About the global warming
I’ve been blabbing a lot about free speech lately–in posts here and here, on New Hampshire Public Radio and the online chat show Bloggingheads.tv, in my classes. I’ve defended the right of all citizens to challenge scientists and other “experts, ” who are often wrong.
"Teach the controversy, " a phrase coined by intelligent-design proponents to promote their agenda of sneaking religion into classrooms, isn't a bad approach to teaching or journalism. Image: Discovery Institute.
I may have confused matters by mentioning “rights” and “free speech.” As some commenters have pointed out, no one is suggesting that creationists, global-warming skeptics and vaccine rejecters be legally prohibited from stating their views.
So let me pose the problem in a different way: When you encounter people with views you think–you know!–are wrong, what do you do? Demand that they shut up? Tell them they’re ignorant and stupid? Ignore them? Pretend they don’t exist? Try to change their minds?
I was forced to ponder this issue years ago as a result of a brouhaha involving Bloggingheads.tv, on which I’ve been chatting about science (usually with science journalist George Johnson) for almost a decade. In 2009, Bloggingheads.tv hosted chats featuring Paul Nelson, a young-earth creationist, and Michael Behe, an intelligent-design proponent.
Two other Bloggingheaders–biology writer Carl Zimmer and physicist Sean Carroll-were upset that Bloggingheads gave a platform to Nelson and Behe. Zimmer and Carroll quit Bloggingheads after journalist Robert Wright, who founded and runs Bloggingheads (and is an old friend), refused to promise to keep creationism and other fringe topics–even astrology!–off the site. What follows is based on a post I wrote at the time of the controversy for a now-defunct blog:
I respect Zimmer and Carroll, who are smart, knowledgeable, eloquent science communicators, but I disagree with their stance that some topics (with one exception, noted below) should be shunned. I believe dialogue and debate are intrinsically good, leading to enlightenment and progress in human affairs and all sorts of other good stuff–in principle if not always in practice.
When it comes to creationism and other religious claptrap, I like to “teach the controversy.” Yes, intelligent-design proponents coined this phrase to describe their strategy for sneaking religion into classrooms. But “teach the controversy” isn’t a bad description of my philosophy of teaching and journalism.
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