Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is The Public Starting To See Through Deniers?

I completed my training in the Texas Master Naturalist program yesterday. We started in August and it included 12 weeks of classwork, four field trips, eight hours of advance training and 40 hours of volunteer work. It was a less than grueling, but very time consuming. It is a fine program coordinated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and has now been duplicated in 23 other states. What it does for me is to allow me to go places I normally wouldn't be able to go to, do things I normally wouldn't be able to do, and participate in programs I normally wouldn't be able to participate in. In return, I promise to do at least 40 hours of volunteer work per year (I cannot use it for any kind of for-profit venture). The program has a very good reputation, so it gives me some nice credentials when I wish to engage in some program.

During the training we had experts come in for our lessons that had very accomplished resumes. It really was quite impressive and a lot of fun. But, yesterday we had a speaker come in for the graduation ceremony that was so bad I had to walk out. Barron Rector is an associate professor in range management at Texas A&M. He may be knowledgeable about range management, but he was saying things on other topics that were just plain stupid. For example, he told the group that there is no difference in vehicles because the engines are all the same and are the same engines we've been using since 1880. We have all been "hoodwinked" by advertisements. Yes, you read that correctly. This university professor really did say the engine in a Ford pick-up truck is no different than the engine in a Cadillac or a Lamborghini, and is the same as the engines we used in 1880. His reasoning? They are all internal combustion engines and you put gasoline into them, therefore, they are all the same. By that line of reasoning I am a mountain lion because we both eat meat.

That is only one sample of his craziness, but it wasn't what prompted me to walk out. It was his discussion of climate change. He got so many things wrong and was so blatant about it I was afraid I would eventually say something if I stayed. It was not my forum and I wasn't there to get into a debate, so I left before I disrupted the event. I needed to run to the post office, so I did that and came back - and he was still going on. I walked in and heard him talking about how bad it is for us to take showers because we are just washing off the good bacteria and I wondered what that had to do with the Mater Naturalist Program. I just turned around a left again and I wasn't the only one. There were quite a few that walked out like me and of the ones that stayed, I heard many complaining about the guy.

One of his claims about climate change was that the Arctic sea ice has been melting but is now recovering, and no one sees any rise in sea level. OK. Stop the presses. First, Arctic sea ice has been melting, but it is not recovering. The downward trend is unmistakable. But, sea ice is, by definition, in the sea. Melting it has no effect on sea level because it is already in the water. But, we are most definitely seeing a rise in sea level, mostly from the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Antarctica Ice Sheet and warming of the oceans.

Another claim was that you can't say there is a drought because the definition of a drought is when rainfall is below average and there is no such thing as an average amount of rainfall. It is constantly changing, so there is no true value you can use as an 'average.' Makes me wonder why all those people in California are complaining. Someone needs to tell them there is no such thing as a drought. Actually, the definition of a drought is when there is an abnormally low amount of rainfall resulting in a shortage of usable water.

He started talking about the CO2 in the atmosphere - I'm sorry, the CO2 that is presumably in the atmosphere - and that's when I left. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut anymore.

I thought it was pretty shameful that a university professor would use his position of authority to talk about things that are not within his area of expertise and he clearly was misinformed on. I was concerned with how much work it was going to take to uneducate the group on what he had said to us, but then I realized that I really didn't need to. Everyone in the group I talked to all agreed he was a nut case. They had all figured it out on their own.

Maybe there is some hope after all.


  1. How do you avoid making a complaint to the university? Rank factlessness (new word, your welcome) isn't academic freedom. The rule among lawyers is we don't have to alert the Bar to another lawyer's conduct unless that conduct impairs the lawyer's ability to practice. This guy deliberately misinforms students. That can't not impair his ability to teach.

  2. We gotta shake up the system then, Professor! I wonder if I can get a video of his presentation. It'd be fun to fisk him.

  3. My guess is that it wouldn't be hard. He gave pretty much the same talk at the graduation last year (he is one of the founders of the program, so he is favored by chapter boards). That makes me think he gives it as a standard talk.