Book review:”Fire, ice and paradise” & My progress

I’d like to call your attention to the above titled book by H. Leighton Steward, which is reviewed on my blog at It seems that many geologists take a different view of AGW than climatologists, and their views should be taken into account.

Now about me: I’m making good progress. I am in my third cycle of chemotherapy and the bad proteins have come down by about 66%. When they get down near zero I will have a stem cell transplant at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Your prayers will be appreciated.

14 comments to Book review:”Fire, ice and paradise” & My progress

  • Bernie Dehler

    Terry said:
    “So my question for you is why do you think this appeal to the expert is warranted in the case of science, but not in the case of theology or Biblical scholarship.”

    The think the ‘appeal to authority’ is a fallacy when it is used in the way of saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you don’t have the credentials.”  That’s also related to the genetic fallacy… that the truth of a statement supposedly is related to who states it (it isn’t).  Hitler was evil, but even he can truthfully declare that 2+2=4.  And you don’t have to be a math authority to also propose that.

    I think the academic/intellectual (correct) use of authority is to mention what an authority says on a subject while citing the reference.  In this way, you show who you are appealing to.  For example, a YEC can rebuke a TE by citing a TE authoritative source to show that the TE in the debate is wrong about his own views as to what TE represents (and vice versa).  Example:

    TE: Yes, humans evolved from apes.
    YEC: No, you mean from ape-like creatures, but not apes.
    TE: No, from apes.
    YEC: (Then shows the TE an authoritative TE reference to prove his point that the TE is wrong)

    (Friend of the ASA)

  • Richard Blinne

    Bernie, the so-called appeal to authority only happens as a remedy to the Dunning-Kruger effect. The accusation is not merely in the case of Terry that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about but rather he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t have the metacognitive skills to realize that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (Anybody who knows Terry personally knows the latter accusation is silly.)  At that point, you need an expert to pull you out. We don’t require advanced degrees to enter the university but we do require for you to have them to teach there. Then, what’s done is to give the students metacognitive skills to figure things out on their own. That’s the whole point of a liberal arts education.
    Ultimately, the way to minimize the effect personally is to expose ourselves to a variety of viewpoints in case we are wrongly leaning on either on ourselves or the wrong “experts”. I contend that in both in the case of the climate and origins many evangelicals not only don’t know what they are talking about but also don’t have metacognitive skills to resolve their ignorance.
    Furthermore, I believe that this is fundamentally different than the situation that Terry finds himself in. Why it’s fundamentally different is because what marks these two areas that are blind spots to many evangelicals are motivated reasoning and deliberate self-isolation. This reinforces the blind spots and effort to develop the metacognitive skills to alleviate them is not expended. See Steve Matheson’s open letter to Stephen Meyer on how this happens even to experts with advanced degrees from elite universities.
    “Right now, I don’t see how you could be a thoughtful contributor to such an effort. It’s not because you’re stupid, or because you have “bad relationship skills,” and it’s not because you prefer ID-based explanations for biological phenomena. It’s because you seem to have abandoned scholarship and the intellectual community, and instead embraced apologetics and political persuasion. As near as I can tell, you’ve almost completely isolated yourself from science and from scholarship, and this means you have no future as a contributor to the consideration of design in biology. That strikes me as a sad waste; hence my letter to you.
    Here are my observations, along with some unsolicited advice.
    1. Although you claim to be interested in the origins of biological information and genetic control systems, you seem not to have any serious contact with scientists and scholars who study such things. Do you attend conferences on these subjects, or initiate contact with experts in these fields? Your ideas are potentially very significant – you seek to rule out naturalistic explanation for the origin of life and of DNA – but even if they were merely interesting, it would be foolish for you to think that you could contribute to the development of new theories or viewpoints outside of regular and rigorous interaction with colleagues who know this stuff the best. I have the impression that you don’t do this. That’s a crazy mistake.
    2. A very serious and related problem is the nature of the scientific community that you do interact with. Jonathan Wells just isn’t an accomplished or respected scientist, and his ideas are considered laughable by those (including me) who know and understand the relevant fields. Richard Sternberg’s platonic views of biology are interesting, but he’s on the fringe (to put it mildly) and, worse, he seems not to understand molecular biology. Doug Axe is a smart guy, it seems to me, but the two of you desperately need to get out of your freakish little gated community and talk to people who know that the initiation of cancer is indeed fueled to a large extent by driver mutations, and that genome sizes are indeed a hard problem for design theorists to tackle. When you have Wells whispering to you in one ear, and the bizarre perspectives of Richard Sternberg echoing in your mind, you have a huge problem: you’re out of touch with real science, with real biology, with the ideas that you have to engage in order to really put design on the map.”

  • Richard Blinne

    Terry, I am not saying that so-called consensus makes a viewpoint correct. It’s altogether possible that a non-expert is right on global warming and 97% of the experts are wrong but it’s extremely unlikely. What I find morally objectionable is that the experts who many if not most evangelicals lean on misportray the scientific landscape to the point that evangelical laypeople think that their fringe opinions are mainstream. If the average person realized this or that 73% of our polled membership[1] are theistic evolutionists they might question what they were hearing and look into it in more detail.
    [1] 73% of ASA members polled answered yes to either or both of the following questions:  (1) Plants and animals developed through evolutionary processes with natural causes from ancestral forms.  (2) Plants and animals developed through evolutionary processes but with non-natural causes from ancestral forms.

  • Richard Blinne

    Here’s an example of why evangelicals don’t believe the scientific results. The media they consume twists the news. First a news story on the CBN web site:
    “A Dutch environmental agency says a key U.N. report on climate change has even more errors than previously noted.
    The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency says the report falsely stated that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, when only 26 percent of the country’s land actually is.
    The group also says the summary of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives scientific conclusions without backing them up with research analysis.
    “With some conclusions, we can’t say it’s plainly wrong. We don’t know,” and can’t tell from the supporting text, said Maarten Hajer, the Dutch agency’s director. The IPCC should “be careful making generalizations.”
    However, the Dutch group still argues climate change is real and humans are causing it. This is just the latest revelation of false climate change claims.
    Late last year, hacked e-mails showed British scientists had changed temperature data to support their theory that the world is warming at an alarming rate.”
    Now what the NEAA actually said:
    “The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has investigated the scientific foundations for the IPCC summary conclusions of the Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 on projected regional climate-change impacts, at the request of the Dutch Minister for the Environment. Overall the summary conclusions are considered well founded, none have been found to contain any significant errors. The Working Group II contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report shows ample observational evidence of regional climate change impacts, which have been projected to pose substantial risks to most parts of the world, under increasing temperatures.
    However, in some instances the foundations for the summary statements should have been made more transparent. While acknowledging the essential role of expert judgment in scientific assessments, the PBL recommends to improve the transparency of these judgments in future IPCC reports.
    In addition, the investigated summary conclusions tend to single out the most important negative impacts of climate change. Although this approach was agreed to by the IPCC governments for the Fourth Assessment Report, the PBL recommends that the full spectrum of regional impacts is summarised for the Fifth Assessment Report, including the uncertainties.
    The PBL believes that the IPCC should invest more in quality control in order to prevent mistakes and shortcomings, to the extent possible.”


June 2010
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