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Politics and 'An Inconvenient Truth' 630

Posted by Zonk
from the get-this-sorted-out dept.
Frogbeater writes "The producer of 'An Inconvenient Truth' is accusing the National Science Teachers Association of being in the pocket of Big Oil because she can't get preferential treatment for her film. The entire situation is turning into a 'if you're not with us, you're against us' yelling match. Regardless of the viewpoint, is it even possible that science can remain apolitical? Has it ever been?" The Washington Post makes things out to be less than above board: "In the past year alone, according to its Web site, Exxon Mobil's foundation gave $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn about science, from kindergarten until they graduate from high school ... NSTA's list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA's Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called 'Running on Oil' and read a page that touts the industry's environmental track record -- citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way -- but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called 'You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel,' a shameless pitch for oil dependence."
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Politics and 'An Inconvenient Truth'

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  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:02AM (#17016362) Journal
    -Hypothetical: Let's say you run a business, and people start making what you believe to be baseless accusations about the environmental impact of your business. What do you do? NO, WAIT: You can't fund anyone who tries to scientifically demonstrate the invalidity of the accusations, because that taints the research, right?

    -I remember seeing in science class a movie produced by Exxon about the Valdez oil spill. While it was propaganda, I also remember the teacher pointing out all the flaws and telling everyone that it was Exxon's propaganda. "Oh, look at this part, where they act like everything's all peachy now."

    -Oh, so *now* you care about teachers' associations getting political. Just not when they oppose any whiff of school choice.

    -Should no research into oil be funded by oil companies? Even basic research into hydrocarbon chemistry? That seems to be the implication.

    -To answer the question: yes, science can remain apolitical, as long as it rigidly adheres to the scientfic principles of reproducibility and transparency. That's what makes science science: Even if someone refuses to believe you, it doesn't matter. Other people can perform their own corroborating experiments. Even if someone believes it to be all voodoo, you can then go out and continue to make valid predictions that result in useful services. And then anyone is free to propose alternate theories that match the data better.

    When the above isn't possible, science can become political. When you can't make a thousand copies of the earth, causally separate them, randomly vary emissions, wait a hundred years, and run a regression, people have all the room the in world to reject your theories since it can't have the repeated empirical validation science relies on. When you can't engineer an entire planet's existence, start a weather system, wait a billion years, and see complex organisms evolve, you again don't have the repeated empirical validation science relies on. BEFORE YOU FLAME ME OR MOD ME DOWN, I'm not trying to dispute global warming or evolution, but rather, just pointing that you can't come up with the plain-as-day prediction and validation you can in other areas.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thatguywhoiam (524290)

      -To answer the question: yes, science can remain apolitical, as long as it rigidly adheres to the scientfic principles of reproducibility and transparency. That's what makes science science: Even if someone refuses to believe you, it doesn't matter. Other people can perform their own corroborating experiments. Even if someone believes it to be all voodoo, you can then go out and continue to make valid predictions that result in useful services. And then anyone is free to propose alternate theories that matc

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
        That's my point -- you don't need their approval. You make predictions routinely. They are correct routinely. You apply these predictions to perform something useful routinely, that maybe this zealot actually uses routinely! What does it matter if he does or doesn't endorse it? The fact that you are performing a useful service (predicting the fall of objects, building structures, etc.) suffices as evidence that the science is valid enough for those services to be performed (by tautology).

        When you have
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          That's my point -- you don't need their approval. You make predictions routinely. They are correct routinely.

          The problem with this argument is that you assume your predictions come true the majority of the time. In many cases, environmental science especially, this assumption is not true. So what happens when you make your predictions and those predictions are wrong? While I think that his book on environmental theory was a bit of a sham, Michael Crichton definitely had a good idea when he proposed t

    • by aicrules (819392) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:11AM (#17016504)
      You are a complete idiot for disputing global warming or evolution...I think you are not just pointing that you can't come up with the plain-as-day prediction and validation you can in other areas.

      BEFORE YOU FLAME ME OR MOD ME DOWN, I'm not trying to dispute global warming or evolution, but rather, just pointing that you can't come up with the plain-as-day prediction and validation you can in other areas.
      ...oops...sorry, ignore that first part. Very well thought out message!
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:14AM (#17016560) Journal
      This is always the counter argument..."As long as we hold true to our principles it doesn't matter where the money comes from."

      This is fine as long as everyone does hold to their principles, as long as there is someone there to point out that, in fact, X, Y, or Z piece of propaganda is propaganda.

      History is rife with examples of corporate special interests skewing research about their products through carefully chosen grants and commissioned studies. Lead, Tobacco, DDT, Oil; hell, you even get a lot of it in government sponsored hydro power, because if the people who make dams run out of places to put dams their jobs go away.

      It's real easy to say, "We can keep our principles and take their money" but history shows that that's just not true. You take their money, you drink their kool-aid, you sacrifice your principles, and you produce biased research.

      It's like a politician saying, "Just because this lobbyist gave me a million dollars, doesn't mean I'm going to vote the way he wants me to." Come on. You're only fooling yourself.
    • by spellraiser (764337) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:18AM (#17016634) Journal

      ... people start making what you believe to be baseless accusations about the environmental impact of your business.

      I disagree with the assumption that the oil companies truly believe that global warming is a nonexistent threat. Remember big tobacco? They persisted in denying that cigarettes causes cancer, etc. all the while knowing full well that this was false.

      A quote which is attributed to Friedman goes: "The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders." Taken to the limit, this means that a company will take any action neccessary to secure and guard profits.

      I'm one of the people who believes that this is exactly what most big corporations do. Call me cynical, but I think a lot of empirical data supports this theory.

      • by MoralHazard (447833) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:55AM (#17017342)
        Taken to the limit, this means that a company will take any action neccessary to secure and guard profits.

        You totally misunderstood Friedman's point, probably because you never read Friedman, but instead took the quote out of context.

        First of all, in the section of his book where he makes the quote you pulled, he's not talking about how companies do behave, he's talking about how he thinks the should behave. Friedman argues that corporations engage in all kinds of frivolous charity, making donations to causes and such, and that they should stop. Instead, corporations should return those profits to their shareholders, and let the shareholders make charitable donations as they wish.

        Second of all, Friedman didn't believe that corporations should take any action necessary to secure profit. His understanding of corporate responsibility is the commonly-accepted, rational one: corporate businesses, like all businesses, individuals, non-profits, clubs, or other human agencies, should obey the law equally. In other words, if corporations take less-than-optimal actions, and they're not breaking the law, you need to change the law, not the corporation.

        Your interpretation is akin to saying that Winston Churchill was a big supporter of Hitler--it's the exact opposite of the facts.
    • by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:18AM (#17016640)
      We do what we've always done; use indirect measures and accumulated evidence to reduce our uncertainty, then make extrapolations based upon the reproducible data. Go to your nearest university library and look up Tom Ray's work on the Tierra simulator, or read a few physics journals to find out what goes into those climate models that you're implicitly rejecting. (hint: lots of physics, parameters derived from measurements as appropriate, and endless validation runs) Other people are free to use the same equations, write their own simulation, and if they aren't deliberately feeding the models misinformation, will converge to a result within some confidence interval similar to yours, presuming you did your job correctly as well.

      I make my living as a computational chemist, and while I know that we're neglecting many terms in our solutions, reproducible results come back, that agree to varying degrees of confidence to experimental results. Furthermore, we understand how to improve those results, and make rational time/accuracy/resource trade-offs to get the answers we need to the precision required.

      In short, while I've never directly observed an oxygen molecule, accumulated indirect evidence has caused me to believe in them. It has also led to the conclusion that removing them from my immediate environment is bad. Same for your examples. Come up with a reasoned set of arguments that explain why a couple thousand physicists or biologists are all wrong, send out some papers and get yourself slotted into a presentation at a conference, and have at. You're free to try, and that's what the process is all about.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
        Come up with a reasoned set of arguments that explain why a couple thousand physicists or biologists are all wrong,

        To be "wrong" means their model doesn't match the real world. And that's my point: it doesn't matter how complex and cool and difficult to understand your model is; all that matter is, does it make valid predictions? Your focus is on whether someone can reproduce the model's result rather than whether the model matches reality:

        Other people are free to use the same equations, write their own
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, my argument is how well do our models reproduce reality. Models that fail that test are discarded. White-earth models of the 70s were the result of not enough factors and too large of grids. Current models with smaller cell sizes, better hydrodynamic codes, and more atmospheric factors included (reflective aerosols, additional greenhouse gases, etc) can reproduce climate trends, within certain error ranges, rather well. If you read the primary literature, you will see that given a suitable start poi
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WhiplashII (542766)
        As a scientist, I am sure that you have studied statistics - but you may have fallen into a common trap of those with a scientific mind. That is, to create a model based on past data and then to believe it when it makes predictions wildly divergent from said past data. When the model is making predictions that are outside of it's experience you are in a danger zone.

        For example - I know that the complex models you describe are missing at least one critical element: Methane has stopped increasing for unkno
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jstomel (985001)
      As someone who has been trained in scientific ethics I can answer your questions. Research funded by industry into the effects of that company will be viewed as valid if the following conditions are met. 1) The scientist performing the research is independent of the company. He can be funded by grant from the company, but must be independent of it's internal organizational structure and to hiring/firing pressures. 2) Said scientist must have free reign in his choice of methods and staff. 3) Results must b
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yankpop (931224)

      I think you're missing the bigger issue here. There is not necessarily any problem with the oil industry doing their own research, and disseminating that research to teachers. It becomes a problem when they are allowed to buy access that other groups don't have. In this case they've been treated as loving benefactors, and the teachers have willingly accepted their message along with their cash. But when another group tries to offer a different viewpoint, they are labeled special interest and shut out of the

  • by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:04AM (#17016394)
    Where there's money involved, so too will there be politics.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:06AM (#17016426) Homepage
    ...to the known universe. In other words, *everything* has a political dimension to it. Politics is unavoidable.

    What needs to be avoided is not politics but the temptation to distort scientific findings and inquiries to match preconceived ideas that support entrenched political interests.

    We're pretty terrible at that. But it might not take a genius amount of forethought to understand that putting Al Gore's name on the movie doesn't help to de-politicize the issue.

    I mean, duh.
    • by Ingolfke (515826)
      Of course... I think that to not put Al Gore's name on the film probably would have meant it was pretty much ignored.
    • by saltydogdesign (811417) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:37PM (#17019418)

      But it might not take a genius amount of forethought to understand that putting Al Gore's name on the movie doesn't help to de-politicize the issue.

      If it never becomes a political issue, it will never be addressed. The science is what it is, but once the science has been done, politics necessarily enter the scene. And what better person to put forward a political argument than a politician? They may be stinky, and we may all hate them, etc., but I'm sorry -- global warming researchers haven't got the clout or political savvy to move the issue where it needs to move. Perhaps Al Gore doesn't either, but who are you going to get? George Bush?

  • It seems to me that all big business is incapable of being apolitical. It is politicians that make the laws that help or hinder the processes of big business, so therefore, big business necessarily must be political.

    While it is offensive that big oil is trying to shape the minds and hearts of children in school, it is hardly surprising. Did everyone miss the evil masterminds in the James Bond films? Its not like big business is terribly different. Okay, not as destructive, but they are still trying to make
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:13AM (#17016540) Journal
    A decade ago while I was in highschool I saw the film believe it or not but the teacher had the courage to tell us that Exxon had invested in the movie before we watched it. It went on how great the ecosystems were and despite the oil spill Alaska had the best salmon catch in history the following spring. THe teacher mentioned that this was an actually bad thing as those on the top of the food chain were negatively affected. Also we all laughed while the film had a diagram of most of the oil evaporating and doing little harm in Valdez. What was bad was that Exxon was not mentioned in the credits at all. Only the wetlands coalition as a major sponsor.

    For those who do not know, the wetlands coalition is madeup of oil and gas companies despite the decietful name.
    • by mc6809e (214243) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:26AM (#17016790)
      Also we all laughed while the film had a diagram of most of the oil evaporating and doing little harm in Valdez.


      Why would you laugh? An oil slick really will evaporate over time. It happens every day in the Gulf of Mexico where oil literally rises to the surface from the sea floor.


      Immediately after the laughter, your science teacher could have made the important point that the results of experiments often conflict with what our intuition suggests.

      • You have inside crude a mix of very light organic element, and some downright long chain. Some part of it will indeed evaporate over time (the lighter element). But i think the Tar and most long chains, what most people think when picturing crude, will not evaporate over time. And most probably this is the first to fall down on the bottom of the sea to be decomposed :

        how crude behave with time [unep.org]
  • "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel"? Seems like it gets pretty bloody chilly in places like Canada and Finland in the winter and you get mighty cool if not plain freezing if you don't have any fuel. Damn those oil guys don't know much, do they?
  • I swear... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:14AM (#17016562) Journal
    If people just turned out the freaking lights when they left the room, it would cost them essentially zero effort, save them money and make a genuinely useful contribution to the environment, whatever the details of global warming turn out to be. It's like some people can't imagine any useful activity that doesn't involve denouncing someone else.
  • by clambake (37702) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:18AM (#17016624) Homepage
    Make a documentary about it!
  • Science? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spikev (698637) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:18AM (#17016628)
    I'm not saying they're not right about the NSTA being in Big Oil's pocket, but An Inconvenient Truth didn't have much in the way of science in it as far as hard numbers go. And without numbers, all of Al's pretty graphs don't mean anything. If my body temperature increases .000000001 of a degree, steadily year after year, I don't think it would amount to much. I'm not saying the science in An Inconvient Truth is wrong, it's just that the movie doesn't give any hard numbers to relate it to. I'm sure they're out there, but if I'm a science teacher and I'm going to spend valuable teaching time showing a movie, I want everything to be put together for me.
  • The MPAA and RIAA continue to fund "copyright" education programs for schools and have been attempting to stronghold "entertainment" taxes to universities across the country. Propaganda is Propaganda, and whether you agree with the message or not, An Inconvenient Truth fits that mold. You cant strongarm and threaten with one hand and expect people to want to shake the other.

    Like it or not you do have to have fuel of some sort to be cool. Exxon and other companies have been funding science programs for de
  • This isn't new..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordPhantom (763327) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:20AM (#17016670)
    .... Seriously folks, there have been big corporations and governments trying to influence the way schools go with everything from computers to food. Advertising brought into schools to get kids to buy things. Special interest groups spending money on things schools need to get a new generation of consumers interested in them.

    Try:


    * Discounts from Apple, Microsoft, etc on computers (I'd link, but I'm going to go with this as a given...)
    * Coca-Cola [commercialalert.org]
    * Book It (Pizza Hut) [bookitprogram.com]
    * A growing trend of commercialization of sporting events and buildings [asu.edu]
    * Large amounts of money being spent by religious lobbies to support Creationist teachings in schools....
    * Large amounts of money being spent to promote evolution as a science teaching in schools
    * Politicians getting involved in the above 2 items
    * Politics derailing attempts to get anything done about improvments in materials and course work [toledoblade.com].

    Where there is money and future political mindsets involved, people will spare no amount of money and/or stupidity on all sides of a debate. It's really too bad that politics and ideology wars have to get in the way of doing what schools should be doing, give the kids the ability to think for themselves instead of telling them what to think.
  • by doug141 (863552) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:21AM (#17016696)
    A week ago slashdot had a story about the inconvenient truth DVD was out, and to go buy it, and about how noble Gore is. I realized, the movie was in theaters first, then the DVD came out, and it hasn't been on tv yet. Isn't that how you maximize profits from a movie? If I was all noble and I made a movie I genuinely felt people needed to see to save the earth, wouldn't I just give it to PBS on day 1?
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:24AM (#17016752) Journal
    It's not right that all science teaching is geared to the environemntal message. Yes, the Big Oil companies have done some questionable things, but the nature of our society is that we debate these points. The environmental lobby is hardly a tiny group of zealots these days, and it's not like they're totally without blame for spreading misleading propaganda. We should not allow all our science information to come from any single source. And there's some truth to what the oil conmpanies say. For good or bad, oil is essential to our society. Cars need it to run. Most machines will stop working without oil based lubricants. Oil is used for all sorts of purposes.

    There can even be some largely apolitical justification for oil companies to be sponsoring science education. They are the largest employers of geologists, and oil probably account for a substantial portion of professional chemists. It's simply in their direct commercial interests to fund science. And if they do this, it's a good thing for everyone.

    Likewise, with the lobbying against environmentla regulations - The adversarial system is not limited to the courts any more. Should politicians enact any and all possible environmental legislation no matter how small the effect without any concern at all for the costs to the oil industry?
  • 2 comments (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SageinaRage (966293)
    Two things I was thinking of while reading this:

    1. By passing on some free material, I wonder whether the teachers are trying to promote having a single 'correct' view on things, as opposed to showing multiple different views, to show both differences of opinion, as well as differences in research. This to me seems pretty dangerous, as it makes the assumption that one thing is definitely 'correct'.

    2. The author of the article's main problem seems to be that the movie isn't being accepted despite being OBVI
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:29AM (#17016824) Homepage
    Allow me for one to say that I am sick of the "Christians are anti-science" bullshit that the left loves to harp on while giving the environmental movement a free pass. You will notice, if you are honest, that the areas where even the most fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible conflict with modern scientific work are in areas that Christians have an **ethical** objection to the way that life is manipulated or ended or in how things came to be on some level. The environmental movement on the other hand is generally wildly antagonistic to everything from GM foods to many promising alternative energy sources to nanotechnology.

    If there is any group that can be called anti-human, anti-science, it is the "true believer" segment of the environmental movement. No other politically active group is so thoroughly terrified of every promising area of research and development, so violent in opposing science (animal rights groups bombing research labs, for example) and so quick to limit the quality of life of the majority of the human race.
    • I'm not sure who you're calling "environmentalists", but I know that I self-identify as one. I also have 3 science degrees, and am working on a fourth. I don't think you could sanely call me anti-science. Also, when it comes to anthropogenic global warming, every single last climatologist who does not receive money from fossil fuel companies is in agreement that it is real, and that it will be a major problem for humanity if something is not done about it.

      Of course, I'm not 100% against GM foods (although I appreciate caution), I'm in favor of informed uses of nano-technology, and I think that nuclear power (i.e., fission) is the best option we currently have for dealing with greenhouse gases. So maybe I'm not an "environmentalist" by your definition - but I still recognize that global warming is a real, anthropogenic, threat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kilgortrout (674919)
        I'm glad to see the environmental movement has rethought its position on nuclear power. Thirty years ago the movement opposed nuclear power with the same zeal they now reserve for global warming issues and they were, by and large, successful in stopping the construction of any new nuclear power plants in the US. Of course this ironically led to an increase in the emission of green house gasses from the conventionally powered plants that were built instead of the nuclear plants.

        I wonder were the movement wi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      You will notice, if you are honest, that the areas where even the most fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible conflict with modern scientific work are in areas that Christians have an **ethical** objection to the way that life is manipulated or ended or in how things came to be on some level[1]. The environmental movement on the other hand is generally wildly [2] antagonistic to everything from GM foods to many promising alternative energy sources to nanotechnology.

      Are you serious?

      [1] So it's an ethic

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Allow me for one to say that I am sick of the "Christians are anti-science" bullshit that the left loves to harp on while giving the environmental movement a free pass.

      Well, technically, christians, by definition, ascribe to a non-scientific belief or system of beliefs. Environmentalist, however, are by definition advocating a goal, not ascribing to a belief. There are certainly people in both camps that are more or less disposed to adhere to the scientific method, but christians go in with one strike ag

  • by Paladin144 (676391) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:29AM (#17016848) Homepage
    There's certainly nothing to be concerned about here. Sure, the increasing prevalence of corporate influence in every sector of our lives is astonishing -- astonishingly profitable. That's why the economy is in such great shape -- because we let the corporations do whatever they want. Look how far it's gotten us! We've got highly edumacated students, a brilliant president and a society that values truth... as long as it doesn't get in the way of profit, which is how things should be!

    The omnipresence of major corporations is not a bad thing -- it makes things so much better. Imagine if we didn't give corporations the keys to our kingdom. Who would be in charge then? People? Voters?! Pshaw! We need the benevolent hand of Wall Street to guide us to the promised land of low, low prices.

    Now, let's all rejoice in Big Oil's concern for the welfare of our children. It's obvious that they know what's best for us, and they obviously have our best interests at heart! After all, they are oil men, and oil men are the most caring, compassionate and kind people ever to walk this green earth (although they actually hover a few inches off the ground).

    It is a blessing that corporations care for us so much that they intervene in our daily lives. We can only hope that they will one day bring their bounty to slashdot.

    ____________________
    This post brought to you by the Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft loves you. Microsoft made Vista from little bits of love and crafted it into a generous helping of goodness, just for you. Microsoft makes operating systems just like your mother used to. Microsoft cares about your bits. Microsoft would like a few minutes alone with your children. Buy Vista!

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:32AM (#17016894) Homepage Journal
    This is a good read about environmentalism as a religion, a speech by Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 2005.

    Before the crowd starts jumping up and down, his speech contains errors. So does An Inconvenient Truth. But his theme has merit - science should stand alone whereas Al Gore asks people to pray for environmental change.

    We really need to teach schoolchildren facts, the skills to consider and weigh evidence, and enough wisdom to know when someone is blowing smoke up their dresses. An Inconvenient Truth isn't the right tool for scientific education, though it's a great propaganda piece, artfully assembled, and gets some things right. A proper school curriculum can cover all of the things Gore gets right, and then the things that he's omitted for 'time', e.g. solar activity and global warming on other planets, the effect of water vapor on the greenhouse effect, natural cycles of warming/cooling, etc..

    Let's not assume our children are too dumb to learn about science or think like scientists.

    They can then spend some time teaching the children about ways to conserve resources, get towards carbon-neutral economies, and cut back on their own energy uses. These things will have real environmental and economic benefits but only millions of small impacts, no big splashes which work out nicely for Big-Media political coverage.

    The conspiracy theorists are going to have a heck of a time, though, reconciling the fact that the NEA isn't lapping up the film from a guy who will be a Democratic contender in '08.
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:34AM (#17016936)
    When I graduated high school years ago, our Chemistry II class used a college-level textbook. The education I got from that class was good enough that I sailed through freshman Chemistry in college.

    The year after I graduated, I went back to visit a few teachers I considered to be friends, including the chemistry teacher. She told me with some disgust that the school board had decided to replace the chemistry textbooks for both Chem I and II, and she handed me one of the books so I could see what the problem was. Instead of college-prep chemistry, most of the textbook was filled with text and pictures (rather than equations and homework problems) about protecting the environment. The quality of the actual chemistry education provided in that book was so low that I suspected that many students would have insufficient background for their freshman-level chemistry classes they'd be taking next year.

    In other words, Big Oil isn't the only lobbying group that attempts to influence high school education.

  • by alex_guy_CA (748887) <alex@schoenfeldCHEETAHt.com minus cat> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:50AM (#17017254) Homepage
    I know /. is not a news outlet, but the level of bias in the summary "..because she can't get preferential treatment..." is pretty offensive.

    It seems to me from reading TFA that the producer does have some type of legitimate gripe. Just take this sentence FTA "Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp."

  • Everyone always loves to say how the Big Oil guys keep getting richer by denying global warming, etc. Now, I know *someone* is making millions off of environmental activism. Anyone know which companies or which people? It'd just be interesting to see...
  • Know-Something Party (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:56AM (#17017378) Homepage Journal
    "Science" is completely "apolitical". It's a-everything, because it's an abstract systematic behavior, not a person.

    Scientists, on the other hand, can't be apolitical. They're humans, so they're going to be political to some degree, even if negligibly. More than two people in any society means politics. But apathy and disenfranchisement are political conditions, especially useful to those with power who make arbitrary decisions for their own reasons.

    American politics does vast amounts of work according to decisions derived from facts about the way the world works. Especially the way that it works physically, as we know from physics, chemistry, biology, even astronomy. Those facts are supposed to determine the decisions we make, and the facts about those facts, to whatever degree of confidence we know we have.

    Scientists are obligated to participate in politics. Not just like any other people in a democracy. But because they don't have the excuse that they don't know what will happen when the politicians do what they say.

    Certainly scientists are much more appropriate to our Constitutional democratic republic than are, say, religious ministers. The Constitution specifically directs the government to "promote science", and specifically prohibits the government for "respecting an establishment of religion". Our government is crawling with religious establishment professionals. While its scientists increasingly get edited, silenced, ignored, fired, scapegoated. Scientists need to organize better to protect their interests in science. And we need them to do so, to protect our interests in science, and in them.

    That's why I recommend people join [sefora.org] SEA: Scientists and Engineers for America [sefora.org], even if you're not a scientist (it's free and open). Or join any more specific technical association in your discipline, then vigorously work to make policy hear your science. If you're a scientist, your work is already surely contributing to some corporate political action / lobbying industry. You should make sure that the facts you produce are being represented at least as much as the money you make for them.

    Think of it as an experiment, in a lab made of people. Think of a political hypothesis to describe the way your country works best, then test it with the equipment. Share the results with the rest of us.
  • by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:02PM (#17017472) Homepage
    I'd like to ask those of us who actually socially know a number of scientists: Are your scientist friends political? Frankly, of the scientists I know (I'm not one, but I attend some pretty hard-core conferences every year), very few concern themselves any more with politics than they do with religion - which is to say, hardly at all. Oh, there may be the "politics" of their standing within their university departments, which they grudgingly pay some attention to, or the "politics" of writing grants that the NSF or DARPA or whoever will actually fund their research; but they really are much less concerned with the circus of party politics and posturing than are most of us out here in the "real" world - a world they by preference have left behind to concentrate within their own disciplines.

    One of my friends conducts research in Antartica each year. His research has been misused by CATO and the like, who like that it shows that more snow is falling in certain regions, and ignore that this is consistent with models of overall global warming, instead making happy talk about "more snow!" But even this misappropriation of research doesn't draw my friend into politics. He just accepts that the daily world most of us live in is tainted by trash propaganda, and takes refuge within the circles of his scientific colleagues, for whom truth matters.

    The notion that scientists are all primarily political, slanting their findings for political advantage, is promoted only by those who are trying to deny the findings of science - for political advantage. It comes from both the deconstructionists on the far left, and the neocons on the far right. They'd each love to reduce scientists to their level, so that facts can no longer inconvenience the absolutist ideologies they promote.

    So why are we entertaining this slander of scientists her on Slashdot. I know there are more engineers than scientists here, but are that many of us, as engineers, that removed from the purer realms of science?
  • science / politics (Score:3, Informative)

    by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:05PM (#17017510) Homepage
    "Climate change" is about science. "Global warming" is about a political agenda which is indifferent to the science.
  • Missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trails (629752) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:11PM (#17017600)

    A lot of people are missing the point. This isn't about choice, or scientific debate, or agreeing to disagree.

    The NTSA have themselves stated that they turned this down because they were concerned about their funding, instead showing a movie that is at least if not more bent in the opposite direction.

    They said they're afraid of losing money. They never said they thought Inconvenient Truth is a crock of shit or that Gore is a snake oil salesman. They simply said if they do this, they may lose money.

    This isn't about principles, this isn't about debate, and it isn't about educating kids. They've been bought and they admit it plain as day.

  • by flatulus (260854) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:49PM (#17018420)
    I am a regular Slashdot reader, so I get to see all the "scares" that fly by on a daily basis. What amuses me most is the juxtaposition of "global warming" and "oil depletion".

    Hey - we are running out of oil in the ground. As demand further outstrips supply, the price of gasoline will climb, and climb, and climb, and... Consumption will naturally fall as supplies fall. How can you consume what you cannot get?

    Global warming freaks try to get us all in a tizzy about how we are destroying our planet with - fossil fuel consumption? (which I believe is the single largest factor contributing to greenhouse gases, right?)

    The global warming freaks can huff and puff about how we're killing ourselves, but:

    a) The world can't just STOP using fossil fuel, without a total collapse of modern civilization

    and

    b) Like it or not, the world cannot continue to consume fossil fuel at increasing rates, and will in fact have no choice but to reduce consumption, eventually reaching zero.

    So does anyone really believe that anything meaningful can be done to curb global warming (with respect to fossil fuel consumption) that isn't already going to happen whether we want it to or not?

    What I think we should be serious about is sequestering a percentage of fossil fuel production and make sure it is set aside for those industries that produce secondary products that are not possible without petroleum - e.g. pharmaceuticals, plastics, various advanced materials.

    You might be able to build a clean-burning coal-fired automobile, given the NECESSITY of doing so (in the not-so-distant future), but can you imagine the difficulty of doing so with no plastics?

    whatever....
  • by kenh (9056) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:49PM (#17020966) Homepage Journal
    Not to say it is anything other than above-board, but the producer of "An Inconvienient Truth" wrote BOTH pieces cited - they are not separate sources that reinforce each other, they are the same argument repeated. There is nothing wrong with the producer sharing her thoughts/opinions as widely as possible, but the original poster seems to have missed they are both by the same author (and the latter is on the Op/Ed pages, not the "news" section.

    For those unfamiliar with edited, printed newspapers - there is a difference between the two sections.
  • What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @06:06PM (#17025032)
    Since when is a movie designed to promote the political career of a politician proper viewing material in schools? What next, force kids to watch campaign commercials? Why not require them to "volunteer" to support Al Gore's next political campaign (or whoever he endorces) in order to get full credit?

    Sorry, even if your propoganda is being pushed out of schools by the oil companies, just because the oil companies are doing it for their own selfish reasons doesn't mean that keeping propoganda out of schools is a bad thing.
  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @12:26AM (#17029134) Homepage Journal
    "An Inconsistent Truth"

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