Bill Maher on Climate Change

Start watching at about 2:00 and enjoy a good laugh. I envy Maher’s ability to communicate complex political subjects in a concise and public-friendly way.

Does anyone know if Inhofe is actually coming to Copenhagen with Obama? I haven’t read that anywhere else, and I remember hearing something about each government only being allowed two representatives (the president/PM and an advisor, usually an environment minister). Has Congress seriously chosen Inhofe as their advisor?

Update (6/10/09): Several of you have pointed out in the comments that Maher is not the most reliable source, and even approaches extremist media in some respects. With full honesty, I’d never seen Bill Maher before this clip (which someone else sent me), so I wasn’t aware of his opinion on issues other than climate change. I just think that he does a great, public-friendly communication of the sentiment that Inhofe’s accusations are ridiculous, and that we should stop paying attention to skeptics while formulating policy. I see now that his words probably aren’t useful for anything more than entertainment. In future, I’ll be sure to check out the other work that a source has done before I appear to advocate it.

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10 thoughts on “Bill Maher on Climate Change

  1. Yes, Inhofe <a href="http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=e716412c-802a-23ad-42e7-c7e8b512ff30&Issue_id="did make that announcement (yes, it’s a blog, but it’s his office’s blog. For interest’s sake, the video clip is from this C-SPAN interview). In the interest of full exposure, I’d like to note that this is part of what appears to be a disturbing bigger trend in the Republican party. (Final aside on this point: That last link goes to the only MSM source I’ve been able to find willing to discuss and expose astroturfing for what it is. Here’s hoping other sources follow.)

    Back on topic, a minor warning: Maher’s in the deep end of science denialism himself – although unlike your typical crank, his seems restricted just to a subset of medical issues (he promotes “alternative medicines” and antivaccination, although to my knowledge it stops short of hitting HIV/AIDS denialism). This has been a bone of contention recently as he just received the Richard Dawkins Award from the AAI (likely for his work on Religulous), which was supposed to go to someone for the promotion of rational thought, when some of Maher’s positions are entirely irrational. Just because he lays the smack down on climate denialists, creationists/fundies, and 9/11 troofers doesn’t mean the man’s a pinnacle of rationalism.

    Of course, that doesn’t stop him from being funny or right (as above), but it does stop us from seriously citing him. (This is like your earlier post on evolution, to some extent: A failure to accept the conclusions of science where they offend your biases is endemic to a larger problem.)

    [With full honesty, I’d never seen Bill Maher before this clip (which someone else sent me), so I wasn’t aware of his opinion on issues other than climate change. I just think that he does a great, public-friendly communication of the sentiment that Inhofe’s accusations are ridiculous, and that we should stop paying attention to skeptics while formulating policy. Obviously, as you point out, his words probably aren’t useful for anything more than entertainment. -Kate]

  2. Kate, I don’t think your post shows you to be a big supporter of Bill Maher; it simply shows that you agreed with this particular clip and thought it was enjoyable. I would encourage you to continue posting any story that you like without having to do rigorous checking to ensure you agree with every statement the author has ever made.

    Brian D’s conclusion that “A failure to accept the conclusions of science where they offend your biases is endemic to a larger problem.” is a problem in its own right. Disagreeing with an opponents views on a certain topic shouldn’t preclude you having a rational discussion with them on another. Clive Crook had a good article in the Financial Times titled “An American polity blinded by rage”:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2ca5e1e4-b112-11de-b06b-00144feabdc0.html

    Some excerpts:

    Increasingly, rage is the dominant mood of US politics – but the feeling is not confined to the far right. Committed partisans on both sides question their opponents’ legitimacy. It is one thing for an adversary to be mistaken, quite another to be a liar or traitor. You do not argue with an opponent like that, or seek an accommodation. You silence him, you shout him down, you impeach.

    Right-wing “birthers” question whether Mr Obama was born in the US and can lawfully be president. Their leftwing counterparts think George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, then permitted the attacks of 9/11 to justify his war against Iraq and the creation of a police state. Conservatives deride Mr Obama’s healthcare plan as a plot to turn the US socialist. Liberals, led by former president Jimmy Carter, no less, suggest that much of the opposition to Mr Obama is mere racism.

    On substance, there is no discussion. Opponents’ views are not worth examining; bad faith goes without saying. In effect, each side questions the other’s right to participate.

    To repeat, this is an attitude of the politically committed, not representative of the country as a whole. Indeed, most Americans’ disgust at the relentless anger and ill will helps to explain their disenchantment with politics.

    Historically, the US has both accommodated and benefited from a remarkable degree of cultural pluralism – with sufficient civic tolerance, mutual (if sometimes grudging) respect and unashamed patriotism to bind the whole together. Now, more than ever, the instinct of politicians and their energised supporters is to divide.

  3. Sorry about the triple-comment, but in the same spirit as the original post, may I (perchance) recommend Marcus Brigstocke instead? He’s got a couple of excellent climate rants, although I can only find one of them now (the missing one is, sadly, the better of the two, coming as it did after he returned from accompanying an actual Arctic scientific expedition. He’s actually gone twice, but the second time wasn’t a scientific journey).

    I also seem to recall him saying he got more angry letters in response to his climate change work than in response to his now-infamous religion rant (which is actually rather similar to some of Maher’s work on the subject, including his movie), although I’m having a devil of a time finding the original reference for that. (I did find one other reference to that same end, but the original citation is missing…)

  4. Re: Maher. Just check Orac’s Respectful Insolence if you want to see what the fuss was about. He was quite vocal about it.

    My worries about Maher being outspoken about climate change is that some denialist will say, “He also denies HIV causes AIDS, he’s heavy into the alternative medicine and quack causes…etc…can you trust him to get the climate science right?”

    Maher doesn’t side with an issue based on science, but sides with an issue based on politics and who it is going to annoy. Pretty arbitrary criteria, and his credibility is low. He is entertaining though.

  5. Maher is half very scientifically accurate and half very scientifically wrong. He’s also funny. I think ken pretty much nailed it: “Maher doesn’t side with an issue based on science, but sides with an issue based on politics and who it is going to annoy.”

  6. “and that we should stop paying attention to skeptics while formulating policy.”

    Sadly, the reputation of global warming “skeptics” based on their behavior, zealotry, lack of rational thought, misleading rhetoric and clear political agendas (most of them) has made this a wise strategy. What I fear is that the well-deserved poor reputation that global warming skeptics have earned (see McIntyre’s and Co. latest debacle) may lead to the views of honest skeptics (and there is always plenty of room for that in science) being ignored entirely. Or, if such behavior leads to the public acceptance of their rhetoric, the outcome will be that policy is never formed based on the genuine views of the scientific community, but by special interests and ideology, a worse outcome that society has already leaned towards.

    [The next book review I do will be of “Climate Cover-Up” by the DeSmogBlog folks. If I were the type to swear over the Internet, I would swear right now. Nothing before has made me so angry as the stories told in that book….. -Kate]

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