Joseph Farah of World Net Daily Does Not Understand Science, Non Sequiturs

Posted: September 29, 2013 in climate change, science
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I feel fairly confident in that title for this particular post. I’m writing it in reaction to Joseph Farah’s normal column, this particular article entitled, “‘Science’ Is Giving Itself a Bad Name.


Let’s review what he’s talking about in this particular case. He’s talking about a story that I saw earlier this week, a new study suggesting that life could survive on Earth for around another 1.75 billion years, then Earth will become uninhabitable. The story was big, oh, last week (Joseph’s a little behind in his ranting, or he saved it for a day he didn’t have something else to rant about).

This is what I personally consider interesting research, and it gets to the whole question of habitability, and if we discover a planet somewhere, what criteria does it need to meet in order to consider it habitable. The number is actually not new — around 7 years ago when I was taking a seminar on habitability, we were reading papers that said around 1.5 billion years (250 million years is NOT a large uncertainty in doing these kinds of models). The modeling is based on the increasing temperature of the sun and Earth’s position in the solar system. Then, how would – how could – Earth respond, as a planet, with all its known feedback mechanisms, to that increase in solar energy.

As I said, an interesting problem, and a very complicated one. The latest research is apparently now putting it at 1.75 to 3.25 billion years (read that as “1 and 3 quarters to 3 and one quarter” as opposed to knowing a value to the three significant figures). Anyway, so that’s the news, that’s the research. After that period of time, based on what we know about various feedback mechanisms, Earth would become too hot to have any liquid (or solid) water and would bake, becoming lifeless.

Now we go to Farah’s article. He seems to be ranting about this research. Except he’s ranting about climate change and “Climategate.” And it has overtones of young-Earth creationism.

In a clear non sequitur, he’s pointing out that this research was done at the University of East Anglia (UK), which is infamous in conservative circles for “Climategate” e-mails that were read out of context by people who don’t know how science works and showed nothing except the ignorance of their readers but persuaded many in the public that scientists were faking data (sorry for the long sentence, I typed it all in one breath).

Besides that, he’s confusing climate change making life a pain in the ass for current human society with the Earth being unable to support life. Again, a non sequitur, or perhaps even a false equivalence.

Not only that, he uses this as a springboard to argue that all of modern science is flawed because, effectively arguing as Ken Ham does, effectively asking the question, “Were you there?” Don’t believe me? Here’s what he says (in part):

How did these researchers at East Anglia University determine the world has at least 1.75 billion years left?

Did they use scientific methodology? Did they consider all the possibilities, including how much longer the sun will continue to shine? Does any scientist or team of scientists have the capability of considering all the possibilities?

I think not.

Furthermore, the particular “scientist” behind this study makes some pretty amazing pronouncements that go well beyond the ability to “observe” and “experiment.”

For instance, he states categorically that life first appeared on Earth nearly 4 billion years ago. Did he see it? Did he observe it? What evidence does he have for that statement? He continues with more sweeping suppositions: “We had insects 400 million years ago, dinosaurs 300 million years ago and flowering plants 130 million years ago. Anatomically modern humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years – so you can see it takes a really long time for intelligent life to develop.”

I know, you hear this kind of thing from “scientists” all the time. But is it really science? Is there any evidence whatsoever to support these statements. If so, I would like to see it. I’ve searched and searched and can’t find any.

Where’s the observation? Where’s the testing of the hypothesis? Where’s the scientific method we’ve been using since the 17th century?

It’s simply not there.

I’m writing this post only a few hours after Farah put it live on WND, so there are very few comments. Though, I’m making it go live two days after I wrote it, because I’m currently in Yellowstone and without any internet. But, I think that this stuff stands on its own without needing WND commenters to make it even more ludicrous.


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