Ethics in climate science: How do we know what we know?

August 12, 2011

It’s almost an arcane fight, but it’s an important one — if you’re going to discuss climate science and the policies required to clean up pollution that causes destruction of our planet, can we at least agree to stick to the facts, the real facts?

John Mashey is a computer smart guy who jumped into the fray to point out that most opponents to doing anything to stop the destruction have a social or economic interest in stopping the action and continuing the destruction, something Mashey determined from looking at the networks linking the people involved.  There’s a lot of howling about Mashey’s pointing out that the emperor is a crook.  So far he’s been proved correct.

An academic group you probably never heard of, the National Association of Scholars, has an elected leader who decided to take after Mashey, rather than clean up the house.  Peter Wood writes a column for the  Chronicle of Higher Education, and sadly, their editorial mavens appear not to have fact checked it.  To their credit, they allowed Mashey’s response.

Comments are brutal.

Here’s how Tim Lambert described it at Deltoid:

John Mashey and Rob Coleman have a guest post at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog replying to Peter Wood’s hit piece.

Wood’s article misused the platform of CHE. Its relevance to the concerns of CHE was minimal. It had little purpose but to damage the reputation of one of us, John Mashey, and the climate scientist Michael Mann, whom Wood has often denigrated elsewhere. The political false-association tactics were obvious. Climate scientists are under incessant attack, a fact strongly decried the day before Wood’s article by the AAAS Board. The muddy battlefield of blogs and media has now arrived on the CHE premises, easily seen in the comments.

If one tells the truth in climate science, one needs thick skin.  Go read Mashey’s piece before you read the comments.  More background from Lambert, here.

And the context you need:  Only one study on climate change has actually been retracted over the past couple of years — no, not any of those noting that warming occurs, not any of those that use the graph famously described as “a hockey stick,” but the piece that pulled together all the criticism of the science, at the behest of Republicans on the environment committees in the U.S. Congress, called the Wegman Report.  And it was John Mashey who assembled the extensive and sometimes elegant case that the Wegman Report was plagiarized and wrong.

This is, indeed, a case of trying to kill the messenger’s reputation.

Am I the only one suspicious that the National Association of Scholars may have been named to foster confusion about the authority of reports, say from the National Academy of Sciences, the long-time science advisory group to presidents whose reports urge action to stop climate change?  Notice their acronyms are the same.

Inspiration for the first day of school, part 2 – Taylor Mali, and “What do you make?”

August 23, 2010

It ain’t easy being a teacher.  Newsweek puts you on the cover, saying you need to be fired.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry says you don’t need job security, as if getting additional money for teacher salaries would make teachers secure in places like Dallas, where mid-year RIFs are a too-recent, bitter memory.  Heck, just looking at the curriculum in Texas can depress a teacher.  Parents think you don’t call them enough, or too much — but never the Goldilocks optimum.  Students?  Even the best student is surly in the last period of the first day back at school.

Taylor Mali knows all about that.  He taught for several years — but he struck out as a professional slam poet.  His work there remains among the best tributes to teaching of the past 50 years, at least.  You probably heard this poem, or somebody sent it to you in an e-mail (especially if you’re a teacher) — but attributed to “Anonymous.”

Well, here is Anonymous, the Unknown Teacher — whose name is Taylor Mali.  Watch for him and his work.

This is an encore post from 2007.  (Mild profanity.)


Killer lesson plans:  Teachers as superheroes

Reader Bernarda noted this site in comments, and it’s good enough to promote more formally: Teachers as the alter egos of superheroes.

Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.

Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.

[Update August 2010:  Hmmmmm.  Well, that video is out of commission at the moment — Mali and copyright?

Mali has a version at his website, for sale.  Buy it, you have it in high fidelity audio, video and emotion.

Here’s a shorter version of the tape not available above:

It remains the single best piece about teaching and why teachers do it when they don’t get paid the big bucks, when administrators make it so hard, and when society at large wants to fire them all — they do it for the kids.  What do they make?]

You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.

You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.

But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.

Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.

Imitation is the sincerest form . . . hey, wait a minute!

July 6, 2009

You need to go to the site to see the comparison.

A blog on design issues (among other things), the View from 32, has a neat interactive image that shows the campaign website for Les Otten, a Republican already campaigning for the governorship in Maine (election next year), compared to the website for Barack Obama.  You’ll notice more than a few similarities, including the “O” logo.

You don’t think . . . no Republican would copy . . . their politics must be completely different . . .

What the heck?  Obama won, right?  Who can argue with success?

You gotta see it to believe it.

From Fred2Blut

From Fred2Blue

Tip of the old scrub brush to Design Observer.

Oregon claims ownership of laws, asserts copyright

April 17, 2008

The comments at Boing-Boing are a lot smarter than the action by Oregon. Oregon mailed cease and desist letters to on-line providers of the texts of Oregon laws.

No, not to the big, hugely for-profit publisher West; only to smaller, on-line providers.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Bumsted.

Embarrassing lure of creationism

February 16, 2008

You know the syndrome: Someone is caught in a scandal relating to sex, and then they take an offer to pose nude for pornography, and end up merely as a naked embarrassment to everybody.

Same syndrome, but mercifully, without the nudism (yet): Creationists taking it just a bit too far. Two examples.

Example 1: Don McLeroy, newly appointed to the chair of the Texas State Board of Education, was embarrassed by the release of tapes of a talk he gave in a church, demonstrating for anyone who didn’t already know that he’s opposed to teaching science in biology, especially if that science involves evolution. Bad enough?

He’s posted a transcript of the tape on his own website. It almost appears he’s hoping for an appointment as a “fellow” of the Discovery Institute.

McLeroy may have posted the transcript to try to correct a statement the transcripts say he made: “”Remember keep chipping away at the objective empirical evidence.”

At McLeroy’s website, it’s listed like this: “Remember keep chipping away with the objective empirical evidence.” It’s a subtle difference, but it suggests McLeroy is ill-informed enough that he thinks there may be evidence to support creationism, rather than devious enough to urge the denial of reality. Bob, at Hot Dogs, Pretzels and Perplexing Questions, wrote:

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Was it a Freudian slip? Did he innocently misspeak? Or could it be that he edited the text after the fact? Either way, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. They have no objective empirical evidence of their own to chip away with, just the objective empirical evidence they stubbornly attempt to chip away at, and to no avail. I’ll leave the discovery of any other discrepancies as an exercise for the reader, at least for now.

McLeroy shows no desire to appear neutral, as employees of TEA are now required to be toward science — or “neutered” toward science, as one might say.

Example 2: McLeroy’s Islamist partner, Adnan Oktar ( aka “Harun Yahya”), is a continuing embarrassment. This isn’t news, but I stumbled across the actual images he pirated — and they are impressive.

The Atlas of Creation purports to show that no evolution has occurred between a few fossil forms and modern forms of animals — therefore, Oktar concludes in his book, evolution could not have occurred at all. Oktar couldn’t sell the book, so he sent copies of the thing to school libraries across Europe, and then to selected people and school libraries across North America.

The book is beautifully printed and bound, with hundreds of full color plates — it must have cost a fortune to produce.

And so, Oktar had to make economies somewhere. He chose to plagiarize photos and not bother with lawyers to procure rights to print the photos. He also chose to abandon the use of fact checkers, it appears.

And so we get embarrassments, like Oktar comparing this caddis fly, below, to one caught in amber, and concluding there’s been no evolution. The problem, as you can plainly see from the photo I borrow from Forbidden Music, is that the “living” example is actually a fishing lure; Oktar has plagiarized a photograph of one of Graham Owen’s wonderul fishing lures.

Graham Owen's caddis fly fishing lure, mistaken by Adnan Oktar for a live fly

Jesus urged his followers to become “fishers of men.” McLeroy and Oktar have confused such imprecations, horribly, with the hoax P. T. Barnum line, that there’s a sucker born every minute.

Owen’s lures are designed to fool fish. If McLeroy and Oktar have their way, Texas school children may end up as ignorant as the fish, and as easily fooled.

Worried about plagiarism? You don’t know the half of it

November 24, 2007


Larry Lessig, speaking at TED, makes the case for kids who use stuff borrowed from others in their classroom presentations.

First, this speech should open your eyes to the danger of our only preaching against plagiarism to kids who borrow copyrighted stuff off the internet (see especially the last two minutes of his almost-19 minute presentation). What’s the alternative, you ask? See what Prof. Lessig says. What are the alternatives?

Second, Lessig shows how to use slides in a live presentation, to significantly increase the content delivered and the effectiveness of the delivery.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Presentation Zen. Go there now and read Garr Reynolds’ take on Lessig’s presentation.

Who is Larry Lessig? You don’t know TED? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Intelligent designers plagiarize Harvard film

November 20, 2007

Ms. Smith at ERV caught Bill Dembski of the Discovery Institute looking for all the world as if he’s plagiarizing a video produced at Harvard showing the inner workings of a cell in animation.  She’s got the videos to prove it.

Uncomprehensible. Do these guys really represent Christians?

Even more on Odessa Bible class case

July 20, 2007

Oh, and, there’s more.

Also see Ed Brayton’s posts here:

Here’s the press release from the Liberty Legal Institute:

The ACLU put their initial complaint on-line, and may follow with more documents as the case progresses:

The Texas Freedom Network has sponsored high-level criticism of Bible study class curricula; their critiques forced changes in the curriculum used in Odessa, but the modified curriculum does not pass Constitutional, academic or Bible study muster, according to a careful report from Southern Methodist University (in Dallas) Bible study professor Mark Chancey. TFN has several reports and press releases on the general issue:

And from the local newspaper, the daily Odessa American:

Internet search tips from Google, on posters

June 6, 2007

Have you tried out Google for Educators?

Google is a powerful search tool that is way under-utilized by most of us. Working with students, I constantly find they have difficulty using Google or any other search engine to cut out worthless material and focus on specific items they need for their research.

Google for Educators has several posters offering tips on searching to help out.  Click here for .pdf version of Book Search, from GoogleBook Search poster, from Google for Educators

You can download the posters as .pdf files in a format suited to 8.5 X 11 inch pages, or for 17 X 22 inch pages. The larger size can be printed on the color “blueprint” printers your school’s drafting classes have (This is a good opportunity to go make friends with the drafting instructor — you can use those machines for great maps, too.).  If your school lacks such printers, you’ll find commercial copy centers will reproduce them (we have Kinko’s here) — though my experience is it can sometimes be cheaper to have them treated as photos and processed at a local photo center (Ritz/Wolf’s/Inkley’s, etc.)

I particularly like the “Better Searches, Better Results” poster.

The Texas teacher evaluation forms encourage evaluation on stuff hanging on the walls fo the classroom — if you lack stuff to hang, especially stuff that helps students in times of need, Google offers several posters.  Make the most of it.

[Has anyone else noticed that, as important as visual displays are supposed to be, very few schools make arrangements for easy display of materials?]

Typewriter of the Moment: Legal clip art for the classroom

June 5, 2007

Royal Typewriter, from legal clip art

Visit Clipart ETC for a great collection of clipart for students and teachers.

There you go: Legal clip art, properly attributed (though not necessarily properly footnoted — that’s another topic). How can you get more licensed clip art? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Plagiarism would have been the more noble course

March 3, 2007

Coulter chose the ignoble coarse. (No, that’s not misspelled.)

Grand music hoax: Plagiarist confesses

February 27, 2007

A fascinating, tragic hoax has unraveled in the classical music world. Dozens of performances by relatively unknown — but great — pianists were pirated, credited to a great pianist dying of cancer, and made internet hits.

The hoax that lives by the internet, dies by the internet, Jesus might have said. A music critic loaded one of the released discs into his iPod list on his computer, and it identified it as being performed by someone else.

Joyce Hatto had retired due to ovarian cancer in the 1970s, but started releasing recordings made at home in 1989. This was not unusual — her husband was a recording engineer. The quietly-released, small-label recordings got good reviews and a faithful audience. As time went on, the recordings became more ambitious, and the quality of the piano playing of the dying woman audibly increased.

Questions arose earlier this year.   Read the rest of this entry »

A little plagiarism, a little book

February 19, 2007

“Plagiarize! Plagiarize!//Don’t let anything evade your eyes!”Tom Lehrer, Lobachevsky

“Oh, he just stole from me. I steal from everybody.” Attributed to Woody Guthrie by Pete Seeger (Together, with Arlo Guthrie, 1974)

“Plagiarism is the root of all culture.” Pete Seeger (1974 tour)

Internet files and other databases make plagiarism amazingly easy. College faculties debate how best to police against plagiarism. Students caught and kicked out appear befuddled at the academic death penalty, when all it takes is a couple of mouse clicks over a text prepared by a willing accomplice.

Federal judge, University of Chicago law professor and blogger Richard Posner wrote a small book on plagiarism. In fact, that’s its title, The Little Book of Plagiarism (Pantheon,116 pages, $10.95).

My policy in class is to challenge students when I find they’ve stolen someone else’s work. I go over attribution, footnoting and bibliographic listings, on a spoken assumption that they don’t know how to do it. They don’t like it, but they realize it’s better than expulsion. I’ve never had a student try it a second time (that I’ve caught).

Some younger students, in junior high and high school, say they do not understand why they may not simply cut and paste material from internet sources, but I suspect that is more defense than genuine lack of understanding. More than once these same students have later complained that other student’s “stole” their work. Plagiarism sometimes appears more clear when others steal from you.

In a review of Posner’s book in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirsch wrote that Posner identified a key problem for society: What do we do when the stolen text improves the work? It’s the issue that Woody Guthrie knew and Pete Seeger stated: Borrowing good stuff is what culture is all about. In highly literate circles, the game is to make allusions to works that most people know, to relate to an already-established body of knowledge to shed light on other ideas.

Plagiarists, on the other hand, would shut off access to the broader body of the work of the originator – so the intent of the true plagiarizer is not to relate to previous works. Some plagiarizers want credit for the ideas, some student plagiarizers probably want credit only for the word count.

In the higher evil, plagiarism is not about stealing other people’s ideas. It’s about stealing the words without caring about the ideas. It is not that the plagiarizer covets the ideas too much, but rather that the plagiarizer is indifferent to the ideas, seeing only the individual trees and missing the forest.

That’s where the great danger lies as well. A forest is more than just the sum of the trees in it, as we only too late discovered with regard to ecosystems that depend on the various stages of forest growth, aging, decline, destruction and rebirth. An idea is worth more than the mere count of its words, or even the prima facie meaning of the words.

The sin of the plagiarizer is in not knowing what the plagiarizer steals.

And, with a tip of the old scrub brush to Let’s Play Math, we call your attention to a blog devoted to plagiarism issues, Plagiarism Today. Especially, you may want to take a look at the blog’s review of Posner’s book.

Chuck Colson hoaxed, or hoaxing; you should act

February 3, 2007

Chuck Colson claims to have found God, while in prison, and changed his ways. He’s got a newspaper column and radio feature called “Breakpoint” which generally covers issues at least tangentially related to ministry and church work.

But he’s either fallen victim to a great hoax, or he’s in on it and spread it.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars alerted us to Colson’s “Breakpoint” commentary dated February 2, in which Colson repeats the disproven claims that Judge John E. Jones of the Middle District of Pennsylvania “plagiarized” significant portions of his decision. The charges are completely out of line, and have not held up under scrutiny. The claims were invented by people at the Discovery Institute who have no knowledge of how federal civil trials work, who misinterpreted trial procedures, and who made an invalid count of the words in the decision (failing to account for most of the 129 pages of the work for reasons that have never been explained).

If this catches you unaware of the issue, you can catch up with several posts. Attorney and Panda’s Thumb contributor Tim Sandefur explains how the charges are false here. Sandefur’s earlier explanation of the statistical errors behind the false claims is here (also at Panda’s Thumb).

You should act. If your local newspaper carries Colson’s column, notify them of the hoax. Give them the links above, and urge them to contact the press people at the National Center for Science Education for comment. Tell them they can quote Panda’s thumb, and that they can contact Sandefur, Brayton, or me, for comment.

Similarly, if your local radio station carries Colson’s commentaries, notify the station. Stations need to check to be sure they are not broadcasting hoaxes for license renewal reasons (though the FCC polices this issue rarely, and not often well).

Were Colson a practicing attorney, of course, he’d probably remember how federal trial procedures work, and not make such errors.

You can help him recall.

For the record: Pearceys’ slam at Judge Jones unwarranted

December 30, 2006

Rick and Nancy Pearcey — she the author of Christian best-seller Total Truth — have a blog called Pro-Existence. A few days ago I stumbled across the blog because they quoted me :

Praise:University of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert called Jones’ ruling a ‘masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking’ while lawyer Ed Darrell said the judge ‘wrote a masterful decision, a model for law students on how to decide a case based on the evidence presented.’ Time magazine said the ruling made Jones one of ‘the world’s most influential people’ in the category of ‘scientists and thinkers.'”

Well, they didn’t quote me directly: They borrowed the quote from a Discovery Institute paper. That’s only significant because such copying is, by their definition, the academic sin of “plagiarizing,” judging from the way they attempt to accuse a federal judge of not doing his duty. (And, if I had to guess, I’d guess they didn’t read the report, but instead copied their stuff from a report in WorldNet Daily — plagiarism of a copy! At least they linked, even if they didn’t attribute, to that publication.)

They borrowed the DI’s criticism of Judge John E. Johns, of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in his decision against a school board’s requiring intelligent design be inserted to the curriculum of the local schools. DI clumsily, and erroneously, labeled the decision a piece of plagiarism.

I wrote a response. The Pearceys have not seen fit to publish it (it’s a closely moderated blog, and apparently anything that they don’t like, or that calls them to Christian task for their errors, doesn’t make it). I post my response to the Pearcey’s below the fold. If they respond here, I won’t censor them.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: