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Faith Needed When Reading Science News

After reading a fear mongering article about rising sea levels in Science News I was inclined to write a letter of complaint. Shortly thereafter was an article about a theoretical constant for black holes. That combination led to the following letter to the editors of Science News.

I have been a subscriber to Science News for many years but I find too often articles that are frustrating to me as a scientist (an Electrical Engineer, Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1983). I want to read about science not about faith, where faith is defined as the belief in something regardless of any conflicting evidence. Science News is becoming a publication with too many articles requiring faith not reason.

For example, the February 28, 2009 issue contained “First Wave” about the catastrophic consequences of rising sea levels caused by global warming. The main source credited by this author is the IPCC.

When I read this article I felt like Science News had now so deteriorated in quality to the level where it had printed a sensational story like one for a movie, where the West Coast is destroyed by a massive earthquake (10.5) or where New York City is inundated by a massive tsunami. This article is not about science; it is just blatant sensationalism. Anthropogenic global warning (AGW) articles require faith in the reader.

The mission of the IPCC is to simply publish periodic reports about human-induced climate change. The IPCC does no research. Therefore it draws on only publications that confirm justification of its own existence. For example, the IPCC report “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis” (with so many uses of the word “likely”) uses the baseline of 1980 to 1999 to project what will happen by the year 2099 (table SPM-2).

The historical record noted by many other scientists indicates that over many thousands of years the changes in CO2 concentrations have lagged temperature variations by about 800 years, so CO2 changes follow a climate change not the other way around.

In the past two thousand years, scientists have found warmer temperatures than now occurred about 2000 years ago (called the Roman Warm Period), about 1000 years ago (called the Medieval Warm Period) and, much more recently, the decade of the 1930’s. Cooler temperatures than now have also been noted including the recent period from the 13th to the mid 19th century (called the Little Ice age), ending roughly around 1850.

I find it ironic that the IPCC report from 2007 uses the baseline of 1850 for its global temperature history in figure SPM-3. If a statistician wishes to accentuate a recent upward trend and then use it to suggest a future upward trend, the best starting point is a low point that ignores preceding data points that were higher. If an earlier starting point is selected then the chart will clearly show a downward trend followed by that upward trend, which defeats the intended purpose of showing only the upward trend (since an earlier downward trend could happen again in the future).

Scientists have also noted up and down temperature cycles over the course of the 20th century, with a warmer period in the 1930s to 1950s, then a cooler period from the 1960s to 1970s, followed by a warmer period from the 1980s to about 2000. With the current longer than normal solar cycle 23, a cooler period has been noted in the past decade.

The chart used for the sea level change projections (table SPM-2) has the time period of 1980 to 1999 as the basis for the future estimates. Again, the basis for the future prediction is a time period that consists of an upward trend. If earlier years had been used so both a downward trend followed by an upward trend existed in the data set then a justification for assuming a continuing upward trend is less clear. The intellectual dishonesty becomes more blatant when considering that the upward temperature trend of those last three decades of the 20th century (the basis for the 21st century sea level rise predictions) has now turned downward in the first decade of the 21st century. If one warm year follows several cold years, how justified is a prediction for the next few years to be warm as well? I expect most scientists would recommend the largest possible data sets are a requirement for any predictions for the future, to recognize any inherent trends. IPCC disaster predictions are based on a small data set (only a few decades at the end of the 20th century) while its many skeptics draw on data spanning centuries and longer.

The bottom line for any Science News article based on AGW is the article requires faith not science. The science on the subject suggests that there are normal temperature cycles in the earth’s climate and carbon dioxide from human activity cannot be used as the driving force behind all temperature changes noted in the past few decades nor blamed for projected warmer temperatures in the future. Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas compared to water vapor and increasing concentrations of CO2, though still very small, have never even been proved to be caused primarily by human activity because nature also generates a substantial quantity of carbon dioxide (and even higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the distant past have been suggested by the research of some scientists, in times before humans could be involved).

The other topic frequently mentioned in Science News articles is the Big Bang cosmology.

The March 29 issue had “Black hole constant makes unexpected appearance” about a ‘mere mathematical curiosity’ according to a quote by one astrophysicist. In a universe where nearly all matter is charged, a black hole is an entity with no electrical charge and is given many strange characteristics in an attempt for it to solve otherwise unexplainable behaviors in the universe, like a mechanism that could drive the amount of energy apparently generated near the center of our galaxy. I dread reading articles about parallel universes, time travel through a worm hole or other strictly theoretical concepts. The magazine should be about science, not science fiction.

The February 28 issue had “Cosmic mystery” about possible sources for high-energy cosmic rays, including dark matter.

Any article that mentions dark matter (and there are TOO many of them) requires faith in the reader.

Using Wikipedia as an impartial source, conventional cosmology claims only 4% of the matter and energy in the universe can be observed or measured. The rest, 96%, is either dark matter or dark energy. In this cosmology, the reader is told to believe that the universe is primarily governed by what can be neither seen nor measured. This requires a great deal of faith!

The conventional Big Bang cosmology (that includes black holes, dark matter and dark energy) has a basic assumption: that the red shifts observed in distant objects are caused by a velocity away from the observer.

Unfortunately, Halton Arp noted several decades ago that higher red shift objects can be found in front of or physically connected to lower red shift objects. Also, the red shifts are noted in quantized amounts and often objects with a similar red shift occur in pairs with similar distances from a common lower red shift object. These observations falsify the basic assumption of the Big Bang cosmology because the explanation for the red shifts must be something other than velocity (since adjacent objects should be moving together and quantized measured motions rather than random is quite the coincidence in a large data set!). Faith is required to sustain the theory.

The measured motions of stars in the arms of the Milky Way galaxy do not match what is expected by the Big Bang cosmology (Wikipedia even has a chart in its Milky Way entry). The pseudo scientific possibilities (from the same Wikipedia entry) to solve this situation are either a modification of the law of gravity (Wow! It might take some faith to doubt basic physics) or dark matter. Dark matter becomes the supernatural (since it cannot be seen nor measured) entity driving the universe. I anxiously await an article in Science News discussing how much dark matter can be found on the head of a pin.

However experiments performed by Anthony Peratt have shown that two interacting plasma filaments can reproduce the same rotation curves observed in spiral galaxies. No dark matter or other supernatural suggestions are required to explain an observation. There are scientists working on explanations for our universe that do not require faith.

While writing this, I discovered that today (March 28, 2009) a web site,, just published an article about the various problems with the theory of black holes. There are probably others that complain about black hole articles so then I hope to add my own perspective to their comments.

I know there have been many other articles in recent months about AGW or black holes. Today I felt prompted to respond.

I know this submission is far too long for a typical reader letter in the Feedback section. My goal is not having this letter published but rather seeing the Science News publication improved. There are nearly always a number of interesting articles to be found in each issue. The unscientific articles are the ones so distracting that I felt driven to explain my frustration in the hope the quality could be improved. The vision for the Science News publisher is to promote the vital role of science: “to inform, educate, inspire.” I felt quite inspired to suggest a better promotion of science in its publication.

created - March 2009
last change - 03/29/2009
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