Aghast

Nothing should surprise me any more, but the video above (via Juan Cole) is just shocking. In it, Rep. John Shimkus, who wants to run the House Energy and Commerce Committee, explains his reasons for rejecting the existence of climate change. He starts by citing Genesis, in which a post-Flood God promises never again to “destroy all living creatures,” then cites Matthew’s claim that humanity’s end will only come by God’s hand, not by our own doing. He then argues, implausibly, that carbon dioxide was persistently around 4000 parts per million during the age of the dinosaurs. It’s true that some measures place it in that range during the Jurassic, but not persistently and that estimate is probably an outlier.

“There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet,” he concludes.

i-195e9102dbda83a13c8e39b0fe55d41f-doublefacepalm.jpg
This is not how the Energy and Commerce Committee should be run.

Comments

  1. #1 Deepak Shetty
    November 9, 2010

    He starts by citing Genesis, in which a post-Flood God promises never again to “destroy all living creatures,”

    But can you empirically prove that this statement is false?

  2. #2 joshgemmell
    November 9, 2010

    This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams and commercially deceptive content.

    Is that for real, or did someone have a hissy fit?

  3. #3 J. J. Ramsey
    November 10, 2010

    Deepak Shetty: “But can you empirically prove that this statement is false?”

    Proving the isolated statement is false would be problematic until it was too late, but as I pointed out before, one can always say, “Well, technically you could be right, but I’m not betting the farm on your say-so.” Considering that the statement is part of a story that overall has been proven false, one need not treat it as credible.

  4. #4 Rob Knop
    November 10, 2010

    YouTube seems to have pulled the video…. Where was it from originally? It’s difficult to see how society benefits from copyright law that has this yanked at somebody’s say-so, trumping open discourse about our political process.

  5. #5 Deepak Shetty
    November 10, 2010

    one need not treat it as credible.

    So one need not treat something as credible even if that cant be proven as empirically false right? Remember that the next time Josh wants to say “Everyone may be wrong about religion”

  6. #6 Saikat Biswas
    November 10, 2010

    Maybe Shumkus would have reconsidered his views were it not for those strident climatologists who simply won’t admit that they might be wrong. Surely it’s possible to persuade religious folks that accepting man-made global warming as reality in no way contradicts their faith (don’t just show them the data!), that in fact it might be a religious imperative to combat it. There’s no denying that scientists have failed to frame the issue properly, thereby needlessly antagonizing many of the faithful.

  7. #7 J. J. Ramsey
    November 10, 2010

    Saikat Biswas: “Surely it’s possible to persuade religious folks that accepting man-made global warming as reality in no way contradicts their faith”

    Actually, that’s been done. Good grief, even Rick Warren is on the correct side of the global warming issue. It also helps that the biblical justifications to deny climate change are laughably weak even if the Bible is taken literally, and they amount to ad hoc justifications of talking points from the fossil fuel industries.

  8. #8 Saikat Biswas
    November 10, 2010

    “Actually, that’s been done.”

    Terrific. So have the religio-skeptics bee persuaded?

  9. #9 Saikat Biswas
    November 10, 2010

    Correction : “.. been persuaded?”

  10. #10 Anton Mates
    November 10, 2010

    Deepak,

    So one need not treat something as credible even if that cant be proven as empirically false right? Remember that the next time Josh wants to say “Everyone may be wrong about religion”

    I don’t see a conflict there. “Everyone may be wrong” is hardly the same thing as “Everyone may be right,” let alone “everyone’s position is credible.”

    Saikat,

    Terrific. So have the religio-skeptics bee persuaded?

    Some of them have. Most of the AGW-accepting religious leaders from Ramsey’s link were skeptics themselves, to begin with.

    Of course, most skeptics haven’t been persuaded no matter what their religious affiliation is. In fact, Gallup data suggests that climate change skepticism has become significantly more popular in the US, Australia and Europe over the last couple of years, I doubt that that has much to do with religion, though. In America, at least, church attendance, religious affiliation and public trust in religion have all continued to drop over that period.

    I suspect that as public opinion on the economy and government performance goes more negative, people get more cynical about all perceived experts, both religious and scientific.

  11. #11 Deepak Shetty
    November 11, 2010

    @Anton

    I don’t see a conflict there. “Everyone may be wrong” is hardly the same thing..

    Ah but the context is that people who would tell Shimkus that he is wrong , may probably be wrong too, because religion and god is so ambiguously defined and not amenable to empirical tests.

    It’s another matter that Josh stating “Everyone is probably wrong about religion” is silly , because Josh is included under everyone so he is probably wrong about his statement on religion, which then means that not everyone is probably wrong about religion.

  12. #12 Sunny Side
    November 11, 2010

    Let us all be happy he recognized the existence of dinosaurs. Of course, that recognition begs this question: how devout can the joker really be if he doesn’t believe everything in the Bible?

  13. #13 Anton Mates
    November 11, 2010

    Ah but the context is that people who would tell Shimkus that he is wrong , may probably be wrong too, because religion and god is so ambiguously defined and not amenable to empirical tests.

    Nope. Josh’s position, so far as I understand it, is that the people who disagree with Shimkus are probably wrong in their views on God and religious questions–not that they’re probably wrong about Shimkus’ credibility.

    Say we both try to guess a random number between 1 and 1 million. My guess is probably wrong. Your guess is probably wrong. But if I say that your guess is uninformed and not credible, I’m probably right about that. See the difference?

    It’s another matter that Josh stating “Everyone is probably wrong about religion” is silly , because Josh is included under everyone so he is probably wrong about his statement on religion, which then means that not everyone is probably wrong about religion.

    You’re conflating two different senses of “about religion” there. When Josh said “Everyone is probably wrong about religion,” he meant (I’m pretty sure) that everyone probably has beliefs about God/the afterlife/the supernatural/etc. that are false. But Josh’s claim isn’t about those subjects, it’s about humans and what they believe. So it’s not self-defeating.

  14. #14 Saikat Biswas
    November 11, 2010

    “But Josh’s claim isn’t about those subjects, it’s about humans and what they believe.”

    Human beliefs are exactly what define those subjects. If you make claims about one, it necessarily involves the other.

  15. #15 Deepak Shetty
    November 11, 2010

    Say we both try to guess a random number between 1 and 1 million. My guess is probably wrong. Your guess is probably wrong.

    No you are crafting an example to suit your purpose – Unless your claim is that absent empirical evidence any two claims have the same probability of being correct(hence my earlier comment).
    The equivalent is you stating that there are green leprechauns visible at the end of the rainbow and me stating that they arent and Josh stating that because no one has a clear idea of what a leprechaun is , we are both probably wrong.

    But Josh’s claim isn’t about those subjects, it’s about humans and what they believe.

    So are the claims that he says everyone is probably wrong about.

  16. #16 Anton Mates
    November 12, 2010

    Saikat,

    Human beliefs are exactly what define those subjects. If you make claims about one, it necessarily involves the other.

    How so? If I claim that there is a God, or that there isn’t a God, or that it’s unknowable whether there is a God, what claim have I made about human beliefs? Conversely, if I claim that no human has credible insight into whether or not God exists, what claim have I made about God’s existence?

    Deepak,

    No you are crafting an example to suit your purpose –

    Well, yes. My purpose being to show the difference between “I’m right about X” and “I’m right that you’re wrong about X.”

    Unless your claim is that absent empirical evidence any two claims have the same probability of being correct(hence my earlier comment).

    Absent empirical evidence, I don’t think it means very much to talk about the relative probability of two claims. At least, not in a frequentist sense. Probability distributions need evidence too.

    (If you’re a Bayesian, the two claims literally have whatever probability you think they should have….)

    The equivalent is you stating that there are green leprechauns visible at the end of the rainbow and me stating that they arent and Josh stating that because no one has a clear idea of what a leprechaun is , we are both probably wrong.

    Well, except if they’re “visible” and “green,” we’re back in the land of empirical evidence–unless I mean something idiosyncratic by those words. In which case it’s probably correct that you don’t have a clear idea of what my kind of leprechaun is, and I might not either.

    But Josh’s claim isn’t about those subjects, it’s about humans and what they believe.
    So are the claims that he says everyone is probably wrong about.

    I don’t think so. You and I can have our leprechaun argument without making any claims about the prevalence and details of leprechaun-belief.

  17. #17 Deepak Shetty
    November 13, 2010

    Absent empirical evidence, I don’t think it means very much to talk about the relative probability of two claims.

    But that also means conceding that Shimkus has the same probability of being right as someone who says he is talking rubbish. It also means that for you to concede any argument , all I need to do is add non empirically verifiable claims.

    You and I can have our leprechaun argument without making any claims about the prevalence and details of leprechaun-belief.

    Only because there aren’t significant numbers of leprechaun worshippers that need to be appeased and because I didnt add these leprechauns cannot be detected by any scientific instrument ever and that you must truly believe in them to see them!

    Im not sure why you need to justify Josh’s comment. Surely if A says X is true and B says X is false, making a comment that A and B are probably wrong is silly no.

  18. #18 Saikat Biswas
    November 13, 2010

    Conversely, if I claim that no human has credible insight into whether or not God exists, what claim have I made about God’s existence?

    In this case, the claim that you are making has a direct bearing on the question of God’s existence. Any judgement on the credibility of opposing claims on any given statement is in itself a serious claim regarding the veracity of that statement. If you say that nobody has a credible insight into the question of God’s existence then you’re implying that you’re in privileged possession of a criterion to test the credibility of any such insight, and it’s a criterion that has remained elusive to the rest of us.

  19. #19 Anton Mates
    November 15, 2010

    Deepak,

    But that also means conceding that Shimkus has the same probability of being right as someone who says he is talking rubbish.

    As I said, I don’t think it means much to talk about probabilities in that case. I would say that Shimkus’ probability of being right, and that of his opponent, are both unknowable and possibly undefined–not that the two probabilities are equal.

    It also means that for you to concede any argument , all I need to do is add non empirically verifiable claims.

    If you add non-empirically-verifiable claims, I’ll certainly give up on trying to analyze the argument probabilistically. But I’ll probably also dismiss the argument, because I don’t find most such claims credible. I don’t need to do a probability calculation to reach that conclusion–I simply don’t have any personal reason to take them seriously.

    Only because there aren’t significant numbers of leprechaun worshippers that need to be appeased and because I didnt add these leprechauns cannot be detected by any scientific instrument ever and that you must truly believe in them to see them!

    OK, I admit, that addition would forge a connection between the belief and the believed-in creature. I’m inclined to say that puts it partly back in the realm of empirical testability, though. We could go check whether people who believe in leprechauns actually do see them at the appropriate spot. Maybe try to blind them to the rainbow’s presence.

    Im not sure why you need to justify Josh’s comment.

    I’m not justifying it; I don’t actually agree with “everyone is probably wrong,” although I’m okay with “everyone might be wrong.” I was just disagreeing with your particular criticism of it re: treating Shimkus as not credible.

    Surely if A says X is true and B says X is false, making a comment that A and B are probably wrong is silly no.

    Sure, but I don’t think that’s really applicable here. If you have an opinion on religious questions at all, it’s usually more extensive than just “what this other guy says is false,” isn’t it? So everyone may be wrong on some part of their opinion, even if there are specific yes-or-no questions where at least one person must be right.

    Saikat,

    Any judgement on the credibility of opposing claims on any given statement is in itself a serious claim regarding the veracity of that statement.

    I don’t think it is. For instance, I don’t judge anyone’s opinion on the spatial size of the universe (finite or infinite?) as credible. That doesn’t constitute a claim about whether the universe is finite or infinite–it could be either, but presumably it’s one or the other, I dunno.

    If you say that nobody has a credible insight into the question of God’s existence then you’re implying that you’re in privileged possession of a criterion to test the credibility of any such insight, and it’s a criterion that has remained elusive to the rest of us.

    True enough, although I’m not sure about the “elusive” bit. People propose such criteria all the time; it’s just that there’s no one of them that everyone agrees on.

  20. #20 Saikat Biswas
    November 15, 2010

    Anton, my point is that you haven’t stated exactly what your criteria is in this case (hence the ‘elusive’ bit). You might have one or even several of them but it’s somewhat hard for anyone to say if they agree on it if it’s not even clear what it is they should agree upon.

  21. #21 Deepak Shetty
    November 15, 2010

    are both unknowable and possibly undefined–not that the two probabilities are equal

    Which is splitting hairs – The end result is the same.

    But I’ll probably also dismiss the argument, because I don’t find most such claims credible.

    Good. But why? You dont have empirical proof to say the claim is not credible! And how would you react to me saying well everyone is probably wrong ?

    I was just disagreeing with your particular criticism of it re: treating Shimkus as not credible.

    Whats the difference? Shimkus has made a claim that isn’t verifiable (and harmful). We should be able to say his views are rubbish and that the whole Noah’s ark tale is rubbish and nonsensical (and its actually worse if true!). We cant *prove* its rubbish using empirical evidence – That shouldn’t allow someone to say everyone is probably wrong or that the probabilities are unknowable (but not equal!)

    Everyone might be wrong is a silly statement – That statement might be wrong too. I take issue with Josh’s statement because it leads to legitimization of people like Karen Armstrong. Just because you can keep adding *mystery*, *unknowability* and many more attributes

    If you have an opinion on religious questions at all, it’s usually more extensive than just “what this other guy says is false,” isn’t it?

    A lot of them are.
    Either God exists or he doesnt. Either Jesus was the son of God or he wasnt. Either he was resurrected or he wasnt. Either he died to forgive your sins or he didnt.
    Or the socially relevant ones
    Either Gay marriage is a sin or it isn’t
    Either God created humans or he didnt
    Either God created women to be submissive or he didnt

    Maybe try to blind them to the rainbow’s presence.

    ha! Any form of testing causing leprechauns to play tricks on the believer and testers, it is a violation of the sacred covenant described in the prophet enid blytons work. Sorry just trolling!

Current ye@r *