Bishop Fulton Sheen tweeted, “As Religion fades, so will freedom.” His observation that religious conviction and the moral conduct it promotes is both integral and essential to free society echoes that of founder/framer John Adams who observed in 1798, “Our...
Woke Philosophy Now Threatening Science Itself
There is a cancer overwhelming America, and indeed all western democracies, that threatens to derail centuries of progress that built the modern world. The disease is “postmodernism,” and its adherents are identified as “woke,” short for “awakened” to the biases and injustices supposedly permeating our societies.
Postmodern thinkers reject the fundamentals of the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Enlightenment led to the political philosophy known as “liberalism,” which has as its central tenets: freedom of expression, respect for viewpoint diversity and sincere debate, respect for evidence and reason, as well as various political standards we hold dear: political democracy, limitations on the powers of government, the development of universal human rights, legal equality for all adult citizens, the separation of church and state, and freedom of religion.
After centuries of struggle against superstition, slavery, theocracy, colonialism, and fascism, liberal values came to be accepted across the western world. This led to huge advances in human rights, science and technology, and our standard of living. But all of this is now at risk in a way like never before. Whether it is in our educational institutions, our politics, our churches, medicine, science and engineering, and even our military, woke postmodernists are literally hijacking America while most of the population sleeps.
Most concerning is the way in which the scientific method itself, a process for correcting errors and advancing knowledge of the physical world, is being rejected in favor of supporting politically correct, but devastatingly-false narratives.
Our government and mainstream media are increasingly turning their backs on “evidence-based decision-making,” a critical feature of the Enlightenment, classical liberalism, and the scientific method, in favor of “decision-based evidence-making.” In other words, essentially lying by bending the truth to support whatever politically convenient position the government and the deep state want the public to accept.
To help readers understand the steps involved in the scientific method, and why it is so important to preserve, we include the below flow chart from Encyclopedia Britannica. Note especially one crucially important step in the scientific method, comparing observed experimental results with the hypothesis under investigation. This action, perhaps more than any other, is paramount. The brilliant theoretical physicist and teacher Dr. Richard Feynman explained:
“If it [the hypothesis] disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess [hypothesis] is; it doesn’t matter how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is … If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”
In the chapter “The Theory of Gravitation” in his text Lectures on Physics, Feynman provided an outstanding example of the development of the scientific method. As Feynman states, the ancients observed the movement of the visible planets and the stars and deduced that the planets went around the Sun, a concept rediscovered by mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus in the early sixteenth century.
In that century, a great controversy arose over the movement of the planets. In the late sixteenth century, astronomer Tycho Brahe made a remarkable step by proposing that the controversy could be resolved by accurate measurements of the planets in the sky. It is always better to make careful observations and conduct appropriate experiments to determine something about the physical world than to engage in deep philosophical discussions.
After Brahe died, mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler used Brahe’s observations between 1609 and 1619 to develop the primary laws of planetary motion.
Independently, Galileo Galilei used careful experiments to formulate the concept of inertia. If something is moving and is otherwise undisturbed, it will continue moving in the same direction at a uniform speed.
Isaac Newton used the concepts of Kepler and Galileo to develop his law of universal gravitation and his laws of motion that most of us learned in high school.
Careful observations from both experiments and nature were needed to develop the laws of gravity and planetary motion.
With the space age over the past 60 years, the U.S. and others have developed powerful tools for accurately observing and measuring what is occurring in the atmosphere. Certain U.S. centers for climate research, such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA-GISS), participate in that analysis effort and run large computerized General Circulation Models (GCMs) to project future climate. Most of those using these large models violate the scientific method in that they do not utilize the measurements of the atmosphere to compare and “validate” their models with actual physical evidence. These researchers have essentially yielded to woke postmodernism in that their belief in a climate emergency trumps any conclusions generated by observations of the real world.
Those politically-correct, but scientifically-flawed computational models predict significant temperature increases in the distant future caused by increasing CO2. Their argument presumes that, as a result of modest CO2-driven warming, more water will evaporate and, as water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, the warming will be significantly amplified, causing serious problems. However, upon closer scrutiny, the actual measurements show very little temperature rise, and contradict the speculation that increasing (CO2) will cause dangerous global warming.
Once-prominent scientific journals are now refusing to publish competent papers using measurements of what is actually occurring in the atmosphere because they contradict the politically-popular model results. Such entities have abandoned the scientific method to accommodate politically-driven woke postmodernism.
For example, in 2020, Dr. William A. van Wijngaarden of Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University, Canada, and Dr. William Happer of the Department of Physics, Princeton University, submitted a paper titled “Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases” to the journal Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics. The paper has been ignored.
The van Wijngaarden and Happer (W&H) paper relies on a comprehensive set of observations and calculations known as HITRAN, an acronym for high-resolution transmission molecular absorption, compiled under an Air Force contract by the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. It is a compilation of spectroscopic parameters (defining characteristics) that can be used to predict and simulate the transmission and emission of light (electromagnetic energy) in the atmosphere.
Using these data, which apply to cloudless skies, van Wijngaarden and Happer calculated the influence that increasing water vapor, CO2, ozone, nitrous oxide, and methane have on temperatures. The observations and calculations confirm that water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, but it is not increasing significantly with a warming planet.
Further, van Wijngaarden and Happer showed that the influence of CO2 greatly diminishes with concentrations above one hundred parts per million in volume, which is far less than that which occurs naturally.
At the October 16, 2021, 14th International Conference on Climate Change, physicist Dr. Tom Sheahen, vice president of the Science and Environment Policy Project (SEPP), reported why he thought the van Wijngaarden and Happer paper was an outstanding example of using the scientific method to get the physics right. The authors calculated the cumulative radiation leaving the earth, calculated what is delayed in the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, and found that that the remainder matched satellite measurements of radiation leaving the atmosphere and going into space. No one had done such thorough calculations before and showed it matched observations. Sheahen emphasized that the agreement of calculations with observations is the key factor that certifies that their computational model is correct. That’s the proper use of the scientific method.
The W&H model, validated by physical evidence, was used to forecast the effects of increasing greenhouse gases on escaping radiation, which in turn affects temperatures. At current concentrations, increasing water vapor and carbon dioxide have very little effect on temperatures; the effects are termed “saturated.” The impacts of increasing the other greenhouse gases are also tiny.
The W&H method is clearly far superior to that used in the global climate models featured in IPCC reports (and findings by NCAR and NASA-GISS). Those models begin with totally different (and questionable) initial assumptions, and greatly exaggerate atmospheric temperature increases.
The W&H paper demonstrates the folly of “climate science” going woke and ignoring critical physical evidence of what is actually happening in the real world. As long as government “climate science” ignores physical evidence and continues to be mired in the politics of postmodernistic “global warming,” it will stagnate just as science stagnated with philosophical discussions on the movement of planets until Copernicus helped pull us into the modern world.
None of this will change the minds of woke postmodern climate change activists, of course. To them, feelings and group identities are more important than the scientific method. But, for the rest of society, those of us who actually care about observational evidence in the real world, it is past time to stand up and call climate campaigners out for the threat they represent to us all—a descent into the chaos of illiberal superstition and dictatorship that blighted most of the human existence until the Age of Enlightenment saved us all.
Link to paper: “Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases” by W. A. van Wijngaarden and W. Happer, preprint, submitted to Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics, December 22, 2020:
Link to Dr. Tom Sheahan’s presentation: “Getting It Right,” 14th International Conference on Climate Change, October 16, 2021: https://climateconference.heartland.org/sessions/panel-2a-science-panel/
NOTE: Significant portions of this essay were drawn from an article titled “Use of The Scientific Method” published by The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) by Ken Haapala. Mr. Haapala will join us on The Other Side of the Story this Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM ET, with an encore at 8 PM. Listen on iHeart Radio, our world-class media player, or our free apps on Apple, Android, or Alexa. Each episode goes to major podcast networks early in the week and can be heard on-demand anywhere in the world.
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