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And the context you need:  Only one study on climate change has actually been retracted over the past couple of years — no, not any of those noting that warming occurs, not any of those that use the graph famously described as “a hockey stick,”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.

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.

Randy Forbes, you get an “F” in history — I don’t care if you are a Congressman

January 6, 2008


U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, wants a resolution designating a week in May as “American Religious History Week.”

Alas, alack, and every other epithet you can think of, Forbes’ resolution, H. Res. 888, is loaded to the gills with historical error. Adding hypocrisy to error, Forbes plagiarized a raft of “citations” in a lengthy set of footnotes in an oleaginous “footnoted” version of the resolution. It’s clear that Forbes did not read the sources of the footnotes, and it appears that he didn’t bother to read the footnotes either. The footnotes claim religious language in the case of Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U. S. 127, 198 (1844), for example, but fail to note that the language mentioned was repudiated by the Supreme Court in their upholding of the will of atheist patriot Stephen Girard, turning back arguments that the U.S. is a Christian nation with Christianity in its common law. Forbes is a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a graduate of the University of Virginia’s law school. Hypothetically, he should know better.

The resolution is so wrong on history, it has the effect of repudiating the No Child Left Behind Act’s call for standards in education, in the worst possible way.

Chris Rodda, the author and indefatigable correcter of such historical error, has a long post at Daily Kos detailing the problems.

Baffled at the astounding lack of scholarship in the resolution, I want to know:

  1. Does Rep. Forbes’ mother know he turns in work like this?
  2. What is the view of any serious Virginia history association?
  3. Will any Virginia university history department endorse the resolution as accurate? Would such a paper not violate ethical standards for a student at Randolph-Macon College (Forbes’s alma mater)?
  4. What is the view of the American Historical Association?
  5. What does the Department of Education say about it? Nothing? How about the mavens at the National Assessment of Educational Progress? Is there any way this resolution could fail to damage the history attainment of the entire nation?
  6. Is Forbes bucking to get on Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment, in the playoffs?
  7. Why does Rep. Forbes hate America’s history teachers so?
  8. Wasn’t there any staffer with enough sense to stop Rep. Forbes from embarrassing himself with this stuff?
  9. Has the House historian signed off on the historical accuracy of the resolution’s “whereas” clauses?
  10. Has Rep. Forbes ever looked at the 23 bas relief portrayals of lawmakers around the House Chamber and wondered who they were, why they were there, and why his resolution insults most of them? (He cites the sculptures in one of the whereas clauses — one might wonder if he ever looks up.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.
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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.

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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?

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