Evolution, Religion, Other People, and Global Warming… Reasoning things Out

CoRev has another post on flawed measurement of global warming. He believes that the placement of US Historical Climatology Network survey stations in heat sinks is part of the reason people believe there is global warming.

I don’t know much about global warming, so I’m hesitant to step into the breach. I think CoRev is wrong, and I’ll explain why later. But I’d like to discuss how I reach a position in situations where I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not in a position to check the data myself. (This was the subject of a past post.)

I just realized… this post is going to be long… apologies.

The first thing I do is try to reason things out myself. As an example… I’m no biologist, but its obvious to me that Evolution, as a theory of how species come into existence, is largely correct. The concept behind evolution is simple… take a creature…. say for example, its some sort of wild cat. Now, if the species is unsuccessful, it dies out. If, on the other hand, it is successful, you end up with a bunch of things running around.

Now, over time, the population of these creatures gets widely scattered geographically, creating smaller subsamples of the population that mate only with each other, and not across subsamples. In our cat example… cats in Subsaharan Africa simply don’t come across cats in India. (This is true even for animals that migrate long distances, like birds… its not possible for every bird to show up where every other bird is in mating season, so little by little preferences for one or another geographic area develop.)

Evolution would predict that after a time, mutation and adaptation would slowly cause differences in disparate subsamples of the population. When these differences became significant enough, breeding between the samples would be difficult… This would increase the differences between the two populations, and eventually, breeding would be impossible.

So how would know if this is happening? Evolution would predict that it would be possible to find two creatures that we considered sufficiently different to be from different species, and they would be able to breed true. It would also predict that it would be possible to find two creatures that are just slightly more different, so they might still be able to breed, but the offspring will be sterile. And finally, Evolution would indicate that creatures sufficiently different cannot mate at all.

Now, consider… we all know the difference between a lion, a tiger, a jaguar, and a panther. They’re different species. But some combinations of these four species can mate and produce offspring. Some breed true, some don’t. Some cannot breed at all. And that’s not even throwing housecats or lynxes or other cats into the mix.

Now perhaps this is too exotic for you, in which case consider horses and donkeys and mules. Here are a whole bunch more.

Anyway, I can go on, and I can talk about behavioral traits or whatever, but my point is… its easy to find things that occur in nature that confirm what Evolution would suggest, and that don’t seem to make sense in the context of alternative explanations without a very, very convoluted explanation.

Now sometimes you can only reason about things indirectly. As an example… I don’t believe in a Deity, at least not as described by any of the Faiths with which I’m familiar. I’m in no position to reason out how a Deity would behave under various circumstances, but I am in position to reason out how people interacting with that Deity would behave, and in the stories told about Deities, the people do not behave as I would expect them to behave.

Consider the story of Moses, which is a part of the major Western Religions. Moses went before the Pharoah and said “Let my people go. I speak for God, and he is not to be trifled with.” The Pharoah didn’t do as he was told, and God visited plagues upon the Pharoah. At any point, the Pharoah could have put an end to it… but he held on. I don’t know about you, but at the point where the Nile was turned to blood, it would be enough to convince me you don’t mess with whoever it is for whome Moses speaks. Eventually, God sends the Angel of Death to kill every firstborn Egyptian and Pharoah relents.

And then… after all this, Pharoah changes his mind and goes after the Israelites. Think about this… forget about the other 9 plagues… God sent the Angel of Death after the Egyptians. I’m not a believer, but if I had any interaction at all with the Angel of Death, not only would I be a believer, I’d be doing everything possible not to incur any more of God’s wrath.

And then there is the behavior of the Israelites. They’ve witnessed all this. And they know God doesn’t want them worshipping idols. So naturally, when Moses goes up the mountain, they do the one thing guaranteed to anger God.

The story of Jesus’ Crucifixion is similarly problematic. If the Gospels are accurate, Jesus, on at least one occasion (the money changers in the Temple) was known to have displayed a violent temper. He was also known to have raised the dead, walked on water, and performed many other miracles. Is this the kind of guy anyone is going to try to nail to a cross? Who is going to risk making a guy with such powers angry?

Simply put, human beings do not behave like this. When a cop gets on the freeway, everyone slows down… unless they didn’t see the cop. And as to Faith being a choice that people reject, I don’t believe in vampires, but if I see a bat turn into a guy who starts sucking someone’s blood, you can bet I’ll be a believer. It won’t be possible for me not to be a believer, even if I didn’t want to believe. And a guy who walked on water and rose the dead who generally behaves in benevolent fashion… I’m nailing him to a cross, I’m not voting to have him crucified, and more… More, I will fight to keep him from being crucified because such a person can do a lot of good.

So I cannot say there is no God. I do not say there is no God. But I do say I’m reasonably certain if there is a God, he doesn’t resemble the God described

Which brings us to what I do when I have to make a decision and I have no ability to use reason on the subject at all. As an example… I trust that nothing that moves at less the speed of light can ever reach the speed of light. I trust that under some conditions, matter and energy are interchangeable. Why? Do I understand the Theory of Relativity? Heck no. I don’t say that with pride in my ignorance- I wish I did understand the Theory of Relativity.

But I trust the folks who tell me the Theory of Relativity is mostly accurate. (And for a long time, there were many people who denied that.) First, because Einstein was pretty damn transparent about it. As was everyone else that follows. The explanations and math are all out there for anyone to see. And the little bits and pieces that have been explained to me make sense.

Second, because people whose opinion I trust who are in a position to make an evaluation tell me its true. How do I know who to trust? Well, I trust people who generally share opinions with me. Nobody shares all opinions with me (and besides, we’re all wrong about some things)… but the question is, do they share a preponderance of views with me, and do I think they’re generally right on things which I can check or can reason out myself?

So let’s talk global warming… first, let me reason things out myself… the heat sink issue might be a problem. But there are other forms of measurement… satellites for instance, or pieces of Antartica the size of counties or states falling into the ocean. If the issue CoRev raises, or any other issue explains that, I’m not seeing it.

Second, are people behaving as they would in case of global warming? Well, there’s the tragedy of the commons issue going on, and the first people to react are those that rely exclusively on the commons. I understand that are low lying island nations making contingency plans for moving their entire populations. Seems like the folks closest to ground zero, so to speak, are acting as if they believe it.

And third, what about the people who are on both sides? With all due respect to CoRev, I have to pick between the oil companies, AEI, Heritage, and whole lot of people that believe that cutting taxes leads to increases in real revenue (something I can check myself) and folks who say they are nuts.

So right now, I’m in the global-warming-is-happening-and-people-are-having-some-effect-on-the-process school of thought. Now, I’m always open to changing my mind, but what evidence I can gather seems clear to me.