I have received some requests asking me to respond to a supposed rebuttal by a blogger, Hans Schreuder, of the ten physics facts I listed last last week in my post, “Physics trumps right-wing ideology.” This “rebuttal” has been making the rounds on various denialist blogs, and is easy to find with your favorite search engine. Not one to be overly modest or equivocal in his rejection of the laws of physics, Schreuder calls the law of conservation of energy (discovered by Galileo) an “old superstition” and concludes by proclaiming, “Please note that we have refuted all ten of your points, not just one…”
One repeated criticism of my physics fact list is that I did not provide references. I can understand why those who are unfamiliar with a subject would like citations to facts they didn’t know, but it is considered superfluous by scientists to clutter up a basic tutorial with citations to information that is widely known and accepted by those in the field. Most elementary physics textbooks, for that reason, do not have extensive lists of references to Newton.
For example, I could have written:
PHYSICS FACT #6: Conservation of energy is a fundamental law of physics (Galileo, 1638; Liebniz, 1689; Mohr, 1837). When more energy comes in than goes out of a system, it warms up (Lavoisier & Laplace, 1780; Thompson, 1798; von Mayer, 1842; Helmholtz, 1847; Grove, 1874).
But these citations are not helpful to anyone who has the most basic knowledge of physics. They are also not helpful to anyone who lacks the most basic knowledge of physics, like many denialist bloggers. Nor are they helpful to those who reject the fundamental laws of physics, like Schreuder (who in his “rebuttal” of “physics fact #6” calls it an “old superstition”)! Anybody who dismisses conservation of energy as an “old superstition” is not to be taken seriously, and devoting a blog entry to a point-by-point counter-rebuttal would be counter-productive.
However, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that Shreuder’s “rebuttal” supports my contention that such anti-science denialism is ideologically-driven. A quick search on his name reveals that he has a blog called “I love my carbon dioxide” with a logo “I (heart) CO2 — love it”. The home page contains lots of bright colors, exclamation points, and links in ALL CAPS that shout things like “The TRUE POWER of CARBON DIOXIDE” and “THIS SITE NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT PLEASE — even just ONE dollar”.
If Schreuder wants to give the impression that he has an objective approach to the science of climate change, and wants to debate the physics community about the laws of physics, it might be a good idea not to start with the axiom that a chemical compound is something that should be loved and defended, regardless of what the science says. Having a website that gives the appearance of snake-oil hucksterism probably doesn’t help, either.