Naomi Oreskes’s talk on ‘Merchants of Doubt’ at BYU

Recently Naomi Oreskes historian of science and author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming talked at at the Kennedy Center as part of a special series of talks sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and BYU’s Environmental Ethics Initiative (which I’m . . . → Read More: Naomi Oreskes’s talk on ‘Merchants of Doubt’ at BYU

Our Relationship With Serpents: Guest Post by Dusty Rhoads

It is my pleasure to introduce our guest blogger Dusty Rhoads! Dusty Rhoads is a Brigham Young University graduate, a herpetologist, and is the author of the book, The Complete Suboc (ECO Herpetological Publishing, 2008), which covers all North American ratsnake species west of the Pecos River. Dusty is currently pursuing his PhD in Biology at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) studying the evolution, ecology, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians.


“Shouts would then pass from camp to camp, “Khabar dar, bhaieon, shaitan ata!” (“Beware, brothers, the devil is coming!”), but the warning cries would prove of no avail, and sooner or later agonizing shrieks would break the silence, and another man would be missing from roll-call next morning.”

— from The Man-Eaters of Tsavo (JH Patterson, 1907)


In March, 1898, two male African Lions (Panthera leo) with an unsavory penchant for man-flesh terrorized the workers of the Uganda Railway camped in Tsavo, Kenya and brought the construction of the railroad to a halt for nearly a month. Continue reading Our Relationship With Serpents: Guest Post by Dusty Rhoads

Why Science Matters

It turns out that getting the science right matters. We live in a wondrous age in which a breathtaking understanding of our universe is possible. We understand the nature of life though DNA and how structures arise though protein construction during embryonic development. We are discovering possibly inhabitable worlds at distances measured in light years. We have mapped the interior of our own planet and explored its oceans from deep under its waters and scanned them from above with orbiting satellites. This is not to say that science will answer all our questions, or provide all sources of value in all areas of meaning. But ignore it at your peril. Continue reading Why Science Matters

The myth of global cooling

A friend asked me how I was going to feel when I discovered that anthropogenic climate change (ACC) was not real, when science was proved wrong. Continue reading The myth of global cooling

Ecology and Economics: Betting against science

Everything living depends on ecology. The planet’s hydrologic cycles provide the water that we use for agriculture and industry. Everything you’ve eaten today depended upon soil ecologies, the carbon cycle–driven largely by photosynthesis, insects, and countless other ecosystem processes. Consider, for example, the things made of wood around you right now. Continue reading Ecology and Economics: Betting against science

Bye, Bye Sponge Bob: Ocean Acidification

Oceans are acidifying, due to an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, (for details see this site by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)). We can see this right now from multiple studies. This does not mean that the oceans are actually becoming acidic (which would mean that pH had fallen below 7), but rather that they are becoming less alkaline, moving from a pH of 8.2 to 8.1. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s huge if you are an ocean dwelling creature. Continue reading Bye, Bye Sponge Bob: Ocean Acidification

Goodbye Alaotra grebe, it was nice knowing you

Alas, the Alaotra grebe has gone extinct. Scientists (including me) have not seen extinctions on this scale since the dinosaurs disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous.

It joins a rather heartbreaking list.

Here is a list of some bird extinctions since about 1500. Continue reading Goodbye Alaotra grebe, it was nice knowing you

BYU herpetologist documents declining lizard populations due to climate change

BYU’s own Jack Sites has for over thirty years documented the decline of lizards due to climate change. Check out the recent paper he coauthored in Science and the write-up and video at BYU.

Another example in the overwhelming landslide of peer reviewed published papers documenting worldwide ecological collapse due to anthropogenic induced . . . → Read More: BYU herpetologist documents declining lizard populations due to climate change

The models of climate change

I just returned from the MS4 conference. It is the fourth year that a group of philosophers of science have gathered to try to tease apart the implications of computer simulation in science. My interest in computer simulation is in its uses in ecology (see the abstract for my paper if you are interested), but for me, some of the most captivating work of this kind is being done on climate models, in which simulation is used to try to sort out the implications of our warming planet. Philosophers try to pick out what science is doing, it examines its assumptions and attempts to cut the lines of demarcation between what is good and bad science. Science studies the world, philosophers study the science. Sort of like judicial review in laws (don’t take this too far, scientists hardly ever pay attention to what philosophers are saying). Continue reading The models of climate change

The Flesh Flies of Climate Change

I just returned from Bali. A large island in Indonesia just below the equator. It seemed like the perfect place to talk about large flies that either, (a) lay their eggs in the wounds of animals or that (b) transfer diseases when the flies take a blood meal (like the tsetse fly that I work on!). Nothing like a tropical paradise to send your mind thinking about flesh eating flies, heh? The two just seem to go together naturally. Most of the researchers are on-the-ground field entomologists, geneticists or GIS specialists. They came from many parts of the world: Iraq, Brazil, Yemen, Indonesia, Kenya, France, Ethiopia, Austria, Australia, UK and me, USA. We all gave presentations and, no surprise, climate change (CC) was the topic of conversation in many of the presented field studies. The climate change deniers keep picking at supposed anomalies in climate temperature readings and ignore the great swaths of other supporting data. But temperature measurements themselves (which all show global warming) aren’t the only story, there is stunning data showing drastic changes on the ground in real ecological systems. Continue reading The Flesh Flies of Climate Change