Science, Religion and The Republicans


Simple model of a dynamic process. 




The diagram here looks pretty simple, too simple to be bothered with. It is not the most simple dynamic model of changing processes, but it is pretty close.

Consider the red box (oddly, orange on some of my computers). Stuff comes in (a:top), stuff goes out (c:bottom), and stuff leaves by the side door (b:side). The amount of stuff in the red box is dependent upon all three, and most realistic dynamic processes are hugely more complicated than this one. In fact, some models have an infinite number of entrances and exits, but let’s stick with this one.

People who study any amount of Science at all are well versed with this model, as it applies to so many things. Unfortunately, people very well educated in the Arts (especially those who take pride in NOT studying science, or those who believe it is unimportant, or worse, impossible) sometimes find this perplexing and simplistic at the same time. But it is really pretty simple.

Take a look at it. Stuff inside the red box will remain exactly the same if the amount entering and the amount exiting remain the same, if a = b + c. If two people enter the front door every minute and one person exits at each other door every minute, then a = b + c. You see that, right?

But what if b=Asin(t)^2 (^2 means squared, sin is a sine wave and t is time) and c=Acos(t)^2, the stuff leaving varies with time at each door, then if a=A, the amount in the red box remains constant.

OK. I just lost all the Artsies, so I will stop doing that. Scientists and mathematicians can easily create formulas for the entrances and exits in such a way that the stuff in the box remains constant. Equilibrium.

Think of a lake with three rivers, (Lake of Bays in Ontario, one of my personal favorites) one entering, two going out. At some point a balance occurs with the rates of entrance, exit and the level of the lake. All of a sudden the model is beginning to look a whole lot more complicated, as people add logs to a dam, for example.

The model can be used in all kinds of places. Perhaps the exits could be the money the government takes and the money you spend, with the top arrow being your salary.

Or the number of people in a country can be the result of births, deaths and departures.

Think of a bath tub with a drain, and of course, the amount that flows out over the top. Only the tap is constant, all other exits vary in terms of rate, as you quickly discover when the water starts running out across the floor.

So let’s think of energy. But let’s turn all the arrows around. Now a is the energy leaving the box, and b and c represent energy entering the box.


Now, pretend that a = b + c. Clearly the total energy remains constant over time. Let’s be more specific. Let’s think of c as energy entering from the bottom as chemical energy, usually heat, to be simplistic, that is generated from chemical structures stored in the box. The arrow in (the bottom arrow, remember we reversed all directions) represents the conversion of chemical energy to heat, as when the chemical structures, bonds, are broken by some process (like oxidation). Don’t worry about the process, it could be any number of things. Burning, for example.

If the energy entering as radiant from hot objects at a distance, and the energy entering as c is from basic chemical changes, then the amount of energy in the red box goes up, unless the amount leaving, a, increases.

This can quickly become very complicated if the amount of energy in the red box alters the rates of any of the arrows, any of the a‘s, b‘s, or c‘s. In fact, such changes are very common. If the box fills up, arrows b and c may slow down because of some resistance.

Steady state is when the three arrows are perfectly balanced. You can probably imagine systems where, when one arrow changes, the others change, such as that lake. If the water level goes up, the river that exits starts roiling, and so on.

But let’s go back to the red box of energy, with radiant energy and chemical energy as its sources. Let’s pretend the exit of energy, (remember we reversed the arrows so this is a) usually radiant in the form of escaping heat, is perfectly balanced to the two sources. For years. For millennia. For eons. Maybe not forever, but of enough time we all get used to the red box. Comfy.

Now let’s suppose we started cooking inside the red box 250,000 years ago. And then started using fires to run equipment 200 years ago. And electricity becomes ubiquitous a hundred years ago. And then the motor vehicle in the early nineteen hundreds, and all the while, all of this increases as the world population goes from one billion in the year 1800 to 8 billion by the year 2025!

And just to make the process speed up, imagine we block the rate of a by increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Don’t go away Artsies. Just know that carbon dioxide can prevent radiant energy from leaving (like another log in the dam). It can. It does. Sort of like cloud cover or something.

Clearly the balance has changed, if only by a fraction. Surely the radiant energy, a, like the roiling rivers, will increase. Yes it will, but never enough. It increases because the water level of the lake got higher, because the energy in the red box multiplied. And as with the roiling rivers, there is always a delay. Once the energy entering the red box has increased, the levels inside invariably go up, because the escape though a is always lagging slightly. The water pressure at the drain in the bottom of a bath tub will increase as the water level rises (weight of a column of water), so the flow out the drain increases, but not enough to stop the water overflowing.

Back to the energy diagram. If the energy going in, b and c, increases, only a  fool would deny the possibility of the red box increasing its total energy content. Why would we? We should not be denying increased energy in the red box; we should be expecting it.

The only reason for denying increased energy in the red box is if we do not wish to face the consequences of our own actions. If we wish to believe nothing bad can happen. If we prefer to let our children suffer the consequences rather than to deal with it now, because we don’t really care what happens to our kids, or we just put it out of our minds.

Well, there is one other reason. Maybe we believe it is God’s will. Maybe we believe God did a perfect job up front and so this problem cannot happen. God created heaven and earth.

Maybe we believe God will fix this problem, and we don’t have to worry about it. Or maybe we believe a holy text that tells us there will be an apocalypse which will start the beginning of the end-times which will make us all a lot happier.

For those of you who have trouble with models and analogies, the red box is the earth, the stuff, the energy, causes both climate change and increasing temperatures: the radiant energy b enters from the sun and is pretty much constant in our time lines, and the chemical energy c is everything combustable, everything that causes heat generation from the stored chemistry of the earth (fossil fuels, wood, nuclear energy etc.).

The advent of human-produced fires (cooking, warmth), machinery, electricity, nuclear energy, all multiplied by the huge population growth that magnifies all of these by a factor of eight in just the last two hundred years, is a magnified c. Really, it is now C.

And a is now quite a lot less than bc. The energy in the red box is increasing, relentlessly.

Deal with it now, deny it and leave it to your kids, or, equivalently, let God take care of it (like He has taken care of famine, and pestilence, and poverty, and disease, and catastrophe so well to the present time).

Frankly folks, if He is really out there, He is waiting for us to deal with this.

There is no point talking about the Democrats. They get this! They understand the science and they know there is a VERY high probability that humans are destroying the environment. Enough, really, to call it a day!

The Republicans (There’s the Rub)

John Kasich understands climate change. He appears to know that a, heat radiated out by the earthis reduced by carbon dioxide, that b, the energy from the sun, increases as reflective surfaces on the earth (glaciers, like mirrors to sunlight) disappear, and c, the chemical energy from burning stuff increases with technology and population.

Marco Rubio denies, for no apparent reason we can see, so we probably have to think it is some Pollyanna religious belief that either God won’t let it happen or the apocalypse will be that much closer. Listening to him, his arguments seem to be economic: if we do something about climate change it will destroy our economy. I don’t think he wants his kids to have to deal with it, nor do I think he really wants his kids to deal with the apocalypse.

I think he is being an ostrich.

Ted Cruz might be more apocalyptic about it, while remaining quiet in order not to loose votes from climate change deniers.

Trump just does’t appear to think about it, unless the red box represents his wallet, his ‘good looks’, or his personal power. Or maybe as a measure of fear he can produce in the voters’ minds.



NormalThe diagram to the right depicts an even more common scientific concept, (the normal, or Gaussian, or bell curve) that of random variation. Forget all the Greek letters (sciency folks like that kind of stuff), the curves suggest a general shape of normal random distribution around an average value. The blue one in particular shows a symmetrical random variation around an average of zero, while the green one shows the same thing with wider variation (standard deviation) around an average value of minus two.

All collections of things that vary randomly, or semi-randomly, fall into distributions similar to this, though the shapes might differ considerably.

Membership in a religion probably follows something like this. It could represent in a qualitative way, the intensity of belief from Radical Fundamentalist way off to the right, and Atheist (non-theist, really) way off to the left. Probably the average American might publicly proclaim themselves to be somewhere in between: the average family person with a couple of kids and a spouse, who goes to church on many, but not all Sundays. But if you could get inside their heads and read their minds, a lot of that might just be for public consumption. They might feel embarrassed about not really being sure, that their faith was not quite as strong as they would like. Or they may just like people and like making friends, and religion is an easy way of doing that.

They might just want to fit in. They might recognize the intense stigma that society tends to apply to non-believers, and wish to avoid it. It’s called ducking. Only fools and the arrogant don’t duck.

Since modern day North America does not take kindly to non-theists, there might actually be quite a lot of that.

The shape of those curves will look different for different populations. For example, a few years back it was reported that the National Academy of Science in the United States was 92% atheist. Since science is so antithetical to religion (climate change is a good example), in so many ways, and has been over so many centuries, some have even wondered why that number 92% is not higher.

In many ways, religious belief and gender preference have hidden in the closet for a long time, and still do. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group publicly supported and promoted by President Ronald Reagan’s son, is asking atheists and non-believers to reduce discrimination generally by coming out of the closet, so that atheists and agnostics can achieve some level of freedom that is increasingly accorded to the LGBT community. Now, it is almost unfair to LGBT to draw this comparison, because atheists can hide more easily, and do not seem to suffer the same degree of hostility in North America as LGBT do. But around the world, people are still killing them. (Who does he mean by ‘them’ you might ask. LGBT or atheists. Exactly.)

Clearly, there are groups who believe so rigidly in the bible and their particular dogma, that they cannot accept climate change as man-made. They refuse to believe that god would allow that to happen. Worse, some believe that the apocalypse is a good thing, and the destruction of the world heralds the next coming of Jesus, and therefore will not do anything about climate change, even to the point of refusing to accept the possibility.

Even when Florida is submerged. Funny it should be a Florida Senator, then.

Organized religion does not have a good reputation from an historical perspective, and part of that comes from the people who have used religion to gather people to follow them. Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs and Steel, argues that one of the best ways of gathering people together in a common cause is to organize your family. But if you need more than just your family, more people than you are related to by blood, religion is the next best thing.

The Crusades, for example, were largely colonial economic conquests that went badly. At least one of them never even made it to the holy land.

The dispute with Galileo and the Catholic church (Galileo, fool that he was, suggested the Earth went around the Sun) was only resolved a few years back (not nearly soon enough to help Galileo), when after several centuries of difficult thought, the Catholic church recognized their fallibility, and apologized for imprisoning him.

Condoms have decreased spread of HIV (though by no means ideal, and not as much as abstention, although who believes promoting abstention really works?) but has been opposed by at least two mainstream religions. In a future blog, I’ll talk about the HPV vaccine and the dangerous position of certain religious groups.

Each advance in science and technology has chipped away at the veracity of religious claims.

Rule of the Poor, by the Clever, for the Rich (Lovell Carroll)

If climate change should fall victim to the religious right and the Republicans, who really want to make money and reduce government, and let the chaff (poor) blow away on the wind, as the meritorious (from their point of view) win the lottery, the American Dream…well, it will be their children (along with ours) who have to pay the price, not the Republican leadership. It is an abrogation of responsibility, from my point of view, and they justify it by saying there is no climate change because God is wonderful, and would not let wars and pestilence and disease and catastrophe and evil hurt earth’s chosen people (as He has not in the past).

We have heard Marco Rubio proclaim that laws directed at climate change would not work because there are so many other parties in this endeavor, with other countries abusing the environment to gain economic hegemony. What Marco Rubio is doing is following, not leading, and giving up, not persisting and prevailing.

If this report can be believed, Ted Cruz is possibly worse. He just doesn’t seem to bother knowing the science before he disputes it; he sure seems not to trust the concept of science, possibly because it contradicts God.

Apparently, Donald Trump has argued that ‘Climate change’ is a hoax by China to make them more financially competitive. Mind you, this was the Donald Trump of October 2015, so who knows now?

Folks, the energy contained within the earth and its atmosphere (the red box) is increasing, leading to storms and floods, shrinking glaciers and rising sea levels. It simply cannot be otherwise with billions of people burning billions of trees, billions of tons of coal, billions of gallons of oil.

How could we even think it might be otherwise?

The religious, some of them, try to explain away stuff they don’t understand by invoking God’s intervention, and rely upon that argument when they don’t want to take responsibility for stuff, or pay for stuff. Unfortunately, this anti-scientific, anti-environment, anti-contraception, anti-population control, anti-intellectual stance seems particularly popular among the Republicans and the Fundamentalist religious.

If only they would not impose their beliefs on the rest of us, the world would be a much better place.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s