Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 10, 2011

Making the Rounds … Another Interview of Me (with someone else, too!)


Here’s a quickie post to let anyone who is interested know that I have been interviewed by my frenemy “Parrot,” AKA “The Dumbass” (he calls himself that) for his new podcast, the Invisible Sky Monster (which I think is a thinly veiled allusion to atheism, but that’s just a hunch). I was interviewed along with Rebecca O’Neill of the Skeprechauns podcast.

The topics we discussed were highly varied, spanning things such as the organic and natural food movements, death of Steve Jobs, “alternative” medicine, the role of critical thinking in life, and womens’ place in society the amount of advocacy that we each personally feel is appropriate or not for apparent minority groups in society at large and in groups/movements (specifically related to women in skepticism, but I expanded it a bit to homosexual advocacy, too).

VERY little astronomy was discussed in this discussion, which lasts about 75 minutes, so if you’re interested in learning my views on some other things, this podcast episode is well worth a listen. Just don’t give it a 4-star rating in iTunes*.

*This will make sense if you listen to the first few minutes.


I also want to clarify my position on this last point (advocacy of minority or under-represented groups) because I don’t think I made it very well in the last 6 minutes of the episode. My personal views are ideally along the lines of “live and let live.” I think that if you push too hard for any one thing that is not an objective fact, you risk a very vocal counter-movement and appearing to be militant and intolerant yourself (since we’re talking about social interactions and groups here, that’s not an “objective fact” like Earth is round).

This does not mean that I don’t think people should be able to join whatever group they want, nor do I think that it’s “okay” that women are highly under-represented in academia or other things because of some real or perceived bias. Again, in the “live and let live” approach, ideally, there wouldn’t be any sort of bias and so there wouldn’t need to be any sort of advocacy on behalf of an under-represented group.

I think all should be welcome and all should feel free to join or not if they want to, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. But I, personally, am not a huge fan of the rallies and workshops and endless meetings of how to fix a problem that may not actually exist. And I say this as a member of an under-represented group, one that is actively discriminated against by the majority.

August 17, 2011

The Science that Should Never Have Been So Politicized: Global Climate Change


Introduction

This is actually going to be a fairly short post, and it occurred to me to write it after seeing this headline, “In New Hampshire, Perry Calls Global Warming ‘A Scientific Theory That Has Not Been Proven.'”

Climate Change

I’ll start with the obvious: Global climate change is about as real as it gets, and the change is a general warming trend. It is the state of the science. Well over 95% of scientists who actually study climate science agree that global climate change is happening, and they agree that humans are helping it along a lot more than would be happening via any natural processes. For what it’s worth, even George Noory, the host of the paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, agrees that global warming is real (though he doesn’t think humans are the main cause).

What I’ve just very briefly summarized is the science. As in the vast overwhelming majority of the evidence and models and data point to this. Science is neutral politically. Unfortunately, politicians have made it not.

Politicization

This is actually something that I don’t quite understand. It seems as though the general theme in American politics is that Democrats are on the “side” of science while Republicans tend to be “against” science. This has been evidenced throughout the past several decades via the positions and votes of politicians on both sides of the aisle, and I think that most people who follow this in any way would agree, regardless of their political leanings. (I will admit that I generally vote on the liberal side of issues, but I don’t think that that should matter for the sake of this post.)

Where this has really come to the fore probably more-so than almost any other topic (bar, perhaps, the EPA), is on global warming: Democrats say it’s real, Republicans vehemently deny it.

As an aside, I can understand fully if Republicans were to accept that the science shows global warming is real, but that it would be cost-prohibitive to do something about it. I may disagree with that stance, but that would be political and something for the politicians perhaps to figure out. More likely the economists, but anyway, it’s a consequence of the science that they disagree with, not the basic, fundamental science for which they have no background with which they can evaluate it (I think last I heard that there were three physicists in Congress? and even a physicist is not a climatologist despite the fact many like to think they know everything).

Rick Perry

Enter the latest Republican science denier, Rick Perry. For those who have been deaf to news in the last few months, Rick Perry is the current, third-term governor of Texas. He is also, by many accounts, a young-Earth creationist, having stacked the state Board of Education with young-Earth creationists, and having recently held an evangelical Christian rally called “The Response” to effectively pray away America’s problems. Enough background …

The ABS blog story I linked to above starts out with, “At his first stop in the first primary state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry questioned the validity of scientific claims of global warming.” I would like to know when Rick Perry did his graduate work on climate science or any related field. Any.

The quote from Perry, specifically, is:

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their — to their projects. And I think we’re seeing almost weekly or even daily scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climate’s changed, they’ve been changing ever since the Earth was formed. … I don’t think from my perspective that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question.”

Perry fails to realize three things. First, scientists are generally not like politicians: We don’t change our views to pander to people to make them happy or to get money from them. Second, the scientists who are “coming forward and questioning … man made global warming” are generally not climate scientists. They’re engineers or weathermen or physicists, not climate scientists. It’s like the Discovery Institute (Intelligent Design -central) and their “Dissent from Darwinism” list that contains the name of scientists who “doubt darwinism” when <1% of the people on that list are actually biologists. Finally, Perry obviously has not read my post about what scientists mean by the term “theory.” (Hint: It doesn’t mean “some idea I came up with while channeling Jeshuah and can throw away just as easily.”

Final Thoughts

I expect that this post isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about anything. People who already accept science will continue to accept it. People who don’t will continue to not. And the political machine will continue to distort, ignore, stifle, or try to destroy science when it suits their particular message of the hour.

But, I’ve now said what I wanted to on this for the moment, and I haven’t done a global warming post in awhile.

March 22, 2010

Conservapedia Calls Black Holes and Dark Matter “Liberal Pseudoscience”


Introduction

I’ve yet to really do any post that has anything to do with politics, as that’s usually not relevant to astronomy (one would hope …). Alas, I have found a case where it is: The bastion of knowledge, Conservapedia.

What’s Conservapedia?

For those few of you who may not know, Conservapedia is a reaction to what was and is perceived by some to be a “liberal bias” in the omnipresent Wikipedia. For more information on that, you can view Conservapedia’s entry on “Bias in Wikipedia”. Among issues it cites are: “Wikipedia’s article on engineering features a photo of … an offshore wind turbine, which is an inefficient liberal boondoggle and certainly not a representative example of engineering. None even exist off the shores of the United States because they are not competitive.”

That may give you an idea of what Conservapedia is about. Additionally, almost all of their “science” articles contain large amounts of space devoted to the Creationist perspective, and they recently began a project to re-write the Bible in order to remove what they see as liberal biases in it. If you really need more examples, take a look at their entries on evolution, abortion, homosexuality, and Barack Obama. I choose not to hot-link these on purpose.

“Liberal Pseudoscience”

It may not be surprising to readers of this blog, but some fundamentalist, literal-Bible believers have some issues with the conclusions of modern science. That’s not the point of this post — I’ve been told I ramble somewhat, so let’s get straight to the point: Conservapedia lists Dark Matter and Black Holes as “Liberal Pseudoscience.” For some reason, it lists these along side “Moral Relativism” and “Wormholes” in its “Liberal Pseudoscience” category under the Theory of Relativity. How Moral Relativism fits in there is beyond me … same with wormholes, for that matter.

Final Thoughts

That’s really the point of this non-rambling post – point this out, and just kinda shake my head. First, I have no idea what black holes or dark matter ever did to conservatives. Or young-Earth creationists, for that matter. The existence of black holes and dark matter are completely compatible with what creationists have come up with in their “models” of a <10,000-year-old universe, unless they're just offended by the joke that, "Black holes are where God divided by zero."

I've been considering doing a post on the evidence for dark matter, so I guess I'll ask here — is anyone interested in a post on the evidence for the existence of black holes? Let me know in the Comments.

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