Friday, March 30, 2012

What if All of These News Stories Are Factually Wrong?

The last day or so, there has been a deluge of articles alleging 

Outlet after outlet reported this story the last 24 hours. And, they are all wrong. That is not what the study says.

An comment on Instapundit prompted me to get a copy of the study itself (as opposed to a press release about the study). The paper can be downloaded here and I encourage you to read for yourself.  The question asked isn't about faith in science at all. It is about faith in scientists.  

Here is the pertinent part of the paper on p. 172, right-hand column:

"As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them [the Scientific Community]?"

The study asks about scientists as opposed to science. That is a huge difference! Fakegate, Climategate 1 and 2, "Hide the Decline," etc., etc., etc. gives well-educated people (according to the study, the most skeptical among conservatives) more than ample reason not to trust scientists! 

The news coverage would also lead one to believe that conservatives are the most skeptical. Again, the coverage is wrong. Here is the pertinent graph from the paper:

Since the start of the polling in 1974, "moderates" have been the most skeptical toward scientists, not conservatives. While the gap has closed in recent years, the differences are insignificant. 

The graph uses a technique known as the three-year moving average. The big drop in conservative views toward scientists occurs from 1986 to 1990. Guess what happens in the middle of that period? Yep. The phony Congressional hearing on 'global warming' in 1988

...former Senator Timothy Wirth (D., Co.), now head of Ted Turner’s UN Foundation, revels in having engaged with Gore in precisely such ploys for the first “global warming” hearing, chaired by Gore himself, in 1988:

TIMOTHY WIRTH: We called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6th or June 9th or whatever it was. So we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it.


DEBORAH AMOS: [on camera] Did you also alter the temperature in the hearing room that day?


TIMOTHY WIRTH: What we did is that we went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right, so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room. And so when the- when the hearing occurred, there was not only bliss, which is television cameras and double figures, but it was really hot.


The wonderful Jim Hansen [NB: still Gore's advisor and cheerleader today] was wiping his brow at the table at the hearing, at the witness table, and giving this remarkable testimony.

Frontline then showed the desired shot of a sweaty Hansen that made the national news coverage of what Wirth laughingly calls “stagecraft”. That’s one word for it.

"Ploys." "opening windows" on the "hottest day." With this type of unscientific nonsense, it seems the conservative community is rightly skeptical of scientists and has more than ample reason.  

This type of lazy, ideological news coverage -- that misstates what is measured in the study -- does America a tremendous disservice. Regardless of your political views, the number one thing we should be able to expect in the news media is accuracy. Unfortunately, this is another example of advocacy masquerading as journalism.  

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