There are some areas of science where there is no real dispute. Some of these are issues are life-and-death, others are a little less serious, and some are downright goofy. But in all these subjects, denial of the evidence embodies the rise in anti-science sentiment.
Those of us on the other side should be ready with the facts because we never know when and where we may need to use them. This points here will be elementary, but they can still come in handy if needing to educate a science neophyte, a hardened opponent, or someone being contrarian for the sake of being so.
I want to be clear that science changes when warranted by the evidence and any information contrary to what will be presented here should be considered if it is the result of following the Scientific Method and submitting for peer review.
Late last year, Lorrie Goldstein urged his Twitter followers to ask liberals to explain the science behind climate change and then “watch the fun.” Reader Karen Geier took up the challenge, though the answer likely provided Goldstein with little of the anticipated amusement. I am borrowing liberally from her response to address the first of our seven topics.
HOW WE KNOW CLIMATE CHANGE IS OCCURRING
Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor, allow visible light to pass through, but absorb infrared light. This is akin to a windshield that lets light shine through but traps the heat from that light.
The warmer atmosphere then emits still more infrared light, which is usually re-absorbed. This causes energy that gets to Earth to have an even harder time leaving. Hence, Earth’s average global temperature increases, producing climate change.
Since the Industrial Age began, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 40 percent and methane has increased by 15 percent. The average global temperature has increased 1.4 degrees since 1880, with two-thirds of that warming coming since 1975.
HOW WE KNOW EVOLUTION IS REAL
Contrary to what you may have heard, evolution has no relation to Marxism, morality, or societal collapse. Rather, it is the change in inherited characteristics of biological populations over time. These changes are mutations in the DNA sequence of a cell’s genome and they create variation among members of a species. Favorable mutations are more likely to survive and reproduce, while unfavorable ones to get squeezed out. Within a few generations, the unfavorable mutations may be gone completely. The process of holding onto traits that enhance survival and reproduction is known as natural selection.
Evolution has been observed in petri dishes and is the reason why a flu shot is given each season. Other evidence is found in the geologic column, as the farther down it scientists go, the simpler fossils are that they find.
Another piece of evidence is Richard Lenksi’s ongoing e. coli experiment. Lenski began tracking genetic changes in 12 initially identical a sexual e. coli populations in 1988. The populations are now in their 60,000th generation and Lenski has observed a wide array of genetic changes in all 12 populations.
More proof comes in animals that exist only on isolated locales like Palau, Madagascar, Iceland, and Tasmania. Then there are transitional fossils like Lucy, Archaeopteryx, and Tiktaalik. Not only are there transitional fossils between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals, and apelike animals and humans, but the fossils occur in the precise Geologic Column strata that one would expect to find them.
Still more evidence are similar anatomies and nearly-identical DNA sequences between species, such as humans and chimps sharing 98 percent of their sequence. Also, traits of one animal may be present in the embryonic state of another animal, even across classes. One example is gill slits in human embryos, which suggest common ancestry with fish. Similarly, vestigial traits such as a whale’s pelvic bone are evidence of the sea dweller’s descent from a land animal.
HOW VACCINES WORK
Vaccines work by mimicking disease agents and stimulating the immune system to build defenses against them. When a bacteria or virus enters the body, immune cells produce antibodies to fight the antigen interloper and protect against further infection.
Our immune system produces millions of antibodies daily, vanquishing antigens so efficiently that we don’t know this battle is taking places. But the first time the body faces a particular invader, it can take a few days to produce an adequate response, and for nefarious invaders like Whooping Cough or the measles, that’s too long.
Unless, that is, one has received a vaccine, which is composed of dead or weakened antigens. These antigens are incapable of causing an infection, but the immune system doesn’t know that, so it marshals antibodies to fend them off. Then if the real deal ever comes along, the body unleashes an immediate response.
HOW WE KNOW GMOs ARE BENEFICIAL
Genetically Modified Organisms are plants that are altered by the splicing of genes and the insertion of DNA from one species into another. The goal is transfer properties that have agricultural benefit, such as drought-resistance, pest-resistance, better taste, more nutrition, or a longer shelf life.
Genetic modification carries no risk that doesn’t apply to other food production methods. For instance, regardless of the method in which it is cultivated, any plant can cause cross pollination. Compared to traditional plant breeding, there is less risk of concentrating natural toxicants through genetic modification since far fewer genes are transferred.
A 2014 review of 1,783 studies by Italian scientists showed there is no credible evidence that GMOs pose any unique threat to the environment or the public’s health.
The four unnatural methods of potentially improving seeds are selective breeding, interspecies breeding, mutagenesis, and genetic modification. The first three methods affect 10,000 to 300,000 genes and the resultant food product is not tested. GMOs, by contrast, involve one to three genes and are tested for safety before they are allowed to go to market.
Genetic modification has given us insulin, saved the Rainbow Papaya by making it resistant to a pest that would have wiped it out, and produced Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice that would save Third World children from blindness if bureaucratic obstacles to its distribution could be overcome.
HOW WE KNOW CONTRAILS ARE INNOCUOUS
When a jet engine spews out hot, humid air into a cold atmosphere with low vapor pressure, condensation results. The water vapor coming out of the engine quickly condenses into water droplets and then crystallizes into ice. The ice crystals are the streaking clouds that form behind the engine.
How long they linger depends on the atmosphere’s humidity. When the atmosphere is more humid, the contrails linger, but when the atmosphere is dry, the contrails disappear more quickly. It’s similar to seeing your breath on cold days, as the breath is visible for a shorter duration on dry days.
Even if there were dangerous chemicals being released on the populace, the high altitude from which they are dropped would cause them to dissipate and to spread over such a large area that the amount that any one person would ingest would be insufficient to do damage.
HOW WE KNOW OUR SOLAR SYSTEM IS HELIOCENTRIC
Geocentrists say Earth remains stationary while all heavenly bodies rotate around our planet. But even at warp speed, Neptune would be unable to complete a rotation of Earth in 24 hours. Meanwhile, Jupiter and Saturn would need to approach the speed of light to complete a daily orbit, meaning they would be demonstrating relativistic length contraction. They would appear as a thin vertical object rather than a spheroid. In a geocentric solar system, Earthlings would be unable to observe stellar aberration, the perceived yearly change in the positions of stars.
A key proof was provided by Leon Foucault’s pendulum. The French physicist suspended a weight from a wire and set it swinging. He had included a pen below the weight, and this pen drew a line in a circle of wet sand. An hour later, another line intersected with the first one at an 11-degree angle. This change in consistent with a rotating Earth, as is the fact that the angle of this intersection will differ depending on which latitude a Foucault Pendulum is employed.
Then we have the Coriolis Effect, which causes hurricanes to rotate in different directions depending on what hemispheres they are in. It also impacts satellites, missiles, and long range artillery shells. This effect exists only because we are on a rotating planet. Also, an earthquake with a magnitude of nine or greater can shift enough mass to subtly alter the course of Earth’s rotation, which would be impossible if there was no rotation to change.
Finally, Venus and the sun could not both orbit Earth while moving farther away from each other. Yet the planet’s size and brightness depends on its phase. In the heliocentric model, Venus is largest and shiniest when it’s closest to Earth and smallest and darkest when it’s on the other side of the Sun, and this is consistent with what astronomers observe.
HOW WE KNOW EARTH IS ROUND
Those espousing a flat Earth are probably engaged in the most blatant science denial of all the camps, so they are the least likely to be rehabilitated. Still, here is the evidence if you have the means and willingness to address the subject with them.
The best evidence are the abundance of photos of a round Earth. Other irrefutable pieces of proof are the International Space Station, satellite TV, Global Position Systems, Felix Baumgartner’s leap from the edge of space, and the cell phone company satellites which enable Flat Earthers to post their screeds on the Internet.
There’s much more. Yachtsmen and commercial sailing ships going solely east or west end up back where they started. Flat Earthers will try to bring up the lack of north-south navigation to prove, well, I’m unsure what exactly. But even this point falls, how shall we say, flat, because north-south navigation was accomplished by Ranulph Fiennes in the early 1980s.
Then we have temperature differences by season, which is consistent with a spinning planet tilted at 23.4 degrees and which is hit with a nearby star’s rays at a more direct angle in July in the Northern Hemisphere and in January in the Southern Hemisphere.
Other evidence: It being light in the Americas while it’s dark is Asia; Earth’s shadow on the moon during eclipse; Seeing the top of ships first when they come over the horizon; The farther one travels from the equator, the closer stars are to the horizon; If you put two sticks in the ground a few feet apart, they will produce shadows of different length; The higher up you are, the farther you will see; The moon’s appearance is different in the Northern Hemisphere than it is in the Southern because the angle from which it is being viewed is different. As one example, in the Northern Hemisphere the first-quarter moon looks like a D, while in the Southern Hemisphere it looks like a C.
Finally, a flight from Sydney to Santiago is 7,000 miles and takes 12 hours. A flight from Sydney to Dallas is 8,500 miles and takes 17 hours. On the flat Earth model, Santiago is much farther from Sydney than Dallas is and it would require traveling at nearly double mach speed to make the flight from Chile to Australia in that time. That could make for some serious contrails.
It is frustrating that the points made here need to aired. But we must continue the fight until our cooling Earth is filled with a vaccinated, GMO-fed people who know their round, spinning planet is populated with the results of natural selection.