Questionable Motives

March 9, 2013

Why were we wrong then and why are we wrong now?

How refreshing to hear working scientists freely admit that practices based on poor understanding can result in being wrong when the evidence from reality shows us this to be the case! (If only theists were as honest about the practices undertaken on behalf of their faith!)

February 15, 2012

What is the Heartland Institute and why should we care how it gets its funding?

The Heartland Institute is supposedly a non profit think tank whose self-described mission is to “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Finding solutions for problems? That sounds quite reasonable, doesn’t it? The problem is, that simply isn’t quite true; it’s goal is to lobby for corporate concerns regardless of the problems caused by these activities.

It’s major area of activity is to influence the The United States’ 8,300 state and national elected officials and approximately 8,400 local government officials in ways agreeable to its sponsors over issues it deems important… such as sustained criticisms against legitimate climate science and public education that attempts to deny parents the right to public money to pay for private schooling… schooling that includes altered curriculum to favour the corporate message.  As they explain:

people devote time to learn about subjects only if they believe acquiring specific knowledge will benefit them personally. Often, this seems unlikely. Consequently, most people choose rationally to remain ignorant about many public policy issues. The Heartland Institute has overcome the problem of ‘rational ignorance’ by inventing publications busy elected officials and the public will actually read and come to trust. Our publications are highly effective and inexpensive vehicles for communicating messages on public policy.

One might be tempted to think that a non profit doesn’t have any major sponsors so it would be less likely to follow a corporate, for profit, mission against governmental oversight and regulation wherever it may be found. One might be right… except this certainly doesn’t pertain to the Heartland Institute. It’s funding has been revealed at desmogblog to be very much a public relations arm of specific corporate interests.

According to its website, its mission is “to discover and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”. Sourcewatch tells us that the Institute campaigns in support of:

  • “Common-sense environmentalism”, such as opposition to the the Kyoto Protocol aimed at countering global warming
  • Genetically engineered crops and products;
  • The privatization of public services;
  • The introduction of school vouchers;
  • The deregulation of health care insurance;

and against:

  • What it refers to as “junk science” (science that that could indicate a need for regulation);
  • Tobacco control measures such as tobacco tax increases (the Institute denies the health effects of second-hand smoke);

Regarding its current funding and responding to that assigned mission, Heartland’s central concerns are about disseminating anti-climate science messages and funding anti-climate science contrarians:

We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”

Heartland’s influence can be heard in misleading soundbites issued by legislators over climate science findings, which explains why it is commonly referred to as a global warming denial machine working hard to find funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the ‘alarmist’ AGW (anthropomorphic global warming) message.

Forbes Business magazine and other business press are favored outlets for Heartland’s dissemination of climate denial messages, and the group is worried about maintaining that exclusive space. They note in particular the work of climatologist Dr. Peter Gleick:

Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.”

The Heartland Institute has a corporate sponsored agenda to fool people into supporting bad public policies by undermining good science to promote short term, short-sighted, unsustainable, harmful corporate interests. That – and not solutions to social and economic problems – is its real mission.

(h/t Cedric)

May 5, 2011

What do we do to keep from lying to ourselves?

We do science.

This site posts about these lies all the time and continues to urge that we respect the knowledge science produces. That may sound very reasonable and perhaps even self evident in almost every area of our lives where the results of science have produced practical and beneficial applications we can rely on. The screen in front of you is just one.

But it’s much more difficult to convince anybody to continue to respect the results of good science when it contradicts or appears hostile to our privileged biases and comfortable prejudices and favoured perspectives. We switch mental gears to rationalizing why this exemption is allowable in order to keep them  safe and sound from the harsh glare of sceptical and critical thinking that drives good science. It’s important that we begin to recognize that our motivations for doing so are thus questionable (hence the blog label).

Many of the posts I have made are about religion – probably the single most powerful bias we as a society privilege from critical review. But I have also posted about other biases many of us have… from questioning the anti-vaccine movement to dowsing, from what is ironically called complimentary and alternative medicine to misogynistic cultural practices… and tried to show that the same method of privileging faith-based beliefs from critical review through weak rationalizations is also prevalent in many areas of our lives. It’s all the same thing and we are all susceptible to its easy charms.

But this privileging carries with it an inherent danger from recognizing what is knowable and true… out of preference to believe what is not necessarily true but what we believe is knowable and true.  And nowhere is this danger more important to recognize than in looking at the results of climate science and respecting its conclusions.

The effects of allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue rising while we pretend that the science is inadequate to even be able to draw good conclusions about what this means carries with it the cause of significant climate change. Our inaction – for whatever reasons we may think we have through our rationalizations and privileging our favoured beliefs about the topic – carries with it a considerable cost to everyone now and in the future. The cost of this change will be enormous in many ways, not least of which is an increased threat to human life and well being not just for us but for generations yet unborn. What these effects will be specifically is very difficult to calculate but we know enough to know that doing little will mitigate it not at all. If we wish to mitigate the effects, the very first step is to recognize that we even have a problem about which we can actually have an effect.


Is the science of climate change dependable and, if so, what is it telling us? To this end I am posting the following video to help explain why we need to start respecting the scientific consensus that informs today’s climate science :

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