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Disassociate Climate from Darwin Skepticism? Learn a Little about the Latter Before You Try

page_2012_200_michaels-pj_square.jpgAt National Review Online, Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick J. Michaels has contributed an article trying to disassociate climate skepticism -- regarding the "the high-sensitivity climate model" -- a species of doubt that he feels is deserving of scientific respect, from evolution skepticism, which isn't.

"My friends on the left make much of the apparent correlation between creationism and skepticism about assured climate disaster," he complains.

And again, "My lefty friends are somewhat condescending towards skeptical climate scientists."

His plea: "Let's stop conflating the creationist hoi polloi with skeptical climate scientists. The mystery about how life arose on earth is simply unrelated to global-warming science, no matter what those scientists might believe."

Our advice? Patrick Michaels should take a break from worrying about what his irritating friends tell him. He'd save himself some aggravation, and precious time, which he could use to get acquainted with the basics of the evolution debate before he goes off and writes about it again.

Michaels is extremely confused. First he calls intelligent design "a variant of creationism," the familiar propagandizing conflation of two widely different ideas, one science-based and the other Bible-based, that is a staple of Darwin lobbying and that Michaels has swallowed uncritically. Elsewhere in the article he seems to think ID -- or creationism, or whatever you call it -- is simply about the origin of life. Later he identifies it with a "Biblical literalism" that is "uncomfortable with science" and in particular "the easy demonstration that the Earth is billions of years old."

What is it about the subject of evolution that almost seems to invite ignorant pronouncements? In Patrick Michaels's mind, it's all a big muddle. The college student who wrote to Casey Luskin the other day to ask about the three big problems with evolutionary theory is, assuming he read Casey's brief reply, now about 100 percent better informed on the topic than Patrick J. Michaels.

He's also very dimly aware of efforts to pass academic-freedom legislation, and this too he mangles:

Away from academia, some creationists are successfully pushing state legislatures to dictate that their point of view, as well as global-warming skepticism, be a part of the public-school curriculum. These people are not just skeptics about climate change, but, rather, skeptics about science itself, because it is inconsistent with their belief system.
Presumably this is a reference to the academic freedom bill recently passed into law in Tennessee. But the law does not dictate the teaching of any point of view. It merely protects from administrative retaliation the objective teaching of both sides of scientific controversy, including controversy surrounding climate change, human cloning, and modern Darwinian evolutionary theory, to name a few.

The law does not protect the teaching of creationism, biblical literalism or any other form of religion. It protects teachers but does not alter the curriculum in any way.

Michaels doesn't want his "friends on the left" to lump skeptics of the "high-sensitivity climate model" together with those who "question evolution," ostensibly because at least in part he identifies with the first group in some way but not the second, whom he labels "ignorant dolts."

Yet creationists and non-creationists, literalists and non-literalists alike populate the academic freedom camp, which is diverse as to matters of background and purpose (a Venn diagram might help), no less than the community of skeptics about the "high-sensitivity climate model."

As Michaels points out, proper distinctions should be made, and conflation avoided. On that, at least, he's right. Confusing good science with bad is a basic tactic of the lobbying that equally opposes climate and evolutionary skepticism, and that uses lies and distortions to suppress advocates of both.

It's disappointing to find a writer at NRO who, even as he touts his independent views on climate change, has been so badly taken in by propaganda and intimidation from the other side.