The Season of Reason

By Phil Plait | December 16, 2009 7:07 am

[Update: Lots of people are commenting on what Randi wrote in his Swift post today. Quite a few of these commenters are reading far more into what he said than he actually said, and running a bit (or a lot) wild with it. I just talked with Randi about it (and sent him some info on AGW), and he’s posting a followup tonight. I don’t know what he’ll say, but I think it would behoove all of us to sit back, take a deep cleansing breath, and try not to fly off the handle, mmmmkay?]

randitoonAt the end of the year, lots of charities ask for money. It’s a combination of the giving season, as well as your chance to make some tax-deductible donations before the new year starts. I’ve been getting a ton of requests in the mail, getting phone calls, and seeing bell-ringers everywhere (and don’t get me started about why I won’t give to them — oh, OK, this should be enough reason).

If you’re looking to lighten yourself of some loose change, may I suggest the James Randi Educational Foundation? It’s non-profit, promotes science and skeptical thinking, and also provides the skeptical community a platform — I think of it as a condensation nucleus, dork that I am — that helps people get recognition and the ability to meet and form new groups.

The JREF also has a new fund-raiser, called The Season of Reason:

This new education effort is aimed specifically at introducing grade-school children to the concept of critical thinking. The JREF is poised to begin a program that uses a network of local educators and upstanding critical thinkers to make presentations to grade-school children and expose them to critical thinking as it pertains to everything from literature and science, even delving into novel areas such as sports and fantasy.

This is a terrific idea, and I know a lot of the people in the JREF community are chomping at the bit to work on something like this. Your contributions will help introduce kids to a wonderful thing that adults rarely show them: reality.

And a donation of $100 gets you a Best of TAM DVD, too. I’ve been to every TAM, and if you’ve never attended one (and even if you have) this is something you’ll want to see.

As you know, I’m stepping down as President of the JREF to work on some other projects, but obviously I still support the JREF mission. Here’s a chance for you to support it as well. Thanks.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: JREF

Comments (123)

  1. DennyMo

    So you don’t give to any charities because one charity believes homosexuality is wrong? Wow, I’m sure the March of Dimes appreciates your consistent approach to this obviously monolithic body of organizations…

  2. Nuke3d

    True, and since they believe homosexuality is wrong they will do no good.

  3. Robert E

    I read the “to them” to be referring to the bell ringers, not the earlier part of the sentence.

  4. @DennyMo

    My impression was that the “them” Phil says he won’t give to is specifically the Salvation Army (the ones who are ringing the bells), rather than all charities.

  5. Kee

    DennyMo, who says he doesn’t give to any charities? The bell ringers are with the Salvation Army, that’s why he won’t give to them. It’s interesting that instead of looking further into who these bell ringers are, and whether they’re associated with the Salvation Army, you instead accused him of not giving to ANY charities.

  6. TSS

    Umm, Randi just came out against the science that indicates that Global Warming is happening, that it is man made, and that it will harm our biosphere (and is currently doing so).
    Phil, please respond!!! My respect for the skeptical community and JREF has been SERIOUSLY shaken.
    http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/805-agw-revisited.html

  7. Calli Arcale

    DennyMo, I think he’s specifically talking about bell-ringers, who typically work for the Salvation Army. I can think of a number of reasons to dislike the Salvation Army, and I think that’s fair. One does have to make decisions about where to donate one’s limited funds.

    That said, I do donate to the Salvation Army, even though I don’t agree with their stance on homosexuality. (I also donate to the Boy Scouts despite their policies on atheism and homosexuality.) This is because I feel their other work is too important to let the homosexuality thing overcome it. There are an awful lot of homeless people this winter, and there is no way the various agencies are going to be able to help them all. So the Salvation Army hasn’t quite brought itself to accept active homosexuals within their own ranks. That disappoints me, just as the Boy Scouts’ policies on homosexuals disappoint me. But it’s not enough to convince me to withhold funds based on morality.

    Heck, who withholds funds just because an organization does something that they find morally reprehensible, even though the main work of the organization is unrelated? Fundamentalists, that’s who. It’s tragic how many people are dying of AIDS, particularly in Africa, because the aid agencies that would give them help are not being adequately funded. And they’re not being adequately funded because the fundies don’t like the fact that the same aid agencies also provide education on birth control.

    I’m not saying you have to give to the SA if you want to avoid looking like a hypocrite. You should choose where to donate your funds, and choose wisely. I’m just saying that their policy on homosexuality is a fairly thin reason to completely reject them, given how little influence it has over how they spend your donation. Better reasons would be discomfort at giving to a religious organization when you do not share their religious beliefs, distaste for the obtrusive and guilt-ridden method of soliciting, or, my personal favorite, concern about theft. That’s a real problem this time of year; kettles get stolen, sometimes by the bell-ringers themselves. It’s not exactly a secure donation method.

  8. Zucchi

    Denny, everybody makes mistakes; don’t sweat it.

    There are other organizations that help people without practicing bigotry or pushing religion. (Of course, they don’t tend to have bell-ringers in front of every goddamn store, like the Salvation Army does.) I give to local food banks.

  9. Celtic_Evolution

    Phil – while I do think a donation to JREF would be a worthy contribution, I wonder what your thoughts are on Randi’s recent statement concerning AGW? I’m concerned about this, and would like to hear your thoughts…

  10. Likewise, I don’t give to the Salvation Army. This is not specifically due to their condemnation of homosexuality, but because I don’t give to any religiously themed charities.

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, I give to them regularly.

  11. Doc

    I was also saddened by Randi siding with the GW denialists. He seems to have fallen for a number of logical fallacies, and apparently prefers self-deception and ignorance when it comes to this issue. Very, very sad.

  12. Shaun

    You can also donate to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
    http://fundraiser.richarddawkins.net/

  13. Dave Wiley

    There are two things that will stop me from donating to the JREF. First is the vague request. Where will this money be spent? How efficient is this organization with my donated money? Do they have a track record that I can study? These are basic questions everyone asking for money should be able to answer. The JREF page is long on big ideas but short on details.

    I also cannot support the JREF if it is going to be used as a platform for climate change denial. I wouldn’t care if the JREF took no position, but to join the kooks is just too much.

  14. Sili

    Another good charity, where you’ll get a more ‘hands on’ experience of what happens to your money, is Donors Choose: http://www.donorschoose.org

  15. spurge

    I too will not give to the JREF until I am satisfied that the JREF is not going to turn into a shill for AGW denialists.

  16. RL

    One is free to give charity to whatever group for the reasons that they wish. I personally give thru Catholic Charities because of the work that they do and their views and positions are usually aligned with mine (but not completely, which is normal, I think). If Phil Plait doesn’t like SA, that’s his perogative.

    And good for James Randi. My respect for him continues to grow. There are many issues that I think he and I don’t agree on (and many that we do), but I admire that he is consistant and doesn’t modify his skepticism based on the subject or politics of the issue. For the first time, I’m considering a donation.

  17. delphi_ote
  18. Dave R

    I will not be supporting the JREF until I see a suitable retraction of the denialist hogwash in Randi’s recent blog entry, as linked above in #7.

  19. Robert White

    Wow, with the statement of JR supporting the idea of GW denialists. What has happened to the idea of supporting scientific consensus over the views of non-experts in the field? Seeing this statement from this organization gives me pause in contributing this year. I think I will have to wait and see.

  20. Gus Snarp

    I’ve always been somehow skeptical of Randi. I think he provides a valuable service in debunking psychics and similar hoaxes, but I also think he is a bit too much of a self promoter. And the above referenced comments he made regarding global warming have convinced me that nothing that bears his name will get my money. Randi is clearly very smart and very skeptical, but he is not a climate scientist, his knowledge of the field is no better, and perhaps worse, than mine. The fact that he cites the petition project shows a real lack of understanding of the topic. The “32,000” scientists are, best I can tell, people with BS degrees or similar. “9,000 Phds’ is great, but none of this says anything about whether these are working research scientists in climate related fields who have actually done any real research on climate change. Finally, anyone who would sign on to such a petition doesn’t deserve the title scientist. A real scientist does not sign on to a document that purports to present the view of scientists when they themselves have no involvement in the issue at hand. A real scientist does not believe that a petition signed by a bunch of people who happen to have “science” in their degree title trumps the accumulated evidence in peer reviewed journals.

    Randi should stay out of a subject about which he is ignorant and stick to exposing psychics. He adds nothing to the discussion that isn’t already there, and gives deniers a lovely talking point.

  21. Rob

    Where do you find bigotry or hatred in the Salvation Army’s policy on homosexuality? I find it to be one of the best-written and most compassionate statements of the biblical position I’ve ever read. It explicitly rejects any form of “victimisation” and grapples with the issue with an evident humility. I particularly appreciated their placing it in the wider context of all sexual misconduct, hetero or otherwise.

    The Salvation Army has a long history of good works. The world is a better place because of this organization and their biblical worldview. I know that the moral authority of the bible is problematic for you, Phil, but these people deserve better than to be made the scapegoat for your objections to the Christian faith.

  22. Stephanie

    Wow. James Randi is given credence to the Petition Project? Seriously?

    The text of the petition reads:
    “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

    There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

    Though I understand that some people are skeptical about anthropogenic global warming, it seems absurd to claim that limiting greenhouse gases will actually *harm* the environment or damage the health of mankind. I’d love to see some substantial, peer-reviewed journal articles that successfully argue that point.

    Not to mention that just about anyone can sign this petition – it’s not limited to those who are educated about climate change, climatology, atmospheric sciences… no, someone with a degree in veterinary sciences can sign that petition. Having a PhD in molecular biology or astronomy doesn’t really qualify one to do climate science, does it? So why do we care if they’ve signed the petition? We shouldn’t, and neither should Randi.

  23. Calli Arcale

    It is pretty soft as such statements go. They are refusing to allow practicing homosexuals to serve as actual members of the SA, basically. It’s okay if they’re celibate. My own church, the ELCA, is undergoing some upheaval over deciding officially to step beyond that point, deciding that it was okay if a church wanted to call a homosexual pastor who happened to be in a committed relationship (rather than requiring celibacy of gays but not straights). It’s been depressing to see some congregations leave the ECLA, since apparently other congregations not being ejected for this sort of thing is more important than coming together as one body of Christ.

    BTW, I disagree with many religious organizations (including the SA) that homosexual acts, in and of themselves, constitute sexual misconduct. If two gay men decide to commit to one another for a lifetime, I don’t see how a sexual relationship between them would be any worse than what my husband and I do. Rape is always wrong, pedophilia is always wrong, cheating on the person you’ve committed yourself to is always wrong.

  24. Craig Sachs

    I toss tin foil in their buckets of blood.

  25. Phil, is the AGW skepticism the true reason you’ve stepped down? I wouldn’t blame you if so.

    Very disappointed in Randi. He certainly won’t be getting any of my money.

  26. Chris A.

    One must wonder about Randi’s post, in light of what he wrote back in April, 2007:

    http://www.randi.org/jr/2007-04/040607mi.html

  27. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/say_it_aint_so_randi.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+scienceblogs%2Fpharyngula+%28Pharyngula%29

    The link above has more on Randi slipping over to the dark side. In particular, it links to the soruce of the denialist petition. Randi should have opened his eyes.

  28. I don’t know about the Salvation Army one way or the other. But nobody agrees with me 100% and if I were to not help somebody because of a fundamental disagreement then I’d never help anyone.

    But then there are different levels. For example, I don’t agree with the GOP. And I’m not going to help them. The reason being they kill a lot of people.

    On the other hand, I have a very good friend whom I have a lot of fundamental disagreements with. She believes in homeopathy. She believes in horoscopes. I try to talk to her about those things rationally and she listens but her beliefs don’t change. But I’d give her any kind of help that I can. She’s not hurting anyone.

    Back to donating. I like Greenpeace even though they do things I really don’t like. But then I have to admit I really enjoy it that somebody in a rubber boat can stop a navy. That just cracks me up.

    Global warming: I don’t keep up with it and don’t understand all the science. I advanced far enough in math to learn it’s easy to use numbers without lying to say anything you want. If you know the conclusion you’re leading people to is misleading then I would call that lying but the math may still be right.

    Anyway, my basic opinion of the whole thing is that I do believe humans are responsible for a lot of the warming but whether we admit to it or not doesn’t change anything.

    Earth is warming and we pump out gazillions of tons of pollution.

    So let’s say we are in no way responsible for global warming. Isn’t it still a good idea to stop polluting??

    As far as I can tell the only reason there are powers denying global warming is because even though they continually rape the earth for profit they don’t want to cut back their profits to do less damage.

  29. slw

    I don’t understand what exactly the problem with Randi’s response to AGW is?
    It’s the only way a skeptic and a humanist could possibly respond to such claims. He identifies the subject as extremely complex and extremely tied to politics, admits he has not studied the evidence himself and basically says he does not know what the consequences of global warming and the future of the planet are, however no matter what, we clever apes are capable of confronting it.
    I have no problem with the science the IPCC et al are doing, to the best of my knowledge it is valid and I don’t see a reason to dispute it; also I am not an expert in the field. I do however have a problem with implementing draconian policies as a result of a group of people, no matter their qualifications, trying to predict the future states of a chaotic system. In fact in this case it is two chaotic systems whose interaction they are trying to predict at the same time: the atmosphere of the earth and the world economy.
    I choose freedom over laws based on such a weak foundation, is all.

  30. andyo

    I do however have a problem with implementing draconian policies as a result of a group of people, no matter their qualifications, trying to predict the future states of a chaotic system.

    you admit you’re not qualified to judge, and in the next sentence you judge. What makes you think that based on an enormous amount of collected data, experts cannot predict the consequences of what’s already happening?

  31. zmas

    “Randi should stay out of a subject about which he is ignorant and stick to exposing psychics.” So he’s only good for you when he’s saying something you agree with? He’s not allowed to voice his thoughts and opinions on a subject about which he is ADMITTEDLY only partially informed? That’s not rational discussion. That’s just as bad as people who turn on their former friends for questioning once-shared religious beliefs, and quite frankly I’m continually surprised to see such a thing in the skeptical community. Regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, there should be more “okay, well, let’s discuss this” and less “you’re a global warming denier and should keep your mouth shut.”

    As for the Salvation Army, I have family members (non-Christians) who work on the local council or whatever they have, and when that issue came up they campaigned and wrote letters and gave speeches (basically) in opposition of that policy, at least for our local chapter. If I remember correctly, they acquiesced. We give to them all the time, since they are a force for good in our community (and, as I remember, they have more agreeable policies now).

  32. Gus Snarp

    @slw – Well, at least one problem is that he seems to equate the petition project with the IPCC. In terms of credibility they are not remotely the same. The consensus of scientists who research climate and are experts in the field, based on the results of their own research and their understanding of their colleagues research, deserves a much higher weight than the consensus of a bunch of people who happen to have “science” in their degree title, or to have a PhD in a “science”, including medicine, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics. None of which mean anything whatsoever about their knowledge of climate change.

  33. Eidolon

    Phil:

    I’m a bit more than surprised that you would ask for donations to the JREF. Few issues are as important as global warming and for Randi to sign off on a list put forth by a group of frauds is irresponsible. NFW JREF or SA gets a dime of mine.

    There are much better places for your bucks, starting with women’s shelters, Heifer International, WWF, local food banks, the Wild Animal Sanctuary, local SPCA organizations…Get the idea?

  34. BigBob

    From george #25
    “Phil, is the AGW skepticism the true reason you’ve stepped down? I wouldn’t blame you if so”.

    You know, I hate to say it, but when I read the post on Pharyngula moments ago, I wondered about the step down too. I know the reason you gave Phil, and I hope the TV commitment brings you deserved success, but people are going to wonder why your departure and Randi’s announcement happened in such close proximity. I for one thought the JREF gig was going to last for years. Then again I feel bad for asking the question. No disrespect.
    Bob

  35. Gus Snarp

    I hadn’t read Salvation Army’s stance on homosexuals before, but I have in the past dropped coins in the bucket, and this year was thinking why should I give money to an organization that believes in converting people to religion, and believes in it as such a core mission that it’s name is the Salvation Army. Just think for a minute about that name. I once attended the funeral of a friend who I did not know was a member of the Salvation Army. I have been to a few weird funerals, including my own grandfather’s where the local Masons showed up to do a ritual, apparently uninvited. But the Salvation Army funeral was the weirdest. Most of the event was spent proselytizing to the attendees, much more than was spent eulogizing the deceased.

    Having thought it out, and having read their stance on homosexuals, I certainly will give no more money to the Salvation Army.

  36. andyo

    Why would Phil ask for donations for the JREF if he had left cause of sour grapes over Randi’s opinion on GW?

    BTW, Randi was only expressing doubts based on ignorance. He was not denying anything flat-out. I’m hopeful he’ll be happy to be corrected.

  37. Folks-

    Two quick things:

    1) No, I didn’t step down from the JREF because of Randi’s attitude about GW. If that had been the case, I would have said so. Please don’t confuse a coincidence in timing with causation!

    2) About the Salvation Army, the link I put there shows a bigotry about homosexuality based on Biblical interpretation, a topic about which I have been clear in previous posts. Sure, the SA does some good work, but they also have some shameful policies, and I won’t support them. Think of this: the Bible clearly supports slavery as well. If the SA said they have slaves, would you still give them money? At what point do you draw the line when it comes to grossly reprehensible behavior just because it’s based on an accepted religion?

  38. I only can hope that the JREF site was hacked…

  39. Thank you for letting me know about the Salvation Army. They won’t be getting any of my money.

  40. Badger3k

    Given the cultish nature of the Salvation Army, and their stance on, well, humanity, I have refused to donate to them. I won’t support the teaching of superstitious ignorance and bigotry. I was going to donate to the JREF, but I definitely want to see what happens with Randi’s display of lazy ignorance. It’s one thing to be unaware of 50+ years of research into AGW showing it is occurring, and it’s another to be so unaware that you fall for a denialist trick. Will Randi sign on with the “Dissent from Darwin” next? If the JREF is going to encourage pseudoscience, then I’m not sure donating to them will help promote critical thinking. Randi had a critical thinking FAIL, and I can only hope the responses got him to do a little research (as he says he will post more later). Seriously, if you have any respect for science and the scientific method, how do you not know about the evidence for AGW?

  41. MW

    Unfortunately my confidence in JREF ‘s ability to act as as a rational proxy – to evaluate areas which I cannot adequately evaluate myself – has been reduced to zero by James Randi’s recent post.

  42. Ann Nymus

    Clearly, Randi has attracted the ire of an actual psychic who is controlling his mind and using his own words to discredit him!

  43. Michelle R

    Okay look, the guy has done a whole lot of other things and you shouldn’t be discarding the guy just because he doubts global warming. There’s more to life than GW.

    Besides, before this post of his you were all “YEA! RANDI! RANDI’S AWESOME!” and now that he’s astray on one subject you want to deny him support? Come on.

  44. Shoeshine Boy

    Please contribute to the JREF, they need a lot of money for my retirement party ;)

  45. Very OTP, but kewl! Trilithium compound:

    (Link in name)

    …the researchers produced one set of three lithium atoms bound together,…

  46. Man Phil you stepped in it today.
    I would give money to the JREF if I had any, Randi is allowed to have his views despite them being wrong on this issue. I have given to the salvation army in the past and probably give to them in the future.

  47. Gus Snarp

    @zmas – No, he’s ok as long as he’s talking about something he knows something about. It is irresponsible for a respected skeptic with a large audience to raise up a deceptive petition drive created by a complete crank to compare it to scientific consensus on a major issue, when he could have easily discovered the flaws in the petition simply by looking at it, let alone doing a little research into it’s background. Citing that petition as if it were equivalent to the IPCC report is like citing the Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwin” list as if it were equivalent to the overwhelming consensus of biologists on evolution.

    @Michelle R and @zmas – While other’s here might have, I have never held up Randi as being particularly great, let alone infallible. I think he is right about some things, wrong about others. In this case he is wrong. Where he is an expert he is more likely to be right. On climate change he is not an expert, and if there’s one thing that discussion of climate change can do with out, it’s one more person spouting off their ignorance of the topic to an audience that respects them.

    Look at it this way, I agree with Bill Maher on religion. I think, however, that his anti-vaccine proclivities are dead wrong and it is sad that he has made the public statements he has on it. It weakens the respect others might have had for his arguments regarding religion. Similarly, I agree with Randi on psychic phenomena, but his statement on climate change is dead wrong, and it is sad that he made it. It weakens the respect others might have had for his arguments regarding psychic phenomena.

    And I think it is perfectly reasonable, given the overwhelming number of worthy charities in the world, that I choose not to give my hard earned money to one that has lent it’s respectability to the likes of the petition project.

    But don’t worry, I wasn’t going to give JREF any money before I read that anyway. I’ll be giving it to a local food bank and a local homeless shelter instead.

  48. @41 Michelle R:
    Your argument can also be used like this:

    “Okay look, the SA has done a whole lot of other things and you shouldn’t be discarding the SA just because they condemn homosexuality. There’s more to life than homosexuality.”

    You see the fallacy in that argument? As for my views on the SA, they do a lot of good work. I worked in a SA soup kitchen once, and they fed dozens of people every day, with no bias. I think we have to be aware, however, that, any amount of good work can be undermined by a dumb policy. Especially one that concerns a person directly.

    As for James Randi and the AGWs, I was shocked to read about this on Pharyngula as well. I do not think anyone here means to disrespect you or Randi, but what are your opinions on this? Is there any chance that people are misreading Randis statement?

    BTW, giving food to a local food bank is always a good option. This past weekend, in Squamish, we had a huge fire that destroyed 8 townhomes. Twenty people lost everything but the shirts on their backs. I know what I’ll be donating to!

  49. I think it was on Pharyngula (among the too dang many comments for me to responsibly be reading at work) somebody said they had e-mailed Randi and he responded that there would be a follow up and clarification…

  50. Michelle R

    @MichaelL: You’re absolutely right. It CAN be used like this and it should.

    And yet it’s so easily solved: say the homosexuality stance is wrong. Respect the work. It’s same for Randi. I’m a bloody atheist and all my youth I been STINKING poor! I’ve been clothed by the SA till I got my first job. Do I feel dirty about it? No. Are their stance against gays wrong? Damn right! But don’t stop giving to the SA! They are often the only place some poor people have to get wares! They DO help people. A LOT. You should tell them they are lambs of a hateful religion! That they don’t need such crazy ideas to help people. I have! Because even if they have freaky values, the people working there are still good, caring people. And I got a couple to realize that atheists aren’t bad people without any moral values.

    There’s always a stain somewhere. In any charity, any organisation. Nobody and nothing’s perfect.

  51. Gus Snarp

    @Michelle R – Hey, give money where you want. I for one prefer to give to local food banks and homeless shelters that are not affiliated with an evangelical church. That way my money has direct results, right here in my community, and I don’t have to worry about how much of it is actually going to spread religion and (perhaps) bigotry.

  52. Michelle R

    @Gus: You can do that. Do it by all means. But just know that even if you’re the most flamboyant clichéed man loving man atheist, you’d still get plenty of help from the SA.

  53. Gus Snarp

    And in a second odd dose of synchronicity between this blog and Pharyngula, PZ has a link to a list of worthy secular charities:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/godless_givers_read_this.php
    http://techskeptic.blogspot.com/2007/12/atheist-charities.html

  54. LOL, I was about to post that.

  55. TSFrost

    One more little thing against the SA: A local pagan organization held a food drive (to improve their image) and when they took the food to the Salvation Army, the SA wouldn’t accept it because it came from pagans. I doubt the hungry would have been so discerning.

    As for the sudden Randi haters, that man has spent decades earning respect. To immediately dismiss what he said as quackery is just as bad – admit it – as the deniers dismissing evidence out of hand. If you read that entry closely, he said he was asked to weigh in on the subject. He also says two or three times that he is not an expert. Phil has spent some few years also earning respect and his views differ widely from Randi’s. I’m no expert either, so I’m staying agnostic on the subject. There’s no doubt we’re pouring pollutants into the environment. There IS doubt that we’re destroying the planet. I do strongly support the stop-global-warming campaigns, because I think only good can come from them.

  56. Gus Snarp

    @TSFrost – So you don’t think that as a respected skeptic who was weighing in because he was asked to that he had some responsibility to apply a little skepticism (like actually looking at the website) toward the petition project before citing it as an equal to the weight of real scientific consensus?

  57. Coty

    For other reasons not to donate to SA, just go back to there ‘positional statements’. There we find what they think about Pornography, Alcohol, Abortion, and other issues.

  58. noname

    Hi Phil.

    I would like to second the requests for a post on Randi’s position on global warming. It is such an obvious contradiction of what his supposed scientific view of the world is, that it merits discussion.

    He is, of course, free to believe anything he wants to. It just seems that supporting a foundation whose iconic figure is clearly taking an anti-scientific establishment position is an obvious lack of self-consistency.

  59. Siphoneuphoria

    A JREF program for youngsters is a fabulous idea! I am always looking for ways to interest my young son in critical thinking.

  60. George Martin

    No doubt both the SA and JREF are worthy organizations. Phil should not have snubbed the SA for their ignorant stance on homosexuality at the same time letting Randi’s ignorant stance on GW pass.

  61. Leander

    So next to organizations like, say, the Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Children’s Fund or SOS Children’s Villages for example – I’m supposed to pick an organization that’s run by a deceitful stage magician, has pockets deep enough to offer the Million-Dollar-Challenge and helps the planet and the poor, sick and needy on it by telling people that astrology and homeopathy are quackery ? You know, thinking about it like that, I’m sold !

    No, seriously, shame on you for that post. I always had the impression you had a balanced perspective and a sense of proportion when it comes to the problems in today’s world. Guess I was wrong.

  62. Jeremy

    This seems like as good a place as any to ask this: does anyone know of a secular charity that cares for the poor in the US? We have lots of secular charities for other purposes, from fostering skepticism (like JREF) to environmental concerns (The Nature Conservancy) to disaster relief (the Red Cross) to international poverty (Oxfam, UNICEF) and so on, but on all the secular charity lists I’ve ever seen there’s been a conspicuous lack of groups that handle domestic poverty in the US. This can’t solely be the province of religious groups like the Salvation Army, can it?

  63. Gus Snarp

    @Jeremy – Here’s one: http://feedingamerica.org/
    There’s also the United Way, although various people have various problems with them.
    And if you live in or near a major metropolitan area there are likely to be a number of local groups.

  64. Jeremy@63

    I can only think of one secular charity making a difference in reducing domestic US poverty, the United Way.

    For more information see their page @ http://www.liveunited.org/goals/

  65. Gus Snarp
  66. George Martin
  67. Gary Ansorge

    Just finished reading Randis’ post. I see nothing in his post that refutes AGW. He merely points out that global warming is a hellish difficult phenomenon to interpret and that global warming will not likely result in the demise of humanity, two statements to which I agree.

    We will survive,,,at least, as a species. Not so sure of the 10% of humanity that may have to move away from the beach.

    Personally, I have no problem with the probable dislocations likely to ensue from GW. I accept we will have to do SOMETHING to survive and maintain our “way of life”. The biggest “something” is disassociating ourselves from fossil fuels. It’s better that we focus on that NOW than wait until those fuels are nearly gone before undertaking the development and implementation of such tech.

    Randi is quite correct in his statement that scientists are humans and as subject to our foibles as any other human. Which is why we have a Method that compensates for those foibles.

    As soon as I receive my next Social Security check, I’ll forward some to the JREF.

    Peace,

    Gary 7
    PS. It does help to actually read every word in Randis’ post. It was a complex response to a complicated subject.

  68. LOL! It’s funny that most of the posters here consider themselves good little skeptics when it’s other people’s beliefs being questioned, but when Randi expresses skepticism over the sacred cow of AGW you all throw hissy fits. I for one will give extra to JREF this year in hopes that it continues to promote rational skepticism even for the most politically correct of ideologies.

    As for my views on AGW, like Penn & Teller, I haven’t been convinced either way. No doubt climate change is occurring and equally without doubt humans can and do have severe impacts on their local environments. Desertification, deforestation, pollution, habitat loss and many other measurable problems must be continuously addressed, but the dire warnings by the likes of Al Gore seem shrill and politically motivated. Climate change is real but many other problems a far more important and cause far more deaths globally. Lets solve malnutrition, gender inequality, poverty and get rid of malaria first. Nope, politicians and the grant seeking scientists who empower them would rather warn of doom and chaos to keep their jobs and money. Besides who says some giant bloated ultra-expensive government mandate will do anything besides wreck the global economy? If you’re a skeptic of organized religion and/or paranormal woo than why aren’t you a skeptic of big government and/or the hip new green movement?

  69. Gus Snarp

    @Gary – See #57

  70. Chris P

    Yes I am throwing a hissy fit. Global warming is real and a major problem. Every day we have to fight the stupid illiterates that spawn from Rush, Beck, Palin and all the totally unqualified numbnuts that think they are qualified to refute it.

    I was reading a couple of Scientific Americans from 20 years ago and have a copy of Limits to Growth which I read in the early 70’s. It is real and was predicted.

    Global warming will CAUSE malnutrition.

  71. Gus Snarp

    I am a little weary of the whole “haven’t been convinced either way” routine. Every time I see a survey on whether or not people believe the theory of evolution there’s alway a substantial number in the undecided column. Really? You’re not entirely sure whether or not the foundation for all modern biology is a more accurate description of the origin of species than Genesis?

    To quote Rush (not that one, the band): “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

  72. J

    I applaud James Randi for being a REAL skeptic.

  73. J

    Gus Snarp Says:
    December 16th, 2009 at 1:30 pm
    I am a little weary of the whole “haven’t been convinced either way” routine.

    Right. Either there is a God and his name is Jesus or there is absolutely no God and life is pointless. Pick a side! There’s a war on!

  74. @Benjamin Lecrone

    First off, Al Gore should not be a reason for any individual to accept or reject AGW. I couldn’t get through even half of An Inconvenient Truth, as it played more like a political film about his career than it was about climate change.

    Lets solve malnutrition, gender inequality, poverty and get rid of malaria first.

    Well, if AGW is true, and we do nothing about it, then malnutrition will be an even bigger issue than it is currently, as arable farmland will diminish and crop failure will occur more frequently. Likewise with malaria. The range of malaria carrying insects will expand, making it even more of an issue. Poverty may also be an issue, as people are forced to crowd closer and closer together due to lost coastline/inhospitable climates.

    So, we can ignore AGW and focus solely on the issues you raised, and then have the problems get even worse before we can fix current levels and not be able to do as much, or potentially, anything about it. Or, we can work on those issues as well as AGW, thereby lowering the future impact of the issues you raised.

    Now, if AGW is false, but we still work to decrease our contributions to greenhouse gases, we reduce the amount of pollution and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. Furthermore, if AGW is not true, and it turns out that the actions we are taking to decrease our impact are creating problems (e.g., economic hardships, etc.), we can change things.

    So, if AGW is true and we do things to fix it, we win. If it is false and we do things to fix it, we still win and have the ability to stop if the things we are doing actually cause economic problems. If AGW is true and we do nothing, we lose, perhaps only a little, perhaps a lot. If it is false and we do nothing, we lose nothing.

    The balance seems to be in favor of treating AGW as if it were true, which the evidence currently supports.

    Oh, and I know this sounds a lot like Pascal’s Wager. If you feel that I am wrong and can counter my reasoning, please do so.

  75. Gus Snarp

    @J – That’s not even a remotely accurate interpretation of my statement.

    Edit:
    A more accurate extrapolation of my comment to religion would be this:
    You either believe in some deity, or you don’t. At least when it comes to faith, you can’t be undecided: undecided means you don’t believe.

  76. Gus Snarp

    @Todd W. It’s not so much Pascal’s Wager as Type I versus Type II error.

  77. Oh, one other thing. While I feel that AGW is most likely real and that we should do something about it, I don’t yet know what is the best course of action, realistically. Political maneuverings tend to leave me a bit skeptical about whether any political action will result in the impact we want or just muck things up more.

    To sum up, I’m generally a supporter of AGW science but skeptical of AGW politics.

  78. @Gus Snarp

    Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification.

  79. Gary Ansorge

    75. Todd W:

    The only part of your post I disagree with is the assumption that global warming will inevitably REDUCE arable land. It may just increase it, due to heavier rainfall in areas that currently receive too little rain to provide for commercial crops. As I recall, the Sahara was much smaller at the end of the last ice age. That’s a heck of a lot of desert that could be producing food. Areas that today are appropriate for growing rice might just dry up enough to provide good opportunity for growing wheat or corn(which might be to the good. Both those crops provide slightly more amino acids than traditional rice).

    Anyway, what we learn over the next few decades about moderating our global environment (to either warm it up or cool it down) will be useful. If we had to reverse direction,(ie, to INCREASE global warming) we now know that releasing large amounts of methane will work to quickly retain heat. That seems much more efficient than burning bio-mass to release CO2. (As long as we don’t have to burn the CH4 for generating electricity:)

    76. Gus

    “You either believe in some deity, or you don’t. At least when it comes to faith, you can’t be undecided: undecided means you don’t believe.”

    Actually, in the case of faith, undecided is agnostic. Contrary to the wags, it isn’t chicken atheism. It just means, I’m open to the possibility, if only I had some objective evidence and an adequate definition of what is meant by the term God.

    Gary 7

  80. 44. Michelle R Says: “before this post of his you were all “YEA! RANDI! RANDI’S AWESOME!” and now that he’s astray on one subject you want to deny him support? Come on.”

    My feelings exactly. In fact, I think there’s a behavioral psychology paper in this thread.

    – Jack

  81. “Folks-
    Two quick things:
    1) No, I didn’t step down from the JREF because of Randi’s attitude about GW. If that had been the case, I would have said so. Please don’t confuse a coincidence in timing with causation!

    So do you support his view? And is JREF going to be a funding source for denialist shills once the oil money runs out?

  82. Mount

    Uh Oh! Time to kick Randi out of the science club! After all, skepticism of GW simply isn’t allowed.

  83. @Gary Ansorge

    Good point about potentially increasing arable land due to increased rainfall. So, we could get more arable land while losing other. So, if AGW is, in fact occurring, there are a few different scenarios, re: farmland:

    1) Once arable land becomes desert. Previously non-arable land remains non-arable. (net decrease)
    2) Once arable land becomes desert. Previously non-arable land become arable. (possibly a wash)
    3) Arable and non-arable land remains unchanged. (a wash)
    4) Arable land remains unchanged, previously non-arable land becomes arable. (net increase)

    The extent of change in each is, to me, unclear. I’m a bit wary of relying on the possibility of overall increase of arable land should global temps continue to rise. If we do so and get it wrong, that’s a bit too great a risk for me.

  84. Please see my update at the top of the post.

  85. Lab Lemming (#82): Really? I mean, Really?

  86. Zucchi

    Skepticism means that you don’t believe in something without evidence. What’s happening with AGW is that people are refusing to give credence to enormous amounts of evidence; not the same thing.

  87. Gus Snarp

    @Gary – Yeah, but undecided isn’t belief. Agnostic isn’t belief. I don’t care what name you give it, when it comes to religion you believe or you don’t believe. When you say “I’m open to the possibility, if only I had some objective evidence and an adequate definition of what is meant by the term God.” That means you do not currently believe.

  88. @ 75 – Todd W.

    Your argument makes two big assumptions. 1. That we can do enough to reduce our carbon output fast enough so as to actually reduce greenhouse gases and their environmental effects. This assertion is highly doubtful as the alternative technologies just aren’t there. Only nuclear has the potential to meet current or future needs and most people supporting the green agenda don’t like that idea very much. Also, what are we to tell the upcoming second and third world nations. Sorry about that but there’s too much carbon already you’ll have to live in squalor for ever.

    2. While you focus on the possible cost of doing nothing, you make no mention of the cost of doing something. As Levitt and Dubner mention in Super Freakonomics the economic cost of implementing any one of the numerous plans being bandied about in Copenhagen will be tremendous. It will be easier to and cheaper to implement stop-gap solutions while technologies mature. Currently there is absolutely no way any portion of the industrialized world can meet current (let alone future) energy demands with “green” power. Would you suggest we force ourselves to become less affluent and productive just in case? Are you willing to give up your power hungry first world lifestyle?

    Finally, many of the problems I mentioned, and you rehashed, are most certainly not linked to global warming. While global warming may exacerbate them they were a problem long before global warming and will continue to kill millions even if we “solve” global warming. Poverty is not an environmental problem it is a political and economic problem, and it kills far more people than global warming ever has. Lifting people out of poverty saves lives. Fighting global warming gives a handful of scientists hefty grants and gets politicians re-elected. Me, I’d rather save lives.

  89. DennyMo

    Thanks to all who pointed out that “them” could have been a singular reference to “the bell-ringers” rather than a global reference to all charities. I read the sentence as “I’ve been getting a ton of requests… (and don’t get me started about why I won’t give to them…)”, didn’t make the same linkage as most of you did or as BA apparently intended.

    I agree with Todd W’s “if AGW is false” point in post #75 above, though I take a slightly different tack. The issue of AGW is a red herring, but there are oodles of inarguable benefits from reducing pollution. Those fighting for environment improvement should de-emphasize climate change and focus on these more real and immediate issues.

  90. Quatguy

    I agree with @87. Randi seems to be a bit off his rocker and has made a tactical mistake that has tarnished the image of the JREF. The best evidence available (and there is lots of it) clearly points to serious problems ahead due to anthropogenic induced GW.

    There is no doubt humans will survive, I do not believe that is the issue. What is at risk is our culture, our economy and the lives of many people who are already living on the edge. Serious problems are also in store in terms of species biodiversity and an acidifying ocean. The problem will not just be limited to migration of arable land.

    It is disgraceful that the US and Canadian governments are waffling in Copenhagen. Shame on them. Our children, their children and future generations will suffer greatly for it.

  91. Gary Ansorge

    89. Benjamin
    ” This assertion is highly doubtful as the alternative technologies just aren’t there”

    You seem to be assuming that “green” tech would be implemented overnight. On the contrary, it will take at least a half century and MOST of that will be brought online as older tech is phased out. Some will be brand new(like fusion or solar power sats). We’ve used wind power in one form or another for several centuries. We’re just now getting to the point where solar cell tech is becoming cost effective. Tapping the worlds ocean wave power is another tech that will help. ALL of these alternative technologies will have to be implemented to meet the growing energy needs of a high tech world. Hopefully, we’re early enough on the curve of declining fossil fuels to be able to do all this without too much disruption.

    “Would you suggest we force ourselves to become less affluent and productive just in case? Are you willing to give up your power hungry first world lifestyle?”

    That’s not what anyone here is suggesting however, we waste incredible amounts of energy in this country. We COULD have the same life style and burn half as much oil and coal, if that was our desire, just by increasing efficiency.

    “Lifting people out of poverty saves lives.”

    True and that is one of the principle uses of energy. More energy use equals more wealth. All of the fossil fuels are finite resources. SO, when do we begin phasing them out? I suggest NOW is the time.

    “Fighting global warming gives a handful of scientists hefty grants and gets politicians re-elected”

    Actually, fighting global warming provides jobs to millions of people, from techs and ditch diggers to scientists and politicians. Did you think we would just pile a bunch of money in a heap and burn it to keep warm(or to run our air conditioners)? It just goes around in a circle.

    Green tech would likely be the tech of last resort if we hadn’t observed a real need to have it NOW. As it is, we have decades to implement it, if we’re willing to pay for it and that just makes a whole lot more sense to me than waiting until a tech “matures”, something which cannot happen unless the tech is in active use. Which it is,,,now.

    GAry 7

  92. DaveH

    Randi could have checked whether The Petition Project was indeed a petition signed by the relevant scientists.

    This petition is updated from an earlier list. Of the original 17,200 signatories:

    “signers of this petition so far include 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists.”

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070820102903/http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p357.htm

    This is obviously supposed to be the core experts. Yet physicists have no place being in this group. Also, “Environmental scientists” is much too broad to be relevant.

    The rest of those signatories are in irrelevant fields or are not even scientists.

  93. Utakata

    Oh dear Randi…you’ve already concluded that the anti-AGW stuff is full of bunk once, why go there again?

    Perhaps, as I strongly suspect…accepting AGW pros. would require many, including some scientists, to rethink their some of their core values to address the problem (ie. letting go of libertarain economic policies to address an impending crises)…thus, “Dear God no, let us fight it with conveniently cherry picked descrepencies.”

    Either way, I await for Randi the rationalist side will have to say later…when a leveller head will prevail. I don’t expect I will agree with it all, but that’s not important. I just don’t the insipid denalist’izing of the AGW debate to claim another great person. And I mean that in the sincerest of respect.

    PS: I know how you feel about the Salvation Army, BA. I try to explain this to my parents…and there reaction is pretty much somewhere between tar ‘n feathering me and burning me at a stake. Though they are pretty much a conservative’s version of the Hare Krishnas. :(

  94. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’m rather surprised Randi fell for the Petition scam. It’s the equivalent of the sleight of hand used in psychic surgery. Looks real but is a sham.

    There’s no doubt global warming is real, and there’s a 95% (very likely) chance we’re responsible (IPCC estimates). What the political solution is though…???…I don’t know.

    Apparently the costs of implementing political solutions (depending on what they are) is far less than we think (according to several independent economic analyses by respected/well-known economist institutions. Summary here:
    climateprogress.org/2009/03/30/global-warming-economics-low-cost-high-benefit/

    with links to reports (I can’t discuss the validity of such reports though since to me economics seems like a guessing game. UK Economist Nicholas Stern says it will cost 2% of the GNP and the cost of inaction is much more:
    guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/26/climatechange.scienceofclimatechange). It’s not like most economists were able to predict this current economic mess (from a business as usual scenario too).

    Benjamin, some very good points, and I agree with many of them. In suggesting that fighting global warming means we become less affluent and productive, I may disagree (see link above) especially for the industrialized country that develops the market on the new technology.

    Your line about scientist and hefty grants implies that the scientists get to pocket the money (this is a common talking point echoed from certain quarters for pretty much any manufacturoversy–eg tobacco smoke doesn’t cause cancer). You also fall into the false choice fallacy (fight global warming and scientists get money, or save lives—those terms are not mutually exclusive as I’m sure you realize ;-) ).

    If they do pocket the money for themselves and get caught they’ll be treated the same way as anyone who pockets public money. Often the grants are given to the institution and not the person who applied for the grants. The money is then doled out for equipment, hiring students or researchers, field work, etc.

    In other words they do science, which by the way, may or may not be fighting global warming. Scientists are highlighting cause and effect, trends, gathering knowledge and understanding which may later be used to come up with effective solutions. E.g. how is deploying 3,000 ocean temperature sensors “fighting” global warming?

    Oh, and people seem to think scientists study global warming to stay in a job. Absolute nonsense. Scientists study ice, clouds, atmosphere, ocean circulation and a myriad of other things and if warming would magically stop overnight they’d continue to study these things. Those jobs would still be there whether the world was warming, cooling or stable.

    Btw, can you come up with an example of a politician getting re-elected on the basis of his fight against global warming? That seems more of a political liability than something you’d get voted in for. Not saying you’re wrong, but it seems counter-intuitive from a North American perspective. Perhaps things are different in Europe or down under?

  95. deep

    I’m really depressed that the salvation army has such a policy on homosexuals. I knew they were a Christian organization but I had no idea… As a matter of fact I know that LGBT club at my college used to shop there all the time so I guess maybe a lot of people didn’t know. It’s going to be kind of hard for me now because I always buy used when I can. Maybe their strong positions against blasphemy (lumped in their views on pornography) are why I never find any skeptical books there?

  96. To clarify my statement earlier about the SA, yes, they do good work. I realize that many people have been, and continue to be helped by this organization. In many instances, they are one of the first groups on scene in a disaster. They are to be commended for that. However, because of a policy that directly affects myself, and others that I know, I cannot in good conscience donate to an organization that promotes this kind of bigotry. Personally, that is how I feel.

    Michelle, I am glad that the SA was there for you. Continue to support them, if that is what you choose to do. If the SA were to renounce certain positions that discriminate against others, especially the GLBT community, I would gladly donate to them!

    As for James Randi, I agree with Phil, lets all take a step back, and wait to see what Randi says later. It is too be expected that many people would react the way they have because they feel betrayed, somewhat, by a man that has promoted skeptical thinking for decades.

  97. DaveH

    @MichaelL #97

    Phil said that because he doesn’t want the message to get lost about supporting the JREF, and probably also because Randi is his friend.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean the issue goes away. I’ve read Randi’s blog and it’s quite straightforward:

    Randi had a skeptical thinking failure by giving credence to a long discredited, and easily discredited, petition from a distinctly kooky source (OISM).

    Support the JREF, kudos to JR for all his great work in the past, but Randi can’t be “let off” with his comments, which were to the detriment of science (not to mention the environment).

  98. Aaron

    Oh noes! He doesn’t follow the cult of Global Warming! Burn the heretic! Crucify him! I thought you guys were Atheists here…

  99. John Sandlin

    I generally don’t get to the bell ringers because I generally don’t have cash money. Now I have a new reason to pass them by. Next one that tries to strike up a conversation will be asked “will any of these donations go to support homosexuals?” and when they say no, I’ll say no-way.

    JBS

  100. If I were Randi I’d make a point of throwing a crazy statement out once in a while, just to see how many of my readers (1) worship me and will agree no matter what I say, (2) are zealots in disguise and will call for my head, or (3) are actual reasonable skeptics who will respond, “no Randi, I disagree with you because….”

    I’m not sure whether to be alarmed that the comments on this site lean towards (2) or relieved that there aren’t many of (1). Reading his WHOLE post, what I heard was “I don’t know much about this, but I get the impression it’s very complicated, and I don’t know very much about this.” There were a couple of suggestive sentences, but nothing definitively in support of one side or another. It seems unquestioning support of all facets of AGW is now required from “skeptics?” That’s one reason why the phrase “scientific consensus” has always given me the shivers.

    Randi is the founder of an organization devoted to promoting *skepticism*. It shouldn’t matter what he says on a particular issue because anyone who listens to him is supposed to be able to think for his or her self.

    As for the Salvation Army, why donate to an organization that supports bigotry when there are others that don’t? If the SA loses enough donations perhaps they will reconsider their position.

  101. DaveH

    Robert Brown,

    To assert that it shouldn’t matter what Randi says on a particular issue is naive.

    The issue is nothing to do with a requirement of “unquestioning support”. That would be stupid.

    Randi says “I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid” which not only in itself is a heap of FAIL, but also entails that he strongly suspects the IPCC report may be wrong. His reasoning being that the science is complicated and he doesn’t understand it. That is more FAIL.

    It has nothing to do with “wanting Randi’s head” (Besides, his head currently occupies no official position from which it might roll), and everything to do with the fact that people who see reason as of more benefit to the ongoing survival of the species than truthiness would prefer that a prominent proponent of rational thinking took a little more care to avoid making statements to the detriment of public trust in science, especially on this important and already much muddied issue.

  102. Gary Ansorge

    Many people confuse skeptic with cynic. They are not the same. Skeptics look for evidence. Cynics, as wikipedia notes:

    “A Cynic, then, has no property and rejects all conventional values of money, fame, power or reputation.”

    A skeptic, on the other hand:

    “Skepticism is an approach to accepting, rejecting, or suspending judgment on new information that requires the new information to be well supported by argument or evidence.

    I don’t actually know anyone who meets this definition of cynic but I know lots of people who are skeptics and quite a few who THINK they’re skeptics but are really just nay sayers.

    Randi is a skeptic. Phil is a skeptic. This doesn’t mean we reject new ideas indiscriminently. It does mean we suspend judgement until we have evidence.

    IF Randi is skeptical of AGW, it is because he hasn’t seen all the evidence. That doesn’t mean he denies global warming, just that he hasn’t made a judgement. I think that’s a very reasonable attitude.

    Gary 7

  103. G Williams

    It’s important to realize that Mr. Randi isn’t necessarily coming out against the science behind global warming,s o much as he is saying that there is insufficient data presently to confirm AGW. there’s a big difference.

  104. DaveH

    @103,

    …which means he is questioning their confidence intervals. He comes out against the science BY saying there are insufficient data. It is NOT the conclusion of the IPCC that there are insufficient data. Far from it.

  105. Gary Ansorge

    103. G Williams:

    Randi did NOT say that there was insufficient evidence to confirm AGW. What he said was that HE hadn’t seen enough evidence to enter a judgement, one way or the other. That’s a completely different statement than the one to which you allude.

    GAry 7

  106. DaveH

    That Randi “strongly suspects” the petition “may be valid” entails that he strongly suspects there may be insufficient evidence to support AGW.

    Randi several times alludes to insufficient evidence to support AGW. He says, for example,
    “A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation.” It’s true that he mitigates that by saying he has “insufficient data”, but then you have to ask why he gave such a poorly informed opinion at all.

  107. Gary Ansorge

    107. Dave:

    Probably because people were bugging him about it. If I was Randi, I’d make some statement that would rouse everyones ire. But that’s just me, ’cause I’m a contrarian(he said, as he cackled off to bed.)

    GAry 7

  108. re: Mr. Randi. People are entitled to make mistakes, even in public. Knowing Mr. Randi is who he is, and has always been, I expect upon further reflection he will offer a rational, transparent explanation. The Denialists … on the other hand … I expect that once they wash themselves off from today’s poo-flinging frenzy they will just dive back into the manure pit and have at it again.

  109. I have been trying to figure out what I could write to try and convince those who have issue with The Salvation Army to see its good, and I then I reliased I couldnt convince you. You have been hurt (either literally or offended morally) by some action that was done, or word that was said, by one or a few of its members. Or you have taken a statement released by the heads to mean that all beneath mindlessly obey.

    The SA has done some amazing work throughout the world not caring who it serves or where, be it in a war zone, a famine, a disaster. They go, they serve, they listen, they help. I could recall many stories of the good done across the world in the over 110 countries the SA is involved in but they would be for naught if you refuse to be moved from a stubborn position of dislike, or worse hatred.

    So in the end all I can say is, I am sorry. Sorry that my church has hurt you so badly that you wish to tar us all with the same brush.

  110. JR could’ve produced a range of posts explaining his position on AGW without using fallacies. But he didn’t.

    So he must be called to order for that.

    It doesn’t mean all his work is invalid. That’s an argument deniers and opponents use – look! they had to hide the decline! That means tree rings are unreliable! That means AGW is bogus! Oh, and more proof scientists fudge their data all the time.

    Yawn…

    Petition Project – Debunked
    Scientists were wrong before – Hold the presses!
    There are more pressing issues – Then post about those, and how whether Climate Change is Anthropogenic or not is irrelevant to those issues.

    checks to see if BadSkepticism.com is available – damn, it is. quick, someone skeptic picks it up before the woos do, I’m broke.

  111. @Benjamin

    Your argument makes two big assumptions. 1. That we can do enough to reduce our carbon output fast enough so as to actually reduce greenhouse gases and their environmental effects. This assertion is highly doubtful as the alternative technologies just aren’t there.

    The tech is there. It may not be perfected yet, but by pushing more to rely on it, there will be incentive and demand to make it better. If we aren’t relying on it, then what’s the point of improving it?

    Only nuclear has the potential to meet current or future needs and most people supporting the green agenda don’t like that idea very much.

    Then they are going to have to ask themselves if they’d rather have smoky air or clean air as they type away on their laptops and sip lattes beside the pool. (yes, a bit snarky, I know)

    what are we to tell the upcoming second and third world nations. Sorry about that but there’s too much carbon already you’ll have to live in squalor for ever.

    Of course not. The industrialized nations, who generate the majority of the greenhouse gases, are poised to make a positive impact, not to mention having the resources to develop and improve non-carbon energy production. It might take a while, but eventually, those methods and tools will be reduced in cost for less wealthy nations. The delay sucks, but I’m not sure what a good and viable alternative would be.

    While you focus on the possible cost of doing nothing, you make no mention of the cost of doing something. As Levitt and Dubner mention in Super Freakonomics the economic cost of implementing any one of the numerous plans being bandied about in Copenhagen will be tremendous. It will be easier to and cheaper to implement stop-gap solutions while technologies mature.

    Yes. Any changes we make will cost a lot of money. They will also create new jobs. Stop-gap solutions may be cheaper, but will they have enough of an impact? Personally, I don’t know. I’m not sure that the best solution is.

    Would you suggest we force ourselves to become less affluent and productive just in case?

    No. But, as others have mentioned, there are ways to cut down on energy consumption and pollution without giving up “affluence and productivity”. Even if that weren’t the case, whatever affluence or productivity we have should have at least a portion of it go toward figuring out improvements in not only energy production, but energy consumption as well.

    Poverty is not an environmental problem it is a political and economic problem, and it kills far more people than global warming ever has. Lifting people out of poverty saves lives. Fighting global warming gives a handful of scientists hefty grants and gets politicians re-elected. Me, I’d rather save lives.

    False dichotomy and untrue, as already pointed out. Why can’t we do both at once? And while you may be saving lives now, doing nothing to combat AGW has the potential to doom others in the future. Remote consequences don’t carry the same emotional impact as immediate ones, I understand, but we need to really evaluate the overall impact of doing nothing vs. doing something.

    Bottom line is, the evidence at present strongly suggests that humans are having a negative impact on global climate and temperature. We can do something to curb our impact or we can whine about it just being a way to line the pockets of greedy scientists (who would have jobs whether AGW was true or not) and politicians (always an easy target) while we twiddle our thumbs. Action should be taken. As I’ve said before, I don’t know what the best course of action is, but something needs to be done. We need to change our behavior, change our perspective and change our technology.

  112. Grizzly

    So, some won’t give to the SA because of its stance on homosexuality, and some won’t give to the JREF because of Randi’s latest pronouncements.

    What to do, what to do?

    Think globally, act locally. Are there no food banks? Are there no wildlife rescue groups? Are there no planetaria?

  113. Josh

    I am hoping that James Randi is pouring over the literature related to the facts about the reality of global warming and is carefully debunking the faulty reasoning and fallacious pseudoskepticism he posted in his blog. I await anxiously his retraction.

  114. Gary

    Nice to see the James Randi has decided that skepticism means taking a look at everything with as unbiased an eye as you can manage. His initial arguments to possibly doubt at least some of the standard AGW story are fairly weak (there are much better ones), but at least he’s not being hypocritical about what skepticism really means. I wonder if he can stand up to the pressure of group-think, though, and look critically at all the evidence rather than just what the climate science gatekeepers feed to him. I hope he’s more honest than intimidated.

  115. Dave H (post 102),

    I think you’ve missed my point. I will agree with you that, because Randi is nominally a public figure, what he says in public does matter. My point was that, if Randi were successful in his mission to inspire critical thinking, what he says wouldn’t matter because you would be capable of thinking for yourself.

    As for what he actually said, for a reader of a skeptical web site your own logic is quite sloppy. To quote from your post:

    “Randi says ‘I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid’ which not only in itself is a heap of FAIL, but also entails that he strongly suspects the IPCC report may be wrong. His reasoning being that the science is complicated and he doesn’t understand it. That is more FAIL.”

    This is your assumption about what Randi meant. Besides the irritating and inflammatory use of the device “FAIL,” which has no place in a reasonable discussion, it is quite consistent with the definition of the word “valid” that Randi could suspect the petition project is valid (valid, as in not faked) yet also not necessarily correct. His statement says nothing about the IPCC report. That connection is entirely of your own making, and is very sloppy thinking.

  116. 100. John Sandlin Says:

    I generally don’t get to the bell ringers because I generally don’t have cash money. Now I have a new reason to pass them by. Next one that tries to strike up a conversation will be asked “will any of these donations go to support homosexuals?” and when they say no, I’ll say no-way.

    According to evidence (the SA link in the original posting), that would probably not be the case, as the SA says, basically, ‘if you’re a practicing homosexual, we won’t accept you into the SA as a member’ – no reference to not helping people regardless of sexual orientation.

    Really, besides the religious angle, I also like to know the percentages for any ‘charity’, how much of the money is directly used for their work, how much is ‘administrative overhead’, etc. Any group which uses the majority of donations for ‘overhead’ or other expenditures that aren’t related to those being assisted tends to go low on my list of potential donations.

    Also: the Museum of Hoaxes has an article on fake SA bellringers in Topeka, KS, and the blogmaster also does not donate to SA:
    [http…www]museumofhoaxes[dot]com/hoax/weblog/comments/6683/

    J/P=?

  117. whb03

    @88 Gus Snarp:
    “To quote Rush (not that one, the band): “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
    “…undecided isn’t belief. Agnostic isn’t belief. I don’t care what name you give it, when it comes to religion you believe or you don’t believe. When you say ‘I’m open to the possibility, if only I had some objective evidence and an adequate definition of what is meant by the term God.’ That means you do not currently believe.”

    Not sure what your point is. Using YOUR quote, agnosticism IS choosing “not to decide” to believe that there is a God OR to believe there is NOT a God, all based on lack of evidence. This is NOT the same thing as believing God does not exist. And like Gary said, it is not “chicken athiesm”.

    So what exactly is your issue with Agnosticism? Do you think we’re chickens because we decide not to make a decision to believe in one particular direction? If so – sounds like the schoolyard bully to me. And you know, bullies ARE chickens…

    If I got your position incorrect, apologies. But I’m getting sick and tired of hearing athiest bullies decry agnostics as “chickens”, and I have an ongoing policy of sticking it right back in their faces.
    Thus, if I got you right, you can kiss my agnostic a$$.

  118. Jeffersonian

    Note that the SA doesn’t explicitly disapprove of lesbians, just gay males; and that their literalism of the Torah doesn’t include clothing (“Thou shalt not wear combined fibers, wool and linen together”), ham or slavery.
    The USA is the only country where the London-based SA has been able to set up at xmas-time without annual controversy. Their stated goal is to spread evangelical literalism along with whatever help they provide: That’s where your money goes. It’s too easy to give to a secular organization, for the exact same causes, that doesn’t push a radical reinterpretation of the (Judaic) Torah.

    I’ve read Randi’s declaration several times and it seems pretty clear to me. Possibly a good time for Phil to snip the tether. I don’t see how his “we just don’t know” (that’s how I read it anyway) stance is any different than the same argument from IDers. I hope to be shown otherwise cuz I do respect the guy.

    @gary
    Agreed with points but
    Are you okay with moving a few million of these people to your state? Mind, you’ll have to pay for it and feed them as well as dealing with any resulting wars triggered by large scale asset reallocations while at the same time probably not being in the tier that can still afford petroleum-based energy. The thing about the time-lag in bringing green energies on line is that there was a different incentive when they had no competitive advantage against the oil industry. What took a century previously will advance much faster when the incentive is clear and of expedient necessity.

    @ToddW
    “Oh, and I know this sounds a lot like Pascal’s Wager. If you feel that I am wrong and can counter my reasoning, please do so.”
    Not = Pascals’ Wager, because PW doesn’t offer a solution to the problem in that it doesn’t say which of the world’s religions is the correct one. It could be Shinto or it could be Animism. No matter which you pick, you’re still a non-theist, as it were, in all other systems. Whereas, with climate change the solution remains the same (curtail carbon-based energy and additional population) either way.

    @Benjamin
    “Are you willing to give up your power hungry first world lifestyle?”
    Which you, too, will have to relinquish when gas reaches $50/gallon and the cost of heating your home reaches a thousand a month: Supply/demand of a limited resource.
    Poverty can most certainly be an environmental problem in agricultural- based economies.

  119. CS

    ” Leander Says:
    So next to organizations like, say, the Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Children’s Fund or SOS Children’s Villages for example….”

    I wouldn’t place the WWF on a pedestal.
    Although it does some good work, it supports the trade of wild-caught animals also in cases with clear scientific evidence showing that it’s unsustainable and that it threatens the species’ survival in the wild.

  120. Wundo

    If the SA said they have slaves, would you still give them money? At what point do you draw the line when it comes to grossly reprehensible behavior just because it’s based on an accepted religion?

    I’m sorry, Phil, but that was the dumbest thing you have ever said.

    Hey, I voted for Obama despite the fact that he had some ideas I didn’t like.

    Now would I have voted for him if he had been revealed to be a child molester who tortures kittens?

    Der. Stupid question, just as stupid as yours. It’s beyond strawman into something else.

    Yes, there is a line we all must draw, and some of us *will* give a pass to the SA because they are one of the best and most efficient charities in the world. After Katrina, while other more politically correct charities were still setting up their “Hey! Look at us!” press conferences featuring their six-figure earning executives, SA workers were delivering food to New Orleans. Some were there before the rain had even stopped. Those people work for a pittance and without complaint. Yeah, they proselytize. Oh the horrors!

    It’s *your* problem that you refuse to see shades of gray. Shame on you, Phil. Seriously, this broad brush attitude should be beneath you. Maybe you should go do TV and join that ivory tower. They love absolutes and black/white pseudorealities there.

    And this is from a massive skeptic who HATES religion, but I know a group of truly dedicated people when I see one. So they don’t agree with “practicing” homosexuals. So what? Who cares? Does that matter to the guy sitting on the roof of his flooded house in New Orleans without food?

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