Talking clouds? Sounds more like blowing smoke.

A research scientist for with NOAA has published a paper that claims clouds can and do communicate with each other. No, I’m not kidding:

“Cloud fields organize in such a way that their components ‘communicate’ with one another and produce regular, periodic rainfall events,” explained Graham Feingold, a research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and the paper’s lead author.

In other words, Feingold found clear evidence of self-organization in the regular patterns of rainfall and repeating growth of those floating puffs of cotton.

“Self-organization” means that he sees active interaction and direction in clouds of water vapor. This isn’t a chemical reaction he’s talking about, such as the interaction between water and iron to produce rust or something like that. He’s saying that he’s observing clouds act of their own volition. They aren’t substances being moved by other forces of nature, forming and moving and producing rain as other natural processes play out to produce these results. They’re actively communicating entities working together to produce those results. Seriously.

Science dictates that there’s only one way that happens: the clouds are alive and possessed of, at minimum, animal intelligence. In case you’re thinking that’s not what he’s really saying, here he is talking to FoxNews.com:

“In a sense what’s going on is that the clouds are communicating  with each other by driving down to the ground. If you have a number of clouds doing exactly that, air is forced to go sideways from one cloud and meets the air from another,” Feingold told FoxNews.com.

The clouds aren’t sinking to the ground in response to gravity as they pick up additional water vapor and, hence, mass. They’re driving to the ground. To communicate.

Animism is a primitive construct that held that nearly everything in the world is, basically, alive and animated by some type of spirit or another. Even objects and substances we don’t consider alive, such as rock or wind or water, have an active, intelligent consciousness that guides its actions. Animism is inconsistent with true science. The various laws of nature – physics, chemistry, etc. – rely on the concept that the universe is ordered by rules that can predict the outcome of a given interaction where no living creature interferes. A rock, when dropped from a height, falls to the ground here on Earth. It does so because there is a force that we call gravity. Gravity acts upon any object within its range in pretty much the same way whether anyone wants it to or not.

Animism says the rock falls because it wants to or because it permits itself to do so. Wind blows because the spirit of the wind wishes to, or that a mass of air just wants to see what’s over the next hill. The tides come in and out because the spirits of the water direct it to do so.

And, now, the rain falls because the clouds are conversing. And this is from someone claiming to be a scientist and working for a publicly-funded entity whose job it is to observe atmospheric phenomena and conclude scientific principles thereby. This nonsense about the clouds “communicating” isn’t science, it’s fiction. It’s no better than perpetuating the notion that people fall ill because of “a bad humor in the blood” or that women are inherently unstable because they have a uterus. Perhaps he is seeing some previously unnoticed and unexplained pattern in the clouds. Perhaps what he’s seeing is an artifact of how he’s seeing the clouds, perhaps not. He’d be better off trying some real research if he’s that interested in it rather than ascribing the actions to those of cloud spirits and such. And he should definitely avoid relying on his NOAA position if he’s going to press ahead with that anyway. NOAA doesn’t need the hit to its credibility.

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2 comments

  1. Eight features of living organisms.

    1. Living things consist of organized parts.
    2. All organisms are made of cells.
    3. Organisms perform chemical reactions.
    4. Living organisms obtain energy from their surroundings
    5. Organisms respond to their environments.
    6. Organisms mature over time.
    7. Organisms reproduce
    8. Organisms share a common evolutionary history.

    Is there such a thing as communicating without being alive?
    Is he arguing that these clouds are alive? There is scientific evidence, hard evidence, that plants communicate messages to one another. These are not conversations, and few would argue that it constitutes a type of language, but the evidence is there. These are chemically based communications. Plants reproduce, are made of cytoplasmic cells, and so on. Plants are living organisms. Grass is a living organism. Yeast is a living organism. Nautilus shells are living organisms. But this? I see it as part of a system. The earth as a whole is a bio-system, just as the proliferation of neurons during early maturation of an embryo acts in accordance to systematic rules and behaviors. What is the core force behind his reasoning? It does sound like animism, and he seems to be leaving behind some decent logical steps in his thinking.

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