By Jon Winsor
The New York Times Chief Editor’s piece that proposed asking candidates about their religious beliefs made quite a splash. On Bloggingheads last week, two reporters did a diavlog discussing how religion should be handled in on the campaign trail.
On the right is The American Conservative’s Michael Dougherty, a Ron Paul supporter who is also sympathetic to Jon Huntsman. On the left is Sarah Posner, a religion beat reporter who has written exposés on Dominionism for Slate.
One exchange, I think, captured the tensions over Keller’s op-ed:
I think Posner is right to focus on candidates’ systems of belief, and how open they are on empirical policy questions, such as evolution and climate change–as well as civil liberties questions, such as separation of church and state. If I understand Dougherty, he objects to the media deliberately hyping the religiously exotic and threatening, which for him is analogous to the way Glenn Beck makes crazy statements about art and architecture in downtown New York, or the way Fox News continually hammered Obama for the same two or three outrageous statements made by Reverend Wright.
My latest DeSmogBlog piece is about the flap over the Roy Spencer paper in Remote Sensing, which was covered by conservatives as if it was a paradigm shift overturning all of climate science, but turned out to be substantially less than that…and now an editor has resigned over it being published at all.
The thing is, this kind of stuff happens now and again–regularly enough that we ought to expect it. It has happened before on climate, it has happened on “intelligent design,” and it outright caused the whole vaccine-autism flap.
Here’s what I have to say over there:
The real problem here, for the most part, is not the journals or the scientists. They police themselves adequately, albeit rather slowly. The real problem are the media.
Any well trained science journalist knows that one study proves nothing—precisely because of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and so on. If there aren’t a bunch of studies out there, by a bunch of different authors, all converging on a point—or if there isn’t a meta-analysis, a consensus assessment report, and so on—you had better be very careful. Humans are too prone to biases—even scientists—to treat any single study as a new truth.
It’s just looking for trouble.
But who cares about science journalists these days, and the skills they’ve learned over those long careers? The media is shedding them like dandruff. And then there’s Fox News, where they cover the climate issue as if every day is scientific opposite day. (Thereby, of course, playing to the biases and self-serving motivations of their viewers.)
You can read the full item here.
By Jon Winsor
One recent discussion on this blog has been whether the tea party is libertarian or authoritarian. Rick Perry, the tea party’s candidate of choice, has been billing himself as a states rights-inflected libertarian, as his recent book Fed Up! attests. (See the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus for some highlights here.)
But columnists have been pointing out that the ostensibly libertarian Fed Up is of fairly recent vintage. The older Perry had quite a different political brand: that of a crusading culture warrior. Dana Milbank writes,
Yes, Perry is passionately anti-government, or at least anti-this-government. But the man who suddenly tops the Republican presidential polls is no libertarian.
For an eyeful of the full Perry, crack his 2008 book, On My Honor… [One quote:] “The radical homosexual movement seeks societal normalization of their sexual activity. . . . They must respect the right of millions in society to refuse to normalize their behavior…”
In a series of hoary bromides, the supposedly libertarian Perry condemns the “litigious advocates of licentious behavior” (that’s the ACLU) and informs us that “Sometimes the rules must protect society at large at the expense of individual expression when that expression is deemed harmful to others and society at large…”
Among the things Perry “deems” harmful: universities (students “have been taught that corporations are evil, religion is the opiate of the masses, and morality is relative”); human rights commissions (“often nothing more than a front for attacking institutions that teach traditional values”); and evolution (he says “the weight of evidence” supports intelligent design)… Read More
Dear Readers: We’ve been at a record high level of sustained traffic here over the past five months, thanks to the contributions of Jon and Jamie and, I think, our increasing political topicality. I’m now going to take the long weekend off to work on the new book project, but when I return, I’ll have an announcement about another new development for the Intersection.
I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend….
I’ve been on the road so I’m a day late in notifying folks about my latest hosted episode of the show:
In less than two weeks, the ten year anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil—9/11—will be upon us.
In the past decade, there has been much debate and discussion about the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism. There has also been considerable scientific study of the matter.
Fortunately, Point of Inquiry recently caught up with the anthropologist Scott Atran, a world leader in this research. Atran has met with terrorists face to face. He has interviewed mujahedin, met with Hamas, talked to the plotters of the Bali bombing-and sometimes found his life at risk by doing so.
There’s probably nobody better if you want to talk about terrorism, what motivates it, and how these extremes fit within the broad tapestry of human nature.
Scott Atran is a research director in anthropology at the French National Center for Scientific Research, and holds a variety of appointments at other academic institutions. He’s also the author of several books including In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion and Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists. He has published frequent op-eds in the New York Times and his research has been published in Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and other leading publications.
You can listen to the show here. Note: Some listeners over there are already wrongly calling Atran a “postmodernist,” and he has responded himself in the comments.
We’re just wrapping up another installment of “Science: Becoming the Messenger,” this time in the beautiful Colvard Student Union at Mississippi State. The University ran this picture of one of my live improv interviews with a scientist–who did a very good job in response to some very crazy questions. Image caption below:
COMMUNICATING SCIENCE — MSU is hosting the National Science Foundation, which presented the workshop “Science: Becoming the Messenger” in the Colvard Student Union Monday. Facilitators Dan Agan, left, and Chris Mooney teach participants how to communicate complicated topics like research projects in a way that engages their audience. MSU postdoctoral associate Carrlet Stokes, right, had the chance to share her message about the importance of sweet potato research during a communication exercise on stage. The workshop continues today with a more intensive training session for invited researchers.
This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist, policy analyst and science communications strategist, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process
***Update (huffington post): Actress Daryl Hannah has joined the over 500 people who have been arrested since August 20 for a sit-in protest outside the White House.
I just left the White House where environmental activist Bill McKibben was joined by actress Daryl Hannah and dozens of concerned citizens to prepare for another day of protests against opening the Keystone XL Pipeline. They are opposing U.S. approval of the pipeline, a 1,700-mile pipe from Canada to Texas, that would transport petroleum fuels across multiple states and below one of the nations largest aquifers. The campaign has been going on since August 24 and over 500 people have been arrested including Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Dr. Hansen explained his participation in the protest by stating, “Einstein said to think and not act is a crime. If we understand the situation, we must try to make it clear.”
Hansen has previously described the opening of the pipeline as “game over” for our climate. He described the situation to Solve Climate News this way:
President George W. Bush said that the U.S. was addicted to oil. So what will the U.S. response to this situation be? Will it entail phasing out fossil fuels and moving to clean energy or borrowing the dirtiest needle from a fellow addict? That is the question facing President Obama.
If he chooses the dirty needle it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction. Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer. So if the United States is buying the dirtiest stuff, it also surely will be going after oil in the deepest ocean, the Arctic, and shale deposits; and harvesting coal via mountaintop removal and long-wall mining. Obama will have decided he is a hopeless addict.
President Obama has deferred to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the ultimate decision. I’ll let the Secretary’s own words speak for her:
What do you think? Is the Obama Administration making us safer and creating jobs by approving the pipeline?
Behind the scenes images (below) captured by Jamie Vernon: Read More
By Jon Winsor
Updated: See below.
Update 2: Commenter Thomas J. Webb points me to Ron Paul’s latest book, where Paul lays out his current position on evolution–which differs from what he says below. Paul writes, “My personal view is that recognizing the validity of an evolutionary process does not support atheism, nor should it diminish one’s view about God and the universe.” (Earlier, I checked Paul’s website and could not find his position on evolution.) In his book, Paul still has doubts about science questions being relevant to the presidency (as he does in the video below).
Et tu, Ron Paul?
This is very disappointing. I always thought of the Ron Paul wing as made up of Republicans that were largely immune to this kind of motivated reasoning.
You might fault the Ron Paul people for their heterodox theories on going back to the gold standard, or their insistence that government intervention caused the Great Depression, or their sometimes quirky, youthful enthusiasm for their candidate. But at least the Austrian economists Ron Paul wrote about had some faith in the rationality of individuals.
But how rational is it to deny the theory of evolution? Read More
I called it a war on science, some academics call it anti-reflexivity–either way, I thought this video was pretty entertaining and also informative:
Scientists want you to record and share rain measurements and other on-the-ground observations in part to help pinpoint hurricane Irene’s actions, determine her next steps, and better predict and react to future storms. In addition to your help recording on-the-ground rain precipitation, scientists rely on watershed volunteers to provide important clues about the effects of storm-water runoff, carbon cycles of waterways, etc. Here’s a list of opportunities to get involved in local watershed monitoring efforts.
To help scientists record on-the-ground rain measurements, you will need a high capacity rain gauge.
Don’t have a rain gauge? Enter here to win a free one so you can join in next time! Through the Changing Planet series, a partnership with National Science Foundation, NBC Learn, and DISCOVER Magazine, we’re offering up to 20 of these gauges to our members, free of charge ($25 value).
(Note: Safety first. Please heed all evacuation recommendations issued in your area.)
Not able to collect and measure rainfall? Anyone with a computer can also get into the act. The Philadelphia Inquirer published sites where you can find real-time information from ocean buoys, bridges, area stream gauges, and even satellites. [Find list of links, below.]
Here are some opportunities for you to measure rainfall:
|The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a volunteer network of backyard weather observers. People of all ages measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in communities across the United States. The data is used by a wide range of agencies and programs.Volunteers are needed for two programs.|
|SKYWARN spotters are essential information sources for the National Weather Service with the responsibility to identify and describe severe local storms. Observations by spotters helps the National Weather Service issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods and thus save lives.|
|Not on the east coast? Here’s one for south westerners. Join RainLog‘s network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels.|
|Kids: Tracking Climate in Your Backyard seeks to engage youth in real science through the collection, recording, and understanding of precipitation data in the forms of rain, hail, and snow.|
Here are some websites, originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, that post data and images to answer the following questions:
How fast is the nearest stream rising?
A U.S. Geological Survey site logs data from stream gauges. http://pa.water.usgs.gov/
Is there a storm-surge tracking map?
Developing, by the U.S. Geological Survey. http://water.usgs.gov/osw/floods/2011_HIrene/index.html
How hard is it blowing in your neighborhood?
Greg Heavener, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mount Holly, recommends this site, where people with personal stations upload their data. Searchable by zip code. http://www.wunderground.com/
What are Delaware River observations?
Includes data from water-level sensors installed on bridges after past floods. http://www.water.weather.gov
What’s happening offshore?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association logs ocean-buoy data, including wind speed and wave heights. http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/
Rutgers University is part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, which posts data on satellites and the underwater “gliders.” Has an Irene science blog. http://www.maracoos.org/
What does Irene look like?
The National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center has the most recent forecasts, including radar images and wind-speed probabilities. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
How about from space?
NASA images and video. http://www.nasa.gov/ mission_pages/hurricanes/main/index.html