Secular Ethos

Episode #6 Listener Feedback and Climate Change denial

 Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Feedback from episode #1:

I have gotten some feedback from my first episode, where people have noted that I made an assertion about Trump supporters that I did not cite sources for. The assertion that I made was that there is a disconnect from what liberals see as corruption and what the right wingers call corruption. The liberals often see the billionaires buying politicians as corruption and the right wingers see unions supporting politicians as corruption.

The feedback I am getting is that I provided no support for that argument. First I want to say that I did not see a need to. I made the assumption that if you follow politics this would be obvious. Well, I guess that assumption was incorrect. I got this from multiple places, but the first and most important is the anecdotal evidence ( which I know is not good evidence ) However, the point is that I myself come from a very conservative background. I would sit and listen to my family constantly talk about how all the liberal are in the pocket of the unions and how they were so corrupt and needed to be replaced. I believed this way for years.

In fact, for nearly 2 decades I was a right wing conspiracy nut. I have recently ( in the past several years) been training myself in skepticism, and looking at the world much differently than I did in the past. In the past I believed most all of the right wing type conspiracies about the left, and even some of the more crazy ones. I was a 911 truther, I was climate change denier, I was a old earth denier. I believed that intelligent design had some truth to it. I believed in ghosts, demons, and even believed that humans could tap into their power to cast spells.

The things I believed were kinda crazy. Yet, through the help of a good friend and being completely embarrassed by a couple of the biggest morons where I worked, I took a deep dive into youtube atheists like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris. I was able to critically evaluate my beliefs, and much more than the god belief fell away.

The march for science was on Saturday, and it brought out not only those that advocate for science but also all of the deniers came out on social media and comment threads. A common complaint was this so called agenda driven fear mongering of the advocates of stopping climate change.

Even with all of the data we have supporting climate change, the deniers take their anomaly hunting into overdrive. They also seem to be more reactionary to misleading headlines.

This article from the Washington Times is worth discussing here.

Washingtimes Headline:

“Climate change whistleblower alleges NOAA manipulated data to hide global warming ‘pause”

Briefly what this article talks about is this alleged manipulation of climate data. The data are said to show a pause in the global temperature rise in the 2000’s . Now let’s put aside whether or not this is true, and focus what that data would change in the overall view of climate change. The independently verified data that is already known shows that the average rate of temperature(climate not weather) is on the rise. A single data point showing no rise or fall does not change that overall rate. There would have to be a pause or decline over a significantly large period of time to alter that average.

There were many articles citing theses claims on other websites, and they all center around this same guys claim offering no new analysis.

A deeper analysis of this can be found on Snopes:

They go much more in depth into the claims of the alleged data manipulation.

You can also read more about this on

Another argument I’ve seen floating around is this analysis of the Antarctica Ice mass. When you look at the ice mass measurements, you will see that from August 2015 to March 2016 there was a spike in the variation of ice mass. And if you look at just that single data point it appears that the Antarctica ice mass is getting bigger instead of shrinking. What is missed here is that when you look at the overall rate, it is still on a downward trend. It seems that people ignore, or are ignorant of, trend lines in data. A simplistic analysis could be done just by taking a ruler and fitting it as close to the center of the data points on the graph. You will quickly see that it is a downward slope. So the spikes from one year to the next is irrelevant. The overall mass is dropping. The graph @ shows that the rate of change in ice mass is 118 Gigatonnes per year. And the rate of decline seems to be slowly accelerating.

And consequently the sea level has been steadily rising at of 3.4 mm per year. Now this is average rate of change rather that just the rate from year to year. The data points rise and fall from one year to the next, but there is an overall trend of rising sea level.

Now if the argument is that climate change is happening, but it is not human caused there is another set of data that backs that up. The level of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising at increasing rate. This means that not only is the amount going up with human activity, but also that the rate by which that amount is rising is also getting larger.

The reason this is important to note is that it is getting warmer, and that is that the average temperature range is getting warmer. The Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is like adding a blanket onto the planet, and the average temp shows this. Now you can look from year to year or even decade to decade and you will see rise and fall in the data of the temperature. However, the average over longer time periods is going up.

Now talking to an audience of skeptics this is all obvious, and generally understood. Yet, I am making my distinction again that just because you are an atheist, does not mean you are also a skeptic. I understand that atheist just simply means that you answer the question is there a god with anything other than yes. So if there are any climate denying atheists listening, I urge you to look at the actual data, and the people who actually study climate for a living( who also have the relevant scientific background to understand the data) Don’t just listen to Bill Nye, who by the way is literally a rocket scientist, but look at the data yourself. All of the graphs and data are on the nasa website.

The truth is climate change is happening and we can do something about it. Some of the proposed solutions are not ideal, and some seem to be counter productive. But people are going to deny this, as people tend to do, and they do have a right to speak even if they are misinformed.

More resources for climate change:

Aside not included in podcast:

Washington Post Headline: “Federal judge stops Auburn from canceling white nationalist Richard Spencer speech. Violence erupts.”

To get started on this I had no clue who Richard Spencer was before reading this article. The name was familiar I just couldn’t place where I had heard it. I definitely did not connect it with his view of white nationalism.

I wanted to talk about this idea that the judges used to the first amendment to reverse the decision by the university to cancel. Auburn is a land-grant college under the Morrill act, which makes it a public school. This means that if the school is going to have an open forum then any ideas should be able to be discussed. What it does not mean is that anyone is required to attend the forum. It is the trope of if you don’t like it don’t listen. There is no captive audience, and although his ideas are terrible no one is being forced to attend. The protesters are exercising their own first amendment right to violently protest against another persons first amendment right.

Now this is tricky in that if this was a private institution I would agree with the cancellation. Because although there is a right to free speech the first amendment does not apply to private entities. That is for the reason that although you have a right to free speech, no private entity has a duty to provide a platform. That would mean that I as an atheist podcaster would have to allow a preacher to come on to my show to give a sermon. As a private entity I am not obligated under the first amendment to provide a forum.

The key point here is to realize, the same thing that allowed the judge to overturn the cancellation of Richard Spencer’s speech is what protects the K-12 schools from ten commandments statues. When the school puts up a christian display they are declaring an open forum, and must allow the satanists to erect a statue in the same forum.

The only way around this type of ruling would seem ( and I am not a lawyer so take my advice as a non-expert ) would be to not have an open forum for anyone. Being an institution of higher learning, they have a societal obligation to challenge people’s beliefs and sense of what is right , in the ethical, and societal sense.

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