When NO data will change your mind, you must go on Faux News

Manipulation of the news, manufactured controversy and misuse of the word skeptic. Just another day at Fox News.

False balance: Fox News demands a recount on US’ warmest year | Ars Technica.

Just days after NOAA released its reading of last year’s US temperatures, Fox responded with a report in which it questions whether NOAA is producing accurate temperature readings.

The report is a classic example of what’s been termed “false balance.” It presents experts with relevant experience and the official word from NOAA, but it simultaneously surrounds them with quotes from several people who aren’t scientists—as well as one scientist who is a notable contrarian about other fields of science. In many ways, the self-labelled skeptics contradict each other in their haste to condemn NOAA. But the Fox article doesn’t point any of this out, and it actually ends with a veiled hint that we might consider throwing NOAA scientists in jail for their “manipulations of data.”

At issue are the historic US temperature records. These are generated from stations maintained by the US government. Over the course of 100-plus years, many of these stations have been moved to new locations or had their equipment replaced. These events create a break in the record. To generate its historical analysis, NOAA has to identify the breaks and perform an analysis that matches up the two end-points, creating a single, continuous record.

Fox News had three commentators on to discuss the issue against NOAA. Who were they? One was a blogger, Steve Goddard, who disagrees with NOAA’s results but doesn’t offer any valid (certainly not scientific) counter arguments. The second was Roy Spencer, who well known for questionable scientific judgement, that is, he disbelieves evolution. And the third is meteorologist Anthony Watts “who runs a prominent skeptic site that is notable for its generally flawed approach to science.”

So all is well in the world of Fox News as they cherry pick their “experts” to manufacture controversy where there is none. Another problem is the misuse of the word “skeptics”. These folks don’t doubt, they are BLIND to reason and science. No evidence will do. There is NOTHING that could possibly sway them from their head in the sand ideas about climate change.

Faux News. The laughing stock of journalism.

  22 comments for “When NO data will change your mind, you must go on Faux News

  1. January 13, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Faux Ewes: We distort. You comply.

    This stuff is getting crazy! Complete denial on the right, and some on the left suggesting that the executives at companies that knowingly deny the reality of human caused global warming should be given the death penalty?!

  2. D.Walker
    January 13, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    Doesn’t believe in EVOLUTION !?!?!? Jeezle Peet !!

  3. Bobbi Snow
    January 13, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    When someone starts to tell me something they heard on “FOX NEWS” my brain shuts down. When someone ASKS me if I’ve heard this-or-that on Fox News, my short-term memory immediately deletes the topic, and recently has begun deleting my memory of ever having known or been their friend. But my brother continually insists upon reminding me we’re related…

  4. Brewhogg
    January 14, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    It seems the author’s hatred of Fox News is the primary driving force behind this article. Replace “Fox News” with “CNN” or “MSNBC.” Would the same story slam CNN or MSNBC? I doubt it.

    • January 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      That is your assumption. Point out other networks doing same and I will post it. It’s clear that Fox news distorts truth like this for their agenda. Please note the last week when CNN made a huge stinking blunder by having Alex Jones on, I took them to task. Don’t pull that “liberal bias” labeling with me. Bad reporting on science is bad reporting. I’m an equal opportunity critic. Just click the media category and see.

      • Brewhogg
        January 14, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        The Fox News article is about NOAA adjusting the temperature data. That is a legitimate news story. The Fox News article provides comments from six people and their opinions about NOAA’s adjustment of the data. Three people disagree with NOAA’s adjustment and three support the idea. Where did Fox News distort the truth? Why does the Fox News article qualify as bad reporting?

        • January 14, 2013 at 7:26 PM

          The story is “Fox responded with a report in which it questions whether NOAA is producing accurate temperature readings”. Why? Is there a reason to question the results of our designated scientific agency full of qualified people with a handful of unqualified people in order to make it look discredited? Where is their alternative explanation? What is their reasoning? Is it solid enough to discount the data in it’s entirety? No, they have none of that. It’s ideology first, science where you can shoehorn it in to suit you.

          • January 14, 2013 at 7:43 PM

            This wouldn’t be a topic of discussion if FOX News had a panel of six “experts” three of which claimed that the earth is round, and the other three claimed that the earth is flat, and then claimed that there is healthy debate amongst the scientific community regarding the shape of the earth. It’s creating the illusion of a debate where none exists, that is the problem.

  5. Moose McNuggets
    January 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Part of me dislikes using terms like “disbelieves evolution,” or “doesn’t believe in global climate change.” The reason this bugs me is because it presents the alternative position as “belief” as well, as in “believes in evolution or climate change.” You don’t believe in these things, you understand them and accept reality. By using the term “believe” we are kind of playing into the mindset of the denialists. Their entire ideology is driven by belief (usually of a religious nature) instead of allowing evidence to drive their thinking. To their minds, we aren’t people who try to form our positions through the understanding of scientific research and clear data, we are simply people who “believe” different things than they do. This also feeds the media illusion (delusion?) that there are two sides to these stories that should be given equal weight.

    I’d like to see skeptics push to change the dialogue by using terms like “denies the reality of evolution,” or “refuses to accept the reality of climate change.” We shouldn’t even use the term “belief” where conclusive scientific concepts are concerned. We need to make it clear to those sitting on the fence that there aren’t competing theories here, that the fine points of what occurs in things like evolution and climate change are certainly subject to considerable debate, but that the overall concepts are scientifically sound and not subject to controversy. I see using terms like “denial” and “reality avoidance” when discussing the other side as a means of presenting those who are, well, in denial and avoiding reality for what they are. It might be a way of forging public perception as well.

    Am I making sense here, or just nitpicking? My concern is that if we use words like “belief” for things we understand and know to be true, we end up playing the opposition’s game. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on this, Sharon.

    • January 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      I totally agree. Framing language is important, and I think misunderstood by the skeptic community, in general.
      I also think that a segment of our community has become a bit too sensitive, and overly concerned with offending others sensibilities/feelings, and this focus on not upsetting people is effecting accurate communication in the name of “not offending.” It always amazes me how a fellow skeptic will be quick to become the “emotional language police” and criticize another skeptic for using accurate terminology. DBAD, yet again.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should throw civility out, but I don’t see how using imprecise language for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings is helping people understand? One, we don’t have that kind of emotional control over people i.e., people become offended for a variety of reasons, regardless of our intent, or the words we use. Two, calling someone a troll, or “d*#k” without first trying to get beyond their communication style, language, and perspective is the height of hypocracy for those claiming that their goal is “more effective communication.” In other words, you may not like what, or how something is being said, but if you’re committed to clear communication, and advancing scientific/skeptical world views then you’ll make the effort to communicate effectively, and that means “suffering” through the barbs, slings, and arrows of others who are trying desperately to be heard, but may not, for whatever reason, posess the necessary skill set in communicating. It is a “two-way street” on a rocky road, after all.
      Three, “d*#k,” “troll” “jerk” and the like are all relative terms. “One mans jerk, is another mans hero.” These terms are so subjective that they shouldn’t be used in the first place. It’s also a bit hypocritical in that calling someone a jerk, regardless of wether the name caller actually uses “jerk” or couches the ugliness of their dismissal of the other in more flowery, or clinical language, is equally unacceptable.

      I digress. Bringing it all home. It’s this third point that I wish to advance. Because clarifying language is a process requiring, at least two people, and because words have very specific meanings for each individual, and because some people do not posess good communication skills it is counter productive to censor ones words over fear of an imagined slight, which may, or may not happen. If people are dilusional then accomidating their dilusions, in order to “not hurt their feelings” while a noble desire only serves to foster their dilusion.
      Should we be imprecise with our language, muddying the waters and therebye purposefully creating confusion, on vital topics that effect all life on this planet, like global warming, or gun control because we don’t want to upset people?

      Of course one shouldn’t go out of ones way to be mean, but context matters a great deal, and we cannot be held responsible every time someone wants to dodge responsibility for their emotions by saying “you made me feel…”

      I guess my whole point is that people will not perceieve precise language as such. In many instances they will take offense, when none was intended, and the person utilizing accurate communication will often times be called a jerk, because it is assumed that they didn’t take into account every persons feelings who should ever read a blog. The very persons who insist upon etiquette and good communication shows their lack of etiquette, and poor communication by dismissing, or deleting rather than doing the heavy lifting required to communicate with, shall we say, some gruff, or salty individuals.

      If the truth is despised it is the fault of the one who despises it, not the truths. It is more fruitful to question why you take offense then demand that others don’t offend you. When we understand this then we can begin to truly communicate.

      • Lisa Barth
        January 14, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        I appreciate your comment as I have been struggling with Facebook lately & some of the garbage that comes across it. I find some of it offensive but I don’t want to offend anyone back. Although there are times I have to comment. I think very carefully before I write & check facts as much as possible & ask questions. Unfortunately I’ve found that if you ask questions because you want to know, some folks still call you a troll. Anyway you put into words what I’ve been thinking lately.

        • January 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

          It’s a fine line, to be sure. If I become offended by a comment I try to ask myself “What is he/she trying to communicate here?” Followed by asking “Are you saying x, y, and z?”
          It’s usually the case that I misinterpreted what the other person was saying. In the spirit of good communication I try (not always successfully) to descilate an angry commenter, rather than edit them, because they are obviously passionate about their beliefs, and I believe that it’s our responsibility to listen. They are angry for a reason, and they deserve to be heard. Ignoring them is antithetical to a commitment to dialogue.

      • Moose McNuggets
        January 14, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        Thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful response.

        Name calling is never called for. What I’m driving at here is that if you are thinking skeptically, you are thinking in terms of evidence, and trying to understand what is known and what remains uncertain. This is a far cry from belief which is subjective and not necessarily tied to any factual evidence. Subjective beliefs can be good in ethical discussions and the like, but in scientific discussions it strikes me that belief is a bad word. We act on what we know. When someone denies things that are known, they are not acting out of belief, they are acting out of a denial of reality. There’s an important distinction there in my mind.

        • January 14, 2013 at 6:58 PM

          Exactly. The problem here is that people confuse claims with facts. They don’t always understand the difference between belief, and fact, or faith and knowledge, if you prefer.

          Another major point is that most people utilize selective skepticism. They’re skeptical about others beliefs, but not their own. This is ironic because most people desire others to be open minded, which is often times code for “You need to open your mind, so that I may enlighten you.” it never occurs to them the hypocracy of that stance.

          I think scientific-age humans don’t have a good grasp of faith as a concept. They often say that they know x to be true, when in reality they should be saying that the have faith that there is x.

          I think this confusion by the general public as to what constitutes faith, and knowledge is a big problem.

          • January 14, 2013 at 7:01 PM

            I suppose, as with everything, it hinges on the operational definitions of the words “belief” “faith” and “knowledge.”

            • January 14, 2013 at 7:56 PM

              I think it’s akin to say “God is a single axiom hypothesis, and therefore mathematically degenerate.” Although that statement is objectively factual what is often heard is “God is degenerate.” And unless someone asks you what you mean then you can see how they might take offense.

    • January 14, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      I agree. I also do not like the question “Do you believe in evolution?” and would never ask it. Nor, would I answer that question with a yes or no. I would say “No, I accept it because of the overwhelming evidence.” But in this use above, it was appropriate. He disbelieves evolution because it’s not really about evidence but about what feels right.

      • January 14, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        True. But I think that’s because people confuse what feels right with what actually is true.

        • January 14, 2013 at 9:07 PM

          Agreed. I am having a heated discussion with a friend about “subjective truth”. He seems to think that any individual’s experience is valid simply because she has experienced it. My attempts to explain how inaccurate one’s perception of an experience can be have gone nowhere with him so far.

          • January 14, 2013 at 9:17 PM

            It’s a scary proposition. The terror of realizing that one is flawed, and as such so is a large chunk of what we believe to be “true” about our worldview.

            You may want to illustrate your point via optical, and auditory illusions. This is standard fare in sensation & perception classes to underline the fact that “seeing is not believing” etc.

  6. Brian
    January 15, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    I sometimes cannot help but wonder if items like Fox News isn’t actually the govt’s attempt at propaganda, influencing weak minds and big mouths. Reason I say this, is other things I have seen and heard from otherwise reasonably (and sometimes UNreasonably stupid) intelligent people. People have used the phrase “I know it’s true because (insert mass media device here) says so!”. Later on, a little fact checking, or a little research says otherwise. I and my gf’s experiences with ‘natural, herbal remedies’ comes to mind.

    My take on evolution vs creationism is probably lopsided to most, but it works for me: I lean towards evolution, because the religious front pushing creationism has proven NOTHING to me. Even when faced with a challenge, or a true request for a supernatural help, I have been left severely lacking. Prayer does not work. Miracles are bogus- especially when one is needed immediately. I have had the religious community lie to my face. If this is their best efforts, and they prove their own holy book to be a lie- why believe their take on how life and the earth formed? I simply can’t in the face of their previous antics.

    I say, know what you know, don’t believe you know it. Belief can be manipulated and changed any day of the week. Solid knowledge is much harder to change.

    • January 15, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      Let’s not go there. The government is NOT that capable.

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