Lexington meteorologist encourages students to "think for yourself" and reject global warming

>> Thursday, May 21, 2009


Via a Gwenda Bond Twitter comes this gem--a Lexington, Kentucky, meteorologist who visits an area high school and encourages the kids to think for themselves by rejecting the idea of global warming. From his blog:

"We survived the trip into the lion’s den today. Today we went over to Henry Clay High School in Lexington and spoke to almost 50 sophomores about (cue ominous Dracula kind of music) Global Climate Change....

"My mission today was to present some facts (and since it’s history it is facts) about how climate has transpired over the past years, decades, and centuries. We presented reasons why things have likely happened in very long period cycles over time, with the sun’s changes over time a very likely driver of everything climate related. We also talked about how Lexington’s climate has evolved over the last 110 years with 4 out of the top 6 warmest decades being before 1960. Most everything that is happening now has happened before and it will happen again. We talked about research done by some very smart people that disagrees with everything they’ve learned up until today. It’s just not part of the mainstream data stream for whatever reason. My challenge to them was to be skeptical…think for yourself…find your own answers and don’t just depend on what’s been spoon fed to you…not from me or anyone else. Out of everything discussed today, that’s what I truly hope they got from the talk…not necessarily all the facts and figures that I tossed at them and left with them to look over, but just planting the seed to gain more knowledge on their own. Isn’t that what school is all about?"
My favorite part is when he patronizes a girl he thinks was named "Kaira" who challenged his views on global warming:
"My apologies for not getting her name quite rignt (hey I’m getting old…) but Kaira (again forgive me if it’s not quiet right) was especially passionate about the subject and that kind of dedicaiton will serve her well later in life. Though a few of their arguments were ‘green’ in nature regarding deforestation (which we agreed with that tropical deforestation is a bad thing) it has little to do with the real discussion of global warming."
Later he adds:
"Now I only hope these kids are kind to your friendly neighborhood weatherguy on their facebook pages…."
Yeah. Good luck with that.

Glad to know we have experts like this guy visiting our public schools to tell kids the way the world really works. Also, I note the TV station has comments turned off on this guy's blog. Now that's a shame...

-------------------------------------------------

EDIT: Bill Meck, the meteorologist in question, has called me out! From his blog:

I want you to think for yourself…to educate yourself and not just take what’s been spoon fed to you by me or anyone else. I’ve become aware of this little gem out there in blogland. The writer of this has a problem with me (or anyone else) encouraging high school students to actually think for themselves…this is really scary stuff kids…that thinking for yourself is actually bad.

I have a nemesis! Or wait, maybe I'm his nemesis. I guess that works both ways. The "little gem" is, of course, this blog post, which you'll get again in a weirdly self-referential way if you click that link. I had already responded to two of Mr. Meck's defenders in the comments before I thought to go look up his blog and see if that was why people were commenting on a two-month-old post. I'm adding this rebuttal to his blog post, which is really just what I said in the comments. I'd like to point out that I haven't changed my original post about this at all. (Seriously, I have many better things to do than to go back and edit an old blog post.)

The response:

At what point do I argue that kids shouldn't think for themselves? Or that Mr. Meck isn't entitled to his opinion? I just think he's dead wrong, and it pains me to think of him trading on his authority as a meteorologist to argue against the human effect on global warming. Mr. Meck may continue (unfortunately, for the sake of the planet) to keep telling students that the steady, gradual, and alarming rise in surface temperature over the past fifty years is merely a natural cycle until the ice caps melt and Lexington, KY is swallowed by the sea. That's his right. I just hope he knows how to swim.

The reason I included so much of Mr. Meck's "think for yourself" business is not because I disagree with thinking for one's self. It's for exactly the reason both of you [the commenters] have latched onto it here, and not the real argument about global warming. Look at your own comments. Rather than discuss facts, it's, "proponents of global warning don't want you to think for yourself!" [I'd like to point out that this is exactly why Mr. Meck's picking on me too--although he did at least offer a link to a study that supports his opinion.]

"Think for yourself" has in many ways become code for "ignore the science" in arguments like this, as though if we are to accept a predominant scientific theory we aren't thinking for ourselves. It's the same with arguments against evolution. When faced with evidence to the contrary, creationists cry, "think for yourself! Don't believe everything science tells you!" I hear that as the last resort of the desperate--an appeal to our innate desire for individuality. "Don't be like everyone else! Just because everyone else believes it, you don't have to! If enough of us deny it, it won't be true!"

Let's not kid ourselves. Mr. Meck's message that day was not "think for yourself." He had an agenda (which again, is his right) and "think for yourself" was the way he hoped to win followers to a losing cause. When a young girl stood up and told him what she did think for herself, he was as dismissive of her as I am of him. He can't have it both ways. People who accept the facts of mankind's effect on global warming are thinking for themselves--and for everyone else on the planet as well.

I hope kids *do* take his challenge to think for themselves and look up more information about global warming. They will quickly find studies like the one by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--established in part by the World Meteorological Society--which says, "An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." Since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion to this study. That includes the American Meteorological Society, of which I'll bet Mr. Meck is a member. In their opinion, "Human activities have become a major source of environmental change. Of great urgency are the climate consequences of the increasing atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases... Because greenhouse gases continue to increase, we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, the results of which may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems."

Yes, it's a free country; thus, Bill Meck is entitled to every wrong opinion he wants to have. I'm also free to be unhappy about him spreading his head-in-the-sand gospel to Kentucky students.

15 comments:

tanita davis May 22, 2009 at 8:15 AM  

Oh, whoa. Just... whoa. Hard to imagine a meteorologist being quite this vacuous.

jimgottuso May 22, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

i'm in louisville and this is not surprising... this is the bible belt and this dolt is on fox network... what a coincidence. although it is not hard for me to imagine that a meteorologist could be vacuous, they never get the forecast correct. we all might be surprised to find out that the people at the school sought out someone with these viewpoints and weren't surprised by his position at all. i don't know this but have lived here long enough to expect it. remember bush won here twice by margins of 2 to 1 and that was in the two largest cities in the state... in the more rural areas it was and even bigger margin and obama only won in two counties in the state. stop me before i type some more.

Anonymous,  July 20, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

God forbid that someone out that is telling people to think for themselves about this subject. You two should be ashamed for admonshing someone for doing just that. There is a reason we live here in America; all of us allowed to voice our opinions.

Jim, I'm so glad that you live in Louisville and not Lexington because you are very misinformed. This meteorologist works for the NBC affliate in Lexington, not for FOX. As for his accuracy, he is usually very on with his forecast. If you have ever seen him on TV, you would see that Mr. Meck is very enthuastic about and a true student of meteorology.

Jeff Gilbert,  July 20, 2009 at 1:08 PM  

C'mon Alan, now you're attacking my favorite local meteorologist (who is on NBC, not FOX, but let's not let facts get in the way). I agree with anonymous - you're really going to attack someone who's encouraging kids to think for themselves? Really? Seeing as how I received the same secondary and undergraduate education that you did, I am disturbed that you would have a problem with someone encouraging folks to be open-minded in regards to scientific inquiry. That's not what I learned from Ms. J. It's not even what I learned from your dad in eighth grade science class. Or just go ahead and stay on the Animal Farm.....

Tonya,  July 20, 2009 at 2:43 PM  

I love Bill Meck he rocks, the is the best!!!

Alan July 20, 2009 at 3:14 PM  

Wow, three comments in one day on a two-month-old post! Did we get a mention on Mr. Meck's blog, or did someone just discover Google Alerts?

It's good to hear from you, Jeff! Hope you're doing well. To both you and the anonymous commenter: at what point do I argue that kids shouldn't think for themselves? Or that Mr. Meck isn't entitled to his opinion? I just think he's dead wrong, and it pains me to think of him trading on his authority as a meteorologist to argue against the human effect on global warming. Mr. Meck may continue (unfortunately, for the sake of the planet) to keep telling students that the steady, gradual, and alarming rise in surface temperature over the past fifty years is merely a natural cycle until the ice caps melt and Lexington, KY is swallowed by the sea. That's his right. I just hope he knows how to swim.

The reason I included so much of Mr. Meck's "think for yourself" business is not because I disagree with thinking for one's self. It's for exactly the reason both of you have latched onto it here, and not the real argument about global warming. Look at your own comments. Rather than discuss facts, it's, "proponents of global warning don't want you to think for yourself!"

"Think for yourself" has in many ways become code for "ignore the science" in arguments like this, as though if we are to accept a predominant scientific theory we aren't thinking for ourselves. It's the same with arguments against evolution. When faced with evidence to the contrary, creationists cry, "think for yourself! Don't believe everything science tells you!" I hear that as the last resort of the desperate--an appeal to our innate desire for individuality. "Don't be like everyone else! Just because everyone else believes it, you don't have to! If enough of us deny it, it won't be true!"

Let's not kid ourselves. Mr. Meck's message that day was not "think for yourself." He had an agenda (which again, is his right) and "think for yourself" was the way he hoped to win followers to a losing cause. When a young girl stood up and told him what she did think for herself, he was as dismissive of her as I am of him. He can't have it both ways. People who accept the facts of mankind's effect on global warming are thinking for themselves--and for everyone else on the planet as well.

I hope kids *do* take his challenge to think for themselves and look up more information about global warming. They will quickly find studies like the one by the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change--established in part by the World Meteorological Society--which says, "An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." Since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion to this study. That includes the American Meteorological Society, of which I'm bet Mr. Meck is a member. In their opinion, "Human activities have become a major source of environmental change. Of great urgency are the climate consequences of the increasing atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases... Because greenhouse gases continue to increase, we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, the results of which may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems."

Yes, it's a free country; thus, Bill Meck is entitled to every wrong opinion he wants to have. I'm also free to be unhappy about him spreading his head-in-the-sand gospel to Kentucky students.

Brad July 20, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

I have thought for myself, I have dug deep into the science, looked at the history of weather, etc. and Bill Meck is right on!!!Global Warming ended in 1998--get on board with science rather that politics!
Brad

Anonymous,  July 20, 2009 at 7:39 PM  

Global warming IS just a theory, it IS NOT scientific law. There is a BIG difference. Why not consider other possibilities? Just wondering....

Alan July 20, 2009 at 8:07 PM  

@ Anonymous #2: Gravity is just a theory too, but I think I'll stick with it.

Anonymous,  July 20, 2009 at 10:01 PM  

Yes, I stand behind ALL Bill's views on Global Warming, and why? Because I thought for myself, while being fed the Global Warming nonsense, and came to the same conclusions he has... long before starting to read his blog of knowing of his side of the Global Warming issue. Even in High School (I'm now 31) I believed we were warming as a climate, because we were still coming out of an ice age. I also believe we are now leveling off our global temperatures.

Where will everyone stand years from now when we possibly head into another ice age? Don't think it can happen?... Just look back at our climate history!

Anonymous,  July 21, 2009 at 12:15 AM  

Since it was a sweltering 72 degree in Kentucky this weekend with an all time low for July of 52 degrees that evening (which broke a record that had stood since the 20's) - THAT tells me that Global Warming is alive and well.

Jeff Gilbert,  July 21, 2009 at 4:44 PM  

Alan,
I appreciate you leaving the original blog post unedited, as I think it clearly demonstrates the point I made yesterday. I'm very sorry that you are unhappy that Meck is spreading an opinion that you consider wrong. I can only infer that your happiness is dependent on living in a world where everyone agrees with you, or perhaps a world without free speech?

Here is what Meck said in his post:

"My challenge to them was to be skeptical…think for yourself…find your own answers and don’t just depend on what’s been spoon fed to you…not from me or anyone else. Out of everything discussed today, that’s what I truly hope they got from the talk…not necessarily all the facts and figures that I tossed at them and left with them to look over, but just planting the seed to gain more knowledge on their own."

Now can you please explain to me exactly where Meck tells the kids to reject global warming, which is exactly what you accuse him of doing? I've read and re-read this numerous times, and I have yet to find an instance where Meck explicitly states this. Perhaps you can enlighten me further....

Next, you accuse Meck of being "dead wrong" in regards to global warming and then proceed to quote the IPCC. While I admire your literary output to date, I am trying to grasp exactly how a degree in creative writing and English education gives you the climatological authority to simply dismiss anyone with a contrary opinion to the theory (more like hypothesis). You state that there has been a "steady, gradual and alarming rise in surface temperature over the last fifty years." Where? Meck's blog, if you read a little further, has the graph from UAH revealing the satellite data (considered the most reliable method of recording temperature data) from the last 30 years. Global temperatures have risen a grand total of 0 net degrees over the last thirty years. Yep, you read that right. ZERO degrees. Whew, get me some ice.

I'll be happy to discuss additional facts with you ad nauseum. There's plenty more out there.

Even the simple observation of walking outside the past few days can raise questions. 868 low high temperature records and 651 low temperature records were set during the week of July 19'th, all across the United States. Does this disprove global warming? Absolutely not. But it is worth asking : why on earth would we be setting all these record low temperatures during the hottest time of the year if the earth is headed towards a warming Armageddon? I'm not rushing out to buy a life jacket anytime soon. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a lot of global warming adherents and their religious zeal are going to come out looking pretty silly over the next decade or two. Meck even has James Hansen's own graph from the 1980's listed, but is anyone in the media currently holding him accountable for the dramatic disparity between his predictions and the reality of OBSERVED science?

Unfortunately, science is political. Always has been, always will. Perhaps you recall reading The Double Helix in Ms. J's biology class? It's an excellent example of how the pursuit of science is doggedly tainted with human competition and pursuits of fame. Let's not leave out greed either, as the rat race for grant money can attest.

Al Gore claims the science is settled. Are you going to trust a politician, or anyone else with a clear vested interest, to tell you the science is settled? You might as well be getting your information from the oil companies; they carry the same amount of credibility. Give me a break. If you paid any attention at all in science class, you should realize that science is NEVER settled. Tell that to Galileo, tell that to Einstein. The moment you stop asking the questions is the moment the science dies. Unfortunately, you can keep on living - as a drone. The last resort of the desperate indeed - you sound like the medieval Catholic church.

Alan July 21, 2009 at 6:10 PM  

Hi Jeff -

You're clearly very angry about this. I'm sorry.

I'm also sorry that you don't read Mr. Meck's blog post the same way I do. He says right up front, "My mission today was to present some facts (and since it’s history it is facts) about how climate has transpired over the past years, decades, and centuries. We presented reasons why things have likely happened in very long period cycles over time, with the sun’s changes over time a very likely driver of everything climate related.... Most everything that is happening now has happened before and it will happen again. We talked about research done by some very smart people that disagrees with everything they’ve learned up until today." That's the attitude he came in with: the information I'm presenting goes against everything you've learned, by which he means the argument for global warming. He specifically says: it's the sun that's caused this, not us. He's made his position very clear on this here and in other blog posts, so it's no mystery.

He came in with his argument: reject what you've been taught. Think for yourself. Accept the numbers I'm giving you. If his message is really think for yourself, don't believe what I or anyone else tells you, then why is he so against people who have read about climate change and formed an opposite opinion? Why do climate change opponents assume I've blindly accepted what the majority has told me? Now we're back to the "global warming advocates don't want you to think for yourself" argument.

And yes, I do think the world would be a better place if everyone agreed with me. And I wish it were so. I think most people, if they answered honestly, would say that. Wouldn't you rather everyone agreed with your position on climate change? It certainly seems so. I have opinions on many things (as I'm sure you do too), and I wish more people shared them. But I realize everyone is entitled to their opinions. While I wish everyone agreed with me, I know they won't. And I'm not arguing Bill Meck should be banned from schools, or that kids shouldn't think for themselves. Why does me being unhappy with what he says mean I'm against free speech? Aren't I just as free to be unhappy about what he says as you are to be unhappy about what I say? Accusing me of being against free speech or against kids thinking for themselves is silly. I could even delete dissenting opinions from my blog comments, but I won't do that.

[Continued in next comment--Blogger won't let comments be more than 4,096 characters long!]

Alan July 21, 2009 at 6:10 PM  

@ Jeff, part II:

And I appreciate your concern for my happiness, but I can assure you very few of my opinions cause me minute-to-minute grief. Yes, it pains me to think that our planet may be ruined for future generations due to our negligence, and I do small things in my life to try to help change that, but it hasn't made me into a zealot. I still turn on my car's air conditioner when it's hot out.

And I suppose it was only a matter of time before the "what makes a guy with a creative writing degree any kind of expert on global warming?" comment came up. Are you a climatologist? A meteorologist? You certainly have opinions on this too. Why do I have to have a degree in something to have an opinion on it? No, I'm not a meteorologist, nor do I play one on TV. Which is why I rely on people with far more experience with these things--like the UN's IPCC--to do the scientific thinking for me. I'm certainly no scientist--but when dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific organizations come to the same conclusion, I listen. It's from those reports that I got the information about the rise in surface temperature over the last 50 years. I followed the other link in Mr. Meck's recent blog where he called me out, and I looked at that data as well. I understand that two different measuring devices have presented conflicting data, so I understand his defense of his position. But I have to assume that the scientific organizations who put together the reports that confirm global warming also have access to that data--and I don't hear any of them recanting their positions. If they do, I'll listen--because again, they know far more about this than I do.

And please--do not bring me the "When I step outside it's cool for summer. Take THAT global warming!" argument. The climate studies that matter focus on decades, centuries, millennia of temperature variations. I'm sure there were some wonderfully balmy days during the Ice Age as well, but that didn't change the fact that it was still the Ice Age. Frankly, it surprised me to read a similar argument on Mr. Meck's recent blog. He of all people should know that a nice day here or there--even a stretch of them--are a drop in the bucket of overall temperature patterns.

I will be happy if, twenty or fifty years from now, global warming has proved to be nonsense. I will flush red with embarrassment, shake my head in shame, and have a good laugh at myself. I'm not above that. And I won't just be happy, I'll be thrilled, because it will mean that we're not ruining the future of our planet. But really, isn't it better to hedge our bets? Isn't it worth the inconvenience now to guarantee, one way or the other, that the world isn't irreparably ruined for humans? This of course is where the politics come in. It costs money to be cautious. It limits industry, and makes things inconvenient for end users. For me, that's a trade I'm willing to make, even if fifty years from now it all turns out to be a lark.

All the best - Alan

Jeff Gilbert,  July 22, 2009 at 12:50 AM  

Alan,

I'm not mad, just currently unemployed. I'll try to respond tomorrow. Thanks.

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