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In a joint briefing at the 101st American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, NASA and NOAA revealed 2020's scorching climate data.
A dead heat<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ2MDU4Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzM0MzIwNH0.3NrKDBoOdpFL5IXF3cDbom-Dp2RlrzJgvAciXcb0GDE/img.jpg?width=980" id="69d06" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="886a2617e756181e6a11e20a00b65dff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1266" data-height="654" />
A graph showing the global mean temperatures from 1880–2020 (with the years 1951–1980 serving as the mean baseline).
(Photo: NASA and NOAA)<p>For <a href="https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/" target="_blank">its 2020 analysis</a>, NASA gathered surface temperature measurements from more than 26,000 weather stations. This data was incorporated with data from satellites as well as sea-surface temperatures taken from ship and buoy instruments. Once tallied, NASA's data showed 2020 barely edged out 2016 has the warmest year on record, with average global temperatures 1.02°C (1.84°F) above the baseline mean (1951-1980).</p><p>In a separate analysis of the raw data, NOAA found 2020 to be slightly cooler than 2016. This distinction is the result of the different methodologies used in each—for example, NOAA uses a different baseline period (1901–2000) and does not infer temperatures in polar regions lacking observations. Together, these analyses put 2020 in a statistical dead heat with the sweltering 2016 and demonstrate the global-warming trend of the past four decades.</p><p>"The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend," <a href="http://email.prnewswire.com/ls/click?upn=OXp-2BEvHp8OzhyU1j9bSWuwMvMWelqIco5RbfBrouY-2BQCsSv6FnrhBjR9xReGqV57KGOs0rVc5GKMmgs-2FJKbOzjb0sJ6yjzUvrv2w75ulYk3EUck8pSjkzYhoy5ADXO0eOcn7LDjqsHyK2gp2NRf2UysMK-2F9SN4oYUmRylQcRtSUo6-2FcYeK-2B9naUetByXNCR2gF8u_FU3lc-2FvIcVOtjb4iEuBVjFYoW0IRF5dtM-2FDfzzkhmYHO5IVgq387-2BxdHEMunBZ1-2Fy0-2BJDgXnZEYvN604G1TWJfy4M4HKnIouyasgRyWEHIYmPTiDXeFrd9FqRmsl0JQfksEElkp2ITvgyFkkivWV3GiFH7z7tl1cTZ2rNh2c-2FbCRKQxkH4-2BChgYT6uWeYOvXusiC4cDsZkEBvw7lOEdPsPq78JT8F5x5gc5cMRaRJY-2FZ8q8peaKsS7Mfc5OQ6yjyEU5YUHR4QKJ1Fn-2FDuwJ5jk4Gm28sxJZNXX9IEO-2FOHlhyRcJbl6rMWcoeJZDEd-2BM8UJ5ZY-2FYqc1DHevd1Mz-2B1fQ-3D-3D" target="_blank">Gavin Schmidt</a>, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210115103020.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said in a release</a>. "Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important—the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken."</p><p>And they are. According to the analyses, 2020 was the warmest year on record for Asia and Europe, the second warmest for South America, the fourth warmest for Africa and Australia, and the tenth warmest for North America. </p><p>All told, 2020 was 1.19°C (2.14°F) above averages from the late-19<sup>th</sup> century, a period that provides a rough approximate for pre-industrial conditions. This temperature is closing in on the Paris Climate Agreement's preferred goal of <a href="https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreemen" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">limiting global warming to 1.5°C</a> of those pre-industrial conditions.</p>
2020's hotspot was—the Artic?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ2MDU5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTA5OTU1MH0.0ZCixGwhHbjmyO6By_eaMI-cXrM2-rsPq32J-pAVWPs/img.jpg?width=980" id="34c94" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="846b12bfa65c6d1b8d0a5b0d0214e091" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1106" data-height="672" />
A map of global mean temperatures in 2020 shows an scorching year for the Arctic.
(Photo: NASA and NOAA)<p>Heatwaves have become more common all over the world, but a region that really endured the heat in 2020 was the <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/climate_change.html#:~:text=Over%20the%20past%2030%20years,climate%20change%20in%20the%20Arctic." target="_blank">Arctic</a>.</p><p>"The big story this year is Siberia; it was a hotspot," Russell Vose, chief of the analysis and synthesis branch of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, said during the briefing. "In May, some places were 18°F above the average. There was a town in Siberia […] that reported a high temperature of 104°F. If that gets verified by the World Metrological Organization, it will the first there's been a weather station in the Arctic with a temperature above 100°F."</p><p>The Arctic is warming at three times the global mean, thanks to <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/climate_change.html#:~:text=Over%20the%20past%2030%20years,climate%20change%20in%20the%20Arctic." target="_blank">a phenomenon known as Arctic Amplification</a>. As the Arctic warms, it loses its sea ice, and this creates a feedback loop. The more Arctic sea ice loss, the more heat introduced into the oceans; the more heat introduced, the more sea ice loss. And the longer this trend continues, the more devastating the effects.</p><p>For example, since the 1980s, there's been a 50 percent decline in sea ice, and this loss has exposed more of the ocean to the sun's rays. That energy then gets trapped in the ocean as heat. As the <a href="https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-ocean-heat-content" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ocean heat content</a> rises, it threatens rising sea levels and the sustainability of natural ecosystems. In 2020 alone, 255 zeta joules of heat above the baseline were introduced into Earth's oceans. In (admittedly) dramatic terms, that's <a href="https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/01/14/twin-cities-scientist-heat-of-5-to-6-hiroshima-atom-bombs-per-second-into-earths-oceans" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the equivalent of introducing 5 to 6 Hiroshima atom bombs</a> worth of energy every second of every day.</p><p>Looking beyond the Arctic, the average snow cover for the Northern Hemisphere was also the lowest on record. Like the Arctic sea ices, such <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/climate.html#:~:text=Snow's%20effect%20on%20climate,especially%20the%20western%20United%20States." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">snow cover</a> helps regulate Earth's surface temperatures. Its melt off in the spring and summer also provides the freshwater ecosystems rely on to survive and farmers need to grow crops, especially in <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/too-many-trees?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2" target="_self">the Western United States</a>.</p>
Natural disasters get a man-made bump<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ2MDU5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUwMjE0Mn0.R_juvxCWUw-S9RDkAobjXeMn2qMHg-XVgsOHW74Uz-s/img.jpg?width=980" id="51830" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b3e734e1d03eaec341dca40df0939f0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1123" data-height="672" />
A map of 2020's billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, which totaled approximately $95 billion in losses.
(Photo: NASA and NOAA)<p>2020 was also a record-breaking year for natural disasters. In the U.S. alone, there were 22 billion-dollar disasters, the most ever recorded. Combined, they resulted in a total of $95 billion in losses. The western wildfires alone consumed more than 10 million acres and destroyed large portions of Oregon, Colorado, and California.</p><p>The year also witnessed a record-setting Atlantic Hurricane season with more than 30 named storms, 13 of which were hurricanes. Typically, the World Meteorological Organization <a href="https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames_history.shtml#:~:text=Instead%20a%20strict%20procedure%20has,is%20repeated%20every%20sixth%20year." target="_blank">names storms</a> from an annual list of 21 selected names—one for each letter of the alphabet, minus Q, U, X, Y, and Z. For only <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/18/914453403/so-2020-new-storm-forms-named-alpha-because-weve-run-out-of-letters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the second time in history</a>, the Organization had to resort to naming storms after Greek letters because they ran out of alphabet.</p>
For the record, there's a consensus about the record<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9bb94f5d5a58d40f03e1515f3c2e467c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gzksqQDI_kE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Such records are a dramatic reminder of climate change's ongoing effect on our planet. They make for an eye-catching headline, sure. But those headlines can sometimes mask the fact that these years are part of decade-long trends, trends providing a preview of what a climate-changed world will be like. </p><p>And in case there was any question as to whether these trends were the result of natural processes or man-made conditions, Schmidt and Vose did not mince words. </p><p>As Schmidt said in the briefing: "Many, many things have caused the climate to change in the past: asteroids, wobbles in the Earth's orbit, moving continents. But when we look at the 20<sup>th</sup> century, we can see very clearly what has been happening. We know the continents have not moved very much, we know the orbit has not changed very much, we know when there were volcanoes, we know what the sun is doing, and we know what we've been doing."</p><p>He continued, "When we do an attribution by driver of climate change over the 20<sup>th</sup> century, what we find is that the overwhelming cause of the warming is the increase of greenhouse gases. When you add in all of the things humans have done, all of the trends over this period are attributable to human activity."</p><p>The data are in; the consensus is in. The only thing left is to figure out how to prevent the worst of climate change before it's too late. As bad as 2020 was, it was only a preview of what could come.<strong></strong></p>
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
The attack on the Capitol forces us to confront an existential question about privacy.
- The insurrection attempt at the Capitol was captured by thousands of cell phones and security cameras.
- Many protestors have been arrested after their identity was reported to the FBI.
- Surveillance experts warn about the dangers of using facial recognition to monitor protests.
Brad Templeton: Today's Surveillance Society is Beyond Orwellian<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="06eb4a2ab19b644f5a3c0bf35ac2f42b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/awFrWxfDA30?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There's the <a href="https://www.thecut.com/2021/01/capitol-rioter-larry-rendall-brock-identified-to-fbi-by-ex.html" target="_blank">ex-wife of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel</a> whose neck gaiter was pulled down; the <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/nation-world/capitol-insurrectionists-losing-jobs-social-media-identification-20210108.html" target="_blank">patriotic cohort of Internet detectives</a> crowd-sourcing information for the FBI; the director of the infamous pseudoscience film, "Plandemic," <a href="https://conspirituality.net/transmissions/plandemics-mikki-willis-joins-praises-violent-capitol-mob/" target="_blank">praising the "patriots" that breached the building</a> moments after he left the siege himself; and that unemployed actor who regularly attended QAnon events leaving the most public trail imaginable, and who is <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55606044" target="_blank">currently in custody</a> facing serious charges.</p><p>Fish in barrels, all of them. What of the remaining thousands? </p><p>This privacy discussion is not new. Arthur Holland Michel, founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/gorgon-stare-surveillance" target="_self">warned Big Think in 2019</a> about the dangers of surveillance technology—specifically, in this case, a camera known as Gorgon Stare. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Say there is a big public protest. With this camera, you can follow thousands of protesters back to their homes. Now you have a list of the home addresses of all the people involved in a political movement. If on their way home you witness them committing some crime—breaking a traffic regulation or frequenting a location that is known to be involved in the drug trade—you can use that surveillance data against them to essentially shut them up. That's why we have laws that prevent the use of surveillance technologies because it is human instinct to abuse them. That's why we need controls."</p><p>Late last year, University of Miami students <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/facial-recognition-software" target="_self">pushed back against school administrators</a> using facial recognition software for potentially insidious means—a protest not limited to that campus. Can you place students refusing to attend classes during a pandemic with armed insurrectionists attempting to change the results of a democratic election? Not even close. More to the point, however, we should leave political leanings out of the equation when deciding who we think should be monitored. </p>
Protesters enter the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump.
Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images<p>Shortly after the siege, the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-air-force-combat-veteran-breached-the-senate" target="_blank">helped reveal the identity</a> of the aforementioned lieutenant colonel while conservatives <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/01/07/antifa-capitol-gaetz-trump-riot/" target="_blank">claim the riots were actually antifa</a>—a conspiracy theory that's <a href="https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-race-and-ethnicity-suburbs-health-racial-injustice-7edf9027af1878283f3818d96c54f748" target="_blank">been peddled before</a>. Politics simply can't be avoided in this age. Still, Albert Fox Cahn, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, doesn't believe the insurrection attempt <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-the-capitol-attack-doesnt-justify-expanding-surveillance/" target="_blank">justifies an uptick in facial recognition technology</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We don't need a cutting-edge surveillance dragnet to find the perpetrators of this attack: They tracked themselves. They livestreamed their felonies from the halls of Congress, recording each crime in full HD. We don't need facial recognition, geofences, and cell tower data to find those responsible, we need police officers willing to do their job."</p><p>The New Orleans City Council recently <a href="https://thelensnola.org/2020/12/18/new-orleans-city-council-approves-ban-on-facial-recognition-predictive-policing-and-other-surveillance-tech/" target="_blank">banned similar surveillance technologies</a> due to fears that it would unfairly target minorities. San Francisco was the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first city to outright ban facial recognition</a> nearly two years ago. Cahn's point is that the FBI shouldn't be using AI to cover for the government's failure to protect the Capitol. Besides, the insurrectionists outed themselves on their own social media feeds. </p><p>When Pandora's box cracks open, it's hard to push the monster back in. Naomi Klein detailed the corporate takeover of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in "The Shock Doctrine." Real estate brokers, charter school companies, and government agencies didn't cause the flood, but they certainly profited from it. The fear is that companies like Clearview AI, which saw a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/technology/facial-recognition-clearview-capitol.html" target="_blank">26 percent spike in usage of its facial recognition service</a> following the attack, will be incentivized, as will police departments to use such technology for any means they choose.</p><p>Cahn comes to a similar conclusion: don't expose American citizens to the "anti-democratic technology" known as facial recognition. New Yorkers had to endure subway backpack checks for nearly a decade after 9/11; this slope is even slipperier. </p>As the US braces for <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/11/politics/fbi-bulletin-armed-protests-state-us-capitol/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">further "armed protests"</a> in all 50 states over the coming week, phones need to keep capturing footage. Bystanders need to remain safe, of course. But if last week was any indication, the insurrectionists have difficulty deciphering between social media and real life. Their feeds should reveal enough.<p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
The AI constitution can mean the difference between war and peace—or total extinction.
- The question of conscious artificial intelligence dominating future humanity is not the most pressing issue we face today, says Allan Dafoe of the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. Dafoe argues that AI's power to generate wealth should make good governance our primary concern.
- With thoughtful systems and policies in place, humanity can unlock the full potential of AI with minimal negative consequences. Drafting an AI constitution will also provide the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of past structures to avoid future conflicts.
- Building a framework for governance will require us to get past sectarian differences and interests so that society as a whole can benefit from AI in ways that do the most good and the least harm.
For centuries, universities have advanced humanity toward truth. Professor Jonathan Haidt speaks to why college campuses are suddenly heading in the opposite direction.
- In a lecture at UCCS, NYU professor Jonathan Haidt considers the 'telos' or purpose of universities: To discover truth.
- Universities that prioritize the emotional comfort of students over the pursuit of truth fail to deliver on that purpose, at a great societal cost.
- To make that point, Haidt quotes CNN contributor Van Jones: "I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong—that's different."
CNN contributor Van Jones speaks onstage at the EMA IMPACT Summit in 2018.
Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Environmental Media Association<p>There are many places and institutions whose purpose, or <em>telos</em>, is comfort. But a university is not one of those places. To make that point, Haidt quotes CNN contributor Van Jones:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong—that's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I'm not going to take all the weights out of the gym. That's the whole point of the gym. <em>This</em> is the gym.</p><p>By prioritizing comfort over the pursuit of truth, universities are ignoring their purpose. Higher education should be an arena of open inquiry and free expression, where ideas are exchanged, tested, and scrutinized. A liberal education should be "an invitation to be concerned not with the employment of what is familiar but with understanding what is not yet understood," <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=Jpu7BAAAQBAJ&pg=PT286&lpg=PT286&dq=%22an+invitation+to+be+concerned+not+with+the+employment+of+what+is+familiar+but+with+understanding+what+is+not+yet+understood.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=bmqaS1BxSm&sig=ACfU3U0aOokPZOGJlLFUVO9-a8VBV50tCw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_u-jd1_btAhWqzVkKHSdKBMsQ6AEwAnoECAEQAg#v=onepage&q=%22an%20invitation%20to%20be%20concerned%20not%20with%20the%20employment%20of%20what%20is%20familiar%20but%20with%20understanding%20what%20is%20not%20yet%20understood.%E2%80%9D&f=false" target="_blank">according</a> to philosopher Michael Oakeshott.</p>
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A new survey shows who believes what and how it differs from what Americans believe as a whole.
- The newest survey of congressional religious beliefs shows our representatives aren't quite like us.
- Members of Congress are much more religious and more Christian than the general population.
- The effects of this disconnect are debatable.
The demographics of Congress and their constituents<p> A whopping 88 percent of Representatives and Senators are Christians. Breaking this down, 55 percent of them identify as some sort of Protestant, and another 30 percent are Catholic. Mormons make up around 2 percent of the legislature, with Orthodox Christians following at just above 1 percent. This puts them well behind the Jews, which 6 percent of the body identified as. </p><p>Behind them came the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Humanist, and Unaffiliated members. Each of these categories amounts to under one percent of Congress by themselves, for a collective total of 12 members. </p><p>Eighteen members refused to answer the survey; many of them also refused to answer two years ago—speculation as to why this is and what they actually believe continues elsewhere. </p><p>For comparison, only 65 percent of the general public identifies as a Christian. Beyond that, only 20 percent of the population is Catholic, and another 43 percent Protestant. People with no religious affiliation make up another 26 percent. Judaism is three times as common in Congress as it is elsewhere in the country, with only 2 percent of the population identifying as such. </p><p>Mormons and Orthodox Christians enjoy nearly propositional representation, as they make up 2 percent and just under 1 percent of the population nationally. The remaining represented religions are in a similar situation. They are under-represented but not nearly as much as the non-religious—Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus each make up about one percent of the general population. Unitarian Universalists are seated in Congress at the same rate as the aforementioned faiths but are just under one percent of the population. </p><p>Some trends emerge in this data. Since 1961, the year this survey was first sent out, the percentage of Christians has fallen, though by far less than the population overall. Like the rest of Protestant America, members of Congress are increasingly likely not to name a denomination, such as Lutheran or Baptist, but to instead identify with the more general term of Protestant. </p><p> It is also worth mentioning that there may be more to this topic than these questions can reveal.</p><p>Many Jewish people identify as such while also being agnostic or even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_atheism" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">atheistic</a>. It is possible that the degree of actual belief among some of the members of Congress using the term varies dramatically. Likewise, the one "unaffiliated" member has stated before that they don't want to be bound by <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2012/11/09/breaking-kyrsten-sinema-is-not-an-atheist/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">labels</a>, further reducing the usefulness of a survey that tries to label everybody.</p>
Why might this be?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yz8VbAxkaDw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> In addition to the previously mentioned difficulties of having an entirely representative legislature, some religious groups are still more electable than others.</p><p>A recent <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/285563/socialism-atheism-political-liabilities.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gallop poll</a> demonstrates that only about 60 percent of Americans would vote for a qualified atheist and that only a few more would support a similarly capable Muslim. While these numbers have increased over time and differ greatly based on party affiliation, it is probable that many non-Christian potential candidates justify not running on the grounds of these numbers. </p><p> Before you point out that these are majorities, that is who is <em>willing</em> to vote for such a person at all, not a list of people who <em>would</em> for sure. You'd probably want better numbers than that unless you're sure you can get all of them. </p>
What does this mean for legislation?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KS7pnPlQLcY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> It doesn't necessarily need to mean anything. Representatives of all faiths or lack thereof can govern in a secular manner that doesn't favor any particular worldview.</p><p>The Congressional Freethought Caucus, dedicated to fostering science and reason while defending the secular nature of <a href="https://secular.org/governmental-affairs/congressional-freethought-caucus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">government</a>, has 14 members. It is, obviously, impossible for all its members to be non-religious. Its members represent a variety of faiths and denominations of Christianity, including humanism, while supporting all people's rights.</p><p>A remaining concern is that the disproportionate representation could lead to specific points of view not being <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2021/01/04/the-religious-makeup-of-the-117th-congress-includes-a-few-surprises/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heard</a>. There are no atheists in Congress to articulate their viewpoints on legislation that concerns others like them. This lack of representation is <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/why-representation-in-politics-matters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">something</a> that <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/campaign/297143-why-our-representation-in-government-should-look-more-like-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">can</a> and <a href="https://genderwatch2018.org/scaling-womens-political-representation-matters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has</a> been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2018/oct/04/few-us-politicians-working-class" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said</a> for <a href="https://www.voanews.com/usa/why-arent-more-native-americans-members-us-congress" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">other</a> demographic groups both now and at different points in our history. </p><p>In any small body representing a larger one, there will be strange demographic mismatches by necessity. In the case of the United States Congress, these differences are rather pronounced. While they may have only a limited effect on legislation, there may be other, less tangible ways that this disconnect causes issues. </p><p>Or, it might be nothing more than a statistical curiosity. </p>
Plan S is starting to take hold, but the cost is merely shifting even more to the researchers.
- Launched in 2018, cOAlition S is trying to make all of the world's state-backed scientific papers open-access.
- Prestigious publishers like Springer Nature and Elsevier have now adopted a Plan S option for researchers.
- While more studies will be available to read for free, some of the expense is being passed back to authors, which could limit research in the future.
Chart: Science<p>The cost to publish remains prohibitive for some researchers, with certain journal prices for one article exceeding annual budgets. This has forced many researchers to confront an existential question: publish behind a paywall and wither in obscurity, or pay up and hope enough people read (and cite) your work.</p><p>While inflated journal prices have plagued the scientific community, Brainard notes that a purely open-access model could place even more of a burden on researchers. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"A complete shift to open access could lead publishers to boost publishing fees even further, to try to make up for lost subscription revenues[...] Although just over 30% of all papers published in 2019 were paid open access, subscriptions still accounted for more than 90% of publishers' revenues that year."</p><p>cOAlition S is advocating for increased transparency to push back on price gouging. Just as researchers must disclose funding and conflicts of interest, "Plan S requires publishers to disclose to funders the basis for their prices, including the cost of services such as proofreading, copy editing, and organizing peer review."</p><p>Although Brainard briefly mentions an increase in the number of non-researchers and institutions—laypeople—reading open-access journals, this topic is relevant to this conversation. America is suffering from a longstanding dearth of public science information, evidenced in the <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-18/anti-vaxxers-team-up-alt-right-against-covid-19-vaccine" target="_blank">anti-vax fervor</a> that's growing in volume (<a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/12/03/intent-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine-rises-to-60-as-confidence-in-research-and-development-process-increases/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">if not in numbers</a>) since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines. </p><p>Access to scientific studies won't solve all of our woes. But lack of transparency is a major reason why so many citizens have grown suspicious of pharmaceutical companies and public health agencies. An ability to read studies without having to pay exorbitant prices (to the layperson) would be an important step in public health and science education. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>