Could abrupt climate change lead to human extinction within 10 years?

http://www.straight.com/news/868051/could-abrupt-climate-change-lead-human-extinction-within-10-20-years

  • null
2 of 2
  • There’s been a dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice in recent years, which could trigger nonlinear climate change.NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

One of the world’s most outspoken climate-change Cassandras is U.S. conservation biologist Guy McPherson.

A professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, he’s warned that sharply rising methane emissions are going to create a catastrophe in our lifetimes.

McPherson, author of Going Dark, has even predicted the near-term extinction of many species, including human beings, by the middle of 2026.

It’s because of something called abrupt climate change, also known as nonlinear climate change.

This results when feedback loops caused by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels cause the climate system to rapidly transition to a different mode, occurring on a scale that human or natural systems cannot adapt to.

In the first two decades after methane is released into the atmosphere, it’s about 85 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide.

Large amounts of methane are stored in “clathrates”, which are chemical substances along the Arctic continental shelves storing methane molecules.

McPherson and coauthor Carolyn Baker addressed this in their 2014 book, Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind.

On his website, McPherson criticizes scientists, who know about this problem, for not doing nearly enough to educate the public. He also blames politicians and the leaders of corporations and nongovernmental organizations for not raising the alarm.

“Worse than the aforementioned trolls are the media,” MacPherson writes. “Fully captured by corporations and the corporate states, the media continue to dance around the issue of climate change. Occasionally a forthright piece is published, but it generally points in the wrong direction, such as suggesting climate scientists and activists be killed (e.g., James Delingpole’s 7 April 2013 hate-filled article in the Telegraph). Leading mainstream outlets routinely mislead the public.”Author and former professor Guy McPherson fears that methane releases could lead to the demise of humankind.

Writer says jet stream changes are having an effect

A recent post on the Arctic News blog by its editor, Sam Carana, has even declared that human extinction could occur within a decade. Carana cites “the decreasing difference in temperature between the Equator and the North Pole causes changes to the jet stream, in turn causing warmer air and warmer water to get pushed from the North Atlantic into the Arctic”.

“Warmer water flowing into the Arctic Ocean in turn increases the strength of further feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic,” Carana writes. “Altogether, these feedbacks and further warming elements could trigger a huge abrupt rise in global temperature making that extinction of many species, including humans, could be less than one decade away.”

At the root of this extinction prediction is methane, which is being released from sea floors along continental shelves in the Arctic as a result of melting ice.

The Counterpunch website has an article by Dave Lindroff explaining how this could rapidly increase the average global temperature by three degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.

Lindroff suggests this would be “enough to actually reverse the carbon cycle, so that plants would end up releasing more carbon into the atmosphere rather than absorbing it”.

This is what abrupt climate change looks like.

McPherson has maintained that abrupt climate change could even result in the average global temperature soon rising four degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times. Many scientists warn that increases of just two degrees will cause enormous havoc; four degrees is unfathomable.

“As we’ve known for years, scientists almost invariably underplay climate impacts (James Hansen referred to the phenomenon at “scientific reticence” in his 24 May 2007 paper about sea-level rise in Environmental Research Letters,” McPherson writes on his website. “And in some cases, scientists are aggressively muzzled by their governments.”

McPherson challenged by science blogger

Not everyone subscribes to McPherson’s views.

Geoscience educator Scott K. Johnson maintains on his blog that McPherson has falsely interpreted data that doesn’t indicate an exponentially growing release of methane from the East Siberia arctic shelf.

Actual measurements of methane in the atmosphere don’t show any such sudden, accelerating spike, and climate scientists don’t believe anything like this ‘clathrate gun’ scenario is underway,” Johnson writes.

He adds that methane levels are always higher above the Arctic, which is why global averages are what scientists rely on.

“So when McPherson claims that ‘the clathrate gun has fired‘, he does so without any evidence whatsoever,” Johnson insists. “Rather, he relies on elementary mistakes made by a blogger who doesn’t appear to understand the science. Not data. And not published research. Not only do climate scientists not think that such a thing is underway, most don’t think it’s likely to be a worry this century.”

McPherson has fired back on his blog, accusing Johnson of being paid to produce evidence that backs the status quo, clinging to preconceptions, and ignoring the work of legitimate scientists.

Johnson retorted on his blog that McPherson “is aware of my criticism of his argument, but has declined to consider the problems I pointed out (instead choosing to accuse me of being paid to disagree with him, which would be news to my bank account)”.

Late last year, the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center reported that the extent of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reached record lows in 2016 for the month of November.

Both areas were tracking two standard deviations from the norm for that time of year.

Clearly, something terribly wrong is taking place in these areas, as well as in Greenland, where ice is melting more quickly than previously forecast.

If it’s an indication of abrupt climate change, we will all have to be prepared to rethink our futures.

Arizona Professor: Forget Climate, Humans “Don’t Have 10 Years”

Watts Up With That?

asteroid-impact

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Professor-emeritus Guy McPherson of University of Arizona, speaking in New Zealand, thinks we don’t have to worry about climate change, because the “6th mass extinction” will finish us all off in the next 10 years.

Humans ‘don’t have 10 years’ left thanks to climate change – scientist

There’s no point trying to fight climate change – we’ll all be dead in the next decade and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, a visiting scientist claims.

Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona, says the human destruction of our own habitat is leading towards the world’s sixth mass extinction.

Instead of fighting, he says we should just embrace it and live life while we can.

“It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” he told Paul Henry on…

View original post 138 more words

Bill Would Allow Killing Of Bears And Wolves Again On Alaska Wildlife Refuges

Prof’s prediction – human extinction in 10 years

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/article.cfm?c_id=16&objectid=11756300

By Simon Waters

STEADFAST: Guy McPherson ... humanity will become extinct within a decade.
STEADFAST: Guy McPherson … humanity will become extinct within a decade.

He’s been labelled a crackpot and has received plenty of hate mail.

But retired professor Guy McPherson stands by his controversial claims that humans will cease to exist within 10 years.

He explains his reasoning at a free public lecture in Whanganui on Thursday. The talk, Abrupt Climate Change, takes place at the Davis Lecture Theatre starting at 6pm.

Mr McPherson is a retired professor of conservation biology from the University of Arizona.

He blames climate change and the impacts already unleashed by human activity for his extreme prophecy. And it’s too late to change the apocalypse that is to come, he says.

“I can’t see humans existing within 10 years. We can do nothing to stop the planet becoming too hot to grow food and support life. It is already happening and we have less than a decade left.”

Starvation, dehydration, disease, and exposure will lead the way, he said.

Mr McPherson is out of step with mainstream climate science. Although it is widely accepted that unchecked climate change could threaten the human species at some point in time, most scientists say switching from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy will save the worst impacts and enable humanity to survive.

Professor James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University, agrees that climate change is possibly the “biggest issue humanity has ever faced”, but adds “though certainly humans won’t all die off in 10 years or even 1000 years.”

Mr McPherson cites scientific data including tipping points, positive feedback systems and exponential growth to back up his claims.

“Other scientists are specialists. They focus on a narrow topic. They do not consider the entire Earth system in their work,” Mr McPherson said.

“Climate change and its impacts are here. Expect superstorms, extreme heat, high humidity, and increased spread of deadly diseases. Plants and non-human animals will die in ever-larger numbers. Civilisation will fail, leading to greatly exacerbated impacts.”

Mr McPherson said he was not concerned that his message might alarm or distress people. “I’m a teacher. I relay evidence. I cite science. I’m not relying on a belief system.”

He says he has been labelled an extremist and worse, and regularly receives hate mail.

“I’ve been accused of many things, extremist included. I’m merely connecting a few dots based on the work of other scientists. In a culture characterised by willful ignorance and the inability to think critically, these accusations are to be expected.”

He said many people were liberated by his message. “Knowing they’ve been subjected to lies, they appreciate the truth and they act as if time is short.”

Wanganui Chronicle

Mexican gray wolf population bounces back in Southwest

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/17/mexican-gray-wolf-population-bounces-back-southwest/98078884/

PHOENIX — Endangered Mexican gray wolves rebounded from a deadly 2015 to reach a population of 113 in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico last year, the most since the species returned to the wild almost 20 years ago, federal and state biologists announced Friday.

The population of wolves, first reintroduced from captive breeding into the two states in 1998, had grown by fits and starts to 110 two years ago before dropping back to 97 at the end of 2015. Unsolved illegal shootings contributed to the losses, and officials said that year also saw lower pup survival.

Last year was different, according to winter ground and aerial surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partner wildlife agencies in the two states. Fifty wild-born pups survived the year, compared with just 23 in 2015.

At least 63 wolves roamed the forests of eastern Arizona as of January, the agencies reported.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, but these 2016 results demonstrate we are still not out of the woods with this experimental population,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle said in a news release.

The year’s positive numbers didn’t sway wolf advocates, who say the population needs a major infusion of new blood with new releases of captive wolves.

Arizona has favored placing captive-born pups with wild packs in the state lately, instead of releasing pairs to form new packs. The tactic remains risky, Robinson said, as the annual census shows only three of six wolves fostered in this manner apparently survived last year.

New Mexico, meanwhile, has secured a court injunction barring new releases into that state for the time being.

Both states face pressure from ranchers and deer and elk hunters to limit potential wolf predations.

“New Mexico is paving a path that could lead to Mexican gray wolf extinction,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Releases are crucial to increase lobo numbers and improve their genetic diversity in the wild.

“We need more wolves and less politics.”

Arizona expects the survival of wild-born pups to help sustain last year’s growth rate, said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest of gray wolf subspecies and is somewhat smaller than its northern cousins. It was hunted into near extinction with U.S. government help in the past century before a captive breeding program began with the last seven survivors in the 1970s.

Mexico also has re-established a small population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long struggled to produce a recovery plan that would lay out a population goal and the means to get there, but it is due to release one this fall.

Tom Regan, Pioneer Animal Rights Philosopher Died February 17 But His Work & Influence Endure

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

“My tribute to philosopher Tom Regan, who wrote The Case For Animal Rights,
and*
*who died on February 17, 2017 after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease, is
a*
*slightly expanded version of the Comment I posted yesterday morning to
Merritt*
*Clifton’s beautifully composed obituary for Tom in Animals 24-7 which you
can*
*read here: Tom Regan, 78, made the case for animal rights
<http://www.animals24-7.org/2017/02/18/tom-regan-78-made-the-case-for-animal-rights>.*

Thank you Merritt Clifton for your informative tribute to animal rights
philosopher Tom Regan, whom I met in the early 1980s right around the time
that
his book *The Case For Animal Rights* was published in 1983. Since that
book was
more academic than Peter Singer’s *Animal Liberation*, published in 1975,
was, it
probably was more dipped into by activists than read cover to cover. But
Regan
transcended Singer by arguing that nonhuman animals have not only
“interests”
but RIGHTS and INHERENT VALUE. Sentient beings, in his famous phrase, are
Subjects-of-a-Life in the sense that “their experiential life fares well or
ill
for them, logically independently of their utility for others and logically
independently of their being the object of anyone else’s interests.”

Accordingly, he wrote that nonhuman animals “have a distinctive kind of
value
– inherent value – and are not to be viewed or treated as mere
receptacles,” a
point he stressed at length in *The Case For Animal Rights* and throughout
his
career.

In later years, Regan criticized Singer’s acquiescence in scientific
experiments
on nonhuman animals if the experiments were claimed by the experimenters to
have
a potential to save more HUMAN lives or to mitigate more HUMAN diseases.
Regan
challenged the media’s reflexive reference to Singer as the “father of
animal
rights” which, he said in a discussion about making monkeys suffer for human
benefit, is not so. He wrote: “The Peter Singer interviewed on the BBC2
program
does not believe that nonhuman animals have basic moral rights. As early as
1978, three years after the publication of Animal Liberation, he explicitly
disavowed this belief.” (Tom Regan Replies to Peter Singer
<http://animalfreedom.org/english/column/peter_singer.html>)

Tom Regan in his work following *The Case For Animal Rights* evinced a
lyrical
gift, writing expressively and movingly about animals and about his own
early
life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and his evolution from being an avid
boyhood
fisherman and meat eater to becoming a passionate vegan advocate for
animals and
animal rights.

A True Pioneer

Tom Regan is a true pioneer of the Animal Rights Movement. He laid
philosophical
groundwork even for those who may not now know him as well as they should
and, I
hope, will. Regan had an emotional and artistic sensibility which he
combined
with his academic polemics to produce powerful speaking and writing for
animals
and animal rights.

I attended his outdoor presentations in the 1980s and later, where he said
of
the Establishment versus himself: “They say we’re EXTREMISTS for caring
about
animals! I AM an EXTREMIST. I am EXTREMELY against animal abuse, and I am
against it All the Time!”

This is a paraphrase of a speech I heard him give one year. It was
passionate
and fiery and interesting too when you compare that oratory with his
earliest
foray into animal rights in a clip from The Animals Film
<http://www.theanimalsfilm.com> where he appears
reading from a paper with his head down, but delivering words that echo in
all
of us who are working for animals and animal rights to this day and always
will.

I am eternally grateful to Professor Tom Regan for his establishment, in
philosophy and the arts, of the case for animal rights. And I am honored by
his
kind words of appreciation for my own animal rights work through United
Poultry
Concerns in his 2013 Interview with the Eugene Veg Education Network, which
you
can – and must! – read here:

Eugene Veg Education Network Interview with Tom Regan
<http://www.eugeneveg.org/pdf/Interviews/Interview-Tom_Regan.pdf>

Captain Paul Watson’s Sunday Sermon

 By Captain Paul Watson

I have family and friends who are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Wiccans and even a few Scientologists and Mormons.

I have family and friends who are Conservatives, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Socialist, Communists, Anarchists and even a couple of Nihilists and possibly a Fascist or two.

I have family and friends from places flying hundreds of different flags and speaking hundreds of different languages.

I have family and friends who are wealthy, middle class, poor and homeless.

I have family and friends who are vegan, vegetarian and omnivore and possibly a couple of breatharians or so they say.

Some people have faith in anthropocentric fantasies, others have faith in science.

I have no problem with what people believe in or don’t believe in.

My concern is what connects us all and that is water. All of us without exception are citizens of this water planet – the Planet Ocean.

All of us owe our existence to the Ocean and the one great truth in my life is a simple one and that is; If the Ocean dies we all die!

It does not matter what you believe, it does not matter what your politics are. We are all united by the fact that if phytoplankton is diminished, we are all diminished. If forests are diminished we are all diminished and if biodiversity is diminished, we are all diminished.

Ecology has no politics, nationality, nor religion.

Since 1950 we have seen a 40% diminishment in phytoplankton mass in the world’s seas. Phytoplankton produce most of the oxygen that we depend upon for our collective survival.

How many people are aware of this? Sadly very few.

How many people even care? Again sadly very few.

Each of us are on average 65% water. This water passes into and out of our bodies beinging nutrients and removing waste from every single cell.

So if someone is 100 kilos, 65 kilos of what we are is H2O.
Of the remaining 35%, only about half is composed of human body cells. The other half is composed of trillions of cells from up to 10,000 species of bacteria.

In other words there is no such thing as an individual human being. We are all symbionts – a large complex mobile community of species of bacteria and fungi, and these species are interdependent. Bacteria cleans our skin, manufactures vitamins in our body, digests our food and perform numerous functions required to keep us alive.

This interdependence has allowed us to survive on this planet for tens of thousands of years. If an alien life form were to arrive here without a protective suit, it would quickly die because of the bacteria that we have evolved to co-exist with.

Kill off enough microflora in the body and we die. We exist because bacteria exist.

Every living thing from bacteria to the great whales is interdependent. The first law of ecology is diversity, the second is interdependence and the third is the law of finite resources. Lack of resources caused by over population of one species diminishes diversity in other species and thus diminishes biodiversity.

I have often been criticized for saying that worms, bees, trees and plankton are more important than human beings. However the truth is that these species can live without us but we cannot live without them. We need them and they don’t need us. Some species are more important than other depending on how they contribute to the collective life support system. Phytoplankton produces oxygen, trees absorb carbon dioxide, bees pollinate plants and worms keep the soil healthy.

When people ask me what my politics are, my answer is biocentrism and the laws of ecology.

When people ask me what my religious beliefs are, my answer is biocentrism and the laws of ecology.

I am a symbiotic self-aware mobile community of human and bacterial cells living within an Oceanic eco-system on the Planet Ocean.

We tend to view the sea as the Ocean. However the sea is only a part of the Ocean. The Ocean is water and it is in the sea, in the atmosphere, under the soil, deep in the rocks , locked up in ice and it flows through every cell of every plant and animal on the planet. It is water in constant circulation, pumped by the sun, circulated in rain, rivers, streams etc, and cleansed by estuaries, condensation, marshes and wetlands.

Everything connected by the one most important element composed of two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule oxygen connected so tightly and so intimately that all water is essentially one molecule.

We humans are here for the following reason:

1. Because of the sun. The sun is energy. Plants eat sunlight and animals eat plants.
2. Because of water. Water is life.
3. Because of the evolution of bio-diversity. The machinery of life.
4. Because of phytoplankton and trees to provide oxygen.
5. Because of phytoplankton, trees and plants absorbing carbon dioxide.
6. Because life is dictated by the natural laws of ecology.
7. Because 65.2 million years ago, an asteroid slammed into our planet ending the age of dinosaurs and laying the foundation for the evolution of mammals and the evolvement of primates into hominids. Without that asteroid there would still be life on this planet, just not life as we know it.

We are part of the Continuum – the flow of life.

The energy within us is eternal. The water within us is eternal. That which we think and believe we are – our consciousness is ephemeral.

 Image may contain: text

Decent Quote from the Descent of Man

Exposing the Big Game

This quote from Darwin’s The Descent of Man appears at the beginning of Carl Sagan’s bestselling book, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.

“The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly-organized form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many persons. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely marked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed in excitement, and their expression was wild, startled and distrustful. They possess hardly any arts, and, like wild animals, lived on what they could catch; they had…

View original post 296 more words

Charles Darwin Would See Right Through Mike Pence

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/18/charles-darwin-would-see-right-through-mike-pence.html

The vice president dodges the question of whether he believes in evolution but he has his own version of intelligent design as he rides the wave of a new kind of ignorance.

by CLIVE IRVING

02.17.17

One of the first priorities of demagoguery is the fostering of ignorance. Lies require collaboration from those who are being lied to, and for a propaganda machine to be effective it needs a special kind of public ignorance.

This can happen in societies that otherwise seem to be sophisticated and highly advanced scientifically. Invariably the case of Germany in the early 1930s is cited as proof. That, however, carries the danger of false analogies and misses what is immediate and novel. Propaganda and the nurturing of ignorance have moved on apace since the Nazis and Joseph Goebbels.

The Trump White House is demonstrating in its own innovative ways just how far habitual lying can clear the way for the triumph of ideology over truth. This can’t be simplified by charging Trump himself with being a pathological liar. His administration has invented a new and distinctly American propaganda machine that is built on lies. But not enough attention has been given to its willing partner in this exercise: a carefully nurtured kind of public ignorance that it can exploit.

One reason this isn’t being discussed is that politicians are rightly wary of insulting any constituency by calling it ignorant. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” was a disastrously patronizing misjudgment. But in the context of the Age of Trump, ignorance is not actually a pejorative term, it’s a description of a set of beliefs in which knowledge and truth are less persuasive than prejudice and fear.

This process began long before Trump decided to run. Years of talk radio diatribes fueled by Obama-phobia and Fox News harangues prepared the soil and then Breitbart, the alt-right, and fake news softened it further. Trump understood this better than anyone and harvested its fruits.

In fact, the bedrock beneath this process was much older and a uniquely American phenomenon, a widespread consensual ignorance. There is a strain of dogmatic religious activism here that does not exist to anything like the same extent in other advanced democracies. It uses religion—or misuses religion—to resist or rollback changes in social behavior and to suggest who the alien “other” should be.

This consensual ignorance involves accepting a set of ordained beliefs while at the same time rejecting others that are not ordained, no matter whether they are based on facts. What begins as a theological system easily slips into a secular one: the habit of denying what is an inconvenient truth or of simplifying a complex exterior world into stereotypical threats.

This is not the ignorance of unlearned knowledge—it’s more potent than that. It’s a tutored ignorance, and in its most basic form it’s anti-scientific.

And that is why the present and future influence of Vice President Mike Pence needs to get close attention.

“The Bible tells us that God created man in His own image, male and female; He created them,” Pence has said. “And I believe that God created the known universe, the Earth, and everything in it including man, and I also believe that some day, scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides an even remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

Pence also argued that evolution should not be taught in schools without a parallel commentary of Biblical explanations as being equally valid.

With Pence in the White House it could be that control of the most scientifically advanced country in the world has now fallen into the hands of people to whom science is an enemy. The EPA’s website has already been purged of any references to Obama’s climate action plan and carbon pollution as a cause of climate change. Universities across the nation have teams working to safeguard masses of government data that contradicts White House dogma before it, too, is wiped.

That’s why this is a good moment to consult the man who, more than any other, had to struggle with how to argue that the advance of science was not a threat to the Christian faith, Charles Darwin.

The idea that when Darwin published On The Origin of Species in 1859 he provoked outrage from Biblical literalists is nonsense. Victorian Britain was a scientific powerhouse, science teaching was a key part of the drive toward universal public education and one branch of science in particular, paleontology, was assembling through the evidence of fossils a picture of the Earth’s evolution that already made the idea that our planet was only 6,000 years old risible. In the introduction to his book Darwin reviewed the work of 34 scientists who had paved the way for his breakthrough theory of natural selection.

Nonetheless the popular press took the opportunity to stir up a circulation-building debate between two sides cast as the sacred and profane. Cartoons appeared in which Darwin was half-man and half-ape, even though his revelatory theory, the tree of life, was more about the evolution of butterflies than about homo sapiens.

Darwin was very careful to accept why Victorians might have problems grasping the scale of what he had revealed.

“The belief that species were immutable productions was almost unavoidable as long as the history of the world was thought to be of short duration… the chief cause of our natural willingness to admit that one species has given birth to clear and distinct species is that we are always slow in admitting great changes of which we do not see the steps.”

After the first edition of On The Origin of Species had been subjected to review by his peers and publicly debated, Darwin incorporated some of the responses in later editions. One clergyman, Charles Kingsley, spoke for many who had no problem reconciling Darwin’s science with the work of the Creator. Darwin wrote of Kingsley: “he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Diety to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.”

Darwin himself was an agnostic. Whether he actually believed that the hidden architecture of life that he had described for the first time had divine origin doesn’t really matter. He was not a dogmatic scientist. He was open-minded and prepared to concede to those like Kingsley if they were not dogmatists and were comfortable that their own beliefs were not under threat—and recognized that science was an engine of social progress.

Darwin recalled that Sir Isaac Newton had been attacked for “the greatest discovery ever made by man, namely, the law of the attraction of gravity” by people who saw it as subversive of religion. Darwin himself was the beneficiary of a long-established British tolerance for unsettling scientific ideas. Science had not yet locked itself into the confines of a profession with its own hierarchy. From Newton onwards there were as many gentlemen amateurs probing for scientific truths as there were vocational scientists at work in England—and some of them were clergymen.

All of which makes it strange that anyone today would think it reasonable to persist, as Pence does, with the idea of “intelligent design.” Indeed, Darwin saw that idea coming and dealt with it dismissively: “It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the ‘plan of creation’ ‘unity of design’ etc and to think that we give an explanation when we only re-state a fact.”

All along, Pence has been very careful not to make a specific denial of evolution. His classic evasion came in a 2009 interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC:

Matthews: “Do you believe in evolution, sir?”

Pence: “I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that’s in them.”

Matthews: “But do you believe in evolution as the way he did it?”

Pence: “The means, Chris, that He used to do that, I can’t say.”

That’s what intellectual cowardice sounds like as a politician dances within the boundaries of his base, and it becomes much more consequential now that that man is at the heart of White House policy making—Pence is the essential conduit between Trump and the agenda of Congressional Republicans. He is also the quiet agent of the religious right, supported by fellow believer Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

This movement may sail under religious colors but its agenda reflects the way that religion has become a euphemism for atavism. Buried within the code of “Make America Great Again” there was always the promise of restoring a repressive social order.

When so-called fundamentalists and evangelists embrace a crotch-grabbing sexual predator they display a shameless level of cant but it doesn’t seem to bother them. Is this really theology or a return to a kind of muscular Christianity based on a 1930s model of a white man’s world? Whatever the truth, the primary targets are clear: Planned Parenthood, abortion clinics, voting rights, gun regulations, any extension of LGBT rights, and even roll back gay marriage.

There is no Darwin-like tolerance of opposing beliefs here. No open debate with enlightened values. The Christian right movement in this country has reached the level of an intrusive crusade, sensing that its moment has come, and is bent on policing the personal choices and lives of others, particularly women.

Trump’s White House may be in chaos but that chaos hides the long game that Pence has the patience and guile to pursue. The continuing barrage of propaganda and outrageous lies still finds a ready audience among his constituency, where the mainstream media has no credibility. Consensual ignorance provides its own extensive comfort zone where yesterday has a lot more to recommend it than tomorrow.

Whether or not Pence really believes the earth is only 6,000 years old is immaterial. His version of intelligent design is really not about Old Testament divine creation but a new social order—or, rather, an old social order that was supposed to be long extinct.

The Government Purged Animal Welfare Data. So This Guy Is Publishing It

Updated: Feb 17, 2017 6:27 AM Pacific | Originally published: Feb 16, 2017

An Arizona man who has published thousands of animal welfare documents on his website since the government purged the once-public information is pledging to keep digging up data until federal officials reverse course.

Russ Kick, a 47-year-old writer and anthologist, said he immediately sprang into action last week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture suddenly pulled from its website a slew of papers regarding animal welfare at thousands of facilities across the country. Since then, he has made public again more than 10,000 documents, and thousands more are set to hit the web soon.

“We have the right to know what’s going on,” Kick told TIME on Thursday. “The more we know about what’s going on, the better.”

For nearly a year, Kick has been running a website called thememoryhole2.org, where he has re-published information wiped from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. His only goal, he said, is to increase transparency and make important government documents more easily available.

Months before the Agriculture Department decided to no longer give the public access to its inspection reports and records of violations and enforcement, Kick said he had an inkling that information would soon disappear. His hunch led him to save nine years’ worth of data from the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

“I’ve been bracing for the worst as far as transparency and secrecy because [President Donald Trump] definitely has shown that he’s not pro-transparency by any means,” Kick said. “I was just surprised that they were there because it’s sensitive stuff.”

APHIS’s website used to have a search tool that made inspection records and violations at animal facilities publicly accessible. It allowed anyone to check government regulation of how animals are treated at about 9,000 zoos, circuses, research laboratories, dog breeding operations and other facilities in the country. APHIS, which is part of the USDA, said the decision to remove that page was “based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”

Kick said he was “upset” by the change — a reaction echoed by many animal activists in the country. Several advocates and animal law experts who had also previously saved the APHIS documents have sent thousands of pages of data to Kirk to be published on his website. Kick said his collection is helpful when it comes to checking back on facilities that have previously come under fire for potential violations, including an Indiana wildlife refuge where tiger cubs were allegedly abused in 2015.

The public USDA reports served an important purpose, Kick said, which was shining a light on potentially deadly situations. “I can’t even read the documents I’m posting,” he said. “I tried reading them, and the things that are going on are just nightmare-stuff.”

Despite his efforts, Kick concedes his work can only go so far. Unless the government approves a Freedom of Information Act submission and hands over requested data, no new documents can come to light, only the ones he already has from previous years. “There is no easy way at this point to get access to those documents,” Kick said, adding that he will file as many FOIA requests as needed and keep up his fight until the end.

“As long as the database is offline, I’ll keep posting whatever people send me and I’ll keep trying to find more on my own,” he said.