The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Jon Stewart’

Anti-Science and Science Denial: It Isn’t Just for the Political Right?

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2014

I have used up many electrons on this blog discussing the problem of anti-science and science denial regarding creationist and climate science denier movements.  I have also discussed many times about how those movements seek to destroy the credibility of science in order to prop up either their religious or political worldviews, which usually tend to be quite right-wing in nature.

However, lest we cease to be critical thinkers about the problem of anti-science and science denial, let us not over simplify the issue in to being a problem of only the political right.  Case in point: many of the worst of the anti-vaccination movement (AVM) are strongly left-leaning in their politics.  This is emphasized rather hilariously in this recent Daily Show segment:

An Outbreak of Liberal Idiocy


 No, this chart isn’t the idiocy.  The idiotic part is that anyone would seriously deny that vaccinations are the reason why these deadly diseases went away.

In the segment, the Daily Show interviewer discusses the topic of vaccines with someone who can only be described as an ideological science-denier… who is on the political left.  I really like how Orac at Respectful Insolence breaks this down:

In the piece, in particular Bee makes fun of a crunchy lifestyle blogger, Sarah Pope, who, after establishing her liberal-crunchy bona fides (after Bee’s amusing prompts, of course), rattles off pretty much every antivaccine trope and bit of misinformation and pseudoscience in the antivaccine canon, claiming herd immunity is myth, that vaccines cause autism, that they don’t work, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yesterday, Pope wrote about the interview thusly:

” “The Epidemic of Idiocy” that The Daily Show segment labels the no-vaccination movement is head scratching given that the anti-vaccine movement is being led by the most educated in our society.

Are all those parents with college degrees, master’s degrees, PhDs and, yes, even many MDs that are saying no to shots for their kids complete idiots?

Highly doubtful!

No-vax parents aren’t the real “science deniers”. In fact, they the ones most interested in the science because they are digging into the research and demanding unbiased, objective data to support vaccination, not the slanted version presented by the CDC and conventional pediatricians like Dr. Offit who makes millions supporting the very industry that handsomely maintains his lifestyle.”

Uh, no.

No matter how much Ms. Pope wants to claim the mantle of science through the University of Google, she and her fellow antivaccine activists are just as antiscience as anthropogenic global climate change denialists and creationists (a.k.a., evolution denialists). They also share another important trait with people holding those antiscience beliefs. They’re just really, really good atmotivated reasoning, and one reason they’re so good at motivated reasoning is because they are educated and smart, which is why vaccine denialists and other science denialists are sometimes referred to as “smart idiots.” It’s a very apt term. I do, however thank The Daily Showfor making me aware of Ms. Pope. Her blog looks like—shall we say?—a highly “target-rich” environment for potential future blog posts.

However, we should take care to not oversimplify the AVM and the political affiliations of its adherents, because while there are many AVMers who are left-wing, there is also a strong (and apparently growing) right-wing element to vaccine denial.  More from Orac:

However, there is also a very strong strain of antivaccine views on the right as well, including General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation, far right libertarians, and others who distrust the government, including government-recommended vaccine schedules.

Indeed, many of the the antivaccine people and groups whom I monitor tend to be anything but liberal politically. For example, The Canary Party, a rabidly antivaccine group that pushes the idea that toxins in vaccines are responsible for autism and all sorts of health issues and that autism “biomed” quackery is the way to cure vaccine injury recently teamed up with the East Bay Tea Party to oppose vaccine mandates in California. Moreover, the Canary Party has also recently been sucking up to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), with one of its major financial backers, Jennifer Larson, contributing a lot of money to Issa’s campaign (indirectly, of course) in order to buy influence and win a hearing by his committee examining autism and focused on vaccines as one potential cause. Fortunately, Issa’s hearing in 2012 was a bust.

So what are we to conclude about this question of anti-vaccination and political affiliation?  Well, the answer appears to be “not much” because it seems the question hasn’t been rigorously studied…

Unfortunately, there aren’t actually a lot of good data examining whether there is a correlation between political affiliation and anti-vaccine views. I blogged about this very issue a three years ago, discussing an article by Chris Mooney looking at polling data and doing the best he could to characterize the politics of vaccine denialism.

At this point, about the only thing I can say is that regardless of the political motivations of those who buy into and promote the dangerous nonsense espoused by the AVM, their lies and pseudoscience must be countered.  So how do we do that?  How do we in the skeptical and pro-science movement formulate an effective message to counter the AVM’s noise and misinformation?  Well, I am happy to say that last year a study was published (via the JREF and Women Thinking, Inc.) on this very question.  Please give it a look 🙂

Posted in medical woo, politics, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CNN Taken to Task Over Its NON-Critical Thinking on the Boston Bombing

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2013

As I mentioned in my last post regarding this past Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, there has been a huge amount of rumor, misinformation, and innuendo floating all over the place, and we should do what we can to combat it.

Of course, one would hope that our media outlets, such as “The Most Trusted Name in News” CNN, would take such a task to heart, making certain to get their facts straight before they report the news.  But, sadly, in the era of the 24-hour “news” cycle, it appears that getting it right takes a back seat to getting it first.

I can think of no other way to illustrate this point more clearly than to reference The Daily Show’s incredible smackdown of just how badly CNN botched some major news regarding the bombing:

CNN-The Human Centipede of News

Yup, that’s CNN… the most busted name in news.

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stephen Colbert PWNs Don McLeroy, Creationist Crank from Texas

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 26, 2012

If you know who Don McLeroy is (and if you don’t, read up on him here), then you know he is quite notorious for being reality-challenged.  In what I can only describe as a stroke of comedic genius, Stephen Colbert interviews McLeroy on the Colbert Report.  Enjoy 🙂

Posted in creationism, education, humor, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Support Science Debate 2012!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2011

You may recall a new effort in 2008 by the scientific community and backers of science to become more active in the United States’ political process, and I am happy to (re)announce that Science Debate is back for the 2012 election cycle!

Is America ceding its capacity to lead?

Science Debate 2012 is a grassroots initiative spearheaded by a growing number of scientists and other concerned citizens. The signatories to our “Call for Presidential and Congressional Debates on Science & Technology” include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Council on Competitiveness, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, over 150 leading universities and associations, Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, major business leaders, presidents of universities and major associations, congresspersons of both major political parties, religious leaders, former presidential science advisors, the editors of America’s major science journals, writers, and many others.

We have noticed that science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world – issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security as science and technology continue to transform our lives. No matter one’s political stripe, these issues pose important pragmatic policy challenges – challenges that are too important and too impactful on people’s lives to be left unaddressed.

We believe these scientific and technological policy challenges can bring out the best in the entrepreneurial American spirit. America can be a leader in finding cures for our worst diseases, inventing the best alternative energy sources, enjoying the most pristine and biologically wealthy environment, and graduating the most scientifically literate children in the world – or we can cede these economic and humanitarian benefits to other countries.

Leadership is about articulating a vision for the future and making it happen.  Will America lead, or will it step aside and be swept along as others take the reins?

We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities, and it is hard to imagine any candidate not wishing to be involved in such an occasion.

Please join us and work to make Science Debate 2012 a reality nationally, and in your congressional district.

Sign the Science Debate Petition!

Support Science Debate 2012!

And, last but not least, if you harbor any doubts that now, more than ever, is the time for a serious national political discussion of science, science education, and its implications, then just take a few minutes to watch this video clip from the Daily Show…

Posted in politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Some Humor: Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2009

As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post – Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash – I just had to pass along this little gem.

I just saw a couple of really funny clips over at the Daily Show website regarding the swine flu. One clip does some gentle lampooning of various media outlets for the manner in which they’re reporting on the subject, while the other clip does a great job poking fun at the conspiracy theorists running rampant on the topic.  Enjoy!  🙂

Lampooning the Media


And the next – and in my opinion much more funny – clip poking fun at those whacky CT-woosters…

Conspiracy Theorists vs. Evidence-Based Journalism… Who Shall Win?


Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Financial Crisis & Business Skepticism

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2009

The news about the economy is, by most accounts, pretty dismal these days. As time goes on, we are finding out about more an more shady deals on Wall Street and even outright fraud – think Bernard Madoff. How did we get caught up in this hysteria of wishful thinking that drove an insane economic bubble which ultimately burst so badly?

I’m no economist, and I don’t like to write about economics, but I wanted to take a moment or two to give a shout-out to someone who is applying skepticism & critical thinking to these questions – Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show 😀

In the last week, Jon Stewart has very publicly and vocally taken those financial reporters, networks, and commentators – such as CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer – to task for failing to apply their own skepticism & critical thinking to the situation. And in the end, when dealing in business and/or investing, it boils down to that old adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I want to share two video clips of Jon Stewart laying the skeptical smackdown on CNBC for failing to apply critical thinking to these issues. The first is a broadcast from The Daily Show earlier in the week where Stewart criticizes CNBC for giving sloppy or shady financial advice…

stewart vs cnbc

The second video is an interview between Stewart and Cramer as they discuss what went wrong and the business media’s responsibility to be more willing to ask tough questions and follow through…

stewart vs cramer

I have to agree with Stewart. While it is incumbent upon all of us to apply our critical thinking skills to issues of business & finance, at some point we depend upon the business media outlets, like CNBC, to provide us with trustworthy information. Let us hope we’ve all learned this painful lesson well.

Posted in economics, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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