|Newt Gingrich: Amateur Paleontologist (really?)
||[Jan. 1st, 2012|09:53 pm]
Hey, I didn't have to make this up. He said it himself while campaigning in Iowa. Why is he sure global warming isn't real? “I’m an amateur paleontologist. I spend a lot of time looking at the Earth’s temperature for a very long time. I’m a lot harder to convince than just looking at a computer model.”
Now right there you have proof of the Newt's mental status: ignorant and confused and not entirely honest.
Although the mental image of the Newt poring over fossils with a hand lens and reading geology books is kind of endearing--there's the little boy, wide-eyed with curiosity about the world--what the Newt actually spends a lot of time doing is sucking up to the rich and right wing, with the aim of getting more power, making speeches, running around the country campaigning, etc. Any knowledge he has of "the Earth's temperature for a very long time" he got from someone else's chart, glanced at quickly.
If the Newt knew anything much about paleontology, he would know that data from paleontology are only part of the data used by climate scientists (a different discipline) to figure out how this planet's climate works. Yes, they're interested in ancient climates, and yes, some of their data are used to illuminate ancient climates...but they are not climate scientists per se, and relying on paleontological data alone for information on what the physics and chemistry of climate are...is stupid. Like relying on a plumber to tell you how nuclear fission works. An amateur plumber at that.
His claim to be an "amateur" paleontologist is laughable in another way. Anyone who's ever gone "Gosh wow!" over a fossil and can tell one fossil from another--or who was a dinosaur enthusiast at some point in their life--can call himself an amateur paleontologist. Presumably, the Newt can tell a dinosaur skeleton from an oyster shell from a petrified tree...(maybe. I'd really like to see him demonstrate some paleontological knowledge...) But most people know that it's only the exceptional amateur anything who's as good at it as the professional anything. Mystery books aside, the neighborhood amateur detectives aren't usually as good as professional ones; many an amateur plumber has to call in the professionals; the accident rate for amateur pilots is higher than for professional ones. So what does this "amateur" actually know about paleontology? Anything really relevant? Or did he just throw out a big long word to impress people he figured wouldn't know any better?
His snide remark about "computer models" is typical of the right, which continues to pretend that global warming exists only in the models rather than--very obviously--in current observations. There's ample data now--current data--but the right don't want it known. (For instance: Rick Perry quashed the part of a report from Texas A&M on the future of the Texas Gulf Coast that indicated how much of the coast would be under water over the next fifty years. Republicans in Congress have refused to let the National Weather Service discuss climate change in ways useful to farmers, fishermen, coastal communities, etc.) I read the original papers in the 1970s and have followed the scientific evidence in those journals (not the popular media) for almost 40 years now. As predicted by the much maligned early computer models after the carbon dioxide hypothesis was published, global warming started bumping out of the "within normal limits" in the early 1990s, and was clearly out of the starting gate by 2001. It doesn't take a computer model to show the retreat of glaciers around the world, the rise in sea level, the increase in ocean temperature, the changes in rainfall patterns, the changes in vegetation (at all latitudes, but very, very obvious in the Arctic), the changes in migration patterns, etc, etc, etc.
So is the Newt really that stupid, or just that greedy for power? Or both? And--more of concern--why the dickens does anyone believe him? Or the others who say the same thing in different words (most of them won't claim to be amateur paleontologists, because their constituencies are opposed to the whole idea of fossil evidence and geologic timespans.)