Sideshow Roy Spencer

The Washington Post reveals that Roy Spencer is the man behind environmentalist parody site

Somewhere in an office about 600 miles southwest of here, former NASA scientist Roy W. Spencer is laughing. The 50-year-old, white-haired PhD dreamed up the spoof site -- sort of the Onion meets the Weather Channel -- because he thinks people are overreacting to the threat of climate change.

Now a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Spencer says human activities have "likely" contributed to climate change, but he argues that "since we do not understand natural climate fluctuations, we don't really know how much, quantitatively, of the present warmth is man-made versus natural."

Spencer describes his Web site as "a spur-of-the moment effort that resulted from the increasing number of news stories that quoted people who blamed global warming for events such as tsunamis and the latest flood, drought or hurricane. . . . Also, I have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, and the Web site gives me an additional creative outlet." His other creative outlet: He's lead guitarist in a contemporary Christian rock band at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Huntsville. (His environmentalist-mocking alternative lyrics to Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit": "I'll take a little bit, I'll take a little bit of your wealth from you/So give a little bit, oh, give a little more than a dime to me.") ...

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee counsel John Shanahan, whose boss, James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), has called global warming "a hoax," likes Spencer for his research as well as his wit.

"It wasn't until I first saw his Web site that I realized that he's an amazingly funny guy," says Shanahan. "It's refreshing to see a scientist keep his sense of humor in a highly polarized debate."

Well, his site is not as funny as those CEI ads, but this one is actually funny. Mind you, being a Creationist, he also mocks evolution:

"What we are seeing is breaching whales flapping their fins wildly, in an obvious attempt to achieve flight", said Prof. Charles Beagle, research team leader with the Fish and Wildlife Service. In one amazing photo (above), a whale was seen contorting its body, clearly forming the shape of a giant hummingbird. "Its fins were flapping so fast, they were a blur", exclaimed Prof. Beagle.

Rapid evolutionary changes have been hypothesized for years, the researchers explained, noting the near total absense of transitional forms of life in the fossil record. "This could be mankind's only chance to actually observe a rapid evolutionary transition of one species into another species", explained Beagle.

An alternative explanation for the odd behavior was offered by Dr. John Morrison of the National Creation Research Foundation. "Even if these whales are indeed attempting to mimic bird-like behavior, how does that in any way change their DNA so that their offspring will carry that behavior to the next level? Massive genetic defects would have to occur, all combining in positive ways to make the animal more bird-like", explained Dr. Morrison.

Prof. Beagle responded to the criticism by noting, "Well, we have birds, don't we? They had to come from someplace, didn't they? And life started in the oceans, didn't it? Case closed".

Hat tip: Stephen Fromm


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Even as an American I can never quite understand the bizarre connections that seem to require US born-again Christians to follow lock-step with the far-right-wing.

I mean, in addition to a warped interpretation of the bible that would have Jesus wearing a Rolex and playing golf with Bush & Cheney, they also have to zealously believe that evolution is bad, global warming is bad, US wars of hegemony are great (i.e. Iraq, Iran, Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala etc etc), US-style capitalism and plutocratic "democracy" is the best etc.

It seems very peculiar to the sort of ersatz-Calvinism in the US. I haven't found it in my British & European travels, where most Christians are of the "Jesus was a liberal" type. Do people find this "skeptic" fundamentalist Christian view elsewhere? It seems more in common with AlQaeda than academia.

It is good to see that Roy Spencer does not take himself seriously. It creates common ground with everyone else who doesn't take him seriously -- and, by golly, common ground is important in this crazy, mixed-up intelligently-designed warming / cooling world of ours.

I would note, though, that in setting up a parody tabloid he is fighting out of his weight class.

Christensen: as a non-american Christian I can agree: it seems to me there is an unholy and unnatural alliance between the nationalist right and conservative churches in the USA. I have some theories to partly explain it:

Nationalism has always been pretty strong in the US, and an ideology as far-reaching as nationalism must either be a competitor to religion, or a bedfellow. Although US nationalism had a distinctly Deist (as in agnostic who believes in God - a muslim or a christian would not be a Deist in this sense) flavour, that recieved a Christian interpretation by most of the people, naturally.

Last, but not least, there are some symbolic issues that the political right have embraced that are important to most Christians - those in "liberal" Europe, too. Those are opposition to abortion and sexual promiscuity. It seems to me that people generally have strong opinions on a few issues, and then on other issues, they embrace the views of those who agree on the core issues.

That's really inherently sensible. Scientists, for instance, do it all the time. Think of how few physicists reject evolution: they don't do it because they have studied evolution, but because they trust those who have, on account of similar methodology, situation, interests, world-view etc. And in this case it leads to the correct result. But is still hard for a physicists to give a good defense of evolution against a professional creationist preacher.
Christians are not primarily concerned with economic policy, but we want answers on this issue as everyone else. The easiest is to adopt the opinions of our friends, who seem generally sensible to us.

Just as it is hard to learn everything about astrophysics, biology, medicine and climate, it's hard to form an informed opinion, one that you can defend, on all political issues. We all do it on trust.

Thanks Harald. Hans -- I never claimed "all Christians are against AGW" -- just that peculiar subset in the US that always finds itself "coincidentally" in lock-step with ultra-right nationalism.

It should be remembered that a large majority of the US population are Christians.

That incldues a large majority of Democrat voters.

It's also worth noting that the majority of Americans in opinion polls support ratifying Kyoto. It's reasonable to infer that most of those people are Christians.

However most Americans distinguish between their religious and political affiliations: most American Christians, be they Republican or Democrat, accept that it possible to be am ember of the other political party and still be a good Christian.

It just happens that the great majority of people who see their political views and their religion as inextricabyl linekd happen to be on the right.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 22 May 2006 #permalink

You guys still don't get it. The point of that article was simply publicity for the denialists. It stinks of a public relations organization placement. Let me also put it this way, the byline was not at all surprising, nor the placement in the paper

yeah perhaps it's just more "product placement" for the Cato Institute types in the so-called "liberal media." It coincides nicely with the CEI "CO2 - we call it life" campaign.

"It stinks of a public relations organization placement. Let me also put it this way, the byline was not at all surprising"

regarding the byline: "The stakes are very high," said Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post reporter, in her talk January 6 titled "Searching for Clarity in the Midst of a Spin Storm: Covering the Environment in the Nation's Capitol." In her third visit to the Hoover Institution as a media fellow, Eilperin, discussed her new beat--reporting on the environment--and the difficulties in obtaining accurate information at the luncheon where she was the featured speaker."

Hoover Institute.

By andy barenberg (not verified) on 22 May 2006 #permalink

Spencer on CO2 at the Evangelical Climate Initiative:

>The largest positive impact could be in agriculture. Based
upon estimates of global energy use, the current rate of rise in
atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in Figure 2 is only 50%
of what it should be. The other 50% is apparently being absorbed
by the biosphere (plants), which uses it for food


"In her third visit to the Hoover Institution ...
the difficulties in obtaining accurate information at the luncheon where she was the featured speaker."

I think we can all imagine how difficult that must have been.

I think Eilperin deserves a little more credit. Her pieces on climate change and other issues over the past year, don't show her as a patsy for the right or corporate issues, and a Grist reporter has cited some of her work as "Good climate-change journalism."

Um, how did you infer from Spencer's article on evolution that he's a creationist? His main point is that evolution is no more based in science than ID. That doesn't make him a creationist or an evolutionist, just somebody who is true to the scientific method.

" His main point is that evolution is no more based in science than ID. "
While there do seem to be plenty of people whose belief in evolution is as faith-based as that of the ID folks, I would hope that anyone must admit that there exists an overwhelming amount of reproducible observed evidence for microevolution, which even the intelligent IDers admit; and if you are shorthandedly referring to macroevolution/speciation, in addition to indirect examples of same (the fossil horse record, for instance), direct observations have been recorded.

On the other hand, evidence of someone seeing an intelligent being create a species is still somewhat lacking.

In response to Carl, I used to think it was only an phenomona in the United States of America.

But I have recently discovered that what seems to be dominionists are infiltrating South Africa. Religion in Namibia seems to have been brought under the sway of dominionism and they are exporting it to the rest of the sub-continent.

Back to South Africa, creationists from AIG have been conducting shows and lecture series in South Africa.

Australia it seems has also been infected.

By LiberalDirk (not verified) on 30 May 2006 #permalink