Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Science and Ideology: A Response

Clarion’s 29 January 2010 issue features an editorial by Dr. Van Dam, professor of Old Testament at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary, entitled “Science and Ideology” (v. 59, n. 3, pp. 54-56) [online here]. He suggests that in the areas of global warming and the dinosaur dating there is more pushing of ideology than science. Rick Baartman (a world-renowned physicist at TRIUMF in Vancouver, Fellow of the American Physical Society, long time member of the Surrey Canadian Reformed church, of the Brazil Mission Board, and of the board of the Geneva Society for Reformational Worldview Studies at Trinity Western University) has carefully examined the physics of global warming. Last year, he wrote a primer on the topic for Reformed Academic (17 August 2009). Given his study of the science, he identified a number of serious problems with Van Dam’s approach, and sought to have these corrected by writing a Letter to the Editor of Clarion. The letter was rejected. It is a pity that an excellent opportunity to set the record straight was denied.

And so Reformed Academic is publishing Baartman’s response, in an extended form adapted for a wider audience. It demonstrates not only significant misunderstandings by Van Dam, but also his unfortunate dependence upon minority views and the popular ideas surrounding the so-called “Climategate.” Baartman’s analysis suggests that ideology, scientific dishonesty, and data cherry-picking are more likely found among those who deny global warming than in the mainstream. The article is provided in our “Collected Papers.” (Direct links: PDF | HTML; the latter may be most convenient in terms of following the links to other sources.)

One of the reasons given for the rejection of Baartman’s original letter was that it was considered too long; it was suggested that technical points should be removed. However, when writing about science, the technical points are essential, and so we agree with Baartman that removing technical points was not a satisfactory solution.

As with other issues, we at Reformed Academic do not have any desire to promote global warming science or to simply accept what secular science has to say. Neither do we have any joy in pointing out the scientific errors of our theological and ecclesiastical leaders.

In this particular case, Baartman’s conclusion is that Van Dam’s editorial “is based partly upon a misunderstanding of the phrase ‘statistically significant,’ and partly upon dishonest information from non-expert sceptics. As well, the editorial, taking both parts together, is self-inconsistent. Moreover, it contains uncharitable allegations against the experts, and these have been found to be incorrect.” Read the paper in full for the details: PDF | HTML.