Archive for April 10th, 2009

400 Years of the Telescope, Tonight on PBS

By Chris Mooney | April 10, 2009 2:10 pm

I just recently read Galileo’s Starry Messenger, which is just about to have its 400th birthday…so I’m psyched to tune in for this one tonight. See the teaser video below, and tune in at 10pm Pacific/Eastern, 9pm Central tonight (check local listings for specific airdate in your area, or visit www.400years.org).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, History of Science

The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 10, 2009 11:54 am

Yesterday Chris invited readers to discuss C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures here at The Intersection.  Of course I’m in favor of the idea having basically had Collini’s edition attached at my hip as we composed Unscientific America.  So not to steal his thunder, but I have an alternative suggestion related to my next book…

37382931.JPGWho’s interested to discuss Mary Roach’s Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex?  Here’s an excerpt from Publishers Weekly:

“Roach’s forays offer fascinating evidence of the full range of human weirdness, the nonsense that has often passed for medical science and, more poignantly, the extreme lengths to which people will go to find sexual satisfaction.”

And so while I’m in no way discouraging a ‘book club‘ about everyone’s favorite lecture from nearly 50 years ago in Cambridge, who wants to explore what the NYTimes describes as a ‘greatly satisfying romp‘?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Media and Science

Randy Olson on Marc Morano, Who Was Featured in Sizzle

By Chris Mooney | April 10, 2009 10:14 am

Our friend and scientist-filmmaker Randy Olson had some run-ins with Marc Morano in making his hilarous recent film Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy, which premiered last July at the Outfest Gay and Lesbian Festival in Hollywood, and at the Woods Hole Film Festival. It is now on the film festival and college screening circuit.

I’ve done a short Q&A with Olson about how we should think about Morano, given that he is an increasingly prominent character in the climate debate. Here are my questions, and his responses:

Do you respect Marc Morano? As a source of accurate information on global warming, no. As a powerful and skilled communicator who is well suited to today’s media environment, yes, I do and the entire science community should.

Do you think he is successful? He just got profiled in the NY Times. I’d say he has arrived in terms of his mission to establish himself as a lead spokesman in their efforts to thwart global warming action. I included him in my movie because I was impressed with his aggressiveness, quickness, and sheer ability to domineer. Yet I also showed in the segment how inaccurate he could be with the facts as I end it with him saying “none of the dire environmental predictions of the 1970′s came true.” In his list is the oceans. I’m trained as a marine biologist. I told him he was wrong on that. He replied, “Well, at least they’re not dead,” which is just terrible.

What does his success say about the climate debate today? He is the definitive case study disproving the strategy of the mainstream science community’s belief that, “If you just ignore these skeptics they will go away.” That seemed to be Gore’s approach in his movie — he cited the large number of studies supporting the urgency of global warming, then seemed to imply there was little resistance. Last year I was at a speech by a senior climate scientist and asked from the audience what he thought of climate skeptics, to which he replied, “Are there any left?” which brought a huge laugh and round of applause from the audience.

Slowly, and rather ineptly, the environmental movement is showing signs of realizing how wrong they were with that approach. Just two weeks ago I received a mass email from Environmental Defense Fund titled, “Global Warming Opposition: By the Numbers.” Instead of saying “there is no resistance,” they went to the other extreme. Citing the $450 million spent last year by the anti-global warming action movement, they said, “we are witnessing an unprecedented all-out campaign by polluters and ideologues to prevent meaningful action.” Overall, their message was pretty much, “there is now so much resistance that if you don’t give us money we’re all going to fail!” That’s a pretty big turn around from the “just ignore them” strategy. And now they have to deal with a guy with a very loud mouth, who trained with Rush Limbaugh, as one of the lead spokesmen. It’s time for the science community to realize they are getting out-communicated, and put more effort into understanding how today’s communication environment works. It’s not as simple as just spouting out the facts. There are effective ways to confront the skeptics, but you have to realize these guys are playing hardball. Good intentions count for nothing. This isn’t your father’s climate science world any longer.

Sadly, to my mind this is all exactly right….

The Economics of Ideas in the Global Warming Debate

By Chris Mooney | April 10, 2009 8:27 am

The New York Times now profiles Morano, the howitzer of climate denial, and among many revelations, the paper has seen fit to inform us about his salary:

Mr. Morano’s new Web site is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues.

Craig Rucker, a co-founder of the organization, said the committee got about a third of its money from other foundations. But Mr. Rucker would not identify them or say how much his foundation would pay Mr. Morano. (Mr. Morano says it will be more than the $134,000 he earned annually in the Senate.)

Normally, such things aren’t relevant to bring up (so one wonders why the Times did so). However, this factoid happens to dovetail closely with my last Morano post. There, I pointed out that our left wing philanthropists don’t bother creating counter-Moranos, and so, in essence, are guilty of egregiously misspending their money. Now we learn that the right wing think tanks (and right-wing Senators) pay their own climate pundits quite well. Good for Morano, honestly.

I bring this up because there are probably a dozen climate related journalists, writers, and activists out there who, given a full-time salary of $ 134,000 with benefits, might not only become an intellectual warrior on the opposite of the issue from Morano, but could perhaps be as good at the game or better. I’m not one of them–among other reasons, I think this work, and this life, would grow intellectually dull very quickly.

But my point is that being a counter-Morano simply isn’t there as a career path, for me or anyone else who actually wants to defend good science on global warming.

Prepping for media appearances doesn’t pay. Coming up with talking points doesn’t pay. Op-eds and blogging barely pay. The market does not produce careers in doing these things on its own; it takes actual money to support such careers.

This is, in essence, the core of the failure of the left, on the politics of science and on much else–basic economics, applied to the dissemination of ideas.

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