National Science Teachers Association Rejects the Scientific Method
by Dr. Sharon Camp
Never have I been so inspired upon being removed from a venue. Actually, as a retired teacher of AP (advanced placement) environmental sciences and chemistry, I haven’t been escorted from very many places. Perhaps none. I should explain.
I am a member of the CO2 Coalition, in Arlington, Virginia, where I wear my scientist hat – a B.S. in geology and Ph.D. in analytical chemistry – and serve on the organization’s education committee. In supporting our mission of educating the public and policymakers on the benefits of carbon dioxide and the role of the gas in Earth’s ecosystems, I tap into my teaching and science backgrounds.
As one of four people chosen to represent the CO2 Coalition at the March meeting of the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) in Atlanta, I looked forward to returning to a conference I found so engaging as a teacher. Thousands of educators congregate at the annual meeting to hear lectures and explore the displays of hundreds of vendors for new tools to use for labs and lessons.
I did not quite know what to expect from teachers visiting the CO2 Coalition’s conference display.
On the one hand, we offered educational materials, including beautifully designed comic books and entertaining videos, and lesson plans. All would be useful in teaching the science behind carbon dioxide as an atmospheric gas and plant fertilizer. However, we also had a newly published paper that is critical of the NSTA’s position on teaching climate change.
The 40,000-member association’s position paper, “The Teaching of Climate Science,” instructs teachers to conform to the so-called consensus that human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide will cause dangerous heating of the atmosphere and to dismiss contradictory evidence.
The association accepts the opinions of various organizations backing the popular global-warming theory while rejecting the differing views of thousands of scientists. Such dissenters include researchers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who disagree with the IPCC’s politicized, official reports to the public, and the CO2 Coalition’s more than 100 members. The plain truth is that the NSTA position ignores the tenets of the 400-year-old scientific method.
For a teacher of science like me, the scientific method is more than some formalized procedure. It requires that a student be able to write a hypothesis, design experiments to test the proposition, accurately collect high-quality data, and apply critical thinking to findings.
My labs were data-driven, meaning students were to have no preconceived notions about the results of experiments. Rather, they were to rely on the analysis of data gathered with care and integrity. Students applied the scientific method and critical thinking to actual experiments instead of learning only about abstract concepts.
How can somebody with my regard for science sit quietly by when a national organization claiming to represent 40,000 members tosses aside an empirical approach to discovery that has underpinned western civilization for centuries? How to remain silent when those claiming educational dominion over children require their adherence to an unscientific methodology and censorship of dissenting voices? Well, I can’t.
So, there I stood in an Atlanta conference center with colleagues (a communications specialist, a geologist and IPCC reviewer, and a Ph.D. in chemistry), eager to share our knowledge and educational aids – and wondering how our critique of NSTA’s views on climate change would be received.
At first, we were overwhelmed by an enthusiastically appreciative response from educators, including teachers from public and private institutions and homeschoolers. We ran out of lesson plans in two hours. There clearly was a need for non-politicized material on the science behind photosynthesis, cellular respiration, carbon dioxide, and other atmospheric gases.
More than half the teachers we encountered expressed doubts about the rhetoric of climate alarmists. Surprisingly to us, even more were shocked to learn of NSTA’s position on teaching climate change and its unquestioning rejection of evidence contradicting establishment orthodoxy. Most of the teachers – unlike, apparently, NSTA leadership – understood science to be a process of continual inquiry and debate guided by testable data.
By halfway through the conference’s second day, nearly all our material had been distributed. It was then that organizers of the NSTA gathering insisted that we stop sharing our critique of the association’s anti-science position. For refusing to yield to this censorship, we were escorted from the building.
We were, nonetheless, encouraged by finding so many educators hungry for honest discovery and, in some cases, grateful for scientific information utterly new to them. We concluded that NSTA’s narrow approach to learning is being driven by a politically-correct bureaucracy disconnected from a significant number of the association’s members.
There is hope for science education in America. Our work continues.
This commentary was first published at [Your] News, April 25, 2023, and can be accessed here.
Sharon Camp has a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Georgia Tech. She has worked in industry, for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and as an advanced placement environmental science teacher. She is the Senior Education Advisor for the CO2 Coalition, in Arlington, Virginia.
“”in some cases, grateful for scientific information utterly new to them””
I am so glad I don’t have young children in the education system.
I studied US K12 science education and found it to be pretty good. Keep in mind that climate change is just a few weeks out of 12 years of instruction. The rest is the basic knowledge that underlies the various physical science fields, around 40 by my count. The scientific method also gets a lot of attention.
Almost all of it is 100 or more years old so there is no debate. The real problem is that climate change does not fit this standard of established knowledge. It should be taught as a debate, not as a fact.
no other science is so dependent on proxies and models- so it barely qualifies as science- and of course no other science is so politically charged
Experiment in climate is hard to do because the entire system reacts to resist changes imposed on it. E.g., add heat and this generates evaporation, plant growth and myriad other cooling responses, such that the final result is a fraction of the warming that was expected.
This, Gavin Schmidt, is the answer to your modelling conundrum (quote, “Models are running a way too hot and we don’t know why.”) Le Châtelier’s Principle is the reason why! Be that as it may, climateers have zero interest in experimenting. It limits their degrees of freedom to concoct disaster.
You forgot the ™ symbol in the Climate Change ™. This is the one driven by CO2 that does not exist.
Real climate change has been taught for at least 50 years because I learnt about glaciation and Vikings cropping on Greenland way back then.
Great to read about Dr. Sharon Camp and her focus on keeping the Scientific Process alive. The fact that the National Science Teaching Association demands alliance to their official position and rejects discussion is sufficient to demonstrate a lack of scientific integrity and clearly an abandonment of the Scientific Process. Be careful out there, it looks like the INQUISITION II (NSTA)is looking for more Giordano Brunos.
A lot of teachers teach the debate. See my
In the UK there seems to be little hope of any rational debate:
“Tim Jones had just landed a job as an RE teacher at a secondary school in Greenwich [London] when he stumbled on Extinction Rebellion. Not long before, he had been seeing a counsellor for feelings of helplessness and depression about the ecosystem and how schools fed into the planet’s problems. “At that point I was at my most depressed,” he says. “It was eco-anxiety. I’d started a new job at a good school with good people, but the system was just heartbreaking. I felt completely disaffected.”
Then, in October last year, he went to a training day with Extinction Rebellion (XR), the environmental activist group, where he and other teachers learned about legal procedures and how to be arrested safely. Jones, who is 36, began to panic. “I thought, ‘I’m a teacher and now I’ve joined an organisation where people are going to get arrested. Will I be fired?’”
This was followed by what he calls a “life-changing moment”. “The consequences for me of losing my job seemed so insignificant compared with the consequences of inaction on climate change.”
Our teachers are utterly bonkers.
And all because it made them feel better. I am convinced that people like that have other inadequicies in their lives.
I cited a poll, but you offer a single person anecdote. Any poll results for the extent of skepticism among UK teachers? It is a scientific question.
90% of teachers apparently think that climate change education should be compulsory in the UK.
UK teachers say they lack training on climate change, study finds | E&T Magazine (theiet.org)
This is good news: “… 41 per cent said it was rarely or never mentioned in their schools…”
Following the link, it says no such thing. What it says is:
Scientific arguments are not exempted – provided they have merit.
Who decides what has merit and what does not? Censorship doesn’t need a sledgehammer, unseen subtilty is usually more efffective as in this case to get the nails into the coffin of science
Usually you would look to expert bodies, such as the US National Academy of Sciences, in this case.
The NAS is fatally flawed by its members being so dependent on government largesse. Far better to have a multiplicity of independent reviewers in the public domain deciding what has merit and what doesn’t.
It is telling that the NAS has never polled its members on this issue. These are trade groups captured by the alarmist movement. Their members not do much.
Climate models – the post-modern scientific method – have zero merit yet everything is based on their dodgy output.
Long term GST models are doing very well against observations, despite what you may read here.
No they aren’t
And neither is the average of them
Yes they are and you’re free to check it for yourself.
Where is UAH?
Where is the balloon observations?
UAH and Weather Balloon data are not scary-looking enough for climate change alarmists.
F@(&^%! Your lowest guess is less than 0.2 low, but your graph conveniently cuts off with a suggestion that it will be MORE THAN 0.6 degrees hotter.As much as I despise the chutzpa, I have to admire the gall. I wish I was as fluent in bullshirts.
I have seen that graph before. The original can be found on Real Climate’s “Climate model projections compared to observations” webpage.
URL for the lazy : https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/climate-model-projections-compared-to-observations/
Alert observers will have noted that your graph is for the CMIP three model runs, which used the SRES scenarios for the TAR (2001) and AR4 (2007) assessment reports, including common “Historical Data” inputs up to 2000.
Note that for your selected graphic no “adjustments” are required to accommodate the observational (/ instrumental) data up to 2022.
Enquiring minds may wonder why you didn’t use Real Climate’s graph for the CMIP five model runs instead, which used the updated RCP pathways for AR5 (2013), which updated the “Historical Data” to 2005 …
… surely more recent models can only give “better” results ? …
Attached to this post is a copy of that image file from the RC webpage.
Amazing ! The CMIP five graphic has had to be “adjusted” to prevent the observations from drifting outside the (5-95%) “confidence interval” for the projections made by the models.
NB : It doesn’t matter whether those “adjustments” are justified or not. The important point is that the “older” CMIP3 / SRES models gave more accurate “projections” (up to 2022, at least) than the “newer” CMIP5 / RCP models did.
They’re not when you look at their detail. They have everywhere warming and that is not happening. All CMIP6 models show the western Pacific surface temperature warming and most exceeding 30C continuously. This is a physical impossibility on this planet.
By far the greatest warming is occurring on the Greenland plateau in January. Risen almost 10C in 70 years. From MINUS 30C to MINUS 20C.
F or C?
Scientific arguments should be rebutted with more science, not with censorship.
Questioning the fitness for purpose of the so-called “global average temperature” (GAT) based on sound use of uncertainty propagation protocols and pointing out the the violation of the rules of statistical analysis in calculating a GAT is *NOT* a “social, economic, or political” argument.
Yes. Various associations have been captured and they proclaim whatever position that they are allowed to hold.
The American Chemical Society, for example parrots, the “consensus” but would never allow open debate or even a polling of its constituency to see what they really think. It suppresses debate and then uses lack of opposition as “proof” of its position.
Agreed. So far the skeptic arguments don’t seem to be convincing too many in the scientific institutions.
The sceptic arguments are so convincing that they are suppressed rather than exposed. Flat Earth arguments are often publicised and ridiculed as they don’t hold up.
The opposite is true for sceptic arguments. They are escorted from the building rather than debated
Here’s an example that a 14-year-old schoolchild should be able to discuss, or even a scientific institution, if they dared.
The expected warming from a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere is in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C. This was determined in the first IPCC report in 1990. Thirty years later the range had not been reduced. Why is that?
Discuss these arguments:
A) The question is irreducibly difficult. There is no way of understanding the response of a chaotic system like the climate to a doubling of CO2?
B) There has been no effort spent in studying the climate?
C) The observations of the climate have not improved in scope or quality and so we cannot refine our understanding against reality?
D) The basic premises for understanding of the climate is not aligned with reality and so observations cannot tighten the range?
E) Another idea (discuss).
In my opinion, answers B and C can be rejected immediately. But they need to be included for completeness.
Unless, that is, you are a scientific institution when they can all be suppressed.
Which is why a 14-year-old schoolchild in China has a brighter future than a 14-year-old schoolchild in the West
I would say e) because the science isn’t settled (otherwise it would stop).
I would say a) can be dismissed because ECS estimates remain within a narrow range (as of AR6, it’s ‘likely in the range 2.5°C to 4.0°C’).
THE SCIENCE ISN’T SETTLED!!!!!! FinalNail, you are going to be in a lot of trouble for saying that.
Are we saying that a range of 1.5°C is very narrow?
That range is considered the difference between no AGW and the end of the world.
Besides, empirical estimates are well below 2.5°C so “likely” reflects confidence in the models (by the modellers) not confidence in the future behaviour of the climate.
Also, (E) needs more discussion than just that we don’t have a perfect understanding of the universe. Newtonian physics was replaced by Einstein but was still good enough to guide Apollo 11 to the Moon. Is our current understanding good enough to make policy, or not?
ECS is a non-scientific concept because CO2 concentration does not determine temperature. Thus there is no such number in reality. The earth could cool while CO2 doubles.
Please research the origin and evolution of the following phrases.
1) The long march through the institutions.
2) Regulatory capture.
And, of course, Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals.
Beat me to it Mark.
The Fabians have been highly successful in their “long March through the institutions”.
I must have missed the statement about not including social economic or political arguments in support of human-caused climate theory as part of the science curriculum. Or, the part stating that unverified (or unverifiable) model output should not be considered scientific evidence when teaching science.
But with “Given the solid scientific foundation on which climate change science rests”- they’re saying there is no scientific argument against it. They’re implying the only arguments to made against it are “social, economic, or political arguments”. In other words, sing the party line or else.
Lots of things that had solid scientific foundations have been proved to be wrong/incomplete, etc.
They’re saying that in science classes, social, economic, or political arguments should not be used against the scientific evidence. I agree with that.
Why are social, economic, and political arguments used to cast any rise in global temperature as being “bad”. The scientific evidence is that it is good! Fewer weather-related deaths, longer growing seasons and increased harvests, greening of the planet *is* evidence for it being “good”.
…Buh, but, but, the only people who bring Social, Economic and Governance into the argument are….????
As a matter of fact, is ESG not the whole point behind ya’ll freaks’ freakshow?
But it is OK to talk about Climate Justice, and ESG, as part of the “Climate Science” education?
“Lots of things that had solid scientific foundations have been proved to be wrong/incomplete, etc.”
You mean like anthropogenic climate change?
But that does not imply they should not be part of the broader curriculum. For example, economics, geography, history and religious studies all have hooks that can discuss the social economic and political elements and present choices for policy responses as well as examining cases of wrong reactions to predictions from the past. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds should be part of the curriculum: it does not deal explicitly with climate change (at least as understood in the modern context), but it does deal with the folly of mankind.
An epidemic terror of the end of the world has several times spread over the nations. The most remarkable was that which seized Christendom about the middle of the tenth century. Numbers of fanatics appeared in France, Germany, and Italy at that time, preaching that the thousand years prophesied in the Apocalypse as the term of the world’s duration were about to expire, and that the Son of Man would appear in the clouds to judge the godly and the ungodly. The delusion appears to have been discouraged by the Church, but it nevertheless spread rapidly among the people.51
The scene of the last judgment was expected to be at Jerusalem. In the year 999, the number of pilgrims proceeding eastward, to await the coming of the Lord in that city, was so great that they were compared to a desolating army. Most of them sold their goods and possessions before they quitted Europe, and lived upon the proceeds in the Holy Land. Buildings of every sort were suffered to fall into ruins. It was thought useless to repair them, when the end of the world was so near. Many noble edifices were deliberately pulled down. Even churches, usually so well maintained, shared the general neglect. Knights, citizens, and serfs, travelled eastwards in company, taking with them their wives and children, singing psalms as they went, and looking with fearful eyes upon the sky, which they expected each minute to open, to let the Son of God descend in his glory.
During the thousandth year the number of pilgrims increased. Most of them were smitten with terror as with a plague. Every phenomenon of nature filled them with alarm. A thunder-storm sent them all upon their knees in mid-march. It was the opinion that thunder was the voice of God, announcing the day of judgment. Numbers expected the earth to open, and give up its dead at the sound. Every meteor in the sky seen at Jerusalem brought the whole Christian population into the streets to weep and pray.
The NSTA is specifically referring to scientific teaching. It advises that controversies arising from social, economic, or political arguments “should not be part of a science curriculum”. That seems perfectly reasonable.
What is not reasonable is that they should not be part of the curriculum at all, which is of course what they really mean.
The problem here is the question — “Is a warming planet good for society or bad for society?”
It always seems to come down to “bad for society” from the governmental and elite academics point of view.
Yet they provide no proof of that other than unsupported claims like “the arctic will be ice free by 2020, or “the rising global average temperature will cause catastrophic food shortages”, or “climate change will cause catastrophic migration”, or “Miami/New York will be underwater in ten years!
None of this has happened. Weather caused deaths are down, food harvests set records practically every year, New York/Miami are still not underwater, the Arctic is still not ice free.
All of the arguments offered by the climate alarmists *are* societal, economic, or political when trying to cast a rising global average temperature as being “bad”.
Physician, heal thyself!
And yet “Climate Science” is replete with projections of bad social, economic and political outcomes. Isn’t IPCC WG II all about social and economic outcomes, while the Summary for Policymakers is all politics?
Someone posted yesterday the statement on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s official website to the effect that unless fossil fuels were eliminated, humanity would be in dire straits.
Nothing political or un-sciency at all in that official statement.
Spare us the theatrical drama ffs.
Nice bit of history there, mate. Have you thought about the fantastic similarity to our decaying public infrastructure, and the concomitant sacrement of “sustainability”? It even comes with a divine injunction to Build Back Better!
This historian was Charles Mackay. Another extract with resonance today:
During the great plague of London, in 1665, the people listened with similar avidity to the predictions of quacks and fanatics. Defoe says, that at that time the people were more addicted to prophecies and astronomical conjurations, dreams, and old wives’ tales than ever they were before or since. Almanacs, and their predictions, frightened them terribly. Even the year before the plague broke out, they were greatly alarmed by the comet which then appeared, and anticipated that famine, pestilence, or fire would follow. Enthusiasts, while yet the disease had made but little progress, ran about the streets, predicting that in a few days London would be destroyed.
A still more singular instance of the faith in predictions occurred in London in the year 1524. The city swarmed at that time with fortune-tellers and astrologers, who were consulted daily by people of every class in society on the secrets of futurity. As early as the month of June 1523, several of them concurred in predicting that, on the 1st day of February 1524, the waters of the Thames would swell to such a height as to overflow the whole city of London, and wash away ten thousand houses. The prophecy met implicit belief. It was reiterated with the utmost confidence month after month, until so much alarm was excited that many families packed up their goods, and removed into Kent and Essex. As the time drew nigh, the number of these emigrants increased. In January, droves of workmen might be seen, followed by their wives and children, trudging on foot to the villages within fifteen or twenty miles, to await the catastrophe. People of a higher class were also to be seen in wagons and other vehicles bound on a similar errand. By the middle of January, at least twenty thousand persons had quitted the doomed city, leaving nothing but the bare walls of their homes to be swept away by the impending floods. Many of the richer sort took up their abode on the heights of Highgate, Hampstead, and Blackheath; and some erected tents as far away as Waltham Abbey on the north, and Croydon on the south of the Thames. Bolton, the prior of St. Bartholomew’s, was so alarmed, that he erected, at a very great expense, a sort of fortress at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which he stocked with provisions for two months. On the 24th of January, a week before the awful day which was to see the destruction of London, he removed thither, with the brethren and officers of the priory and all his household. A number of boats were conveyed in wagons to his fortress, furnished abundantly with expert rowers, in case the flood, reaching so high as Harrow, should force them to go farther for a resting-place. Many wealthy citizens prayed to share his retreat; but the prior, with a prudent forethought, admitted only his personal friends, and those who brought stores of eatables for the blockade.
At last the morn, big with the fate of London, appeared in the east. The wondering crowds were astir at an early hour to watch the rising of the waters. The inundation, it was predicted, would be gradual, not sudden; so that they expected to have plenty of time to escape as soon as they saw the bosom of old Thames heave beyond the usual mark. But the majority were too much alarmed to trust to this, and thought themselves safer ten or twenty miles off. The Thames, unmindful of the foolish crowds upon its banks, flowed on quietly as of yore. The tide ebbed at its usual hour, flowed to its usual height, and then ebbed again, just as if twenty astrologers had not pledged their words to the contrary. Blank were their faces as evening approached, and as blank grew the faces of the citizens to think that they had made such fools of themselves. At last night set in, and the obstinate river would not lift its waters to sweep away even one house out of the ten thousand. Still, however, the people were afraid to go to sleep. Many hundreds remained up till dawn of the next day, lest the deluge should come upon them like a thief in the night.
On the morrow, it was seriously discussed whether it would not be advisable to duck the false prophets in the river. Luckily for them, they thought of an expedient which allayed the popular fury. They asserted that, by an error (a very slight one,) of a little figure, they had fixed the date of this awful inundation a whole century too early. The stars were right after all, and they, erring mortals, were wrong. The present generation of cockneys was safe, and London would be washed away, not in 1524, but in 1624. At this announcement, Bolton the prior dismantled his fortress, and the weary emigrants came back.
As soon as we move from theoretical science to practical engineering we do need to consider matters such as feasibility and cost of climate policies and alternatives. This is really where debate should be occurring, and is being suppressed. There should be constant evaluation of adaptation alternatives for instance. These are scientific questions too.
In short, whether or not the problem statement is correct, it is settled. But the proposed solutions are rubbish.
The “argument” being presented is is for teachers to tell their pupils :
“to conform to the so-called consensus that human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide will cause dangerous heating of the atmosphere and to dismiss contradictory evidence”
– loftily declaring that something “will” happen isn’t part of scientific discourse, which uses terms like “error ranges” and/or “confidence intervals” instead
– “consensus” isn’t part of scientific discourse either (see : Michael Crichton)
– “dangerous” is a subjective term, not a scientific one, that is neither defined nor delimited
– – – – –
As for someone wishing to become a scientist when they grow up being taught to summarily “dismiss” contradictory evidence …
“The whole point of science is to question accepted dogmas.” — Freeman Dyson
“Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend imbeciles.” — Dostoevsky
As usual, the clearest refutation to the notion of “dismissing” contradictory observations was provided by Richard Feynman :
You left out the bit where they say that there is solid scientific foundation upon which the climate scam rests which is obviously false.
It makes sense that a lot of science teachers are hungry for skeptical teaching materials. They want to teach the debate but there is almost nothing available, while alarmist materials are legion. Six years ago I cataloged 33 big websites providing alarmist materials, many federally funded:
NSTA is on the list.
The skeptical community provides almost nothing. Heartland has its climate reality collection and now the CO2 Coalition has some comics and videos, but none of this is tailored to the K12 curriculum. Most of it is either too specialized or it includes advanced material, making it unsuitable for classroom use.
Skeptics complain about indoctrination but nothing substantial is being done about it.
I have this strange mental image come into my mind
It is titled
“Science of the Lambs” the promotional picture to accompany this ‘educational’ film, is a balding man’s (sic) face with a pair of crossed hockey sticks across his mouth. Carefully positioned and scaled to present half a swastika. type of image.
I don’t know why this is in my head.
All rights to the film are hereby happily given away…..
“For refusing to yield to this censorship, we were escorted from the building.”
If I was there and they tried to escort me out for disagreeing with the party line – they would have had to drag me out in handcuffs because I would have resisted their efforts as violence against me. There’s a point at which we must resist.
“Most of the teachers – unlike, apparently, NSTA leadership – understood science to be a process of continual inquiry and debate guided by testable data.”
Yes the leadership! Top positions in academia, learned societies, editorships, NGOs, children’s education bureaucrats… have been infiltrated by néomarxiste ideologues. This is not new. This is not even concealed by those who have taken up this cause. Chistina Figueres former head of the UN environmental bureaucracy unabashedly stated that even if global warming doesn’t happen, it’s the right thing to do, to redistribute the world’s wealth. They are selected to do the bidding of the gray folk behind the curtains.
Ms Figueres didn’t say that (although her comments are just as blatant). I believe that it was (former) Senator Timothy Worth who said that we need to progress along the CAGW line, even if it isn’t right, because it is the “right thing to do”.
I was pleased to read that so many had questions about the consensus. How can anyone spend time researching the actual science and not have some doubts, even a small amount. Science is a process and what we know now will be superseded by studies in the next decade and those studies will in turn be superseded by studies in future decades. The only constant will be those wanting to hold on to the dogma of the past.