How Not to Debate Science on TV

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 20, 2012 10:35 PM


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Several weeks ago, global warming was debated on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher show. Now let's first be clear on something: When it comes to science, Maher is a riddle of contradictions. He's a fierce proponent of evolution (he's been given an award named after Richard Dawkins) but he's also a serial spouter of anti-vaccine and anti-western medicine nonsense. In short, he makes prominent skeptics queasy. As it turns out, Maher is not the most nimble debater on climate change. On a recent show, two of his guests included former GM chairman Bob Lutz and Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. The three of them got into it over global warming. The best thing that could be said is that it was entertaining. Watch the clip (and try not be distracted/blinded by James Carville's polo shirt).

You might have noticed that the title at the top of the video reads "Neil deGrasse Tyson schools former GM exec Lutz on climate change." I'd say that Tyson landed a few good one-liners (as did Maher), but as Peter Beattie convincingly argues in this essay, neither of them schooled Lutz on climate change. In fact, Beattie calls the performances of Tyson and Maher a "a prime example" of "how one should not go about defending science." I'm thinking many of you will agree, irrespective of your stance on climate change.

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