looking forward to this week-long series (I will still watch Mythbusters in Alaska tonight!!) but couldn't even stomach 30 minutes of the narration on the first evening. I thought about turning down the volume and just looking at the lovely scenery but opted instead to turn it off and read.


I think it's pathetic that the President is touting this false propaganda as if it was real. Let's keep the planet as clean as possible, but let's not starve the poorest of us for the sake of saving the planet from global warming.

Katharine Eastvold

I haven't seen this Discovery Channel special, so I'll have to take your word for it that the narration is annoying. But on the larger question of whether global warming is occurring and, if so, what our response should be, I think some of the "doomsday rhetoric" we've been hearing is not misplaced.

It's my understanding that there is a fairly small number of scientists who believe that global warming is not occurring at all, and a larger number who believe it's happening but don't think it's caused by human activity (or think the causes are unclear.) So we have three main scenarios that are possible.

1) Global warming is happening, and it's our fault. In that case, why stick our heads in the sand? Surely we need to take responsibility and do something to fix the mess we've made - if not for the sake of the earth itself, then for our children and grandchildren.

2) Global warming is happening, but it's just a natural fluctuation in our climate, and human-produced emissions have nothing to do with it. In that case, we don't need to sit around feeling guilty. But no matter the cause, global warming as described by most scientists will have a devastating impact on human life - particularly in low-lying areas, areas prone to water-borne disease, etc. So, whether or not it's our fault, we should probably try to mitigate its effects and protect ourselves against the damage it will cause. Those of us who live in developed nations can, for the most part, afford to move to higher ground. Especially in the U.S., where there is still plenty of open land, if we act prudently we may not be in much danger. But as Christians, we have a responsibility to consider the poor of the world, many of whom do live in low-lying areas or islands and can't get to higher ground, or escape the ravages of extreme weather phenomena, as easily as we can.

3) There's no such thing as global warming. Even if this is the case, there are many advantages to be gained from taking fairly drastic steps to conserve energy and resources. It is a fairly undisputed fact that oil is a non-renewable resource (some attempts have been made to synthesize it, but no real progress has been made). So is natural gas (unless you count the methane produced by livestock). So coming up with alternative energy sources and cutting our consumption of fossil fuels won't just stave off global warming (if it exists), but keep us from suffering a full-fledged economic and humanitarian crisis when oil and gas reserves do run dry. The problems won't start when the fuel actually runs out, either; as oil-rich locations become fewer and fewer, there will inevitably be more wars. Scarce resources cause conflict; that's been true almost since the beginning of human history. Conservation will also make us healthier (by improving air and water quality), make our world more beautiful and enjoyable for our children, and fulfill the Biblical mandate to care for Creation. Global warming or no global warming, preserving the environment, developing more environmentally-sound sources of energy, and cutting consumption are all good ideas that Christians can embrace.

Much of the criticism of global warming doomsday talk has centered on the plight of the poor, who, the theory goes, will suffer if economic growth slows due to environmental regulation. I don't believe that the effect on the world's poor will be a net negative at all. Poor people are more likely than rich people (by virtue of their inability to pick up and move when conditions get bad) to live next to noxious dumps, breathe polluted air, and work in environmentally hazardous conditions. All these things adversely affect their life span and quality of life. If (or when) wars break out over increasingly scarce fossil fuels and other resources, poor people will disproportionately bear the burden as they become refugees and/or are conscripted (or forced by economic circumstances) into armies. Many of the world's poor are engaged in fishing or harvesting shellfish, and if the mercury content of fish and shellfish continues to rise, discouraging people from buying those foods, these people will increasingly be unable to earn a living. The poor are often the most vulnerable victims of environmental degradation because they can't escape it or pay for better-quality alternatives, such as bottled water when water sources are polluted.

Finally, the search for alternative energy sources and the manufacture of new, "green" products will create jobs at all levels of the economy.

Ultimately, I think Christians tend to be irked by environmentalist and anti-global warming talk because we worry that fighting global warming will require us to prioritize animal and plant life over human life, or the survival of the earth over our own survival and well-being. Since we are a privileged species in God's creation, we rightly bristle at anything that threatens respect for human life in favor of other life on earth. But despite what some environmentalists believe on that subject, I think taking steps to reverse or slow global warming and take care of our environment will greatly improve our lot and, indeed, ensure our own survival (for as long as God wants this earth to remain).

As for the ads for hybrids, I'm not crazy about my children watching lots of advertising, but of all the products a child might see advertised and pester his or her parents to buy, I count a hybrid car as a relatively harmless one. Better that than Bratz dolls or Cookie Crisp cereal, if you ask me...


Kim Moreland

Your high school teacher should have taught real-life lessons about beliefs and what NOT to do by discussing boondoggles like Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward.
Mao killed all the sparrows that ate the bugs...which caused a wide-spread famine killing millions of people.
There's another story about parachuting cats which you can read about in Chuck Colson's commentary, "The Parachuting Pussycats." http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=756



Thanks, Kim! Yes, my high school was a testing ground for all kinds of liberal indoctrination, so they cherry-picked the episodes that put conservatives and religious people in the worst possible light, while ignoring identical (or worse) liberal oopsies.

There was a bad remake of "King Kong", starring Jessica Lange, prior to the Peter Jackson version. As I recall, that version contained the immortally hilarious line "Out of my way; I'm a scientist!!" as our hero rushed to make things right when Kong got loose in New York. Of course, scientists make things worse just as often as they make them better, but if you're trying to promote, say, a Darwinian worldview, then you have a vested interest in putting a spin on any mistakes (or, better, eliding them from history altogether).


I'm not much of one for getting hugely fired up about the debate on whether or not global warming is caused by humans or not. What I do love, is all the new green technology. And there are a bunch of non-global warming reasons to start using them (economic reasons, for example).

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