Sunday, June 06, 2010

Framing ignorant vs. educated as a debate

Great New Rules segment by Bill Maher a few days ago.  The good stuff is at about the 2:20 point on in the clip.


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"That's the problem with our obsession with always seeing two sides of every issue equally -- especially when one side has a lot of money. It means we have to pretend there are always two truths, and the side that doesn't know anything has something to say. On this side of the debate: Every scientist in the world. On the other: Mr. Potato Head.

There is no debate here -- just scientists vs. non-scientists, and since the topic is science, the non-scientists don't get a vote. We shouldn't decide everything by polling the masses. Just because most people believe something doesn't make it true. This is the fallacy called argumentum ad numeram: the idea that something is true because great numbers believe it ...

... Media, could you please stop pitting the ignorant vs. the educated and framing it as a "debate." The other day, I saw a professor from the Union of Concerned Scientists face off against a distinguished expert on Tea Partying, whose brilliant analysis, recently published in the New England Journal of Grasping at Straws, was that we shouldn't teach climate science in schools because kids find it scary. As they should. I hope they're peeing in their pants.

The last decade, year, and month are all the hottest on record. Then there's the killing of the oceans, floods, Category 5 hurricanes, heat waves, giant wild fires, and the vanishing water supply. You know, the little things. And yet deniers say, it's just a theory. As is gravity. For progress to happen, certain things have to become not an issue anymore, so we can go on to the next issue. Evolution was an issue until overwhelming consensus among scientists made it not an issue ..."

"I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses." -- German astronmer Johannes Kepler

1 comment:

wunelle said...

A whole bunch of good stuff in here. He has his whackadoon moments, but he's on the mark here.

To see that England is now joining the ranks of global warming denihilists threatens to put me in a permanent funk. I just can't grasp the lure that seems to exist to this anti-science dark side.