Tag Archives | Debate

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: The Debate

bill-nye-ken-ham-debateOn Tuesday night, Bill Nye the Science Guy debated Ken Ham (founder and head of Answers in Genesis) at Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky for a lively debate which centered around the following question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” The debate was moderated by Tom Foreman (CNN) and he kept a tight leash on the evening, making sure that both Nye and Ham had equal time to comment and respond. They each gave a five-minute opening statement, followed by a half-hour presentation (each), then time for rebuttals, and ended the evening with quite a few questions from the audience.

Some scientists are annoyed with Nye for giving Ham what they consider to be unnecessary publicity and a platform from which to espouse his unique beliefs. While I understand these concerns, I have a slightly different take: as someone who was raised by young-earthers (I actually met Ham at a creationist conference in upstate New York when I was a kid…yes, that was our family vacation that year!) I am really hoping that parents of similarly-minded households the world over will sit their kids down and force them to watch this debate or that said kids will find their way to it on their own, because it may in fact be the first time in their young lives when evolution will be presented to them in a way that is logical, balanced, and non-biased.… Read the rest

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How Trolls Ruin Your Ability to Reason

Troll_Face_-_Internet_Meme,_May_2013Next time you want to call someone on the Internet an idiot or child, remember that you’re strengthening their opinion.  Chris Mooney writes at Mother Jones:

In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science. Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a $91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.”

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks.

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Greening the Planet – Dr. Matt Ridley

Via Reason.com:

Matt Ridley, author of The Red QueenGenomeThe Rational Optimist and other books, dropped by Reason’s studio in Los Angeles last month to talk about a curious global trend that is just starting to receive attention. Over the past three decades, our planet has gotten greener!

Even stranger, the greening of the planet in recent decades appears to be happening because of, not despite, our reliance on fossil fuels. While environmentalists often talk about how bad stuff like CO2 causes bad things to happen like global warming, it turns out that the plants aren’t complaining.

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The Difficulties of Discourse

Picture: City of Anthrax (PD)

The futility of political discourse seems all-too-evident in America, whether at the highest levels of power concerning the nonexistent ‘fiscal cliff’ or the debt ceiling, or around the family reunion dinner table concerning guns and health care. Both ‘sides’ are guilty of pseudoscientific claims, misrepresenting the opposition, sowing division with unnecessary ‘othering’, and usually no real clue as to where they actually stand on the issues or why they stand there at all.

Authors like Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell, Chris Mooney and Jonathan Haidt claim to have found the secrets behind flawed political brains, usually on the opposite ‘side’ than their own. Many studies and online polls posit to have found the mechanisms by which liberals and conservatives operate; liberals are smarter, conservatives are happier, liberals stereotype more, conservatives bow to authority more. While many of these trends can and do show up again and again, it ignores the diversity within and without party lines, the cognitive dissonance along the ideological spectrum, and the subtler reckonings of individual issue orientation.… Read the rest

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Climate Alarmism – Using Our Fear of Hurricanes

Via Wattsupwiththat.com

Climate alarmists excel at gathering government funding to “fight” climate change. Today, the U.S. government is spending almost $9 billion each year in grants to study man-made climate change. Tens of billions more are spent for green energy subsidies, grants and loans. The world is spending over $250 billion each year to try to “decarbonize” national economies. Yet, mounting evidence shows that climate change is natural and man-made influences are very small. Suppose we shift efforts away from misguided efforts to control climate and toward solving the real problems of our nation and the world?

Guest post by Steve Goreham

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a path of destruction. More than 100 people have been killed and 8.5 million lost power. Nineteen states from Maine to Tennessee were impacted, with deaths reported in 10 states. Widespread flooding and fires caused extensive damage in New Jersey and New York.

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Ventura Talks 9/11, Makes Fox News Anchor Leave Stage

…”but I ask questions and what perturbs me is that you don’t get answers, nobody wants to talk about it, this event which changed the entire history of our Country, why aren’t allowed to discuss it? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions? The moment you do you get a reaction like he gave me, ‘how dare you….how dare you question your government.’ – Jesse Ventura

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Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between Denial and Debate

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It seems only fair for journalism to examine every side of an issue, but what if a controversy isn’t a legitimate debate, but specifically created for the purposes of confusion and bias? Industry, politicians and religions manufacture misinformation, which is caught in the echo chamber of our lazy, uncritical mainstream media, and filtered to a harried general populace, who are often more concerned with ethical considerations than scientific nuances anyway. Corporate advertisers engage in ‘organized doubt’ campaigns, essentially changing what science and skepticism are all about.

via Environmental Health Perspectives:

In one of the keynote talks at the Science Writing in the Age of Denial Conference, UW–Madison genetics and molecular biology professor Sean Carroll outlined what he calls “a general manual of denialism”—six tactics used time and again in denial campaigns since at least the nineteenth century. First, cast doubt on the science. Second, question the personal motives and integrity of the scientists.

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Sh*t I Personally Guarantee You Will Never, EVER Hear Said Aloud, Even If You Live to Be One Thousand Years Old

The French composer Claude Debussy is quoted as saying that, “Music is the space between the notes”.  I think that’s a very apt recognition of the shared responsibility between artist and audience in unearthing the latent content of any piece of art, and I very much like it.  Make your work too overtly programmatic, and you end up with stale self-parody, a la Norman Rockwell.  Overburden it with too many layers of obscure, self-referential ciphers, like Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”, and risk alienating your most enthusiastic audience.

But if you have a lot to say, it can really be difficult to avoid the “Finnegan” trap.  The very fact that you are capable of generating enough observations worthy of communication, of making very fine distinctions in kind and degree, springs from a hypersensitivity that can seem emotionally overwhelming, and very much at odds with one of the inviolable principles of effective communication itself:  clarity.

This is where a solid understanding of the rhetorical ecology will come in handy.  In order to be truly effective, you need to be able to “play the music between the notes”, which is to say, have an appreciation for the various types of person who will read your work the context in which it will be read, today, tomorrow and 200 years from now, and what they will be looking to draw from it.  And you need to accept the fact that some of your strongest, most affecting points will not be articulated by you, but by your critics.… Read the rest

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The Problem With Moderates

Plato And AristotleIn a world of ever-widening extremes – from weather patterns to wealth disparities to polarized politics – what does it mean to be a moderate? More specifically, how does this term apply to religion?

Viewed in the context of most everyday activities and situations and in line with Aristotle’s idea of the “Golden Mean” (which states that virtue lies at the midpoint between two vices; i.e. courage lies between cowardice and recklessness, etc.), it could be said that a moderate stance is generally better than an extremist one. For example, being a moderate drinker seems to strike a pretty good balance between being healthy and having fun, as opposed to the opposite extremes of being an ascetic teetotaler or a raging alcoholic. Likewise, being politically moderate, if nothing else, tends to generate far less strife during dinner conversations amid mixed company or at large family gatherings.

Then again, for some activities moderate is still too far from the bell curve – particularly in cases where conventional wisdom has taken up residence at one of the distant ends of the spectrum of possibilities.  For example, while being moderately racist may be an improvement over being a hate-filled white supremacist neo-Nazi skinhead, it still leaves a lot to be desired if hoping to join enlightened humanity in recognizing equal rights for all people based on our shared human condition.… Read the rest

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