The importance of separation of church and state

Coatless Canadians in Alaska – Part 1

We were very excited to go on our first cruise but also my first Skeptic Society conference – the science of climate change.

Being in Vancouver, British Columbia – we are very spoiled by the temperate climate – so much so that we focused on the word “cruise” and not the word “Alaska”. We didn’t pack coats, to the entertainment of many of our southern cruise-mates.

Seattle was gorgeous and to our eyes, not different at all from Vancouver. Trees and coffee shops as far as the eye can see.

We didn’t expect to see much sea life – well, we saw a lot of sea gulls – but we didn’t expect to see much in the way of whales so close to human activity – but we did get treated to an orca once we were closer to Vancouver Island.Not much of one, but one nonetheless.

But the draw of a cruise isn’t only the random animals, but the scenery and the British Columbia coast does not disappoint.

In addition to the Skeptics conference, my choice of cruise reading material was:

It added another level to the experience, as AJ Jacobs immersed himself in Biblical literalism and shared the experience and revelations of trying to obey all the rules of the bible, not just the big 10 – I exposed myself to hard science and emergency preparedness and some political challenges of not only climate change – but climate change resistance that is largely down to religion.

What struck me over and over is how religion is not only retarding social change, but acceptance of science and science literacy. I also wonder why religion sets itself against a hard science like biology and evolution which is supported by the spectrum of biology sciences and geology and not a softer one like anthropology.

I think the answer lies in that anthropology, being the study of people, is easier to understand on many levels so people aren’t as intimidated by the complexity, but also because even the laziest of reviewers of history can see that every civilization has had distinct religions that reflect and reinforced the values of the culture and that no two cultures ever came up with the same religion were there wasn’t a migration path connecting them.

Even so, believers in current practiced religions have to deal with the cognitive dissonance that this god(s) didn’t reveal themselves to earlier humans – but I have yet to hear the explanation for the shyness and allowing people to worship other gods for so long before their pet god made an appearance in the literature and as a social movement.

The first day of lectures was Dr. Donald Prothero on “How Glaciers Work and How Climate Changes” and Dr. Bruce Molnia on “The Retreat of the Glaciers.”

Both presented detailed college level presentations and did not disappoint. The obvious lack of science literacy and the current media trend of equating loud opinion with expert opinion in the USA was disconcerting. There simply is no way to comprehend the resistance to that human activity – industrial, commercial, transportation and resource extraction is impacting the earth’s systems – often overwhelmingly.

The data is overwhelming when you understand it – and that’s the problem, the lack of science literacy means people don’t understand the data coupled with a business, political or religious interest to deny the information.

It is not surprising that the people who most deny climate change is connected to human activity are the same people who denied tobacco was harmful, and with much overlap with the groups trying to define creationism/intelligent design as being science and that the groups who are anti-vaccine use many of the same tactics. Which is to claim the science needs more data, that the data is too complex and then to attack the messenger when they can’t deny the message.

Attacking the messenger is the signal that the battle is lost, since the evidence is no longer deniable and smear tactics are all that remains to the losing defender.

Tomorrow: Glacier pictures and the denier encounter!

Yours – the crusading coatless Canadian!