Crichton and Stossell - Rounding Out the Skeptics Conference

Sat, 2006-06-03 19:37Sarah Pullman
Sarah Pullman's picture

Crichton and Stossell - Rounding Out the Skeptics Conference

Michael Crichton

Crichton says that true skeptics are a dying breed. He says that whenever there is a big mass movement, skeptics vanish, and he believes that we need skeptics, and we need them to be especially vigilant whenever debate seems to end.

He made some pretty dramatic claims about terrible things that happen in hospitals – people's tissues being stolen and sold, cadavers being stolen, bones from bone cancer patients being given in transplants, genes being patented.

He says that he was not paid by anyone to write State of Fear.

Crichton was pretty slippery during the question period, I felt. He carefully dodged most of the questions that came at him. There was a question from the audience about whether there should come a point when you concede that the evidence has stacked against a position – like evolution. Crichton managed to avoid actually addressing the point of the question and said instead that he does agree with evolution, though he would still like to see speciation occur.

He maintains that all the global warming fear is about the future, and all based on computer models. He says that these computer models are “not good enough for me.” He does conceede that the earth is warming, that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that it is increasing as a result of human activity. What he disputes is what the climate sensitivity is, and he says that no one knows.

He kept coming back to his own examples, including comparing acting upon global warming to eugenics. Eugenics was based on phony psuedo science, and if it's happened once, then it could happen again, he says.

An audience member asks how we can get more skeptical viewpoints in the media. Seems to me that there isn't really a shortage of climate change skeptics getting air time in the media? Crichton doesn't even address this one, saying that new media will replace old.

Concedes that if he were peer reviewed, nothing he wrote would ever get published.!!

John Stossell

Stossell is the host of 20/20. Has received many Emmys for his work and his recent book is a bestseller. Graduated from Princeton. Has a bad mustache and admits to being shorter in real life than on TV.

He opened by saying that he considers global warming to be a spiritual issue, and went so far as to put it in his book with astrology and UFOs.

He thinks that fear and alarmism sell, much more so than saying “we still don't know.” Reporters listen to the ones who scream the loudest, he says.

His talk was entertaining and focused on fear-mongering, rather than on climate change per se. (I assume that the attempt was to convince us that climate change is also the product of fear mongerers and that we should be very wary of the science we hear.)

Applause from the audience for standing up to fear mongering. Apparently there is a healthy crowd of libertarians here amongst the liberals (Chris Mooney said the same to us earlier, that he had been defending himself against them through the whole lunch hour).

The debate turns to health care systems, and Stossell informs us that Canadians are getting healthcare from the 50s, though we seem to be happy about it because it's cheap and we don't know better. Apparently socialist systems take a while to collapse, but fear not, we're on our way.

When an audience member finally held his feet to the fire about climate change, he was totally dismissive. “Global warming? Even Crichton agrees the earth is warming! So what!” “But George Bush is ignoring the recommendations of all these scientists.” “Global warming isn't a recommendation! Sign Kyoto is a recommendation but even its proponents think it's inadequate!”

Comments

I found it interesting that Michael Crichton said almost nothing about global warming.  

As a person who is learning how to think critically, I saw this conference as an opportunity to put aside my politics and emotions, listen to the evidence on both sides of the argument, and then come to a conclusion based on whatever data were presented.

Based on that, I have to say that the scientists who presented data showing the correlation between humans and global warming were the most convincing.  (esp. Tapio - great job!) Michael Crichton and John Stossel pretty much avoided the topic altogether. I’m not even sure I know what their views are. (I have not read Michael’s book - but was that a prerequisite? Shouldn’t he have at least talked about the views he expressed in the book, and why he holds them?)

Michael Cricton and John Stossel could not even comment on the presenters from earlier in the day because THEY DID NOT ATTEND! Is this how to conduct a debate??? In my book they lose by default, and it also comes across as very arrogant - as if they are too important to be forced to listed to other people.

Michael Cricton may have done a lot of impressive things in his life, and he is obviously intelligent and tall and intimidating, but he gets an “F” from me.

I was very much left with the feeling that these two men are masters of messaging, not masters of the issue of climate change. They took every single question that didn’t suit them and went straight around it and back to one of their talking points. Clearly they weren’t prepared to actually discuss climate change, but both had an agenda to sow doubt in general. Not the way to make yourself seem open-minded an intelligent – rather, they both seemed quite pompous.

I’m not surprised they didn’t attend the scientific prresentations. Why would they? It’s all hype to them, because they don’t believe it using false analogies and other fallacies to discredit legitimate scientists like Michael Mann and James Hansen. I’ve started to shop my answer novel to State of fear around and there are no takers, yet. Commercial publishing can’t handle the truth in fiction. Crichton’s was a smear against science.

I stumbled across your blog while looking at some Michael Crichton listings and dropped by. I was disappointed that no one mentioned facts. It doesn’t matter what the “experts” say. It matters what the data say. The data are readily available and I suggest people check it out for themselves rather than taking someone else’s word for it. You can get the data from several government servers as listed in the files listed below. I have gathered the data and put it in Excel spreadsheets so that it’s easier to look at; but provide links so you can go and get the original raw data yourself and check to be sure I’m being absolutely honest–something I invite you to do.


Download the Zip files, unzip each into a folder, and then open the Excel file. The “polygons” are triangles that grid the area (like England or the Earth). “Triangularization” means covering the whole area in triangles so you can add up how much area (or significance) to associate with each measurement point. GSOD is Global Summary of the Day.


1) Zipped Excel file containing polygons for UK, stations for England extracted from GSOD, daily average temperature showing slight warming trend: http://www.dsllc.com/download/UKtemps.zip


2) Zipped Excel file containing polygons for US (lower 48), old stations, number of record highs/lows per year, showing no trend in more record highs in recent years: http://www.dsllc.com/download/lower48.zip


3) Zipped Excel file containing old global stations from USDOE data set with global triangularization, monthly averages, and area-weighted delta-Ts from the 1700s through 1990. Running average shows warming trend in 1951 through 1971 and slight cooling trend beginning in 1982 with over 6000 stations reporting. http://www.dsllc.com/download/OldGlobalTemps.zip


4) Zipped Excel file containing recent global stations from GSOD data set with global triangularization, monthly averages, and area-weighted delta-Ts from 1994 through 2005. Running average shows no trend at all with over 20,000 stations reporting. http://www.dsllc.com/download/NewGlobalTemps.zip


The big difference between these files and others you might have seen is that they contain raw data. I don’t adjust the temperatures in any way. I simply take the differences year-to-year for each station and multiply by the fraction of the surface area of the Earth represented by each station. It’s just that simple. The temperature at the airport in New York City is truly insignificant when compared to the temperature in Billings, Montana. Area weighting assures this is properly accounted for.


Don’t believe something just because some “expert” says it so. Insist on seeing the raw data for yourself! The data don’t show global warming!

I checked out your web site, SaraPullman.com, and it doesn’t look like you’re too fond of geeks. You’d probably classify me as a geek. Sorry about that. I don’t work for any “carbon” company and my income doesn’t depend on the popularity of global warming. I work for a little company that tries to figure out better ways to clean up and manage the environment.

I won’t actually say whether I think the climate is getting warmer or colder; because I don’t know. What I do say is that the data don’t show what the global warmers say that it shows unless they mess with it first–something I don’t do.

This may all seem like geek speak or splitting hairs to you; but it’s all part of a larger, far more important concept: truth and how you come to know it. I always challenge people to think critically, to question things, and to check facts for themselves. This is what I tell my daughters, “I just want you to think for yourself; because I won’t always be here.”

My daughters do think for themselves; and I’m proud of them! My two oldest, Katie and Emily, were in the subway in London on July 7, 2005 when a terrorist blew up the car they were in. According to Scotland Yard they were only 8 to 10 feet from the blast! You probably saw them on TV last year. After surgeries and rehab they’ve recovered remarkably well.


Let’s just look at this article published today and do some critical thinking:


Study Says Earth’s Temp at 400-Year High

Jun 22 11:10 AM US/Eastern

By JOHN HEILPRIN

Associated Press Writer


“The… recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia… and human activities are responsible… surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century… academy scientists relied on “proxy” evidence from tree rings, corals, glaciers and ice cores, cave deposits, ocean and lake sediments, boreholes…”


First, I don’t give a rip what they conclude from tree rings, corals, and cave deposits. For right now I’m just interested in measured temperatures. Anything else involves unprovable assumptions and speculation. We’ve got 150 years of actual measurements; so let’s use them. You notice they were careful to say Northern Hemisphere? That’s because if you include the Southern Hemisphere in the averaging there’s nothing to report. If there’s nothing to report it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is.


So the bottom line is: if you leave out the speculation and tell the whole story then there’s no evidence for global warming. In order to make nothing into a headline the National Academy of Sciences has to separate out just the Northern Hemisphere (that only gets them “about 1 degree”) then they have to add a bunch of speculative calculations so they can extrapolate out to centuries. All I’m asking is that you examine the evidence critically.

Dudley,

I think you’re missing the point of our website here.

We are very explicit that we’re not here to argue the science – we’re here to investigate the PR people who operate in the climate change arena. Who are they, and who pays them? And when you do some digging into the most vocal voices denying that climate change is happening, it turns out that you can almost invariably trace them back to big oil and coal. Our site exists because we think the public deserves to know that so much of what they read in the papers, that would have them believe that there is a serious scientific debate happening, is the work of industry-paid PR people.

And finally, as a matter of fact I’m very fond of all the geeks I know (and there are many). In fact, I count myself among them. :)

Sarah

I quite agree that hypocrisy should be exposed; but it’s really sad that where you all have come to is ad hominid attacks on people who don’t agree with you. Everyone has to make a living somehow. The proponents of global warming live off grants. By your reasoning that makes all of them hypocrites and invalidates what they say–that is, if you were being consistent. The whole basis of your web site is a refusal to deal with facts–that is, the issue itself–and to limit yourselves to mud slinging. What’s worst is that the whole tone of the web site gives the impression that you all think this is somehow being more noble.

The raw data files are available at http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp070/.

It is not at all correct to say that “The data don’t show global warming!”

The data do show a very clear warming trend:

http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/temp/hansen/graphics/gl_land.gif

It is also not correct to say that record high temperatures are all well in the past:

<blockquote>

The ten warmest years of the global record (land plus ocean) have all occurred since 1990. These are, in descending order, 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2001, 1997, 1995, 1990, and 1999. The average near-surface air temperature of the globe (land plus ocean) has warmed about 0.8°C since the late nineteenth century.

</blockquote>

(from http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/temp/hansen/hansen.html) 

Also available from CDIAC are a number of very interesting articles on the subject of temperature trends over various time scales:

http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/temp/contents.htm