tv Discussion on Science Skeptics CSPAN May 30, 2015 10:08pm-11:33pm EDT
education of a kind most people would dream of having, all on his own. with the help of his father and the local public library. but it swerved the path of his life in a way that no one had ever had ever have any way of anticipating. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's "q&a." coming up next, scientists authors, and journalists examine the phenomenon known as science denial is him. topics include issues like climate change, and vaccinations. this is part of the annual conference on world affairs at the university of colorado in boulder.
>> all right, let's get started. let me remind you to turn off the sound on your cell phones. this is our number 3263, denial in the face of fact. i asked for a science panel, i got an anti-science panel. [laughter] tom: so i'm tom blumen that'll. i'm the former chair of molecular and development biology here in boulder. i am the director of the institute for down's syndrome at the medical school. let me briefly introduce the
subject. i want you to imagine a world where they were accepted. where nobody was deliberately underseeking to undermine these facts just because they stood to gain financially or because they seem at odds with their religious beliefs. huge numbers of americans simply don't believe facts, people believing in the truth matter as lot not because it affects the truth but because whether or not we act based on truth or fiction matter as lot. this isn't a scientific issue. it's a political one. today's panelists will address the thorny question of how to get people to believe facts even when they don't want to. so let me introduce the panelists in the order in which they're going to speak. first is michelle fowler. she's an astronomer and a science communicator. she's been a regular host of the history channel's "the universe." national geographic "the known
universe" and the discovery channel's "how the universe works." you can say she's narrowly focused on the universe. [laughter] tom: richard ally is evan pew professor of geo sciences at penn state university. he's one of the major figures worldwide in the area of climate change and is dedicated to educating the public about what is happening and what will happen. he taught me that for what man has done to the atmosphere not to have caused global warming , the laws of physics will have to be wrong. third is chip brulee, long-term activists in the cause of human rights. he's a democratic socialist and civil rights asbsolutist and he has a new book "too close for comfort" predicted the tea party movement.
he's sorry. [laughter] tom: leonard pip is a columnist for the "miami herald." he has won the pulitzer prize on race in america. so first, michelle. michelle: well, good morning. you know, it's one of the gaps in my training as a scientist that i'm finding myself in this sort of social situation as a science communicator where i'm dealing with this odd cadence of people insisting that something that is false is true and something that is true is false. this is something i don't have the rhetorical training and i'm trying to sort of get the chops to do this. this is actually going on in my life right now at this moment. but the idea that the false is true, that for example nasa could be hiding something from you, right now, we have the dom spacecraft -- it actually went into orbit around the largest solar system. this happened about three weeks ago. it's amazing. i'm so excited.
this is the first spacecraft that uses an ion drive and it's gone from one asteroid toe another. 600 miles across. there may be evidence of liquid water underneath the surface of the asteroid. as they were approaching ceres there were these odd bright areas inside some of the craters and we're wondering if they're a lighter rock or it was ice. which was very exciting. and then all of a sudden the images start coming. the reason is we're using an ion drive. the thrust is very, very small. it is the equivalent -- the engine has the thrust equivalent of blowing on your hand just like that. very, very low thrust engine. so we don't do a burn and start looping around. and orbit around the asteroid. we have to sneak up on orbit. and for the last two weeks we've been on the night side of the asteroid. that's why there haven't been more pictures. and we're all waiting when we
swing around to the day side and get better images. but this morning i'm answering e-mails about what are you hiding? what was in those craters. and the explanation is, no, this is orbital dynamics. this doesn't really seem to get people emotionally to respond to that. you know, i -- i want the months of my life back that 2012 apocalypse was because i was getting calls from people who were frightened and there were afraid that the world was coming to an end. and other people were i bet the world isn't coming to an end but i want to see where this astronomical conjunction is happening. the difficult thing to tell them is that there was nothing astronomical happening on that date. this thing was made up whole cloth. it's one of the reasons i actually stopped working with history channel. i was one of the regular host for "the universe" on the history channel. but they would present a show
they were doing about asteroids or possible life on mars from a scientific perspective and then they would have ancient aliens right after it. seriously right after it. and they would be presenting these things as equivalent. and there was enough to make me stop actually working with the history channel. you know, the strange thing was -- i think this gets at a lot of what is going on with vista nihilism -- with this do nihilism -- denialism is somebody calls me at nasa and they said, oh, my god, is it true the world is going to end next week? i sort of had enough. think about this, do you think i would be in my office answering the phone if i thought the world was ending in a week? i said start getting worried when all of the scientists buy up expensive wine and max out their credit cards and all go to some tropical i'm land because -- island because then you know something bad is going to happen. but this idea that i am not a person, that i don't have feelings and emotions and a family and a reason to be alive, you know, that i wouldn't react emotionally if i knew the world
was coming to an end. what an odd disconnect -- you know, somebody wants to separate the fact of being a scientist from the fact that you are a human being. and this is something that i've seen come over and over again. you know, i was listening to the wonderful keynote address that leonard was giving down there and he was using the term -- he didn't coin it. but he used it before. the weapons of mass distraction. when there are things going on that are bad for consumerism or people might say that they're bad for the economy or any number of reasons, bad for the reactionary culture, for conservatism in culture people often will try to distract you with something else. and this started to make me very uncomfortable. and i actually really enjoyed working with the discovery channel and i talked to the discovery channel producers about this. but i'm beginning to have a ethical problem doing a show about the risk the earth stands from a gamma ray burst or from
the risk that an asteroid can destroy us. when there's an even greater risk right now. and we are not talking about that on the discovery channel. we are not talk about the huge amount of data that makes human driven climate changes fact. and you know, this is the sort of thing where, you know, if you ask me for an elevator speech. right? i am in an elevator with you and i have you for three minutes. why should you believe that climate change is real and that it is human driven? what are some of the things that i think are the compelling arguments? nasa has 20 satellites that deliver climate change data. it's one of the reasons why we have to really protect our earth science budget. some of it is landsat, data about land use and the heavy of vegetation and the entire surface of the world for the last 43 years. we have a record of what things have changed in that time.
my friends are flying research aircraft over the ice caps of the world right now. they are wonderful. they're incredible young scientists, young women especially and you know, we are measuring from orbit -- one of our satellites i'm most proud of is called grace. the gravity recovery and climate experiment. you know of it, do you? the thing with grace, grace is actually two spacecraft that flies at 100 miles apart from each other. there's a microwave beam between the two of them. victim measured measure the distance between the two spacecraft with -- they can measure the distance between the two spacecraft with just tiny accuracy that is actually about 100 -- the diameter of 100 hair. as these two fly, they respond to the mass underneath them. when one of them is flying over a mountain range it actually gets accelerated a bit by the gravity, it dips down a bit. they are above us right now they do a complete earth image every two days and they're doing this dance. and the reason we measure mass is that there are areas on the earth where mass is changing very quickly.
and one of the things we can measure are aquifers, the amount of water deep under the ground . from 300 miles up in space we can actually measure the amount of water in aquifers hundreds of feet below the ground. and we see those aquifers draining. you know, this is something that all of this data is not only free to everybody in america. it's free to everybody in the world. we want people to see these data. the other thing we're measuring our the health of the ice caps. -- are the health of the ice caps. and greenland was in reasonable equilibrium. it was bigger in the winter, it was smaller in the summer. there was a cycle. for the last 15 years the ice cap on greenland which is a land based ice cap has lost 200 billion tons a year that has not been replaced. and if anything that trend is accelerating. antarctica, the land based ice
sheets there were stable until just a few years ago. there is one, the western antarctic ice sheet is losing 200 tons a year and another ice sheet that is beyond saving. that water will go into the ocean. and at this point there isn't any way to reverse that trend. i think that's something you can say. and you know, people often ask me, are you allowed to say this as a nasa scientist and the answer is absolutely yes because these are the facts. what i'm not telling you about his policy. -- is policy. as a federal official i cannot comment on what we should do about whether we should do carbon cap and trade, about whether we should use fossil fuels. that is not my right as a federal official. and i take that very seriously. i serve the united states government and you no matter what your political affiliation is. and i will give you the best information that nasa has about what's beginning on with climate change. and it is not my place to argue about the politics of it.
so, you know, the idea -- the attack on what a scientist is, you know, are we not allowed to be human? you know, am i not allowed to go on television, which i have done, and say i'm scared? it's not that, you know, i'm going to tell you what to do but i can tell you my emotional response. and it's become very apparent to nasa scientists that just delivering more and more data about, ok, we have the acidification of the ocean. i can tell you it's not the sun. because we've been studying the sun very closely for 30 years. so all of these data are not helping in the debate. and so instead we're trying to draw back into our skills as storytellers and as people and as emotional human beings trying to tell this story. and i'll wrap up with one quick sort of anecdote. if you ever wonder how much of an entertainment value people are getting out of this very
important debate, i actually appeared on "fox & friends" with steve doocy this year. steve doocy had done a huge 10-minute piece about how nasa scientists were lying about the climate change record about how there was a temperature point from 1934 and they moved it. this was immediately -- it was actually rated as pants on fire lie by an independent fact checker. they became more consistent with weather stations. we calibrated for the height difference which is something you in boulder know about at 6,000 feet. and i had all the facts and i went on the steve doocy show. at their invitation. and before the cameras rolled steve doocy was talking to me about this, about the facts, about the climate change data. about what had happened with these points. and i was feeling just as i was to you -- i was being, just as i
was to you, very friendly and nonconfrontational saying your money pays my salary. and steve doocy, the cameras rolled. he gave me a very soft ball question about air quality and got me off. he wouldn't even let me talk. so they're not interested in telling you what the facts are. they're interested in the entertainment, in the clicks, in the selling the ads on the, you know, television shows. and you know, it's one of the things we have to decouple. what have you heard about climate change and why are you skeptical about it? it is something we really have to delve into. thank you. [applause] tom: so for those of you not familiar with the conference on world affairs we will hold questions until each of the panelists has spoken. the next speaker is richard alley.
richard: thank you. i am sitting there to trying real hard not to give michelle a standing ovation. i am a climate scientist, we use that climate data. we share friends at nsf and nooaa. we were pointing about places that we are getting our food by pumping water out of the ground so fast that it's not being replaced that it's changing the orbit of satellites. people get that. all right. so and i'm a climate scientist so i'm one of the people who have gotten the occasional e-mail that says you're an evil liar. i'm trying to get you fired. i hate you. i'm going to watch you. i know where you are. i've also weighed into the evolution issues and i've editorialized on that. and the people who do not want to see evolution taught tend to be much nicer to me than the people who do not want to see climate change taught. for what it is -- so i'm a
geologist and i do climate and i do ice sheets. if you come back at 3:00 today here, i will tell you a little bit about how we can solve some of this. but i'm going to tiptoe into jim's world, maybe, and he will straighten me out later. but michelle gave me such a beautiful opening here. so there is some research on some of the many well springs of this -- i don't want to hear the facts. and i want to show you a little piece of that, not the whole thing, ok? and so first of all, i would like you to think when you have ever been in one of the great cities of the world, london or paris or new york or whatever and tried to drive a car or seen somebody driving a car or at least when you heard about people driving cars in one of the great cities of the world. and i would like a show of hands very briefly, how many of you
have the impression that the great cities of the world are uniquely and beautifully designed to be absolutely optimal for moving the modern mix of traffic, right? and there's a number of reasons for this. but one of them is that the great cities of the world are designed for an ox cart coming to market 1,000 years ago. and they have built themselves around the streets that were built for an ox cart 1,000 years ago. and they have built overpasses and overpassed underpasses, and through passes but they are still preserving the streets from hundreds of years ago from an ox cart. i want you to think of a baby, a one-year-old and a two-year-old and how fast they learn and what they learn. and by the time they are one or
two, they have a naive physics. if i sit this in midair it will fall down. if i set it on something it will stay there. it is not rotating around 24 hours going 25,000 miles on a spinning earth, it sits there. and you know, i'm a baby and there are certain things that come out of me that require that my diaper be changed. but a gaseous emission is not one of them. and i am learning who is a reliable source and who takes care of me and who my people are and so forth. and i get a view of the world that is -- works. but a puppy grows up to be a dog. and if i throw something, it hits where i threw it. and now i go off to school and i -- i start learning science and the scientist said this actually has a quantum way function and it could go two slots at the same time and i'm on this giant
ball spinning through space all around the place and i am falling towards the center of mass all the time. and you know, those trace gases that come out of my rear end and the other ones that come out of your tail pipe are going to change the climate even though i know that they don't matter because they don't have to change my diaper. and if you watch the puppy grow into a dog and the puppy grow into a dog and you do that long enough and there's a reason to selection that affects survival you will get something that is different. and none of that makes any sense. none of that is the ox cart that was laid down in my brain when i was one. and when they've asked, you know, so you go to a seven-year-old and they've been told the world is round and people have done experiments and they have a little troubles with this, many of them do. they'll draw the world round with you living inside. or they'll draw the world round
with a flat spot where you live or a little divot and it may be nine or so before you get back. eventually all of us, with a very small number of exceptions -- apparently there's still a flat earth society -- but eventually almost all of us get that. but we get it because all of the trusted authority figures in our world tell us that. and we have trusted authority figures. we have built very young sort of a hierarchy of who we're going to believe and where we're going to take our information from. and when all of our trusted authority figures say yes, the world is round we get it. but when some of our trusted authority figures say nasa is lying to you from the satellites. they're making up the data. they're sneaking it around. now the idea that maybe the gas that comes out of me doesn't change the world because i don't have to change my diaper, maybe
that you can stick with it. you done have to believe the scientists. and what we seen is this rise of authority figures who say that the two of us are evil liars right? and so in some very real sense that we can go into our media bubble, we can go into our cultural bubble and we can stay there. and in some very real sense these media bubbles are scrubbing reality. and i think i will pass it along to chip and see what he says to that. [applause] chip: haiku for climate change. reality bites. as sea levels keeps rising water
nips our feet. [laughter] quakes as sea levels keep rising, water it our feet. >> iti'm going to argue that society has been groomed to reject science, collectivism and big government, all of which is evidence of climate scientists being agents of satan. it all starts with evolution the big lie of science. and the catholic church and most mainstream protestant denominations reach an accommodation simply by saying
they become concerned with whether the fundamentals of christianity -- and they write a series of books and pamphlets called "fundamentals." and they are known as fundamentals -- fundamentalists. that's where the term comes from. one of the fundamentals is that science is a lie. because if you believe that science is evolution, you are rejecting god. if you are a bible believing literalist, and god is a central part of your life, this is not something you just brush aside.
it becomes ingrained in your worldview through the doctrine of your religious ideology. so, ok, let's go through a little -- the roots of this. how does this involve corporations? in the 1800s, it's evolution, in the late 1890's, labor unions, in the 1920's, it's bolsheviks and anarchists. roosevelt had a massive funding of anti-big government, antiunion, anti-collectivist organizing around the country. one of the most grand propaganda campaigns ever launched. we have the red scare. against godless communism. in the 1970's, we had the
christian right, which a number of scholars point out -- when you have this collapse as the soviet union, what happens is that the scary threat becomes internal. just like in the red scare. the internal subversive are people who want you to embrace this false claim of science and reject your biblical understanding of god, and they have taken positions of high office both in the political scene and religion which happens to tie into one of the most significant aspects of evangelical and fundamentalist christianity in the united states. which is the idea that we are living in the end times -- the apocalyptic end times, during which time trusted political and religious views will lie to you.
this puts scientists in the lackeys of entities who are lying to you. who could possibly believe this? roughly 75 to 80% of the united states, depending on how you poll, is christian. or at least, they claim they go to church on sunday -- a lot of them are lying to two -- a lot of them are lying to do. let's not go there though. it's really about once a month, maybe only christmas and easter. i'm a christian, so don't get mad at me. i am the kind of christian that likes science. so what happens is this becomes the single largest voting block in the republican party is
conservative fundamentalists and evangelicals who reject science because it interferes with their relationship with god. it then becomes part of an alliance which includes corporate profiteers who really want to keep making money. no big deal. it's just like taking an industry, stripping it, and living the high life. it's just that it's the earth, you know? so there are researchers, as i already mentioned. there is the media exploiting politicians. i wrote this all yesterday, so i totally agree -- or as a tiny group of libertarians to read can split it -- conspiracy theory websites.
i am happy to talk to you. but the biggest are these conservative christian fundamentalists and evangelicals who are coming danced that we are living at a time when -- you are convinced that we are living in a time when satanists ruled the earth and are trying to get you to abandon god. so this is kind of tough. it's that science and big government are part of satan's plan. the roots of corporate manipulation don't start with climate change -- they start in the 1800s with getting fundamentalists and evangelicals to reject labor unions because they are, in fact, a form of collectivism which divides you from god. it's nothing new except the stakes are much higher. and the joke is that these -- that if these fundamentals believe in an apocalyptic outcome they're bringing it on. so for the first time, we
actually have the ability to create an apocalypse that you're not going to lose the bet. it's going to happen if we don't change things. you know what, they're going to change, i guess, you know, the -- they're going to say the apocalypse happened and it didn't happen the way we thought. but that would be a very free thought in their mind. [laughter] what can i say? so here's the thing as a person who does write about social science and a journalist and i worked for a think tank for 30 years that researched right-wing social and political movements to help left wingers figure out why they were saying these things why there was not climate change or abortion is a sin or gay people should be shot for haynes -- -- should be shot -- oh, that's only in certain states. i'm sorry. so it doesn't work to it doesn't work to say to them "your
religion is a farce." he will -- you are not going to convince these people it is true. what does work is to talk about the difference between no dominion and stewardship. dominion is one way of understanding what god gave to humans. dominion means you get to do whatever you want. you get to shit in your own kitchen. which is what we are doing now let's be frank. this is what we are doing to our planet. the other theme is stewardship which is the obligation as a christian to preserve what we have and make it better, and to pass it on to the next generation. this is not exclusive to christianity. it is on -- it is in all major religions. not just this idea of serving the planet but seeking justice. there are some other ideas in judaism, islam, and other faiths. i and with the note that if we -- i and -- i end with the note
that if we want to convince the mass space of client -- climate the nihilism, we have to engorge people within the christian community to work on a way of engaging a dialogue with these people that gives them a back story to get out of because pushing them against a wall is not going to work. [applause] >> good morning. i thought i was going to be the only christian on the science panel. i feel a little less alone. there are three of us, ok. [applause] there are two main points i want to make and i have 9.5 minutes. the first -- you know, when we talk about science denial was him, we need to talk about this
in context because what we are seeing is not just denial of the reality of global warming and the fact that the climate is changing. that should be seen in the context of a nation where we now embrace what i call designer facts where we have given ourselves permission along conservative political lines to reject any "fact" that does not compute with what we have already chosen to believe. i want to tell you a brief story. i wrote a few years ago about henry johnson, an african-american soldier in the first world war. he stood five feet, four inches, 150 pounds. he was on observation duty one night in 1918 went his post was overrun. no one knows the exact number of germans but the low count is one dozen. the high accounts -- the high count is close to 30.
the miracle of the story is that henry johnson outnumbered the germans. he was wounded 21 times. he lived the rest of his life with one foot. it is this amazing story called the battle of henry johnson. it is an amazing story of this very slight african-american man who defeats a horde of germans. i wrote that story in the column and i got an e-mail from a gentleman who told me all of that one man defeat a dozen nazi stuff is just "pc bunk." remember we are talking about world war i. [laughter] it is just "pc bunk." i didn't blame him for not believing the story because it is an amazing story. one of the most amazing in the annals of american warfare. we sent him -- what am i looking
for? -- proof. when you get old, words fly out of your head. we sent him the proof of what happened. this story was -- there is a quote from teddy roosevelt speaking of henry johnson's bravery. the story was covered in the saturday evening post, a number of history books. it is on the web. mr. thompson was not convinced. mr. thompson refused to believe even though we had overloaded him with all of the verification that we could think of and this was one of the first incident that helped me to clarify what was going on in this country. we have reached a point where we no longer have a pool of facts in common. previously, we had a pool of facts in common, assuming we all have goodwill. we all pull from the same pool of fact and make our arguments and maybe i interpreted the full
-- the pool in one way and you do in another way but we are all pulling it from the same pool of facts. what is happened with the rise of the internet, with the rise of conservative news media and designer fact era is that we no longer have the same pool of facts. i have a pool over here and you have a pool over there. in a real sense, we are talking past one another. you don't see this with science and with the nihilism of climate change. what else do we think birthirism was about? -- birth or--- birtherism was about? we're talking about a president who was born into u.s. state whose birth was attested to not only by his birth certificate of a notifications in two contemporaryinous papers.
yet ther whole cottage industry of books, fox news appearances, and all that stuff debating whether or not barack obama was born in this country. the obvious fact is there is a need for some people to believe that there is something other or foreign about him so there are not enough facts that you can bring to the table to convince them otherwise -- designer facts. that is the context in which we are swimming. the other point i wanted to make is that one of the worst things that ever happened to science and religion i think is when antiscience became seen as a religious value. i want to read from you a column i wrote a few years back when the state of kansas was launching one of its schemes to allow the teaching of creationism in school and this sums up what i would buy to -- would like to leave you with. here's the thing i keep coming
up with -- why are those to accept every bible passage as literal truth so fanatical in their quest to make the rest of us not i said? why do you need to be seconded and the knowledge by anyone, much less an agency of the government? if you know what you know, it seems as if you would be serene in the celebration of it. but in all the roughly 20 years come all the time they have sat by hook and crook to make their believes the law of the land serenity is an attribute they have seldom shown. indeed, it is not too much to say the characteristic that seems to mark them more , curiously enough, is an abiding lack of faith. no faith in their ability to survive unaided in the marketplace of ideas, and what they say they know, and their ability to pass their knowledge on to their children, no faith. only the fear that conflicting ideas and competing beliefs pose imminent threat that they and their children must detect -- he kept sealed to opposing views is destructive to their convictions. for what it's worth, i've never
perceived evolution theory as a -- incompatible with religious faith. it contradicts the letter of genesis but not the essence. it confirms the essence that we are not accidents. think about it. we are told that humans and apes evolved from common ancestors. we are told before this there were dinosaurs, and before, cellular creatures, and before the big bang. i say fine. who lit the fuse on the bank? what existed prior to the beginning and what will be here after the end? only one name suggests itself to me which leaves me marveling at the weak kneed creed espoused by some, a belief so flimsy it boils of the first gust of contradiction. a god so small it can be threatened by charles darwin? mine is not.
that is a column i did in 2000. [applause] i have long felt that trying to use science to understand faith or faith to understand science is like teaching -- is like using algebra to understand poetry or math to understand motown songs. they serve different ends, needs. this idea that science must be hammered into conformity with the letter of genesis is destructive. i think ultimately, it is destructive of religion because what it says to people like me and lots of others is that -- you have heard abandoned faith all ye who enter here. well, abandon logic all who ye -- all ye who enter here.
i believe there is that to what speaks to my soul and my heart needs and understands and there is that which speaks to my intellect and i don't see that those things are necessarily in this life or death struggle that a lot of christians seem to feel. i think there is a weakness in what they call their faith that if they really really looked at it, they would be embarrassed by. i am not threatened by science. i am enlightened by science. [applause] >> thank you all. before we get to the questions from the audience, i would like to offer to the panel members the opportunity to respond to the others. richard. >> i like to follow-up on leonard's statement.
we had one of these efforts to teach false problems with evolution in pennsylvania and before i waited into it in a public way, i dropped in on our pastors. we are methodists. i showed them what i was doing and they said that is fine and what was happening there was they were trying to teach this so-called intelligent design saying people were not biologists saying high school biology teachers should tell people they should leave because of who is not a valid just claims -- a biologist claims biologists cannot explain something. i said to my pastor, you are unhappy with the lack of science in that but we are more unhappy with the lack of religion in that. they said this may be bad science but it is worse theology. so you're completely correct. [applause] >> the thing that always amazes me with regard to faith's
approach to science and to a lot of things is how often people of faith sort of give themselves a get out of jail free card from doing the hard interior work or the hard personal stuff we are required to do. it becomes instead -- i have always understood faith as an obligation to do for, not a license to hit someone over the head. i have often -- not to take it to sunday school but if you have ever read the sermon on the mount and all of the stuff you are required to do, you could spend the rest of your life trying to live up to that. i have never lived up to that. you can spend the rest of your life to live up to the tenants on the mountain and be a much better person and you would never have time to call a scientist and leave death threats on the telephone. [laughter] turn the other cheek. if a man takes your shirt, give them your clothes. if you take my shirt, we are fighting. that is still where i am.
it is fascinating. i think the same holds short sometimes when i look at the more extreme proponents of islam. islam and the torah are variations of he who saves one person saves the world entire. why aren't we literal about that? [applause] >> a bit of a social science fact checked. there is no social science data that fundamentalist christians are anymore or less intelligent or crazy than people in their own neighborhood. they tend to reflect background demographics up and down the scale. if you hear on liberal left radio and tv programs that these people are scary crazy ignorant people, it is not true. it is a lie just like science denial is a lie to get you to send money to washington rather
than to organize and speak to your neighbors. [applause] >> let me throw out one question. nothing any of you said has made me feel any better. [laughter] ok, now it is time. how do we go from here to improve the situation? >> it is getting a little bit better. when the internet first became a really, really prevalent part of my day, when maybe 5-10 years ago when we were starting up on things like lots of e-mail social media, i had a greater volume of people that would say we are going to be killed by that asteroid or i saw a star is going to explode and kill us. there did seem to be a recalibration of us -- of
especially young people -- where what you read on the internet can have very little airing into fact. this is anecdotal. i would be interested to see data on how people are responding to this. there was this barrage of interest on all of these apocalyptic theories. that has called down a bit. -- called -- clamedalmed down a bit. we had a large asteroid passing by a few weeks ago and i did not get one e-mail about it. we knew the orbit. i have actually seen a bit of wariness that i think is very encouraging. again, i think it is anecdotal but there may be a cultural shift because the internet made the spreading of these ideas so tempting and easy at first and now maybe we are better consumers to some extent. >> [inaudible] >> i have here my smartphone. it is turned off. but i have here my smartphone and it is a fascinating exercise to take this into a high school
class and say what is it? what is it? and i have done this very recently and -- how would you make it? i would put some circuit boards together. what is a circuit board? right? this is about that much sand for the silicone and glass and that much oil for the plastic and some of the right rocks. some various elements and copper and that is all it is -- a sand, oil, and rocks with the right rocks. if you were to take the sand oil, and rocks and take them into the senate and to say make me a smartphone. or give them to the football team or the bridge club and say "make me a smartphone." this is science and engineering and a little design and marketing. einstein is in here. without relativistic populations
-- calculations, your gps is going to drop you an new mexico in a week. you cannot design a computer without quantum mechanics, and this is communicating with the same transfer we used to calculate the changes in the climate. and there still are people in the world who will take this and send me a message and say scientists don't what they are talking about -- [applause] but i actually think most of them know better now because this really is sand, oil, and rocks and science and engineering. [applause] >> all right. without further comments from the panel, we will turn to the question period. let me remind you if there are students who would like to ask
questions, please allow them to go to the front of the line and also remind you that there are two microphones. all questions should come from one or the other of these two microphones so feel free to lineup behind the people already there to ask questions and finally, let me remind you not to make statements. we have an expert panel here and these are questions to allow the panel members to expand on the subject. for the first question -- >> is he a student? >> it is hard for us to see you from here. very bright lights. student first. go ahead. >> here is the question. you commented on the profit motive of the corporate driven anti-climate change junk science. would you comment on the profit motive of the cottage industry
among religious right leaders in their science denial? >> he is one of my pastors. i have been to his church here but he is an old friend and he was one of the first people to write about the danger of the religious right because it turns out many of the leaders of the religious right live a very lavish lifestyle and they raise millions and tens and millions of hundreds of millions of dollars to build their little empires and for a religion that is supposed to reject the profit motive as a core element of one's being, it is always remarkable that a lot of the leaders of the christian right had in fact been extremely clever practitioners of a kind
of form of fundraising and scaremongering. it is a blemish on christianity. >> the only thing i would add is that i think the politicization of faith, while it may be lining someone's coffins of the short run, i think in the long run, it is proving to be damaging to faith. i think the acronym is american religious identification survey -- i wrote about this survey a couple years ago. religion is by some measures on the decline in this country. the percentage of people identifying themselves as christians is on the decline. what's interesting is the percentage of people who believe in god is not declining. i think that in a lot of ways, by making the church of whatever denomination seems to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the republican party -- a lot of these folks are doing them a disservice because people who are going, looking for the comfort or the genuineness that
they find in church nevertheless don't want to be identified with what seems to be church in media these days which is hateful and science denying and not very good. ultimately, the church faces a challenge from itself or from some of its more extreme members that this entire idea of god as a political candidate who abhors the climate science is really not a good business model. [applause] >> so, people who are discrediting science -- is that coming from the human race becoming more gullible, from the internet becoming an easier way to learn any kind of knowledge? is it coming from our
politicians having such radical beliefs that we believe them because they are our authority figures? is it coming from interpretation of religion differently? >> there is nothing new under the sun. 1906, the earthquake knocked down san francisco and the real estate developers are beside themselves. they were just about to make a killing. now the people of the east are scared to go to san francisco. scientists say that relieved the worry. they promote that. scientists say there might be another one and they try to hold that down. they set up and early warning system so when the next quake hits, you can call austin and washington and say there is no worry. they started this campaign -- it wasn't an earthquake him it was a fire.
what happens? the earthquake break the gas lines, it breaks the electric lines that sparked the gas lines. the earthquake breaks the water lines so you cannot put out the fires and the city burns down. it was a fire but that is not 100% the entire story. the business of when people feel they are living or their beliefs are threatened, they try to defend them and they try to defend them with all the tools available to them is not new. what i think is new is how efficiently this has gotten. >> it is a dynamic relationship that starts with the corporate profiteers, the researchers that get paid to lie -- i am sorry, to do serious research. the media profiteers, and what you end up with is subcultures that live in information silos and these information silos are impenetrable except with face-to-face communications and
that is not how the democrats actually work anymore. they don't really organize people anymore. it don't try to go out and convince people to change the way they think about something. they put ads on tv saying republicans are idiots and scary and are going to ruin america and the republicans do the same thing and as a nation, we don't talk to each other and discuss ideas like we do at cwa. [applause] >> i am a retired medical research scientist and one of the interactions i had was finding that the amish would come to the hospital for their children with meningitis but they would not vaccinate their children for the same disease.
i sent a resident to is mennonite -- who is mennonite out to define what the problem was and she found that each parishioner had a very different insight. my question is the following -- if you are religious right, it is almost mandatory that when you are dying from cancer, you will show up to the medical profession and get the latest. so, death obviously has a major difference of opinion. can you speak on that? we are all mortal and what is it about death that brings us back to science? [laughter] [applause] >> fear. i mean -- a one-word answer. it's fear. [laughter]
>> to some very real extent come -- to some very real extent, you can reject science and still benefit from it in this nation up to some level and some of the science denial is fairly low cost to some communities. at the point when your life is on the line, because level goes up. >> i hate to advertise another panel but they put me on a panel about science and religion tomorrow which i am dreading because it is not my expertise and i don't really think the two intersect very much. i think that one of the things people don't understand about science and being a scientist is that we do not believe we have found truth. that as amazing as the equations of albert einstein are -- and i have studied graduate level quantum mechanics -- we cannot find one small deviation from these laws set up on hundred -- 800 -- 100 years ago.
one you measure around a black hole, einstein is absolutely correct that -- but we know he is not the end all, be all truth. einstein's theories don't work inside an atom and they are the laws of quantum mechanics. when you are a scientist, you give up this idea of their other being an answer and a truth. that does, of course, influence my view of spirituality. i live in a world where you learn to swim in doubt in beautiful, complex, ever increasingly accurate, getting toward the truth but not ever getting there. there is a beauty to trying to lose your ego in that and i think people often think that scientists don't respond emotionally to what they learn. i don't think that is true. this is still conjectural but we are fairly sure time does not exist the way we think it does.
it is not a simple progression from start to end. the modern laws of physics and particle physics almost require that to not to be true. in some other dimensional view you can see all of my life from beginning to end because we believe the big bang most likely created all of time as well as all of space. at that instant, not only was a screen it, but time from start to end what ever that means was created. i say to my husband sometimes -- we expect to die and not have anything after death -- that when the universe began, i was holding your hand and when the universe will end, i will be holding your hand. there is another way to be and swim in doubt and still find beauty. [applause] >> i hate to come back to prosaic after that.
it is worth keeping in mind that as scientists, we have given up the idea that we have reached truth. our job as educators is to make sure that we promote those students who will find the things we missed and we still educate so we know there are things we missed. but the practical parts -- this building was not built with quantum wave functions or relativity, it was built with newton. and the practical parts of science we do not overthrow when we change the big picture, we add to them. when einstein came in, newton's calculations for how you make this beautiful building stand up did not go away. you will find people who say science is not absolute truth , therefore everything you know about climate change will change tomorrow and we shouldn't believe you.
no. the tested sciences tend to go on and i am a physicist and a lot of ways and newton is still fine from designing this building. [applause] >> i just want to cosign what michelle said about swimming in doubt. that is not just science. as i have lived faith, that is my experience as well, swimming in doubt. i think there is this misconception that faith drives out doubt but i think the only people who don't have questions are people who are not thinking. i don't care what your religious background is. i think it is truer to say for me, and secretly for a lot of faults, -- folks, that faith and doubt live side-by-side. one of my favorite stories from the bible has a man approaching jesus and saying "lord, heal my son if you can." jesus takes offense and says "if i can?
and he says "lord i believe. help my unbelief." [applause] >> i will wrap it up by saying i very much understand that. it is another great lie that scientists are not people of faith and there is huge range of interpretation of the universe and the approach to god that scientists have. i think, going back to what we're talking about about doubt about anything means you don't know anything -- this is something they have thrown at us a lot in the climate science debate. scientists, when you publish a paper is when you disprove something or you find something new -- your career is on the edge of what we know and that is -- that does not negate the huge amount of stuff we do know. for the climate not to respond to what we are doing to it would break the laws of physics. there is a lot we know and they will say -- this may surprise
you. we only made the first actual measurement of all global participation -- precipitation -- we made a new satellite last year that could measure all of the precipitation going around the globe at once. that was the first time we ever made that measurement. last year. there is a lot we don't know about the climate system because we don't have the data yet. how much snow was falling? is carbon dioxide the contributor, or should we worry about methane or other gases? there are a lot of things we have to find out and that is why we have 20 satellites up there doing these measurements. none of that -- trying to figure out the details -- negate the fact we know this is happening. that is really well-established that is another mis-truth am very angry about a people talk about what scientists are doing. [applause] >> next question. >> to michelle and leonard. my question comes from reflecting on what is at least
to me a new insight that this panel has expressed and especially leonard that anti-science is a statement of religious faith, which is the religious faith in a week god -- a wakeak god, and this weak god is a circumstance of personal fear and perhaps pathological cultural fear, which ends up as an expression of a feeling of helplessness. our national passive escape from that is material, consumerism and financial development. i wonder if you all could comment on that connection of a weak god with a cultural fear and sense of helplessness which then promotes escapism. [laughter]
>> umm. i have heard it said that wisdom -- i'm not sure if this will answer your question or not -- i've heard it said that wisdom begins when instead of -- having what you want, you want to want what you have. i think that -- and i don't know that it ties into a week god, but i think there is definitely a sense in this country that satisfaction can be found at the mall and joy and completeness and whatever. i think that there is -- the attraction of faith is that there is a sense of -- one of the attractions -- is it offers the possibility of completeness, it offers the possibility of being satisfied within your own self.
your own sphere. i think that that is antithetical to consumerism , because the whole basis of consumerism is to make you feel that you are incomplete. you're not doing so well but if you buy this car, if you get this soda, if you buy this brand of whatever, your life will be complete. the trick is that it is always a state of incompletion because there is always something else to buy. i have an iphone 5. the latest is a 6 -- i don't know. i have the previous model. let's put it like that. there is a multimillion dollar campaign out to get me to upgrade this to whatever the next model is even though this works perfectly fine. but leonard, you're in complete until you get the next iphone. it is a constant shale game. to whatever degree, i just
decline to buy into it. i do not believe consumer goods will make me a better person. [applause] >> as i mentioned when i started my opening statements, it is not something the scientists are trained for. it is not part of education to deal with these questions. the interesting thing is how much that is changing. we are working with people like alan alda has an amazing incident for science to medication at suny stony brook and we are working with storytellers and psychologists and people from many different cultural traditions. this is a true story. there was a meeting at nasa headquarters and we were going to be talking about advertising strategies, and the people who were hosting it said mars. i said, we're going to talk about the mars planet. it turned out to be the mars candy company. [laughter]
only at nasa headquarters is that going to happen. they brought in advertising executives for mars and they were talking about how they design an advertising campaign. we cannot advertise as a federal agency but it is starting to behoove us to understand more on how this is done. i am sure i'm not saying anything that mars would not want me to say because i know this is probably advertising 101 . what shocked me immediately as we went in there, they were talking about their candy bar campaigns and the way they design the campaign has nothing to do with the candy. we are selling self-esteem. there was one they were talking about where they were advertising a body spray for young men. the immediate first line of the campaign is "adolescent male insecurity with body." that is what we are shooting for. they identify our psychological tendencies and they know they are not selling candy, they are addressing those. and that will get you to buy the candy.
they didn't say, for them, that having market penetration -- more people buying a candy bar was more important then return customers. like i said, not part of the training of the scientists. when it comes to what they are selling us, what doubt, what very simplistic views of religion -- you are right, you are wrong, you believe in god, you don't. anybody asks me if i believe in god -- if i say no, that is does -- if i say no, does that mean we believe in the same thing? that is a dinner conversation, not an answer, not a word. we become easy consumers when things are very simplified and they are going after our innate insecurities about death, fear body image, all these things. [applause]
>> next question. >> so, what would be steps that everybody can take to eliminate the belief that scientists are liars and basically bring science and religion together and just eliminate the anti-scientific belief? >> there are some very simple solutions. you have heard this before, and it sounds cliche but i spend a lot of time in congress on capitol hill. i have talked to all of ted cruz is -- ted cruz's staffers. i spend a lot of time in the actual offices and i am amazed about how much they respond. they will come in and say what are the e-mails today saying? they really do pay attention to your letters. e-mails and written letters and phone calls. written letters probably most. then the e-mails and phone calls, depending on the ease.
the other thing is i am really encouraged by some of the public figures in science. neil degrasse tyson, whom i have known for a little bit. i think he will get his own television program. neil is a really good public representation of the scientists -- of a scientist. he is funny, snarky, geeky, a good dancer. he is all these things -- i love to dance, i'm a dancing fool. he really skewers the stereotype but at the same time, i find him very authentic as a scientist. my only criticism of his television show "cosmos" is that neil was not given script writing credit and when i saw the show, it seemed more like a tribute to carl sagan who i love and it didn't have kneels humor -- neil degrasse tyson's humor. i think there are wonderful role models coming up and put pressure on your politicians. they feel it and they will listen.
i am a scientist at nasa and i will respond to weird e-mails and the morning. why am i responding to that one person with there are thousands of people who might have a similar question? they got to me. they sent me an e-mail. [applause] >> this has been an excellent panel. my only regret is there is not a science denier on the panel because i love to hear what they had to say. a lot of what you have said has gone to religious faith and its effect on science denial but i think there is another cynical component to it. i saw a trailerr the other day for a film called "merchants of doubt" that talks about how people are paid to cynically
plant doubt in our minds about all of these things be it cigarettes or automobile safety or flightsafety or climate change. i would like to hear you address that a little bit. >> that is integrity denial. there are always going to be those people who lack integrity and are willing to pander to the basis instincts for money. that is as old as science and religion. >> this seems like an odd thing to say but if it is good data, i will take it from whoever has it. the problem is bad data. for example, the koch brothers sponsored an extensive research into climate scientists. their scientists came up with the same conclusion the nasa scientists did. there are cases where studies sponsored by oil companies produce useful data, but that is why we have peer-review. it sounds so ivory tower-ish.
people come up to me all the time and say you are a scientist at nasa, i have this great idea for a new type of jet engine and i will tell them there is a process for this. there is a process for submitting papers, having discoveries, people replicating your results, looking through your data. but they say, i don't want to take that time. that is why we have the process. i think there needs to be of course a lot of transparency about who is being supported by companies. that is one of the things about being a fully federally funded scientist is we are not allowed to do that. i'm not allowed to take money from anybody. i gave a talk at a local astronomy club last week and they gave me a $100 check and i had to give it right back. i cannot take any money. from the discovery channel -- all of those tv appearances, not a penny. i cannot take anything from that. if the koch brothers sponsored a climate study and the data is
good, bring it on. i'm not afraid of real observation, real debate. >> that doesn't go to the issue of we live in a society that claims to be a democracy based on informed consent and there is an industry of lying to people for political profit. we live in a society that has abandoned the idea that we have pool of shared knowledge and that we have an ability to debate these things because we don't anymore so we live in an anti-democratic oligarchy heading toward learning to grow fins. [laughter] [applause] >> next question. >> does it make sense to you to be a science believer when it comes to climate change science and a science denier when it comes to vaccine safety? >> not sure who you are talking to but i would bet there are many people in this room who are
very seriously engaged in making sure that vaccines are safe and this is done with science and with literature and we actually know a lot about it and that -- and vaccines have saved a fantastic number of lives. [applause] >> there is no good science that says vaccines are unsafe. i am sorry. that is done. the entire study was discredited. that person was on the payroll of a drug company trying to do a different vaccine. we know the whole story. it is one of the things i have to say has shocked me a bit coming to boulder. i have met some wonderful, excellent people here who are not in favor of vaccinating their children, and i am very much in the spirit of civil discourse, i am very polite and i am very frightened. [applause]
>> my question sort of rides on that one a bit from science that we sort of pick and choose. we have been talking about people accepting science or -- are fixed in their ways. we had the "butters bad for you ," and now we have the gluten thing -- that is scary and think come out and say that is wrong. people take things. how do we influence the people that are taking data, picking it, and refusing to switch when new data comes out? >> science -- we are supposed to look for the next new thing. we are supposed to try to break what was there and find something. the next science paper, maybe the next new thing and it may not be. one paper is not science and you know this very well. so -- but governments have worked out ways to find out what
the scientists know what was the -- with the public watching, and the public good. it is a fantastic story during the civil war. lincoln signed the document for the national academy of sciences that makes them the advisors to the nation on matters scientific and now we have a national academy of engineering and the institute of medicine. the civil war breaks out. what had been the u.s. navy is now splintered and some of the ships sail out and some of them get burned. one of the ones that got burned was the virginia of the merrimack, a steamship. she doesn't have a superstructure, because they burned it. the confederate raises her, they cover her in iron and they are trashing the union. they fight to a draw and into -- and in two weeks, every navy is building ironclad ships.
and what have you done, you have just put giant chunks of metal on your compass. you're out in the middle of the night, which way is north? they call the national academy of sciences and they asked how do you find north? and the academy says, these people are trying to sell you this and it doesn't work. and to this day, what does the academy do? it gets the full range of use scientifically. gets them to sit in the public eye for the public good without paying them and ask what do we know that is a solid speculative, silly? when the mid 70's people were saying is it going to get warmer or colder, newsweek wrote an inflammatory piece on the roles getting colder. the academy said we are getting warmer but you shall we do a -- but you should do a little little research. they have said it will get warmer ever sense. when bush was elected, he said the academy says what is going on. they get a panel including the prominent skeptics say yeah we are making it warmer.
the difference between one paper and the assessed science coming out of the academy, the society, the panel on climate change -- be wary of the next paper and look for the voice of science polling -- calling -- pulling together what is known in the public eye. [applause] >> i am sorry for the people did -- the people who did not get to ask their questions but we are out of time and i would like to thank this fabulous panel. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> the u.s. senate returns tomorrow for a rare sunday session following the weeklong memorial day recess. senators will gather at 4:00 p.m. eastern for legislative business, just eight hours before the patriotic -- before the patriot act provisions are set to expire. debate will continue on the usa freedom act. it would make changes in the nsa's current bulk data collection program not allowing the nsa to get a warrant and
access phone records. watch the live >> david mccullough on the wright brothers. >> it was the mystery of who it was that they hit wilbur in the teeth with a hockey stick. knocked out all of his teeth and sent him into a spell of depression, self-imposed seclusion at his house for three years. not able to go to college which he planned to do and he wanted to go to yale. instead he stayed at home and seldom went out and was reading and providing himself with a liberal arts education of a kind most people would dream of having all on his own. with the help of his father and
the local public library. it floored the path of his life in a way which no one had ever anyway of anticipating. >> sunday night on c-span's q&a. >> former president george w. bush addressed the graduating class at the other methodist diversity in dallas. -- southern methodist university in dallas. it it was his first commencement speech since leaving office. this is the 100 year anniversary of the university opening. [applause] george bush: thank you all. thank you.
thank you very much. president turner, thanks. members of the board of trustees, faculty, staff parents, most importantly the class of 2015. i thank you for your warm welcome and i appreciate the invitation to be with you. when i mentioned this speech to some of my pals, they were surprised i was going to give it and said i have not given a commencement speech since leaving office. my decision is practical. i got a phone call from my landlord. gerald turner. rather than raising the rent or threatening to hold the security