Category: point of inquiry

New Point of Inquiry: Rick Perlstein–Is There a Republican War on History?

By Chris Mooney | June 20, 2011 8:11 pm

The latest show has just gone up–here is the write-up:

Recently, we’ve seen a spate of news stories—and news incidents—involving conservative politicians and activists getting details wrong about American history.

There was, most infamously, Sarah Palin saying that Paul Revere, on his famous midnight ride, rang bells and “warned the British.”

There was Michele Bachman, claiming that the founding fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Actually, the constitution explicitly treated slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of apportioning representatives to different states.

And then was David Barton, conservatives’ go-to guy on history, suggesting that Tom Paine was, basically, a supporter of creationism.

To try to figure out what’s going on lately with conservatives and history, we turn to a historian, Rick Perlstein. Perlstein is the author of several books including Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus, and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He’s also a regular contributor to a variety of publications including The American Prospect and Mother Jones.

You can listen to the show here….

Announcing the Next Point of Inquiry: Is There a Republican War on History? With Rick Perlstein

By Chris Mooney | June 13, 2011 4:47 pm

Given all the attacks on history lately (see here), I couldn’t let this topic lie any longer. Airing next week, the next Point of Inquiry will be about the ideological rewriting of history, and it will feature as a guest historian and journalist Rick Perlstein.

Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. We’ll talk about anything from Sarah Palin’s recent flub to claims that the U.S. is a “Christian Nation”–and of course we’ll also consider whether there are also leftwing forms of inaccurate or ideological history.

The show airs a week from today. Please leave questions or comments for Rick Perlstein, or myself, as these often get asked on the air and help shape the show.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, point of inquiry

The Left and Science: A Call for Point of Inquiry Guest Ideas

By Chris Mooney | June 10, 2011 11:38 am

Following on my last post, I want to do a show that really gets into the political left and its relationship with science. That relationship is not without its problems–GMOs, nuclear, vaccines–though I believe it is nothing like the current relationship with the political right.

But the question is, which guest would have the most insight into this question? I’ve already interviewed Yale’s Dan Kahan so he’s out, though obviously he has much insight.

I would welcome your suggestions. I’m very open to interviewing a conservative who has thought deeply on this question. In fact, that would be the ideal choice.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, point of inquiry

Debating Michael Shermer (and Bjorn Lomborg) on Climate Risks

By Chris Mooney | June 8, 2011 11:43 am

My latest DeSmogblog post is a rundown of my little debate with Michael Shermer about global warming, which can be heard at roughly minutes 5:30-13:00 on the latest podcast. I doubt I’ll change Shermer’s mind, but I really am not satisfied with his “wait and see” position on this issue. Here are some of the reasons I give at DeSmog:

First, the excess CO2 that we put in the atmosphere lasts there for centuries—so if the warming isn’t on the low end, we’re stuck with it. This suggests that waiting around could be a pretty bad idea. Is that a risk worth taking?

Second, we know what the planet was like with vastly elevated levels of CO2 in the Earth’s past. Here’s the extreme, as described by Harvard’s Dan Schrag: “50 million years ago, we believe that carbon dioxide was between 4 and 10 times higher than present. At that time, sea level was 100 meters higher, the deep ocean was 12 degrees C (compared with 2 to 4 degrees today), crocodiles lived on Greenland, and palm trees lived in Canada.”

Shermer might reply that we’ll never let it get that far, and that may be true. But crucially, the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets happens somewhere along the way to the crocodiles-on-Greenland world, and while we don’t know exactly where that is, there are reasons to think it is much closer to where we are now than to the world Schrag describes.

Greenland alone contains enough water to raise sea levels globally by as much as 7 meters, and published evidence suggests that Greenland can be destabilized at somewhere between 400 and 560 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And we’re already pushing 400. And that’s just Greenland.

You can read the full post here. And you can listen to the podcast here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming, point of inquiry

New Point of Inquiry is Up: Michael Shermer–The Believing Brain

By Chris Mooney | June 7, 2011 9:04 am

The latest show is up, and I am confident it will be much discussed. Here is the write up:

Our guest this week is Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and head of the Skeptics Society, and a longtime commentator on issues relating to science, critical thinking, and the paranormal.

Chris asked Michael on to discuss his new book, which is entitled The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies, How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths.

Clearly, much of what Shermer has to say here will be of great relevance to skeptics and freethinkers—and along the way, Shermer also discusses his views on global warming (real, but not such a big deal) and how to promote evolution in a religious America.

In addition to publishing Skeptic, Michael Shermer is  a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. His other books include Why People Believe in Weird Things andWhy Darwin Matters.

In a series of posts this week, I’m going to say more about at least 3 parts of the interview that I think will prompt discussion–our exchanges on global warming, “accommodationism,” and the differences between liberals and conservatives.

In the meantime, you can listen to the show here and order Shermer’s new book here.

Congratulations to Naomi Oreskes

By Chris Mooney | May 31, 2011 7:44 am

I’m a bit late on this, but Naomi Oreskes, the co-author of Merchants of Doubt and a Point of Inquiry guest last year, has been recognized as “Climate Change Communicator of the Year” by the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. The Alliance for Climate Education, as an organization, was also recognized.

I’ve known Naomi Oreskes for a long time, been on panels with her, interviewed her, spoken to her classes. She’s a fearless historian of science who has done pivotal work to defend the idea that the scientific consensus on climate change is robust and should be listened to–and in Merchants of Doubt, she and Eric Conway took it further by exposing the long history of how a small group of scientists moved from being Cold Warriors to, essentially, the first generation of climate “skeptics.” It’s a must read.

I congratulate Naomi, as should we all. She very much deserves this honor.

Interestingly, by the way, her book could be classified as being part of a “war on science” narrative, which Matthew Nisbet doesn’t like. And yet it is winning a “climate communication” award!

Listen to Naomi’s Point of Inquiry appearance here.

Announcing My Next Point of Inquiry Guest: Michael Shermer on The Believing Brain

By Chris Mooney | May 29, 2011 7:29 pm

Tomorrow I’m interviewing Michael Shermer, author of the hot selling new book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

This will be for the show to air on Monday, June 6.

If you have any questions you think I ought to ask Michael, post them here.

I’m reading the book and it is really good so far, though I think I disagree with Shermer slightly–only slightly–about the psychologies of liberals and conservatives. But that’s probably no surprise, as I’m a liberal and he’s a libertarian.

You can order the book here.

Attack of the Truthers!

By Chris Mooney | May 28, 2011 2:30 pm

Over on the Point of Inquiry forum thread for discussion of the show with Jonathan Kay, 9-11 Truther madness has descended. I also got a ticked off email from a Truther just now. Having never really dealt with them before, they are not making a good first impression. If you want to see an example of the capacity of human reasoning to go off the rails check this out:

Actually I think WTC7 is so obviously a demolition that it is boring. The obvious give away is how the roof line came down so simultaneously and remained so straight all of the way across the building. How could damage from the “collapse” of WTC1 create such ideal behavior? How could fire do it? It’s ridiculous to think such random phenomenon could cause such a precise result.

At least airliners smashing into skyscrapers is interesting.

OH yeah jet fuel. Sometimes known as kerosene. There were 34 tons of it. FEMA says about 50% of it was used up in the initial explosion. But how much mass are we talking about in the vicinity of the impact? They never tell us how much a complete floor assembly weighed. But it is easy to compute the weight of a concrete floor slab on the basis of dimensions and density. One concrete slab outside the core weighed 600 tons. How much all of the trusses and corrugated pans weighed I have never seen. I am guessing around 200 tons. There were 236 perimeter columns and 47 core columns. But we are completely missing data on the horizontal beams in the core.

Now with each level 12 feet tall that means there were 564 feet of vertical steel in the core on each level. But the cores were 86 feet by 136 feet. Now the columns were not in an evenly spaced 6 by 8 grid with one missing. I have never seen the layout of the horizontal beams specified. But the length of horizontal steel should be about 8 * 86 + 6 * 136 or 1504 feet of steel. Much more than double the length of vertical steel. So how are we supposed to analyze whatever happened when we don’t even know the tons of steel on each level inside the core?

Give us more data! So that we can twist it and come up with new questions!

Oh, and then there’s this:

So which part of the CIA do you work for young Chris?

Yes, these people really do exist, and there is some woodwork somewhere that they come out of. And the worst part of it is, according to surveys they are more likely than not to share my own political persuasion!

Blogging about conspiracies is not exactly an uplifting experience, folks. Not that I’m really surprised or anything…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry

Latest Point of Inquiry: "Among the Truthers" — Jonathan Kay

By Chris Mooney | May 26, 2011 1:18 pm

I should have blogged this a day ago but I was too tied up at our communications training in Norman, OK. But the latest Point of Inquiry is up, and here’s the write-up:

From Birthers, to Truthers, to Deathers—to occasional Liars—America seems to be crawling right now with fevered conspiracy mongers. What’s up with that?

To find out, Point of Inquiry turns in this episode to Jonathan Kay, author of the new book Among the Truthers: A Journey into America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground. In it, Kay provides a fascinating look at some of our indigenous kooks, and why they seem to be thriving right now.

Jonathan Kay is the managing editor of Canada’s National Post newspaper and a weekly columnist for its op-ed page.

Kay’s writing covers a diversity of subjects, and he’s been published in a variety of outlets including Commentary, the New York PostReader’s Digest, and the New Yorker. In 2002, he was awarded Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Critical Writing, and in 2004 he won a National Newspaper Award for Editorial Writing.

Once again, you can listen to the show here and you can order Kay’s book here.

Announcing My Next Point of Inquiry Episode Topic: Among the Truthers

By Chris Mooney | May 19, 2011 12:36 pm

I’m pleased to announce my next Point of Inquiry guest for the show airing Monday: Jonathan Kay, a journalist with Canada’s National Post and author of the new book Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.

I’ve been beating up on Birthers a lot lately (everyone has), so this is a bit of “balancing.” Of course, Kay knows a lot about Birthers too.

We did the interview last night and I think people are going to like this one. Airs Monday. If you’re interested, check out the book in the meantime.

I also appeared recently with Kay on MSNBC.


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