Pssh . . . Amateurs

The NY Times takes a stab at reviewing some delicious Belgian-style beers.

Beer Bullshit + Brains Episode #16

We decide to keep this episode short and utterly fail. After our beer reviews, we talk about facilitated communication and the coma guy. Then we have a very special Bullshit Question of the Week for Tony.

Episode #16 Show Notes

In this craptacular episode, we discuss Rom Houben, the man who everyone thought was in a persistent vegetative state for 23 years, but was really fully conscious the whole time and trapped in his body and now can finally tell his story through a method called facilitated communication. Well, it turns out that Houben is actually in a persistent vegetative state and facilitated communication is a load of crap.

George Will is wrong on climate change

I would like to first state that George Will is an intelligent man. Will is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist known for his conservative views. His column is syndicated across the nation and he has taught at Harvard University. He has more awards than I care to list here. Like I said, he is a very smart man. However, he is also wrong.

Will recently wrote this article in which he claims global climate change isn't real. To make his point, Will fills his article with logical fallacy after logical fallacy and with all the same denialist claims that have been debunked years ago. His column is really no more that the global warming deniers talking points regurgitated back up and wrapped with a bow. It is really sad that this came from a Pulitzer Prize winner; he could have done such a better job.

George Will is an ideologue. He has a particular world view and he refuses to change it, even if it is clashing against reality. He is afraid that carbon credits or cap-and-trade will raise energy prices and tax and will hurt the economy. He may or may not be right, I don't know. But instead of finding an alternative to those policies, he simply denies the science. If global warming is real, then we will have to spend money to deal with it. He doesn't want to do that, so therefore, global warming can't be real. Will, however, is mistaken on the nature of reality. As science fiction author Philip K. Dick once wrote, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

In his column, Will uses ad hominem attacks against climate scientists. He quotes Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ranting against deniers. Pachauri said:

"They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder — and I hope they put it on their faces every day."

While Pachauri wasn't tactful at all, you can clearly see his frustration with the deniers. Pachauri probably shouldn't have said that. He let his emotions get the better of him. But George Will fails to separate the man from the science. He sees a flawed man, so everything Pachauri said must be wrong.

Will also claims that there has been no warming for the last 15 years, that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, and implies that the current harsh winter disproves global warming. You can read the debunking of those claims here, here, and here. In fact, this site throughly debunks ALL the deniers arguments. I suggest that everyone gives it a read.

My main contention with George Will's piece, is his comparison of science to religion.

George Will:

A religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become. It is now a tissue of assertions impervious to evidence, assertions that everything, including a historic blizzard, supposedly confirms and nothing, not even the absence of warming, can falsify.

In this case, George Will is an idiot. Either that, or he is willfully ignorant, and I don't know which is worse. Science is a process. Science doesn't care about the results, the theories, or the scientists. It is simply a process so that we can try to understand the truths of the universe. Many people would prefer that the world wasn't warming; I'm one of them. However, there are dozens of independent lines of evidence that says otherwise. Any one line of evidence by itself would be intriguing, but all of them together is overwhelming.

Scientists are just as human as the rest of us. No one is denying that politics, bickering, and infighting doesn't take place in science. But this doesn't mean that there is a grand conspiracy, in fact, it is just the opposite. If a scientist can prove the conventional wisdom wrong, and has the evidence to back it up, that would make that scientist's career for life. There will be those trying to disprove him, but if he has the facts to back his theories, science will come around, and his ideas will become mainstream. There are thousands of people working on climate change. If someone could prove that global warming wasn't real, he would win the Nobel Prize. But that hasn't happened, because the evidence doesn't support that.

While I don't agree with many conservative view points, there are some valid ones that George Will could have made. He could have said that the cost of stopping climate change is too high and would wreck the economy and that the money would be better spent adapting our infrastructure to a changing planet. He could have said that money would be better spent building levies around our coastal cities to protect them from rising seas, or developing drought resistant crops to feed the population is the mid-west dries out. He could have said that saving the polar bears wasn't worth sacrificing the potential riches of oil and gas deposits in the Arctic Ocean. I wouldn't have agreed with those points, but at least they would be a valid argument. Denying that reality exists on the other hand, is beyond a lazy or ignorant argument, it is dangerous.

Clueless idealogues get to decide what your kid learns in school

Most people in blue states probably aren't aware that the Texas school board basically decides what the entire country's textbooks say because of the huge number of textbooks sold in Texas.

The NY Times recently ran a great article summarizing the situation with the Texas state school board and the undue influence of these fifteen people on what children learn based on their personal opinions instead of the input of recognized experts. This year, the school board is revising American history to suit ultraconservative Christian views (read: ignorant and/or heavily biased against observable facts), much like they tried to do recently to the state science standards. Seven of these fifteen people vote in a bloc with the STATED intent of eventually redefining America as a Christian nation, and the most vocal and influential member of the board in this past years is a literal-interpretation fundamentalist.

For those of you in Texas:
This is the reason not to ignore mid-term elections. Your local and state politicians have far more influence over your day-to-day lives and the direction of this country than the federal government does. As added incentive, due to appallingly low voter turnout at mid-term elections, your vote counts for far more than it does on presidential election years. Primary elections are taking place right now. If you're registered with the Republican or Democratic parties, please consider participating in the primary elections, and at bare minimum make sure to vote in the elections in May and November.


Following our podcast tradition of zombie and vampire love, I just watched a double feature of "Zombieland" and "Daybreakers."

After this immersion into our favorite alternate reality, I pose a question. Why doesn't anyone ever where armor? More specifically neck armor to thwart vampire attacks? You never see that. Think about it.

Climategate scientist cleared

Dr. Michael Mann, one of the scientists at the center of the "climategate" email scandal, has been cleared of any wrongdoing, and has had allegations of manipulating and hiding data dismissed. This is according to an ABC News story.

Mann is a climatologist working for the Department of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and it was his hacked emails that the climate change deniers claimed as proof that scientists were manipulating data that global warming is man made. While Dr. Mann has been cleared of all allegations of misconduct, I think we can assume this won't affect the deniers at all. I am betting tomorrow that I read a story that the investigating body is part of the conspiracy and cover up.

NASA Scientists to Approach Girl by 2018

I wonder if we can get Ryan, our NASA insider, to comment on this.

NASA Scientists Plan To Approach Girl By 2018 

Happy Darwin Day!

Intelligence Squared

Recently I have been enthralled with the Intelligence Squared channel on YouTube. Please check out this video and I hope you check out the rest of this series on "Atheism is the new fundamentalism."

Beer Bullshit + Brains Episode #14 Repost

Apparently this episode didn't go up on iTunes. I must have posted Episode 13 twice. When I do shit like that, let me know. Come on people, you have to pull your weight a little too.

Beer Bullshit + Brains Episode #15

After our beer review, we talk about Dr. Andrew Wakefield being a douchebag, poor building codes in Haiti, and sci-fi movies!

To Twitter, or Not To Twitter

You've probably noticed that I don't post updates on this blog very often. I'm usually really busy and don't have time, unless I get a bee under my bonnet ( How's that for a 1800's euphemism?). Well, Facebook is down, I can't watch Lost because my wife is giving our kid a bath, so I have some time to waste. Also, I'm half drunk.

I've been thinking about getting a Twitter account lately. I've been putting it off because I thought it was just about worthless and a waste of my time. However, now I feel like I'm missing out. The has be lots of drama lately in the Twitterverse and I don't get to participate at all. Now that I would be doing a lot of twatting or tweeting or whatever it is called, but there are a lot of people that I would like to follow. People like Phil Plait, Rachael Dunlop, PZ Myers, and even Kevin Smith. And without an account, I can't vote in the Shorty Awards.

The Shorty Awards is Twitter honor for the best tweeters of the year. Dr. Rachael Dunlop, who tweets under Dr. Rachie, is in first place under the health category. The polls are open until Friday. I consider Rachael a friend of the show. We interviewed her in episode #10, and I would love to do it again. Dr. Rachie is one of my skeptical heroes. She has be battling quacks, and they don't like it at all. I'm not going to relate the whole controversy here, but the Bad Astronomer Phil Plait did a good job of telling the story. Anyway, if you have a Twitter account, go vote for Dr. Rachie. I'll do it as soon as I start an account.