CNN reporter tells Bill Nye that he doesn't understand climate change

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120 Responses to “CNN reporter tells Bill Nye that he doesn't understand climate change”

  1. “Watch in awe as CNN’s Carol Costello tells Bill Nye, a respected scientist, engineer, and science education, that he’s a ‘kooky guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about’ when he asserts the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.”

    That is not what she said. Not even close.

    Wow.

    She says, in the *FIRST TEN SECONDS* of the clip, “when you google your name, you’re ‘the kooky guy’….” Mr. Nye hadn’t even said the first thing. She was not responding to anything he said, she was leading into a segment of the interview.

    In fact, Nye shoots his own argument in the foot by agreeing that the wetness of two years ago contributed to excess growth in Colorado forests that was not properly cleared.

    • She uses the classic Fox News “some people say” trick, just in different words, framing Bill Nye before he even has the chance to say anything.

      CNN sucks so hard it is unwatchable. He’s right that they present both sides as equal even though they are not.

      • ChicagoD says:

        I don’t think she’s doing the Fox News thing because if she were she’d have cut him off before he could make his points. She threw him a softball to clear up the very relevant question that many viewers would have, namely, WTF is that dude from the kids science show doing on CNN?

        • Navin_Johnson says:

           Ha, yeah.  This was certainly nowhere near the ridiculousness of Fox, sad to say.

        • Ted Lemon says:

          Yeah, I really don’t read this the way Cory does.   It seemed like a pretty good interview to me.   She let him make his points—how often does that happen?

          The argument about wildfires caused by mismanagement is not whether or not brush was cleared, but whether fighting fires is a good idea.   If you consistently fight forest fires over a century, it changes the makeup of the forest so substantially that at some point you wind up with conditions for a really bad fire that doesn’t have any barriers to cross, and spreads without any hope of control, because all of the little fires that would have created firebreaks didn’t happen.   So this aspect of forest fires has nothing to do with global warming, and nothing to do with clearing brush.

          However, one of the results of a change in the local climate is that it upsets whatever equilibrium was in place that allowed a stand of forest to exist.   When the climate gets drier, at some point you get to the point where the stand of forest can’t exist in that climate, and the way it stops existing in that climate is to burn.   Couple that with long-term mismanagement, and you have a perfect storm.   The two are complementary, not contradictory.

          • Fang Xianfu says:

             There is something extremely wrong with your expectations of an interview if you consider this a good one because she allowed him to finish speaking. This was a terrible interview. Go watch Paxman interview someone, especially his genuinely adversarial ones (“Did you threaten to overrule him?”) and learn what real interviewing is.

            In fact, he even says in that interview that he’s being “frightfully rude” when he does interrupt.

          • ChicagoD says:

            @boingboing-0833934dfe26f8a8e7cdb06bef88d0de:disqus  Perhaps we just see more CNN/Fox/MSNBC arguing-posing-as-reporting than we do Charlie Rose et al. Given the context and channel, this was pretty good.

          • Ted Lemon says:

            Umph.   Yes, of course we’d like to see really good interviewing, not just pretty good interviewing.   But when an interviewer does no harm, that’s pretty good by comparison to most reporting that goes on nowadays.

            Nowadays even the New York Times seems to think that the purpose of an interview is to get the interviewee to say something embarrassing that will pull in ad impressions when it goes viral.

            I’d love it if we lived in a world where your standards for what a good interview was prevailed, but we don’t.

          • Damian Barajas says:

            But you are now talking about a single issue as if the whole of the argument about climate change depended on it. Lets say that Nye’s argument is invalid (I have no way of knowing if it is, though it does make sense to me) You could be misled into thinking that this single piece of evidence trumps all of the data we have. If she is indeed a reporter, what need does she have to argue a point unless she is trying to prove otherwise?

            Lets see, if i was to report on climate change, i would do some research and state the facts, I might draw  a conclusion from those facts and present it as my opinion based on my research. I might bring an expert to either support my claims and/or clear up some finer points.

            If I found that the evidence was overwhelming, but there were still deniers, I might bring them on and challenge their points based on the evidence I have.

            (I wouldn’t challenge an expert since I am no expert, if I did i would be passing myself off as an expert and create more confusion in the process, I would challenge a kook since I already know he is not an expert and I have enough evidence to take him on)

      • I agree with other commenters. The fact that she let him go on, and on, and make his point without interrupting him, indicates that this was a softball, not a cheap shot. She just wanted to give him a chance to spout off about his legitimacy.

        • Even if this is the truth, that was an extremely unprofessional way to do it.  Opening the segment with making him defend the words of some *random Googled comment* when the man already has verified credentials is insulting and feeble.

    • SAMO1415 says:

      Misleading headline?  Yes.  Was how she described Bill insulting nonetheless?  Also, yes.

      Bill Nye does indeed know what he’s talking about. 

    • Guest says:

      Agreed.  Nye seemed to be on pretty solid ground until the end.  But the reporter had a valid point.  

      Nye basically said (unusually big forest fires) imply (a warmer climate). He was making an inductive argument that the correlation of the two might imply a causal relationship.

      The reporter responded (unusually big forest fires) also correlate with (years of us preventing smaller fires from burning up the dead wood in the forests).

      So the reporter really did weaken Nye’s inductive reasoning that climate change causes forest fires, by successfully reminding us of the X-factor issue in causal reasoning, and showing how it actually might be pertinent in this particular argument.

      • MrScience says:

        Well, if she hadn’t interrupted him, he was about to say that drastic temperature changes and weather variations comply with models of increased systemic energy (global warming)… so yes, having a lots of wet weather followed by drastic heat doesn’t really weaken his argument.

        • Guest says:

          Seems to me there’s a thicket of relationships with various degrees of correlation going on here.

          Without seeing the particular historical data, predictions, and models, maybe the most we can say in this forums is that reporters shouldn’t have an agenda when interviewing experts, and shouldn’t interrupt their guests.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Skeptic:  “So, as you can see, this climate expert is clearly wrong for reasons A, B, and C.”

            Climatologist:  “You’re misinterpreting A and B.  C is entirely irrelevant.  A and B are relevant but because… (etc. etc., long technical explanation).”

            Skeptic:  “See?  It’s all so complicated, no one can understand it.”

            Neglecting the fact that the skeptic was perfectly happy to “understand it” as long as he thought he had a good counterargument.  When that argument is rebutted, no one knows anything at all.  Until the skeptic comes up with another argument against AGW…then the skeptic is an expert again.  Until that argument is rebutted, then no one knows anything any more.  Until the skeptic comes up with another argument against AGW…

            Edit in response:

            Sorry, Christian, you seemed to be displaying a terribly familiar pattern of argumentation.

          • Guest says:

            If you’re implying that I’m the skeptic in your dialog, then you’re mistaken on a few points.

            First, I’m not skeptical of the overall point Nye was making. I don’t believe you’ll find anything in my posts to support such a conclusion about my views.

            Secondly, I was walking away from the discussion because the mental energy needed to untangle the lines of reasoning exceeded what I wanted to invest at that point. I did not mean to imply that untangling the logical relationships was a fundamentally intractable problem.

      • Damian Barajas says:

        So its true that climate change is baloney? You can argue minutiae all you want, but the fact that she is framing bill Nye as the “Kooky guy” when, In all seriousness I never thought that, she also tries to refute his points as if this was a debate and as if this was debatable from the beginning.

        So yeah, it is bad, at this point climate change is a fact, and you can deny it if you want, but you cant report on it and also take a position in the debate because then you are editorializing, which would mean that she came into this with a point of view to push which clearly wasn’t one of support for climate change.

        • Guest says:

          I was saying that one of her points was valid.  I wasn’t claiming that here apparent overall position was.

          It was like observing that someone landed a punch on Mike Tyson.

    • andrew price says:

      From now on when I meet people I’ll say “so I heard your an asshole”.
      They can’t be offended because I didn’t say it.

      •  They can be offended at whoever said it but not you.

        Sorry if that subtlety is lost on you.

        And don’t bother saying it…I know I’m an asshole.

        • Damian Barajas says:

           But what if nobody said it and I’m just making it up, what does it mean then?
          And yes, I am saying she made it up, (Even though i din’t outright say it at first so you can’t get mad) I would love for her to show a comment from a forum somewhere where chickenbutt65 says, “Bill Nye is Kooky and doesn’t know what he is talking about”.

          Since she gives no source, I’m afraid its her credibility that gives this comment weight.

      • ChipN says:

         I grew up on Bill Nye in SF CA. His schtick was the Goofy Science Guy. It’s his franchise. He used to wear balloons on his head for cripes sake. I’d no more take his pitch as gospel as’d listen to Al Rocker on climate.

    • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

      She was playing Devil’s Advocate.  Call it pandering to the audience but she was just repeating what may be being said online or such.

      Personally I don’t like the perpetual “show both sides, no matter how unbalanced they might be” routine that Bill referred to.  Like having a relative of a murder victim on then pulling out someone for the pro-murder side.

      •  I think there’s a debate term for what you just did there but I’m way too lazy to look it up.

        The problem is not with “presenting both sides no matter how unbalanced”, the problem is that we’re still pretending there are only two sides. It’s part of a larger problem in American society where we’re given two marginally different options on most issues and expected to make do with it. It’s what Carlin called “the illusion of choice”.

        I mean, damn, almost any modern suburban grocery now carries fifty kinds of coffee and thirty kinds of spaghetti (what Virginia Postrel once called a hallmark of the success of our nation) but we still only have two political parties?

        It’s ridiculous. Three hundred million people and two ideas? Whatever.

        • jerwin says:

          The proper role of the journalist is to seek out all sides of a story, not just the two, in order  that his or her readers might appreciate the truth for what it is, not simply what’s it’s alleged to be.

          • There are no truths. And the proper role of the journalist is do what their bosses want them to do in order to gain viewers. Nothing more, nothing less.

          • wysinwyg says:

            There are no truths.

            But if that’s the case, then it can’t be true that there are no truths.  #self-refuting

            And the proper role of the journalist is do what their bosses want them to do in order to gain viewers. Nothing more, nothing less.

            That’s ridiculous.  It’s like saying “the proper role of a medical doctor is to do what the hospital executives want them to do in order to get more patients.” Or “the proper role of a plumber is to do what the trade union wants them to in order to get more plumbing contracts.” No, the proper role of a medical doctor is to treat illness, the proper role of a plumber is to install and fix plumbing, and the proper role of a journalist is to witness and/or report events.

            “Bosses” and “jobs” and all the other trappings of the modern economy is how we’ve decided to pay for stuff like medicine and journalism (and I’d like to point out that it isn’t working very well in either of these cases or the dozens of others I can think of).  They are means to ends, not ends in themselves.

            Another way to think of it is this. A journalist’s boss is free to demand that the journalist spend all day every day making sandwiches. “We make more money selling sandwiches than ad space,” says the boss man, “so slice the ham and shut up.” Is making sandwiches an appropriate role for a journalist? If not we might legitimately question this “you are what your boss wants from you” philosophy.

        • Steve Davis says:

          We don’t have two parties. We have multiple parties. We just happen to have two major parties that control most of the money that flows through the system. Bemoaning our two-party system is like bitching about British parliament because Labor and the Conservatives control most of the seats. That’s the way workable governments work. If you want multiple-party parliaments with lots of interplay, see as examples Italy, which has been through more prime ministers and government-changes than Steinbrenner’s management shuffles, and pre-WWII Germany, which managed to put Hitler in charge of the government for no better reason than because his minority-party came up with a workable coalition that Bismarck endorsed. If we had multiple parties, we wouldn’t get more liberal levers of power, we’d just get a congressman sent from the Aryan Knights party, and a couple of communists. In order to do anything, they’d have to work with either the Democrats or the Republicans, if either party was actually willing to seat them.

          •  As long as people continue to insist that there is more importance to national level politics than there is at the local level, yes.

            Or, until one of the two parties fractures.

            Or, the Glorious Revolution of Our Oppressed Brothers begins and we are all Raptured By The One.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Bemoaning our two-party system is like bitching about British parliament because Labor and the Conservatives control most of the seats. That’s the way workable governments work.

            Not even remotely true.  There’s many laws both directly and indirectly entrenching political power for both Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S.  They are not free and willing coalitions of like-minded citizens, they are political machines with the same purpose as any political machine: preventing democracy.

            And incidentally, the U.S. was supposed to be more democratic than the U.K. what with its history of Monarchy, Feudalism, House of Lords, oppressive class system, etc.  “The U.S. political system isn’t significantly less free than that of the U.K.” is a pretty serious back-handed compliment.

        • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

           50 kinds of coffee…”Freedom from choice, is what you want.”

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGINIsLnqU

    • “That is not what she said. Not even close. Wow.”

      Okay, well, I googled Bill Nye, and that’s not even on the first three pages 0f results. So, what she’s saying is “When you google your name you come up with result after result that says you’re a respected science journalist and educator, but I think you’re a kook because I went to journalism school and know more about climate science that you do”

      You can say that’s technically not name calling, but that’s just weasel words. 

      • hypnosifl says:

        edit: never mind, I was commenting before actually watching the segment…silly me! She does come across as though she’s trying to bait him rather than just give him a lead-in to explain his credentials as something other than a kid’s show host

    • Damian Barajas says:

      “That is not what she said. Not even close.

      Wow.

      She says, in the *FIRST TEN SECONDS* of the clip, “when you google your name, you’re ‘the kooky guy’….”

      Well, if you know who Bill Nye is then you know he is not “kooky” (you’re probably thinking of beakman) and if you don’t know who Bill Nye is, then you now “Know” that he is a kooky guy!

      So she is either bad at framing an interview or skilled in misleading viewers…

      Also, the fact that she took a side after poisoning the well for his rebuttals even though she is not an expert herself, shows you that this is not reporting, its editorializing and Bill is just a prop.

      But he did a good job of rebutting her points without letting her derail the conversation too much (Tip if you have to defend not only your position but your credentials, its not an interview, if he were not knowledgeable on the subject he should not be interviewed in the first place unless they planned to set up a straw man argument all along)

      From the interview: “some experts say these were caused by mismanagement…) She doesnt say which experts, why they are experts, or if they said they happened because of missmanagement instead of climate change or if they even talked about climate change at all!

    • Jeff Harrington says:

      She claims a google search of his name brings up that he is a “kooky guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.  I think she just made that up.  Am I wrong?

    • Cowicide says:

      Nye shoots his own argument in the foot by agreeing that the wetness of two years ago contributed to excess growth in Colorado forests that was not properly cleared.

      No, he doesn’t.  It’s part of extreme weather.  You know, from climate change?  Sigh…

      • “…that was not properly cleared.” So, climate change prevented them from clearing out the undergrowth?

        Sigh.

        • Cowicide says:

          Are you being purposefully obtuse? Climate change is very likely responsible for the extremes in weather that created the situation of extreme heavy rains one year and extreme heat afterwards in another to make the growth a tinderbox.

          Did not getting an army of bulldozers out there to clear the growth add to the problem? I’m sure, but you are looking at the symptoms and not the cause. That’s what Bill Nye conveyed and you missed it, I guess.

          And, um… this isn’t just my own “opinion” on the matter, nor Nye’s…

          Science. Look into it.

          http://www.newser.com/story/149329/climate-change-caused-wildfires.html

  2. nvlady says:

    It’s terrible journalism to play devil’s advocate on EVERYTHING when facts support one point of view over another. Not just the ‘other’ point of view. 

    I would have said to her, “You’re the biased and inept interviewer who insults their guest prior to having anything come out of their mouth.”

    What a terrible journalist. She needs to apologize. Here again is where our discourse is toxic when we place belief on par with fact.

    By the by, Mr. Nye is an avid swing dancer and I see him around the scene a lot here in LA :)

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I would have said to her, “You’re the biased and inept interviewer who insults their guest prior to having anything come out of their mouth.”

      How about, “You know how to use The Google, do you? I wouldn’t have expected such a high level of technological sophistication.”

  3. YoDoe says:

    I think your headline completely misreads this story.   She just frames the case so he can respond.   And he does so rather well.

    • GuyInMilwaukee says:

      Oh it’s “framing” alright. Imagine…

      “Mr Boehner.. some people say you are a corporate whore for the insurance companies. Now can I ask you about the healthcare bill?”

      More journamalism by CNN’s finest.

  4. This isn’t the whole interview, but it seems like she is being devil’s advocate so he can make his points. 

    • SAMO1415 says:

      Would he not be able to make his points if she didn’t play devil’s advocate?

      • ChicagoD says:

        I’m not sure it’s good TV if she says, “we now present Bill Nye, Scientist, to discuss his understanding of climate change.” It’s also not good TV for her to say “Bill, I know that you are a serious scientist and see the evidence of climate change that is clear in the scientific record. Can you explain?”

        • wysinwyg says:

           That’s one hell of a false dilemma.  You really don’t have enough imagination to consider other cases?  It would be fine TV to say, “We’re in conversation with Bill Nye, [present qualifications here], about climate change.  Bill, what are your thoughts on…”

          If you think Nye should have to establish his credentials as part of the interview, do you routinely demand the same sort of treatment for AGW “skeptics”? 

      • Roman Berry says:

         She wasn’t playing devil’s advocate. She was teeing the ball up for him to smash by putting the silliness of the deniers out there so he could refute it.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Would he not be able to make his points if she didn’t play devil’s advocate?

        The medium is the message. She’s closer to the part of the machine that sells ad space than he is, thus she’s more important than him and must remain prominent.

  5. Otak says:

    I don’t watch CNN, nor do I know Carol Costello or any political ulterior motives that she or the network would have in discounting Bill Nye’s credibility, so I end up looking at the video quite impartially.

    Could it be that Miss Costello is merely playing devil’s advocate, and giving Nye the opportunity to explain his credible reasons for his convictions? Admittedly, her tone is hard to read (predictably more so, if we aren’t used to her personality overall, and how she handles interviews within the context of her own reporting), but no where in this clip does she tell Bill Nye that he doesn’t understand climate change. Perhaps Costello was being a bit playful here (albeit clumsily), feigning condescension in order to sound like “those people” out there in the comment boards who call Bill Nye “kooky”, in order to give him prime opportunity to retort calmly, clearly, and thoughtfully?

    • Gary61 says:

      Then let me play devil’s advocate, as you and others have postulated she might have done in this case:
      “I’ve never met her or anyone that knows her personally, but from what I’ve heard her journalism skills are non-existent, her personality is such she’d be a better fit at Fox ‘News’, and she’s not even cute enough to make a living as a prostitute.”

      • Otak says:

        Ha! Yes, I see your point. 

        Although I do disagree with the sensational headline of this article, I also believe that–although she may have very well have been playing devil’s advocate in this case–the interview was done clumsily, it started the conversation off to a bad start, and (as you have pointed out) it simply gives the patronizing, name-calling, polarized-minded superficialists a voice in a venue where they needn’t necessarily be heard.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      Playing the devils advocate gives too much credibility to sides that aren’t credible.  Why not play devils advocate for holocaust denial? Birthers?  Lizard people?  Sorry, she exhibits what’s wrong with “news” today, which is giving credit to sides that have zero facts on their side. “So a lot of people say that you planted those dinosaur bones you say you found….”

      Anyway, it’s so sadly typical of major news that it’s almost hard to even notice it.

      Sorry, kind of off on a tangent. I think I’m more angry at folks like NPR doing this than CNN even. Lately it seems like every ridiculous discredited viewpoint has to be given equal time for some ridiculous notion of “fairness”.

      • Gary61 says:

        I’m getting cynical to the point where I’m in despair for the human race. Supposedly ‘critical thinkers’ show conclusively that they don’t, politicians and ‘newspeople’ pander to the absolute lowest common denominator of the populace … it appears we are not growing UP as a race, we are inexorably heading down, bit by bit ….
        Maybe I need to check out some survivalist magazines, and start stocking up.

      • ChicagoD says:

        I’d be more swayed by this sort of indignation, but she doesn’t play devil’s advocate in this interview until the bit about the Colorado wildfires, and it seems as if there is actually disagreement about the hows and whys of those. In that case, it isn’t devil’s advocate, it’s interviewer. 

        Not that I have any real sympathy for CNN, but in this case I don’t see that they did what they do so often. Seems like a poor example of a disturbing trend.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

           Even if her “kooky guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about” angle is giving him a chance to state otherwise, I don’t like it.  To begin by putting that notion out there kinda lends a legitimacy to it.  Just say who he is and read his credentials plz.

          • ChicagoD says:

            That would have been a different, appropriate way to go. CNN seems to lack that sort of subtlety. 

  6. Mike Norman says:

    I get that there is a powerful story out there that is framed in terms of ignorant talking heads going after respected scientists with cheap tactics. And I can understand the temptation to fit this event into that frame. However, it really appears that Carol Costello dropped into the hypothetical to relay a sentiment that she’s alleging is out there in the gestalt, and not that she’s actually saying that Nye a crank. The irony is that she seems to actually be lobbing a bit of a softball in order to give Mr. Nye a chance to articulate his views.

    It’s an interesting moment in the history of the public perception of climate change, for sure, but more so because the perception of the public seems to be changing faster than the meta-rhetoric can keep up.

    • Damian Barajas says:

       Maybe the problem is that her tone is too open to interpretation? She should show more skill and not make comments that are ambiguous?

      Though its been my experience that some people are very good at making ambiguous remarks in order to state a position as if it were not their own while at the same time, bringing it to the table without having to account for it. and given that she is a news person on TV with, I presume, some experience in putting an idea across, then I wonder what her intentions really were.

      So, she was either sloppy or underhanded when making her remarks.

  7. GuyInMilwaukee says:

    Science is KOOKY!
    [T-Shirt on the way]

  8. zibuki says:

    The problem with this approach in reporting, or the benefit, depending on you position, is that research has proven time and time again that if you repeat a lie often enough people believe it, even if you consistently follow it immediately with facts that disprove what was just said. More than that, after a period of time, people not only believe the original lie, but will believe it more ferociously when facts are presented that conflict with the original lie, even when they are presented with mountains of evidence.

  9. Wordguy says:

    I _did_ Google Bill Nye, and it said he is “The Science Guy”. So that’s settled.

  10. CNN cares more about “those people” than they care about the news.
    they put GB on ‘Headline News”. they put E.Erikson and people like that in millions of homes every night. Science is food that must be cut up to fit in screaming little right wing baby bird mouths. that’s how it looks to me.

    screw CNN.

  11. and foithermore…
    I think they book Nye for the same reason they booked people like Janeane Garaflalo during shock & awe — to marginalize him.

  12. ChicagoD says:

    That was a complete softball interview. She framed questions to give him the best chance to ensure he hit some key points and then gave him a wide open field to run in. Not only is the headline 100% inaccurate, but the perception of the interview is as well. If Nye can get an easier, more softball-laden interview than that from someone other than Entertainment Tonight, God bless him.

    • MediaUnbalance says:

      I’m sure if you get your science from the Heartland Institute you would think that.

    • Damian Barajas says:

       I might be persuaded to think you are correct, except that you can do a softball interview or play devil’s advocate but you can’t really do both can you?

      Oh, and nobody thinks he’s really Kooky, not even the internet! (She made that up or maybe used bing instead of google to look up Bill Nye the Kooky guy)

    • wysinwyg says:

      If Nye can get an easier, more softball-laden interview than that from someone other than Entertainment Tonight, God bless him.

      Better than bad is good?  Let me guess, you religiously vote Democrat…

      Not only is the headline 100% inaccurate, but the perception of the interview is as well.

      Ah, the Perception Police.  Making sure everyone experiences reality in government-approved forms and doses.

  13. Petzl says:

    If she’d wanted a real kook, she could’ve just gone with the 50 or so bona fide kooky meterologists who moonlight as climate deniers.

  14. Otak says:

    Lots of good points in the comments above. Regardless of the reasons behind the awkward irrelevant interview above, the following seems to be clear:

    News (and television in general) is a type of education, obviously; a mental nutrition. Even if we bring up the opinions of less-enlightened, reactionary extremists just to shoot them down or point out how narrow-minded they are, it is still giving them a voice in circles where they shouldn’t be acknowledged. There could have possibly been some insightful conversation in this clip above, if only Costello didn’t begin the talk on such a low level. Bill Nye couldn’t begin speaking on a higher level before needing to bat away the kooky comment by saying “well, I can read charts.” No one benefitted from either side of that volley, especially the viewers.

    My idealism wishes there will be future television environment where networks give viewers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intelligence, providing not only news programming, but entertainment, fiction, etc., with the assumption that people want to grow in knowledge and understanding of things, rather than constantly catering to the lowest common denominator, trying to grasp at vapid sound bites and sensationalistic headlines (ahem) for the sake of more attention and more thoughtless drama.

    • ChicagoD says:

      Well, here’s the thing. For millions of people Bill Nye just does a silly science show for kids. In fact, his bow tie in this very interview pretty much undercuts the “serious person” argument. However, he is, in fact, a serious scientist. So, since his personal and professional presentations do not make clear that he should be taken seriously, she is essentially rehabilitating him for the audience.

      I have to admit that I might see this differently because I look at it from sort of a litigation perspective. His goofy public persona is a bad fact for a serious discussion. If I want him to be a useful witness, I need to acknowledge that bad fact and give him the opportunity to present a different narrative. She does, he did, and we move on.

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        In fact, his bow tie in this very interview pretty much undercuts the “serious person” argument.

        She might have mistaken him for Tucker Carlson, Paul Simon, or George Will.

        For millions of people Bill Nye just does a silly science show for kids.

        I see what you’re saying here, but I don’t think it’s hard for people to realize that the show is fun and for kids. Brian Greene and Neil Degrasse Tyson do a lot of silly, fun stuff in their NOVA shows on the Cosmos as well, because it helps explain complex physics to the average joe, but they’re not “kooks”.

        • ChicagoD says:

          “She might have mistaken him for Tucker Carlson, Paul Simon, or George Will.”
          Or John Paul Stevens, who did have to overcome his bow tie in at least one funny anecdote. Even in the world of bow ties that one is not particularly stately. Also, Tucker Carlson is not a “serious person” is he? I assumed that had to be schtick because he’s such a raging asshat.

          Also, I’ve watched his show with my kid. He is pretty silly and kooky. It’s very entertaining, and he does a great job explaining things, but people who see TV rather than watch it could be forgiven for thinking he’s just a goofy actor and not a real scientist.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            Agreed on Carlson, obvs.

             people who see TV rather than watch it could be forgiven for thinking he’s just a goofy actor and not a real scientist.
            Fair dues.

      • Damian Barajas says:

         I think you’re confusing Bill Nye with Beakman. Paul Zaloom is Kooky, Bill is not kooky, bowties, are NOT kooky. When people wear bowties, In real life, its not because they are Kooky.

  15. big ryan says:

    every time bill is in the news i have his theme song stuck in my head for days, thanks boing boing

  16. Uncle Geo says:

     There was a time when journalists had more self respect than that. It was a shabby way to start an interview though she basically teed Bill up so he could have said, “I’m an informed citizen who has reported on science for 20 years -and other citizens can get informed too; it’s not hard because the science is there.” I think he just got stunned for a moment.

    He could also have nailed her with “You’re an anchorhead and do you have any credentials to understand this? No? And you’re giving me a hard time?” -but Bill took the high road.

    Ya know what lady? How old are you? Did you go to college? Don’t you have any idea of the scale of the mismatch between the crackpots and the scientists? Perpetuating “the controversy” is irresponsible reporting. Just because Wingnuts take a position for political reasons does not mean the science is in question. Why don’t you report on that?

    Her intro and her questions are perfect examples of the lazy, cowardly reporting that is mainstream news. If only Newsroom weren’t fiction.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

       “Perpetuating “the controversy” is irresponsible reporting.”

      Well said.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst says:

      Just because Wingnuts take a position for political reasons does not mean the science is in question. Why don’t you report on that?

      one reason might be that it is too easy to run into fundamental attribution errors as soon as you start needing to ascribe motive for others’ behaviour.

      • Uncle Geo says:

        Well the oldest trick in the political playbook is to claim you’re not doing things for political reasons. So fine, I’m attributing something to climate deniers that they themselves do not admit. But despite all attempts to get rational answers out of the climate change deniers, I get nothing but pseudoscience and vague talk about personal freedom (to earn money perhaps?).

        So what should we conclude? I could be uncivil and suggest they’re ignorant; certainly ignoring solid science and the prepoderance of evidence could be one criteria- or I could ask why have wingnuts have chosen this particular bit of science to get all jiggy about. I mean why not the Higgs Boson? What is it -scientifically- about climate change that gets their grundies in a bunch?

        Do they really care (or know) that much about the science? Or could it be that the folks who think they’re going to have to spend money to stop spewing crap into the atmosphere are spending huge bucks on antiscience propaganda, ginning up “studies” and offloading dump trucks of cash on GOP Super PACS because they know Republican legislators will always vote to their benefit?

        Everyone says their not politically motivated -but I mean really, lets stop dancing around the reality here.

      • wysinwyg says:

        There are no tenable non-political explanations for the vehement rejection of scientific research demonstrating the high likelihood of AGW.

        • PaulDavisTheFirst says:

          a political reason would necessarily imply something of a weighing the balance of costs and benefits of various courses of action. i’m not sure that anyone has any inherent objection to such an argument (even if they believe that a particlar argument gets the balancing act terribly wrong).

          the real problem is when the balancing of costs and benefits is done in a way that is selfish, short-term centered and (for some) anthro-centric. there are some political explanations for rejecting AGW that i think are wrong, but that do not cross this threshold of reprehensibleness.

          and then there are the excuses from the kochs, which do.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Paul, there are two distinct questions.  To simplify:
            1) Is AGW happening?
            2) What do we do about it?

            You are saying (2) is a political question.  I never said or implied otherwise.  I said that there’s no explanation for disagreement on (1) besides politicization, and further implied that (1) is not actually a political question.  Which it isn’t.*

            Notice I specifically mentioned scientific research, not proposals for mitigation or prevention.

            *OK, so construction of truth within scientific communities is obviously political, but those politics aren’t open to people who aren’t part of those communities so I’m ignoring this for the sake of simplification.

    • It wasn’t the beginning of the interview, it was the middle.  What she said was  this is what people on the internet were saying. She gave him a chance to defend himself against claims he was a kooky guy and didn’t know what he was talking about. He didn’t do such a good job.  

  17. Dara O’Briain on “balance” in the media (in re: homeopathy, in this instance, but equally relevant to this argument). And O’Briain’s a physics graduate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHVVKAKWXcg

  18. I dunno, I for one think he’s kooky. On election day 2000 in Seattle I and a few black folks got in a big argument with him about whether marijuana should be legalized. He just kept coming up with a string of counter-factual, illogical, poorly grounded, absurd nonsense. It wasn’t just that his position was wrong, he was arguing it really poorly.

    True story.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      I can imagine how that went.  I don’t think people generally respond well to Ron Paul sloganeering, or recited Bob Marley and Peter Tosh lyrics.  Even when there are a few black folks involved…

    • Spezz says:

       Why did you need a group of people to have an argument with one man?

    • LikesTurtles says:

      Black folks? What on earth does the race of your friends have to do with anything?

    • 7LeagueBoots says:

      You have any examples of the, “counter-factual, illogical, poorly grounded, absurd nonsense”?  And are you qualified to accurately and logically refute what he said? 

  19. MediaUnbalance says:

     Yes ChicagoD it’s so silly to teach kids science.

    • ChicagoD says:

      It is not silly to teach kids science, but Bill Nye does use a silly character to help him entertain kids while teaching them science. That distinction is probably completely lost on you, isn’t it?

      • wysinwyg says:

        I don’t think Nye’s character is nearly as silly as you’re making him out to be.  Which, by the way, is the principal criticism being leveled at the interviewer here.

        Did I just lose you?

  20. BooBamPipes says:

    Just one point, you shouldn’t clear the forest of brush. Letting the undergrowth die back into the soil is the only way the forest gains nutrients. And how the hell would you clear an entire state of what is scientifically called duff (decaying vegetable matter covering the ground under trees). The reporter was dumb.

    oops, didn’t mean to comment as bbp. Guess I am dumb, too. heh.

    • 7LeagueBoots says:

       They’re not talking about clearing the duff layer.  The duff layer is that mat of small debris right against the ground.  They’re talking about the bigger stuff and the plants in the shrub layer.

      The idea is that for a long time there were natural and human caused fires that the landscape was adapted to, then Europeans showed up and had a different idea of how to manage the landscape, based on what worked for them in a different part of the world.  Restricting the fires led to forests that were more dense, had thicker undergrowth, a greater proportion of small trees, and more deadwood on the ground (what foresters call coarse woody debris).

      This sets the stage so that when a fire does start (because the climate/weather systems leads to a hot dry period) the fire has a lot of fuel to burn, spreads easily, and can reach to the crowns of the trees that were previously inaccessible.  This history of logging in many of these areas hasn’t helped much either.

      The older cycle of small, frequent, cool burning fires was one of the ways nutrients got recycled back into the system as well in the form of enriched ash.

  21. Jay Curry says:

    By definition if you are expressing a view on a story, or a view about someone involved in a story, you are no longer a reporter, you are an editor. Being wrong doesn’t change that, it just means you’re a bad editor.

  22. OhNoYouDidnt! says:

    outside of rumors that he can be a real jerk. there’s always this from xkcd:

    • penguinchris says:

      Just so nobody believes that “rumor”, he’s not a jerk, and I really don’t think there actually are rumors to that effect. By all accounts he’s exceedingly friendly and has time for anyone who wants to talk to him (within reason).

      I don’t doubt that he sometimes wants to be left alone – like any celebrity – but part of the joke in that xkcd is that it’s an absurd situation. People aren’t that faux-clever in real life, coming up with a lead-in for Bill Nye who happens to be sitting next to you to jump in and then being a dick when he doesn’t.

      On the other hand if you asked him politely to talk to the kids for a minute, I have no doubt that he would.

      As an aside, I saw him give an excellent presentation at university a few years ago – about climate change, actually. A lot of scientists from the university in the audience (such as myself), including a bunch wearing lab coats like he always does on the show, but a whole lot of non-scientists as well. Easily half of the questions asked at the end were from people who were obviously not scientists, and that’s one of the great things about Bill Nye – he gets people interested in science who otherwise never would have been, and not just kids.

  23. PlutoniumX says:

    Bill Nye is rocking some serious Vulcan Eyebrows.

  24. benher says:

    It may not be a “response” but what she’s doing is like firing the gun at the start of a race. right before she pulls the trigger she runs up and kicks him in the shin. 

    It’s not-so-subtle and frankly, in an interview about a topic as important as the future of our planet, who needs that smarmy snark from someone who clearly can’t rock that shade of Fuchsia anymore. 

    Making Snarky remarks against someone not present to defend themselves is what comment threads are for! 

  25. Senor Schaffer says:

    Beakman was better. 

  26. Walter Reade says:

    “I can read graphs.”  LOL

  27. Coderjoe says:

    She said that google results paint him as the kooky guy that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. However, if you attempt to try to verify this yourself, you will now be faced with all of the articles and blog posts this interview has spawned. Also, she might not have searched on just his name, but other terms. Additionally, if she really did use Google, the results would depend on what cluster answered the query, as well as possibly her own search history. (After all, Google does slightly personalize results)

    There are a few problems with Bill’s response, though. Forest fires are a part of the natural life cycle of the forest. It helps clear the ground, but it also adds some nutrients, and there are also various species of plants whose seeds are not released until a certain temperature is reached.

    Additionally, he cites tornadoes in Michigan. There is nothing abnormal about tornadoes in Michigan. I would have to check the NWS records to be sure, but I don’t think there is a single year on record in which there HASN’T been a tornado in Michigan. There is also the possibility of small tornadoes occurring without anyone being around to notice and report it, especially farther north.

  28. Swartzkip says:

    meanwhile, over in the netherlands we have the coldest summer in 25 years. Maybe its more of a  climate shift.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      One model predicts the UK and Northern Europe to become very cold as global warming causes a shift in the Gulf Stream.

      • Swartzkip says:

        I do understand the difference, but the news video was only talking about how hot it was over in the US. Just giving some feedback, and venting my special blend of “shitty summer rage”. 

        • wysinwyg says:

          Cool.  I just get sick of the “It was warm this winter!”  “It was cool this summer!” bullshit that passes as discussion on AGW in the media and in bars, and presumably in schools, businesses, and homes as well.

  29. Walter Reade says:

    He should have countered, “You know Carol, when you google YOUR name, you’re the anchor who doesn’t know how to ask a decent question. Should we get that out of the way first?” 

  30. Unanimous Cowherd says:

    Who the hell uses the word “kooky” any more? It’s like something out of the 1940s or 50s, something said when we still had “war bonds” and “skate keys”. Amiright?

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