Sunday, April 6, 2008

Kevin McCullough on Global Warming, Abortion, Animal Rights, and Genetic Engineering: The Damage a Religious View can Do

The claim is often made that we nasty loud atheists ought to be more understanding of people's religious views. After all, what does it hurt to believe that you were made in the image of a supreme being if it makes you feel better? To that I retort with this article by Kevin McCullough. I didn't think such a level of irrationality was possible in this modern day, certainly not one that would appear on a fairly mainstream (albeit highly right-tilting) website. You see, Ted Turner made some alarmist claims about the effects of anthropocentric global warming (AGW) leading ultimately to cannibalism, and McCullough took that as an opportunity not just to present some standard crank denialism about AGW, but also to rant on and on about how Turner's cannibalism comment was related to...abortion, genetic engineering and animal rights. No, I'm not kidding. Just when I thought The abortion obsession bar had been set as high as possible by Phil Harris, McCullough cranks up the crazy a few more notches.

Before we get to the really fun stuff, lets get the standard AGW stuff out of the way:

"Despite the fact that the science community revealed this week that earth's temperatures have been dropping since 1998...

One of the basic differences between scientists and cranks is that scientists look at all of the data, whereas cranks cherry-pick only that data which gives them the answer they want. Any time you hear someone make a claim of the form "X has been the case since year Y", the questions that should immediately leap from your mouth are "Why did you choose Y? Would your statement be just as true for Y-1, or Y+1, or even Y-10?" Now it is possible that there is a very good reason why year Y was chosen. Perhaps that is as far back as the data goes. But most of the time, what you will find is that Year Y was chosen for the simple reason that it allows for a predetermined interpretation.

So why do McCullough and the rest of the AGW denialists choose 1998? Simply look at this graph:

The black squares represent the actual mean temperature for each year. Now, notice the spike in the black line in the upper right of the graph just to the left of the 2000 line. Guess what year that is? 1998 of course. It was the highest year relative to the regression on record. That is why they focus on it. Add to that 2007, which was the lowest year relative to the regression in quite some time, and you have a pair of data points made for cherry picking.

Notice that if you used 1996, 1997, 1999, or 2000, the claim that "temperatures have been dropping since 1998" wouldn't come close to holding. That's no coincidence. And never mind that "dropping" is a very inaccurate description of what has happened since 1998 anyway. "2007 is lower than 1998" is an accurate description. "Temperatures have been dropping since 1998" makes it sound like 1999 was lower than 1998, 2000 lower than 1999, 2001 lower than 2000, etc., which isn't even close to what has happened. The trend is clearly upward, even using their hand-picked data.

So McCullough is clearly either ignorant or just plain lying about the global warming data, as simple as that. But it just gets better from there. He actually tries to tie concerns about global warming to abortion:

Yes I am not so subtly arguing that there is a segment of our world that is surviving, even feasting on the consumption of human life. How else would you classify the modern abortion industry? What would $468 (on average) times 44 million add up to? ($20,592,000,000 is the correct answer. My iPhone croaked when I attempted the calculation.) I wonder how many water desalination programs and crop irrigation systems money like that could provide for Somalian or Sudanese farmers?

This makes his global warming analysis look downright elevated by comparison. Never mind the obvious cost of clothing, housing and feeding 44 million unwanted people. And notice McCullough isn't exactly the champion of the cause when it comes to sending aid to Somalia and the Sudan. He only feigns interest in the position when it suits his argument.

The point being that for those who promote, perform, and protect the class of medical practice that takes the meaty flesh of children and turns it into dead carcasses - a mighty good living is being enjoyed. Literally putting the food on their table.

Oooo, scary language, scary language! Seriously, so what? Once you deal with the reality - that zygotes are not "children" in any meaningful sense of the word - and recognize abortions as simple medical procedures that lower the birth rate, the same could be said for doctors who perform vasectomies and tube tying. Though, no doubt McCullough, summa cum laude graduate of the Ann Coulter School for Dishonest Rhetoric, would call it "slicing the innards that deliver our precious bodily fluids". Using colorful antagonistic language doesn't make your point any less poor.

Speaking of poor points, this one has to be seen to be believed:

Turner's imperative to change our ways on the consumption of energy to prevent cannibalism is a far less compelling piece of logic than say - protecting the dignity of the human being made in the image of God.

Oh really? Goody, let's see what McCullough's idea of logic is:

When God created mankind, speaking us into existence, he pronounced that because we were the closest of His creation to His own likeness that we bore a special classification in His eyes. His designation of us as the only created beings, organisms, living things that have a soul was what separates us from the rest of everything else around us.

Ahhh, so by "logic" McCullough means "ignoring all the science of the last 2,000 years and pretending instead that bronze age myths are factual". Never mind the overwhelming evidence that mankind arose from similar beings over a very long period of time, and that our genetics fits right in with the tree of life, just like everything else. Just chant and believe.

The serious point to take away from McCullough's millenniums-old meanderings is the basic view of our relation to the world it entails. In McCullough's view, the world, and everything on it, was put here for us, by God. We are intended to use it as we have, and accordingly, it is simply not possible that doing so could destroy us. He denies AGW because it conflicts with this ideology. He doesn't care about the facts, as the above demonstrates. This is why there is such a huge fundamentalist Christian component to AGW denial. It is fundamental to how they view themselves and the world.

God gave mankind animals for varieties of purpose, to help us work, and to feed us being two of the most primary. Groups like PETA are offended by this but it doesn't change the fundamental truth of the scenario. In fact elevating animal "rights" to be of more value than "human" rights is saying to the Creator in the most classic of ways that we humans "know best" and thus we attempt to sinfully reorder the Creation that He ordered from the beginning.

See? God gave it all to us. Saying otherwise goes against God, and the facts be damned. This is when they hide their arrogance behind false humility. No, it is not McCullough saying so. He is merely God's humble servant. It is God's word with which he is beating you over the head. Got a problem with it, talk to God. Little Kevin is innocent.

He moves on from there to genetic research, and reveals a level of ignorance that is quite simply astonishing:

Add to this mindset the revelations this week by English researchers that, even though it still has not yet been legalized in their nation, laboratories have pressed ahead with combining animal and human DNA to "create" supposedly "new" life forms and you have what amounts to the global unleashing of freak shows we can now only barely imagine.

How much of the new little baby boy that one of these futuristic creatures gives birth to would have animal DNA in it? Possibly comparable to the amount of human DNA that might be in the cheeseburger that same doctor orders later that afternoon.

Right, and why should I care about what happens in Rhode Island when I live on the mainland! This is akin to the guy on that old M*A*S*H episode that wanted the doctors to be sure to not give him any black blood. Poor McCullough thinks there is "animal DNA" and "human DNA". Sounds like he's been watching too many old reruns of "The Island of Dr. Moreau". Perhaps someone will inform him that DNA is DNA, and we share about 98% of ours with chimps, and about 60% with sponges.

With so much ignorance on which to build a case, the freak show we can only barely imagine is how McCullough is going to wrap all this together.

In reality the refusal to see human life for what God sees it as has led and is still leading us to the unthinkable abyss. Ted Turner is basically right - things eventually get so bad that humans are sacrificed for no redeeming moral virtue - merely existence. And that has nothing whatsoever to do with the now scientifically provable joke that global warming continues to be proven to be!

What abyss? Global warming? The man is daft. Seeing humanity as the god myths see it, that everything is here for man, is what got us into this mess in the first place! Only by seeing humanity for the evolved, interdependent species that it is, and dealing with ALL of the data can we deal intelligently and effectively with the problems we faced.

The joke is that people as ignorant and clearly incapable of clear reasoning as McCullough are actually given credibility in our society. And if his idiocy was based on anything except religion, say astrology or crystals, he'd get laughed off every podium he ascended. But because his particular idiocy is based on religion, it gets a free pass. We can't afford that any more. The issues are too important, and the potential damage from following such idiocy too great.


Alan Roberta said...

A proof that the times we live in are especially toxic is that even the take on the weather can lead to family squabbles and talk radio hosts braying especially loudly into their mikes.

Last month I compared memories of Easters past in Salt Lake City with those of Easter present. More specifically, my recollections about weather. It seems that the Easters of my childhood were whiter and colder.

Anonymous said...

I think 1998 was chosen because it's 2008 now and ergo they're looking at a 10 year period.

ScienceAvenger said...

That might fly if these people didn't already have a history of cherry-picking data. If they were looking at 10-year periods, why didn't they look at the usual decades? Why didn't they also do this with 1988-1997 and 1978-1987? The reason is obvious - it didn't fit their agenda. It is obvious when one looks at the graph above that warming hasn't stopped.

Anonymous said...

You said:
"And if his idiocy was based on anything except religion, say astrology or crystals, he'd get laughed off every podium he ascended. But because his particular idiocy is based on religion, it gets a free pass."

And you said:
"Disparaging, irrational, troll-like whack-a-mole posts will be dispatched without hesitation or apology."

It's dispatch time. Or does the dispatch policy only apply to opposition to your point of view?

ScienceAvenger said...

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that question was meant seriously. Obviously the answer is "no". There is a big difference between honest debate and trolling. Vigorous, intelligent debate is more than welcomed, as it can be most cerebrally invigorating.

Besides, your post had no content aside from that question, so what's to dispatch? Or did you mean to actually defend McCullough's idiocy?