Saturday, October 22, 2005

Morphic Resonance and Global Warming

Writing in the November issue of Scientific American, Michael Shermer dismisses Rupert Sheldrake's "theory of morphic resonance", which espouses a "universal life force" that, Sheldrake says, creates species-specific racial memories.

As Scientific American's resident skeptic, Shermer makes a compelling case (particularly in his closing paragraph, which we will get to in a minute) by exposing poor research methods and researcher bias in Sheldrake's thesis. Good work on Shermer's part, and clearly explicated for a lay audience.

Now, the editorial staff of Scientific American in particular and the environmental movement in general has embraced the theory of global warming with religious fervor, to the point of savagely ostracizing heretics and apostates. in fact, the proponents of global warming don't really consider it a theory at all, but proven fact, as evidenced by numerous articles about Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and now Wilma that blame the storm's fury on global warming (despite the fact that violent hurricane cycles seem to run on a seventy year cycle).

So how does the global warming crowd deal with contradictory data?

From a San Francisco Chronicle article discussing the reporting of Antarctic cooling:
One study showed that while other continents are warming, major parts of Antarctica are cooling. The other demonstrated that the glacial "ice streams" that feed the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica appear to be growing, not shrinking.

To the scientists involved, the studies suggest that the effects of global warming on Antarctica may prove harder to forecast than anticipated. But to their dismay, some newspaper editorial writers interpreted the reports as evidence that the global warming theory itself is in trouble -- even though that was the furthest thing from the scientists' minds.
There you have it. Both positive and negative data can be accommodated by the theory of global warming, which brings us back to Shermer's closing paragraph:
If both positive and negative results are interpreted as supporting a theory, how can we test its validity? Skepticism is the default position because the burden of proof is on the believer, not the skeptic.
Maybe the editorial staff of Scientific American should start reading their own magazine.