Author Topic: Episode #346  (Read 4232 times)

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Offline Steven Novella

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Episode #346
« on: March 03, 2012, 12:04:09 PM »
Interview with Gordon Maupin
This Day in Skepticism: Leap Year
News Items: Iceman Genome, FTL Neutrino Follow Up, More on Anti-Climategate, Drug Testing, Your Deceptive Brain
Who's That Noisy
Science or Fiction
Steven Novella
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Offline seaotter

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 12:11:17 PM »
Thanks for the podcast!
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Offline Old Hoplite

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2012, 02:11:30 PM »
If you didn't know, in my real life I'm a retired soldier. I attended the funeral of a fallen warrior when those idiots from Westboro made an appearance. The hateful bile thew spew made me want to go and start smacking them in the mouth. My wife, and the far more reasonable of us two restrained me.  She also reminded me that they had the right to be stupid and hateful.  In a free society we all have to put up with speech that we don't like.

I happen to be a ADW 'denialist' (although I don't like that term...it smacks of Holocaust denial, which, I suppose, is the point of those that use it).  But I would never try and silence Michael Mann, et al. Does not Heartland and those that support it not have the same right of free speech?  To lobby and influence policy? After all AGW believers do so all the time.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 02:47:02 PM by Old Hoplite »
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Offline Steven Novella

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2012, 02:15:35 PM »
I hear a lot from AGW "dissidents" that the term "denier" is meant to be a comparison to Holocaust denial or paint with the same brush, but honestly this is not true. I and others have been writing about "denialism" for years - long before global warming was an issue.

We use the term "denial" when is applies to a set of strategies to deny accepted science and sow unwarranted doubt. I find there is a range among those who dissent from the AGW consensus, but at one end of the spectrum there are certainly deniers, and I think Heartland fits into that category.
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Offline rebecca

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2012, 03:34:32 PM »
Does not Heartland and those that support it not have the same right of free speech?  To lobby and influence policy? After all AGW believers do so all the time.

No, actually. "Free speech," in the US, does not mean that any speech is permitted at any time. Heartland is registered as a 501c3 tax-exempt organization, which means that it is prohibited from lobbying.
Skepchick <- Now with updated URL for 2012!

Offline Forral

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2012, 03:35:44 PM »
Does the video in The Great Courses add much? Would I be missing out by saving myself $20?

Offline Nene

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2012, 03:47:31 PM »
Jay, you have been doing quite good with South Tyrol and Bolzano. But I do understand the problems English speakers have with the Umlaute 'Oe' or 'Ö', so Ötztal and Ötzi sounded a bit strange.

Offline Phillip Hudson

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2012, 07:20:29 PM »
That T-Rex bite seemed way too easy this week. I guess hoping the panel would have read the article backfired on ya. Oh well. Made for a fun segment still. Great show as always!
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 07:22:32 PM by Phillip Hudson »
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Offline Chew

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2012, 07:28:50 PM »
To clarify one bit Steve said, the Earth rotates 366 times per year relative to the Stars.

The interviewee has his own podcast Wild Ideas...The Podcast - The Wilderness Center Every episode he and his co-hosts cover a basic scientific concept and an animal or plant and often interview scientists.
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2012, 07:40:47 PM »
There's a reason reporters ask the other side's view on a matter. It reduces the number of silly mistakes that make it through into their reports (although plenty still make it). In Rebecca's report it might have been a good idea to check up what Heartland and Koch have to say. Rebecca:

Quote
The documents showed that most of the global warming denialism at Heartland was funded by a single anonymous donor, but there were also several large corporations listed as major donors as well, which I mentioned on the show. For instance one was oil conglomerate Koch Industries, which makes sense because they're well known into putting millions of dollars into lobbying for anti-science legislation and the like, because it directly benefits them ...


But according Heartland and Koch, the money put in to Heartland by Koch was not by Koch industries, and was not put into global warming denialism:

Quote
The Charles G. Koch Foundation does not fund our climate change efforts and did not contribute $200,000 to us in 2011. The foundation has issued a statement confirming that its 2011 gift of $25,000 – its first to Heartland in ten years – was earmarked for our work on health care reform, not climate.
http://fakegate.org/bast-on-forged-memo/

Says Rebecca:

Quote
... every fact in [the Heatland Climate Strategy memo] was in fact verified by the other [Heartland] documents


This is simply false. There were indeed many points in the Strategy memo which repeated (to cut and paste levels of accuracy) parts of the other documents which Gleick claims he sought to verify the Strategy document. But there are other points -- especially the claim mentioned above about the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation which were not verified, and which Heritage specifically denies.

The president of Heartland has published a sentence by sentence analysis of this document in which he points out why it is a fake. He starts:

Quote
I say without qualification that I did not write this memo. However, some of the text in the memo was copied and pasted from or closely paraphrases the stolen documents, authentic versions of which I did write.
http://fakegate.org/bast-on-forged-memo/

Rebecca goes on to uncritically repeat Gleick's claims about how he came by this document and then sought to verify it by his impersonation.

That is indeed one possible explanation that can fit the facts. Another would be that Gleick fraudulently obtained the real Heartland documents for other reasons and decided to 'sex them up'. There is no proof either way at this point, but it would seem unwise to accept Gleick's claims at face value. Especially as Heartland admits ownership of all the other documents, but not this one.

Especially as Gleick's purported attempt at verification commenced on the very same day he rejected an offer by Heartland for a debate on the basis that Heartland was insufficiently transparent about its funding arrangements. Perhaps this merely reminded him that he had already received the Strategy memo in the mail, and that he needed to verify it. And perhaps he felt that asking Heartland, with which he had been exchanging emails over the debate invitation, for its views on the document would not be appropriate for some reason.

Or, perhaps, Gleick simply made up the Strategy memo, incorporating at least one major error that any semi-competent organisation -- even a dishonent anti-science one -- would be unlikely to make.

A point on terminology. Rebecca also refers to Peter Gleick as the 'leaker'. As have much of the media. He was not, of course. He was the phisher. If I were to send, say, Steve an email in which I purported to be Evan and asked for the rude bits cut out of the most recent podcast, I'd be many things, but a leaker would not be one of them. Were Evan to access Steve's computer and get those same bits and send them to me, then he'd be a leaker.

Finally, I applaud Rebecca's very strong stance on free speech. I couldn't agree with her more. The way to fight lies, whether by Heartland or Peter Gleick, is to counter with truth. All too often truth doesn't win in the short term, but over the long term it seems to gain the upper hand.
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Offline Old Hoplite

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2012, 08:09:31 PM »
Does not Heartland and those that support it not have the same right of free speech?  To lobby and influence policy? After all AGW believers do so all the time.


No, actually. "Free speech," in the US, does not mean that any speech is permitted at any time. Heartland is registered as a 501c3 tax-exempt organization, which means that it is prohibited from lobbying.


Of course no right is absolute, speech is often limited by time and place and subject. You can't, for example,  espouse violence against others.

However, ma'am, what you stated above is not actually the law. 

According to the IRS (http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=163392,00.html) "A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status."


501c3s with large budgets may lawfully expend a million dollars or more a year on lobbying and still comply with the law.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 08:13:03 PM by Old Hoplite »
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Offline krelnik

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2012, 08:10:54 PM »
I feel compelled to point out an interesting piece of trivia for leap day that wasn't mentioned.

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) was technically born on leap day, as its official incorporation papers were filed on that day in 1996. So happy sweet 16, JREF.

Just a short plug, if you're interested in more skeptical history stuff like this and you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the JREF has an app full of tidbits like this called Today in Skeptic History.  Read more about the app here.  It's free.
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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2012, 02:16:16 AM »
But there are other points -- especially the claim mentioned above about the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation which were not verified, and which Heritage specifically denies.

As I mentioned on the #345 thread, I find the explanation that Gleick dreamed up the memo highly unlikely. It's pretty clear where the Koch numbers come from; look at the fundraising plan, page 22. They project the $200,000 figure for 2012 and note that the contribution for 2011 was $25,000. It's likely that someone simply made a mistake reading out the numbers and accidentally put the projections for 2012 in as the actual for 2011.
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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2012, 02:29:48 AM »
I also have to disagree with Steve that a scientist should necessarily refrain from this kind of stuff. Randi gets a free pass because he's a magician, but a scientist should be above such things? That's just a bit silly to me. If you take the position that what is ethical or not somehow depends on your profession, I think that's a slippery slope. You could then argue that there is no ethical issue with psychics who deceive their clientele, since that is the basis of their profession. The way I see it, the moral distinction between magicians and psychics is not so much the deception they employ, but the intent. I think Gleick's intent was honorable.

But even if you were to take that position, I just see what Gleick did as a bit of detective work, vetting the information you received. Unless Gleick actually did forge or distort the evidence (or withheld some information that would put things in a different light), I don't really see how it goes against a scientific code of ethics.

And I think the ends absolutely do justify the means in this case. Climate scientists have been fighting an uphill battle against these kinds of people for years now, and it's clear that just doing science will not put much of a dent in their armor.

More to the point, what better way was there to deal with the situation Gleick was in? Should he have just stood by and done nothing, or should he maybe have released the memo without vetting it - risking both his credibility and possibly libeling Heartland if it turned out to be false? Plus, that would likely leave no way for the public to verify its contents, as I doubt Heartland would have released the other documents if they could just have denied the legitimacy of the memo (seeing as most of the content can be verified using the other documents). Denial is what they do best, after all. Assuming he didn't just make it up, I think Gleick did a very good thing here, and both the climate science community and the public at large are better off for it.

But of course, that's just my opinion.

EDIT: Also, awesome @ new skeptical teaching company course! But it's "mind", not "brain".
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 03:04:29 AM by werecow »
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Offline Trinoc

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Re: Episode #346
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2012, 06:22:07 AM »
Can we please stop filling up the podcast threads with climate denial debates? There's a sub-forum set aside for that sort of thing. A single post in the podcast thread directing interested parties to the sub-forum would suffice.
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