Thursday, October 22, 2009

Skepticality #113

Things that made me go hum-m-m after listening to a few words with Randy Olson.

Swoopy this week took the laboring oar and interviewed Randy Olson creator of the movies "Flock of Dodos" and his latest picture "Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy."  He has also authored a new book "Don't be such a scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style."  Swoopy as always was prepared to the hilt for the interview, and it does not hurt that Olson really enjoys to talk, and talk fast.  Not used car salesman fast, but just at a fairly fast clip.

A few things struck me during the interview.  Olson discussed that at the end of his film "Sizzle" people who lived through and still with the trauma and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are interviewed in a quite emotional scene.  He takes great pains to point out during this interview that he is not saying that global warming or climate changed caused Katrina, but to show what the effects of climate change could do ala Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.  He notes that it is done to put a human face on global warming, but the human face he is using is not caused by global warming.  It is used to make a point.  He notes that he skirts around the issue of the cause of Katrina.  Olson indicates that other people state that Olson is trying to show what global warming has done to a major metropolitan area, which happens to be chock full of history, culture, lots of jazz, food made with copious amounts fat, and oodles of national field emotional baggage.  Now, I have not watched the movie.  It could be very explicitly stated and flashed in big bold letter across the screen "Global Warming Did Not Destroy New Orleans."  If so, then my entire musings here are for naught.  However, unless he noted explicitly or at least obviouisly in the film, I think it is an easy assumption for the viewer to make at the end of a movie about climate change that Katrina was the product of the climate change.   Especially, if he really does skirt the issue as he notes in the interview.  I do not know if Olson is being naive, or a bit disingenuous.  It certainly was a thing to make me go "hum-m-m."

However, I do agree with Olson that when trying to convince the wider public of a position, particularly a rational or scientific position taking pot shots at a political view or party is likely not helpful or counter productive.  He used a few jabs at the Republican party in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" as an example.  This has been a reoccurring them on my posts once you attack party "x" which has membership with say 1/3 of the society you are basically writing off that entire third.  Granted, not everyone will shut out what is being argued in that third, but a large portion will.  Then you are more likely to just preach to the choir, or take for granted who is in the choir.  I have always found this to be counter productive.  (I'm not looking at you Reasonable Doubts . . . no.  I've just got something in my eye.)

The final part of the interview that struck me was the discussion of Jon Stewart - Tucker Carlson on Crossfire Episode.  (Poor Paul Begala who was co-hosting is completely left out.)  Near the end of "Crossfire's run on CNN, Jon Stewart appeared on the show.  The way I remember is that instead of light banter with a comedian, Stewart basically attacked Carlson and Begala for being hacks or some sort of retort.  When Carlson and Begala parred with Stewart, Stewart hid behind the shield of being a comedian.  I even think Stewart attacked with "I'm not your monkey."  I remember watching it, and first thinking that Carlson and Begala got their clocks cleaned.  I also remember thinking that Stewart sucker punched them, and he was an artful dodger when countered.  Olson and Swoopy brought this up as evidence of emotion, Stewart, winning out over rational discussion, Carlson (Begala, you do not count.)   This would have been fine except then Swoopy points out the good side of the story is that Crossfire went off the air, and Stewart is still going strong.  A few things strike me.  For one, Carlson did ditch the bow tie as Swoopy noted, but Carlson went on to a show on MSNBC and now works for Fox.  He's not a bumpkin in the street.  He was and still is a fairly well regarded pundit and columnist.  It can be argued that he is as much a libertarian as he is a conservative.  I suppose this is an anti-bowtie wearing libertarian attack.  (I think Begala is still working too.  I remember you, Paul.) What all of the above build up is about is that here is Swoopy, and perhaps Olson,  taking a political swipe a few minutes after Olson notes how this type of behavior is counter productive in Gore's film.  Nobody is above reproach, but I did find this interesting and made me go hum-m-m once again.  

Overall, I thought is was a well done interview by Swoopy.  It made me think about why I find some sources of information more enticing than others, and what is wrong with me enjoying something blah as BookTV since it is all about information delivery without the hook.

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