Friday, June 15, 2007

How Can Science Deny the Earth is Cooling?

One of the more technical questions I received over the years, or at least before I started The Real Skeptic Columns, was, why do I capitalize Earth? Before the Real Skeptic presence on the Internet, scientific bulldogs liked to email what appeared to be legitimate questions, and then proceed to attempt to entrap me. It didn’t take me long to determine which were the legitimate questions and which were the entrapments. For one thing, the legitimate questions usually were intelligent, while the entrapment questions soon led to a clear path of stupidity, ending usually in the use of the very definitions I was criticizing to prove that I was ignorant of the definitions of science.
But the Earth capitalization criticism seems to have some validity to it. Having been an English major in college, I am very familiar with the rules of whatever. However, I’m also an avid proponent of the living language because I know for a certainty that the language is what the majority of speakers say it is. Just like species, words and phrases are born and die, with the panoply of variety constantly changing. At the rate we’re going, “nuclear” will become “necular” in my lifetime (which pretty much means, it already has).
If I go out into the backyard to work on my garden (like I had one), I would be dealing with plants that were rooted in the soil, which is called earth. However, if I were coming to visit the solar system from some far-off system, one of the places I’d certainly want to visit would be the Earth. When the Earth is capitalized, we’re dealing with the planet, when it’s not capitalized, we’re dealing with the stuff that covers the planet. I imagine the Martians would have faced the same problem if their word for soil happened to be mars. Our commonsense ancestors simply named our planet after what produced their food.
One of our commonsense ancestors, a guy named William Thomson, found himself in a heap of hot water as a result of, well, using his commonsense. William Thomson was not one of, he was the most renowned all-around physicist of the 19th century, one whose name is probably repeated, everywhere but in the United States, billions of times a day. Otherwise known as Lord Kelvin, he set forth the heat scale that is universally used in scientific circles, and pretty much everywhere else, but in the good old English offshoots which still use the more practical mishmash of, let’s see, pulling up my conversion dashboard, fluid ounces to liters, miles to kilometers, pounds to kilograms, and yes, Fahrenheit to Kelvin. (I remember I was collaterally involved with the great, I think it was 80s, goal off converting the U.S. to standardized measurements. After all, if you think of the money lost in international trade, you’d croak. Every one I met doing serious work in the field, which I wasn’t, said, this is a waste of time, it’ll never happen. And it didn’t, with the current intermediate phase where both are printed on labels and boxes, serving hopefully for the arrival of a new generation.)
Kelvin had a small obsession. He thought that he could take the size of the Earth, the assumed temperature of space (it hadn’t at that time been demonstrated that space approaches zero Kelvin, and, by assuming the Earth was as hot as the sun at one time, compute the amount of time that passed between the time it was molten hot and now, when balmy breezes across the oceans are broken by the occasional calved iceberg.
Could anything be more logical? After all, what is one of the basic facts, not, mind you laws, but facts about physical reality. Heat flows spontaneously from hot to cold. I’m not a cook, but I can cook eggs and I know that if I put the freshly cooked eggs on a plate and forget them, I’m going to have cold eggs. Hot objects seek out the temperature of the environment they occupy. It’s not rocket science (which by the way is engineering), it’s a simple fact of reality, physics if your will.
Although Kelvin could only assume the space around the Earth was close to zero, we now know that it is. Thus Kelvin’s notion that the Earth was hot and it was sitting in cold space was pretty reasonable given what we know about heat. I should mention that Comte du Buffon used heated balls to estimate the age of the Earth a century before. Kelvin came up with just under 100 million years to Buffon’s 75,000.
Now, bowing to science’s claim to using the best method available in order to compute difficult dates, we would all expect the scientific community to celebrate Kelvin, roll out the magic carpet, give him honors and awards, perhaps even attempt to fine tune the calculations or even find a more accurate way of computation.
Well, not if we actually knew how science operates. The scientific community demanded that Kelvin renounce his heresy or face public humiliation for being an ignorant, deluded, perhaps even insane, wannabe.
To make such a claim, the scientific community must have had an ironclad method to compute the age of the Earth, a method far better, far more accurate than Kelvin’s rantings, right?
And it certainly did. You see, a guy named Charles Darwin, a man who spent his life studying heat flows (I joke) published his theory of evolution. This theory was based on a theory of geologist Charles Lyell, uniformitarianism, that was simply a popularization of an idea expressed by Scottish natural philosopher James Hutton. (You can see the disciplined scientific thinking that went into all this, at least if you're blind.) That notion was that events on Earth only happened over extremely long periods of time. This allowed Darwin to propose his species evolution, which meant that fish turned into dinosaurs that became dogs, apes, and Lord Kelvin (never can get the sequence of wings to arms, fins to arms, legs to arms right).
You can see the strict scientific calculations clashing here. A philosophical notion against a reasoned computation. It took the nonscientific bluster of Thomas H. Huxley to defend Darwin. Who was Huxley defending Darwin against? Why, anybody that opposed Darwin was a religious bigot. When it came to Kelvin’s calculations, they simply weren’t correct because they didn’t provide enough time for Darwin’s beaks to become teeth.
So we have a scientific community balancing two proposals, one a philosophical idea that allowed for an explanation other than creationism, the second, a soundly reasoned scientific calculation. Which one were they going to accept? The one that opposed creationism, of course.
Before the 19th century, the religious authorities dictated everyone’s view of the world. The 19the century was witness to the great battle between so-called science and religion. Which one would dictate how everyone viewed the world?
To see how bitter the battle was, we have only to ask what was (is?) at stake in the battle. The answer is quite simple. Whoever or whatever dictates our view of reality reaps a substantial portion of society’s riches. Whether it’s the church selling indulgences for people who enjoy wine, women, and more women, indulgences that automatically freed the purchaser from guilt, or we have pseudoscientists selling carbon credits to people living in twenty-million dollar mansions and flying all over the world in jet planes preaching about how we have to give up our cars and bicycle to work so these hypocrites won’t have guilt feelings, controlling our worldview leads to lined pockets.
But the flow of money goes deeper, from glorious hundred million dollar churches to glorious billion dollar atom smashers and ten million dollar sculptures to many billion-dollar space elevators.
When that much money is on the line, people line up and when it looks like one authority is going to replace the other, they jump on board.
Thus, Kelvin was told in no uncertain terms that his name would be blackened in the history books if he didn’t come around, jump on board the gravy train. After much soul searching and prayer, Kelvin raised his estimate to between two and four hundred million years.
Not enough, his detractors yelled. We need more, much, much more (They were talking about time, not money). Huxley claimed Kelvin’s computation was based on unfounded assumptions To Darwin and his supporters, anything that disagreed with any part of the theory of evolution had to be based on unfounded assumptions. Much the same argument is used today to defend species evolution.
While Kelvin wouldn’t go further than four hundred million years, his reputation was saved by the discovery of French chemist A. Henri Becquerel, of radioactivity. To listen to mindless scientists today, one would think that Becquerel and Curie came upon this molten field of pitchblende. Puzzled by what was causing this massive amount of heat, they discovered radioactivity and the reason why Kelvin’s computations were off. Kelvin hadn’t added into the equation the massive heating effect of all these massive pitchblende fields that, to keep the Earth hot, had to be covering the Earth’s surface.
Or so the Darwinists, and every other dater that spirals off into the billions of years for the Earth, then jumps to precise dating for the universe, would have us believe.
The simple fact is pitchblende had been around for years, the pitch being its dark color, and the blende being the mixture of metals that scientists of the time had no way of analyzing. Miners didn’t have to use potholders to pick up a nugget of pitchblende. It was the same temperature as everything around it. It wasn’t heating up anything.
If the pitchblende, and for that matter, any material from which radioactive material could be isolated, wasn’t hot, how did these scientists come to the conclusion that they were heating up the Earth.
Well, here’s a source of energy, and energy heats things. Evolution had to take billions of years, so the Earth has been here billions of years, The Earth would have cooled off long ago, but because it has been here long enough for species evolution to occur, something must be heating it. Therefore, we have conclusive proof that radiation is heating the Earth.
Calculations? Don’t need them, the facts speak for themselves. The mechanism by which the radiation heats the Earth? Why bother to examine something that’s self-evident, after all, gravity is a property of matter isn’t it, and heating up the Earth is the result of the Earth having radioactive materials.
One of the more amusing aspects of science’s abysmal ignorance, its refusal to face answering simple questions, involves the explanation for gravity I posted in earlier entries. Without going into the details, my view is that gravity is not a static property of matter, it is the dynamic result of what matter is doing, cooling.
What would be one way to demonstrate the planet is cooling?
Well, if the planet were cooling, the gravity would be lessening, something that would not necessarily be measurable because everything is calibrated on a relative basis. However, one thing that would certainly happen would be that the water on the surface of the Earth would decompress. The water pressure at ocean level is the result of gravity, and if there were less gravity holding the water down, the water would decompress and its level would rise.
What do we find when we measure ocean levels?
We find that they are slowly rising.
What does this mean?
Well, because we know gravity is a property of matter, we know that gravity can’t change, so lessening gravity isn’t causing the ocean levels to rise.
Could only be one thing.
The water is rising because the ice caps are melting, and thus, our problem is our planet, sitting in the zero temperature of space, is getting warmer.
And we’ll gaily skip along, delusional, as the heat slowly escapes us and, as the life that evolved on this planet (by characteristic, not species evolution), freeze to death in the belief that we are roasting.
We may not be getting much of value from the people we pay to provide us with our worldview, but if we’re looking for humor content, we’re underpaying.


SteveK said...

The water is rising because the ice caps are melting, and thus, our problem is our planet, sitting in the zero temperature of space, is getting warmer.

I don't support the theory that mankind is responsible for global warming, however it seems reasonable to me that it's possible for our planet to be heating up naturally.

Radiation energy entering the atmosphere from the sun plus an atmosphere that is acting more as an insulator would cause the earth to heat up. The source of heating doesn't need to come from within the planet core.

Peter Bros said...

Thanks for the observation, Steve. I think the key point in your comment is the word “would” when talking about radiation and the atmosphere as insulator. We obviously disagree. However, when there are two points of view, I tend to migrate toward the one that has a factual basis. We know for a fact that heat flows to cold. However, we don’t know for a fact that the atmosphere is acting as an insulator or that it is capturing radiation. That’s why I tend to view the Earth as cooling.

You can read the spotty history of the Greenhouse Effect, the progenitor of global warming,here.

Following European politics over the last several decades provides a window into the driving force behind the global warming movement. When the first environmental restrictions were legislated, the drafters included a provision that basically said using atomic energy to replace energy sources producing greenhouse gases was not to be permitted. The European Atomic Energy industry then began a grassroots political movement to elect enough representatives to have these provisions overturned. In doing so, they basically began to finance the promotion of global warming with atomic energy the only alternative to extinction. While the movement hasn't yet reached fruition in Europe, I think the last vote on overturning the atomic energy restrictions earlier this year failed by only a few votes, which means it will be overturned in the next year or two and atomic energy will become the primary source of energy for all of Europe, not just France, where it's dominant today. The Europeans are slightly ahead of us as far as buying the argument that atomic energy is the only solution to what's a junk science problem. With Gore's well-financed (guess by whom) global warming campaign, many of our most prominent environmental activists are beginning to spout the only atomic energy alternative.

SteveK said...

However, we don’t know for a fact that the atmosphere is acting as an insulator or that it is capturing radiation. That’s why I tend to view the Earth as cooling.

There are short term and long term temperature predictions. The short term prediction is the earth will heat up slightly. The long term prediction is the earth go cold, as will the sun and everything else.

So when you ask "How can science deny the earth is cooling?" I think you need to clarify the question. Do they deny the earth will eventually cool completely? No.