Failed Predictions of Climate Alarmists

Global Temperature over time as measured by satellites. (click for credit and source)

In 1988, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the greenhouse effect and global climate change (transcript here, digitized version here). In that hearing, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer (atmospheric physicist and senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund) testified about the impending doom that were are all facing if we don’t immediately curtail our greenhouse gas emissions. He said, in part:

Certain gases which occur in the atmosphere in small amounts are growing rapidly in concentration due to human activities related to industry and agriculture. Primary among these is carbon dioxide, a product of coal, oil, and natural gas combustion. These “greenhouse gases” trap heat radiating from the surface of the earth which would normally escape into space, resulting in a warming of the surface. This increase in global temperature causes a concomitant rise in global sea level as ocean water expands and land ice melts. As long as the amounts of greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, this process will continue unabated. There will be no winners in this situation, only a globe full of losers. Today’s beneficiaries of change will be tomorrow’s victims as the changing climate rolls past them like a wave that first sweeps you up, then drops you in the trough behind it. The very concept of conservation does not exist in a world which may change so fast that ecosystems, which are slow to adjust, will wither and die. The technical findings of the Villach-Bellagio workshops include: Global mean temperature will likely rise at about 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit per decade and sea level at about 2.5 inches per decade over the next century. These rates are 3 to 6 times recent historical rates. (emphasis mine)

Well, this prediction was made 30 years ago. That’s about one-third of the timescale that he is discussing (“over the next century”). Nevertheless, we don’t see any hint that his predictions are coming true. Examine the image at the top of the post. It shows the latest satellite-measured global temperatures, which have been recorded since 1979. Is there any indication that rate at which global temperature is rising has increased since 1988? No. In fact, you could easily argue that the rate of global temperature increase was higher from 1988 to 1998 that it has been since 1998. There even seems to have been a “pause” in temperature increase from 2002 to 2015.

What of his prediction that the rate of sea level rise would increase? Well satellites have been measuring that for a while, too. Here is what they have seen since 1993:

Satellite-measured sea levels since 1993. (click for source and credit)

Notice that the rate of sea level rise is 2.8 millimeters per year (1.1 inches per decade), less than half of what Dr. Oppenheimer predicted. More importantly, notice that the rate of increase has been pretty constant, despite the fact that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rose significantly during that same time period.

Now, of course, these are relatively short time periods, so it’s always possible that there are some surprises ahead. However, given the fact that nearly one-third of the time that Dr. Oppenheimer was discussing has already passed, we can say that there are certainly no indications that his predictions have any chance of coming true.

Why am I sharing this with my readers? For two reasons. First, a scientific theory is judged by the success of its predictions. Right now, the theory that is guiding most climate alarmists has failed in its predictions (see here, here, and here). That should tell you something about its soundness. Second, the climate alarmists will continue to make dire predictions, regardless of what the data say. It is important for people to learn how wrong their previous predictions have been.

When Hysteria is More Important than Science

This is a picture of the Maldives cabinet meeting that took place on October 17th, 2009. (click for credit)

Sea levels have been rising since the early 1800s, and while satellites have only been measuring them since 1992, satellite measurements indicate that they have been rising at a fairly constant rate of 2.8 millimeters per year. This is concerning to many people, especially the ones who live in countries like the Republic of Maldives, which is, on average, only 1.5 meters above sea level. In fact, the country is so concerned about the rising seas that in 2009, the nation’s cabinet held a meeting underwater, where they signed a document calling on all countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. After all, it is thought that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere warm the planet, which in turn causes sea levels to rise. If sea levels rise too much, the Republic of Maldives will be lost.

Now, of course, that kind of reasoning makes sense, but anyone who studies science should understand that things which make sense are not necessarily true. A lot of Aristotle’s notions (such as the idea that objects prefer to stay at rest) made sense, but science has demonstrated them to be false. In the same way, a lot of our modern theories (like quantum mechanics and relativity) make little sense, but experiments strongly support their conclusions (see here and here, for example).

Rather than giving into the hysteria, then, it is best to see what the data indicate. Interestingly enough, the data say that while the idea that rising sea levels will destroy countries like the Republic of Maldives makes sense, it is almost certainly not true. I first wrote about this three years ago, when a group of researchers decided to study some of the islands around the Funafuti Atoll, which holds the island nation of Tuvalu. They found that contrary to the hysteria, the majority of the islands they studied have grown since 1897, leading to a net increase in the amount of land available. Well, the same research group has completed a more extensive study, which confirms their previous conclusion.

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My New Elementary Science Series and My New Chemistry Course Win Awards!

I wanted to share this with my readers: Practical Homeschooling has announced that my elementary series was awarded first place in the Elementary Science category of their 2018 Reader AwardsTM. This is the second year in a row that my elementary courses were given this honor. Here is what one homeschooling parent had to say about the series:

We studied Dr. Wile’s first book, ‘Science in the Beginning’, and we loved it. But then I got a little apprehensive about the next ones, because like you say, they were written with a different approach. I tried a different curriculum, with a more traditional sequence, and we were bored! One semester was enough. Since then we have done all four books, and we started with the 5th one this school year. What we love the most is that the lessons teach ONE concept, and the experiment, like you mentioned, cements that concept. I will not look into more Science curricula ever.

In addition, my new high school chemistry course was given the same honor! The course has been available for less than three years, and I am thrilled that it has already become popular enough to win over the readers of Practical Homeschooling. Of course, no honor can be as thrilling as receiving these kinds of emails from students:

Hi! I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed Discovering Design With Chemistry. I am a tenth-grade homeschooled student, and I really learned so much through this book. After taking this course, I know I will definitely take Advanced Chemistry in my senior year, and I will seriously consider studying chemistry in college as well. I found chemistry to be enjoyable and exciting through your work! Thank you!

If you are wondering how my new chemistry course differs from Apologia’s current chemistry course, you might want to read this comparison from a homeschooled student and her mother.

I want to thank Practical Homeschooling and its readers for these honors. I am happy to know that my courses are making home science education easier and more enjoyable!

Click here to learn more about my science courses.

Possible Physical Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah

King Hezekiah on his sickbed, as described in 2 Kings 20:1-11 (click for credit)

In 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32, the Bible discusses the reign of King Hezekiah, who had several interactions with the prophet Isaiah. For example, the woodcutting shown above depicts 2 Kings 20:1-11. The king is dying, but the Lord hears his prayer and Isaiah tells him he will be healed. The King asks for a sign, and Isaiah causes a shadow to move in the direction opposite of the direction the sun would make it move.

Several extraBiblical references to King Hezekiah have been found, including a bulla (clay seal impression) bearing the phrase, “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.” However, there are no known extraBiblical references to the prophet Isaiah, at least not until now. While it is by no means certain, there is good archaeological evidence that a bulla from the prophet Isaiah has been found in the same area.

As discussed in Biblical Archaeology Review, Eilat Mazar (who also discovered King Hezekiah’s bulla) reports finding several other bullae in the same excavation. One bulla, found only 10 feet from King Hezekiah’s bulla, might very well belong to the prophet Isaiah. As Mazar writes:

Alongside the bullae of Hezekiah and the Bes family, 22 additional bullae with Hebrew names were found. Among these is the bulla of “Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?].” The obvious initial translation, as surprising as it might seem, suggests that this belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

It would make sense to find a bulla from Isaiah in the same excavation as bullae from King Hezekiah, but the conclusion is not ironclad. The name is pretty clear, but the last part, “Nvy[?],” is not. According to Mazar, the last part should signify the word “prophet,” but only if there is an aleph (’) at the end (where she put “[?]”). As she says:

Whether or not the aleph was added at the end of the lower register is speculative, as meticulous examinations of that damaged part of the bulla could not identify any remnants of additional letters.

So this bulla might just belong to a person named Isaiah who was not a prophet. However, given the archaeological context of the find, as well as the damaged nature of the artifact, there is at least a strong possibility that it represents the first extraBiblical evidence for the prophet Isaiah.

Facts and Truth

Me as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.

This past weekend I did something I have been dreaming about for more than 30 years. I portrayed the lead role in the classic musical Man of LaMancha. It was a wonderful experience. The cast was incredibly talented, and the production was both unique and beautiful. All the performances were sold out, and the audiences truly enjoyed the experience. I cannot express how thankful I am to The Alley Theatre for its support and its love of the arts.

As any serious art should do, the musical tackles a big question: How should we approach the world in which we live? On one side, there is the character Dr. Sanson Carassco, who says that we must face the world as it is. On the other side, there is Don Quixote, who says we should face the world as it ought to be. For example, Don Quixote meets a prostitute named Aldonza. However, he sees and treats her as a virtuous lady he calls “Dulcinea.”

In his insightful program notes, our director said this:

The simple, deconstructed storyline of LAMANCHA can be imagined as DON QUIXOTE standing at one end of a line. He is the dreamer and the crusader for change. On the other end of the line is DR. CARASSCO, the representative of “things as they are.” Walking from one to the other, in journey we should all take, is ALDONZA. She begins as “who she is” and ends as “who she should be and could be.”

While these notes give you the “big picture” about the show’s message, I want to discuss a side issue that centers around one of my favorite lines. When I first started rehearsing, I said the line one way, but our ever-patient director encouraged me to re-examine how Don Quixote would actually say it, and I ended up changing the delivery significantly.

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Physicist and Homeschooling Pioneer Will be Speaking at Two Homeschooling Conferences

Dr. Helen Jackson, who will be speaking at two of the Great Homeschool Conventions this year.

Suppose you are systems engineer at NASA. Successfully getting to this point, you meet and marry a wonderful man and eventually have two more children (after escaping a previous marriage plagued with domestic abuse). You continue in your career while you and your spouse raise your children. The older children have already started school. However, suppose one of your children isn’t getting what he should from his education. You switch from public school to a Christian school, but it makes no difference. What do you do then?

When Helen Jackson was faced with this problem, she prayed about it and was led to quit her job at NASA and homeschool her children full time. While she “put her career on hold” to educate her children, she didn’t end it altogether. As the children got older, she started doing some part-time programming work and other forms of work like consulting. From there she phased back into engineering work. Once all the children had completed high school, eventually, after a few twists and turns, she got her Ph.D. from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Nowadays, she is a research physicist for Battelle, a science and technology research company. She is currently developing software that can interpret X-ray images to look for objects that might represent a security threat. This line of research is possible because of the work of her late husband, who co-invented the X-ray spectrometer, which is a cornerstone in so much of imaging technology.

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Jackson a few days ago, because she will be speaking at the Midwest Homeschool Convention and the California Homeschool Convention this year. I found her warm, engaging, exceedingly intelligent, and most importantly, profoundly wise. I learned a lot from the interview, and if you are able to attend, I strongly encourage you to go to one of the conventions and listen to her talks.

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Human Technology is Garbage Compared to Biology

The main printed circuit board from a Hewlett-Packard HP9000 Model 715 UNIX Workstation. (click for credit)

Look at the picture above. It is the motherboard (the main printed circuit board) from a computer. How do you think it came to be? It could have been formed by an earthquake at a spare electronics warehouse. After all, it’s at least possible that in the midst of the warehouse shaking and being destroyed, lots of spare electronic parts started crashing into each other and, as a result, just happened to produce what you see above. Of course, I hope that no one is silly enough to believe such a story. It is obvious that the motherboard is the result of careful design and craftsmanship.

An example of the computer I used in the late 1980s. (click for credit)

As someone who started programming computers with punch cards, used DOE grant money to buy a 40-Megabyte hard disc for $1,200 in 1989, and stored his unimaginably vast (800 Megabytes) thesis experiment data on sixteen separate 10.5-inch magnetic tape reels, I have witnessed a lot of progress in the area of computers. I marvel at how technology can produce a hand-held device that is more powerful than the VAX-11/750 (pictured on the left, without the keyboard and monitor) that I used to analyze my thesis experiment. Nevertheless, with all of the amazing progress that human engineering has produced, it doesn’t come close to what we see in the natural world.

Consider, for example, this article’s comparison of a personal computer to a mouse brain:

A personal computer simulates a mouse-scale cortex model (2.5×106 neurons) 9000 times slower than a real mouse brain operates, while using 40,000 times more power (400 W versus 10 mW). [reference marks omitted for clarity]

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Where Did Western Philosophy Begin?

Artist Frank Wu’s interpretation of Job 1:20-21. (click to go to the artist’s website)

In my sophomore year at university, my roommate was Frank Wu. He was a fun, energetic guy, and we had a great time together. We remained friends throughout our time at university. I got married after my junior year, and Frank gave me and my wife an original painting, which is pictured above. It represents his artistic interpretation of my favorite passage in Scripture: Job 1:20-21. I have treasured the painting ever since he gave it to us. It hangs in my office where I can see it while I work. Now that he is an award-winning artist, it is probably worth some money, but that couldn’t possibly compare to the value it holds in my heart.

Because the book of Job contains my favorite passage in Scripture, I have probably read it more than any other book in the Bible, along with many commentaries. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across an interpretation of the book that I had never considered. It comes from Dr. Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany.

Dr. Neiman says this about the book of Job:

I am a philosopher who believes that Western philosophy begins not with Plato, but elsewhere, and earlier, with the Book of Job. That is because I believe that the problem of evil is the central point where philosophy begins, and threatens to stop.

The problem of evil, of course, is the apparently contradictory situation in which God is all-good and all-powerful, but there is suffering in the world. How could an all-good, all-powerful God allow that to happen? For centuries, Christians have written excellent answers to that question, so I don’t consider it a problem. See, for example, Chapter 14 in Warranted Christian Belief by Dr. Alvin Plantinga. However, it is a good question that every person who believes in an all-good, all-powerful God must consider.

Thus, I encourage you to read Dr. Neiman’s essay when you have time to consider it. I don’t agree with everything she says, especially when it comes to God’s omnipotence. However, the way she describes the roles of Job, his friends, and God is very interesting. I will spend more time considering her interpretation and perhaps write a follow-up article.

Cells Have Digital-to-Analog Converters

A schematic representation of the digital-to-analog conversion process.
(click to see credit for unedited image)

Suppose you want to listen to some music. You pull out your iPod or your phone, put the earbuds in your ears, and you start to enjoy your favorite tunes. You probably don’t think about the process that makes this possible: digital-to-analog conversion. Computers and devices based on them store all of their information digitally. On your iPod or phone, the music is stored as a string of 1’s and O’s. The 1’s represent electricity being on, and the 0’s represent electricity being off. So as your iPod or phone “plays” the music, it comes out digitally: as pulses of electricity, either on or off.

If you tried to listen to those pulses, they would make no sense to you, because your ears aren’t designed to hear things digitally. Instead, they are designed to hear sounds in a continuous flow. We call this analog. So while your iPod or phone stores music digitally, it must convert that music into a continuous, analog signal so that you can understand it. It does this with an electrical circuit called a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Here is a picture of a simple one (click it for credit):

Obviously, the digital-to-analog converter in your phone or iPod is much more sophisticated. It produces a higher-quality analog signal, but probably more importantly, it is packed into a tiny space. That’s what really makes it sophisticated. It can do a complex job while taking up very little room.

It turns out that cells have essentially the same thing, but it is significantly more sophisticated than what you find in an iPod or phone.

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