Friday, 31 July 2015

Faith vs Fact

Edited to correct the book's title (h/t Metzomagic) I've used some of my holiday time to read Jerry Coyne's latest book, Faith vs Fact.  His premise is that science and religion are mutually incompatible.  That's not to say there are no religious people accepting the findings of science or scientists who are religious. Science finds things out and religion doesn't, according to Coyne.

I bought the book at the local Barnes & Noble.  The science section was one row of shelves.  By contrast, the religion section was at least three times the size.  This is a religious area.  There are plenty of fish stickers in evidence on the cars and many churches. The local newspaper had a four page section labelled religion at the weekend.

I found no books on climate change in Barnes & Noble.

But there is a chunk on climate change in Coyne's book in which he links climate science denial to religion.  I don't know exact figures but there is a voluble section of the denialati who are religious.  Roy Spencer is.  Lord Monckton is a Catholic.  Many others have signed the phoney theological Cornwall Alliance proclamation.  According to Coyne, there is a strong proportion of the conservative religious in the States who, when confronted by a scientific result that contradicts their religious beliefs, they will deny the scientific finding.  Climate change denial shows that pattern.

Some of these prominent deniers are intelligent people yet they undergo mental contortions to maintain their denial. In the meantime science progresses, makes new discoveries, refines what is already known and understood.

Coyne's thesis seems sound and he produces strong evidence in its favour. Coyne also demolishes the idea that science, or any of its branches, is religion too, based on faith in reason or the regularity of the Universe.  He points out that the term is used as something of an insult.  So my rhetorical point when confronted by that slur will be to ask the other person if they are religious and, when they say yes, ask if they think so little of their religion that they equate it with the science they despise.

For those that might be thinking of reading the book, do so.  It is determined and, in places, strident.  But it is never less than evidence based.  And it is very readable too.  Buy it here

Monday, 27 July 2015

Letter from America

I apologise for my recent absence but I've been contending with a huge pre-summer workload, a bereavement and a kidney stone so I have had little time to spend on my wibblings.

But, never fear, Virgin Atlantic have managed to deliver myself, Mrs Catmando and our luggage to sunny Florida, for a fortnight's rest and recuperation.  Or at least that was the plan.

It has been scupper end by three things.  Firstly, I lost my expensive sunglasses somewhere which meant having to go out a buy a cheap replacement pair that I probably can't lose if I tried.  Secondly, the local branch of Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain, had copies of the egregiously dangerous anti-medicine What Doctors Don't Tell You in its racks (so I covered it up and bought a book by Paul Offit instead).  Finally, the sun is barely visible because it is raining so hard.

It's a visible sign of El Niño.  Increased precipitation in the south east of the USA accompanied by cooler than usual temperatures.  A dampened on the holiday perhaps, but here's a prediction.  Those reliable deniers will start using the current weather to say I told you global warming was a hoax.  Give it time.