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Set your DVRs

15 Feb
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Nice Tie, Nye

Tomorrow morning’s ‘Meet the Press’ puts Bill Nye the Science Guy in the spotlight again. This time Mr. Nye will be speaking with (debating?) Marsha Blackburn on the topic of Climate Change. Just about a week ago Mr. Nye debated with uber-creationist Ken Ham over the theory of knowledge (actually, the topic was supposed to be evolution that time, but that wasn’t what was actually argued).

Nye is becoming the public face of science, willing to take on anyone anywhere in defense of science as a means of uncovering the mysteries of the universe. This has been making waves in the science community where many academics are uncomfortable with these kind of debates. Their argument is that science is not decided by debate. Science is a way of interrogating nature directly; data comes first and conclusions are derived from these data. 

Bill will be debating Tennessee Congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn.

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Marsha Marsha Marsha

The Washington Examiner describes Congresswoman Blackburn as “a conservative Tennessee Republican and vice chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been skeptical about scientific research showing that human activities have altered the world’s climate patterns at an alarming and unnatural rate.”

Just like the eve of the debate at the Creationist Museum, I will be eager to see the results at the same time I will be cowering and hoping that Nye has, again, does his homework.

 

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7 Comments

Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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7 responses to “Set your DVRs

  1. Adam D. Jansen

    February 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I think that debate is an essential part of the scientific process. There can be different interpretations of the same data, and in that case, debate is inevitable. And I think it is a positive thing.

    For example, if Copernicus, Galileo, and others had not debated the scientific consensus, then we might still be stuck with the Ptolemaic model of the solar system.

     
  2. downhousesoftware

    February 16, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Hey Adam – Thanks for the comment.

    I think that the kind of debate you are in favor of does occur at scientific conferences when new data is presented.

    In the absence of data, argument doesn’t really get us far. It’s like arguing about how distant the moon is from the Earth without going to reference sources looking at experiments designed to give us the answer.

    Do you agree? I may be misinterpreting your comment.

     
    • Adam D. Jansen

      February 17, 2014 at 12:44 am

      My point is that there is more to scientific debate than data.

      Another example: In 1847, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that if doctors washed their hands, patients were less likely to die. The medical community did not like this finding, and they responded by getting him fired from his job and then later putting him in an insane asylum, where he died. The data was on the side of Semmelweis.

      Scientific debates are not settled by data alone. That is why it is necessary to have debates.

       
  3. downhousesoftware

    February 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I’m not sure how I feel about this.
    On the one hand, I get your point that the data on its own was insufficient to convince Semmelweis’ peers that their actions were causing deaths- and to his great detriment. It appears that his observations were not supportable by a mechanistic hypothesis as Cell theory was new or nonexistent and germ theory had not gotten legs. This still happens today … one of my thesis projects eventually had to be abandoned because there were not the reagents available to elucidate the mechanism behind my observations. I agree that debate was what was required in the context of a conference, but no one would have gotten anywhere if they just took it to a debate like the Nye / Ham thing we saw.

    On the other hand, his idea was a good one, but society was not prepared to accept it.

    What should he have presented as an argument for his point? I don’t think any amount of rhetoric would have saved him, really the data should have spoken for itself. My point about debates is that it is the best speaker wins, not the ‘truth’.

    Perhaps we can find consensus in the idea that the public needs education and it is a failure of scientists to communicate that delays widespread acceptance of new models?

     
  4. Adam D. Jansen

    February 18, 2014 at 1:31 am

    I don’t know if we will come to a consensus. Sometimes a good model is not accepted because it is not communicated, but sometimes it is rejected because it does not fit within the prevailing paradigm.

    It is true that a little two-hour debate does not accomplish much, but it does contribute to the larger debates, which can take generations. I think debates are good because they bring ideas into direct conflict. This forces the two sides to flesh out their theories and hone their arguments. Ultimately, the fittest ideas will survive, and the unfit will whither and die.

    Also, I don’t think debates should be limited to scientific conferences, especially for something like global warming, which has a direct effect on public policy.

     
  5. downhousesoftware

    February 18, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    The more I think about this issue the less sure I become about where my feelings really are. I wonder if what I really want is just BETTER debate that does include a critical examination of data. Something like this does occur (or at least did-years ago) on the talk.origins sites.

    Do you have an example of where you see good, productive debate going on?

    [My own personal favorite form is the intelligence squared oxford-style debating that airs on NPR (http://www.npr.org/series/6263392/intelligence-squared-u-s) . This forum benefits from strong moderation by John Donvan that insists that questions posed by one side be answered by the other rather than deflected or ignored.]

     
    • Adam D. Jansen

      February 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      I just use Google and read websites from each side. 🙂

       

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