Respectful Insolence

Telling “both sides”

This may be a bit over the top, but it does rather point out what is in effect done when journalists lazily present “both sides” of issues that don’t really have two sides, at least not two sides that are anywhere in the same universe as far as scientific validity:

I do rather think that they could have found a better example for “Western” versus “alternative” medicine. That part of the video was actually pretty dumb and, quite frankly, painfully unfunny. Come on! A Hulda Clark parody, where the alt-med practitioner claims that all cancer is caused by a liver fluke and that it can be cured by a crappy little machine that looks like a Scientology E-meter would have been plenty ridiculous–and it would have had the virtue of being a real example.

ADDENDUM: Apparently the video’s posting this week was a mistake:

Once again, I learn the lesson that I really need to try and coordinate my blogs with the Bosses. I discovered after sending out my last entry that ROBIN VS. THE BOMB wasn’t supposed to post this week. They had scheduled a skit called BOTH SIDES that we shot a while back. But Zach and James weren’t happy with some of the green screen effects and decided to bump it to next week.

May I suggest that SMBC take this opportunity to reshoot part of the video in order to remove the middle portion of the video and replace it with something not so painfully unfunny? The video would be much improved and make its point a lot better. There’s a potentially hilariously spot-on video in there. It needs some work to bring it out, though.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam_Y
    January 31, 2010

    I do rather think that they could have found a better example for “Western” versus “alternative” medicine. That part of the video was actually pretty stupid.

    Not really considering the fact that some altmedders think that the sun won’t blind you.

  2. #2 Mike
    January 31, 2010

    “Painfully unfunny”? I see what you did there!

  3. #3 nano
    January 31, 2010

    Come on! That was the funniest part! A guy with knifes in his eyes shouting “We just have epistemological differences!” when it is pointed out that that is not such a good idea is just awesome.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    January 31, 2010

    Sometimes the best comedy is accurate reporting(e.g. the Hulda Clark example cited above)with a straight face.*Par example*: 1.truthfully describe the participants in a (hypothetical)vax debate,”We have a pediatrician,a developmental psychologist, and an NIH researcher vs. an actress/mother,a software executive,and a nutritionist with a correspondence school degree”.2.Report where the relevant research was reported- NEJM,peer-reviewed journals vs. NaturalNews,Prison Planet,Medical Hypotheses.3. Explain the woo in detail,e.g.how *exactly* do HIV/AIDS “dissidents”(sic) account for the facts of the illness or explain the “crimes”(sic) of Gallo and BigPharma.How *does* mercury cause autism? Why *should* everyone become a vegan? In detail. List Sources.

  5. #5 Mandos
    January 31, 2010

    It won’t play because it requires accession to some kind of…friend request? I get an error.

  6. #6 Paul
    January 31, 2010

    I get a message, “This video is private”. Those having the same problem might enjoy this entirely one-sided one instead:
    Homeopathic A+E

  7. #7 Paul
    January 31, 2010

    I get a message, “This video is private”. Those having the same problem might enjoy this entirely one-sided one instead:
    Homeopathic A+E

  8. #8 Orac
    January 31, 2010

    Hmmm. It worked fine when I posted it two or three hours ago. I checked after it published. Obviously the first few commenters could watch it.

    I wonder if the person who posted the video didn’t like my criticism of part of it. Very, very lame.

  9. #9 IDM
    January 31, 2010

    Maybe it wasn’t up to his standards. Usually SMBC videos (and the comic) are quite hilarious. Either that, or he respects your opinion: if he didn’t chances are he would’ve made ad-hominem attacks rather than take the video down.

    Btw, speaking of funny and true things, I think you’ll like entry #42 on this list: http://www.buffalobeast.com/?p=1645

  10. #10 Zach
    January 31, 2010

    Hey guys, it’s Zach from SMBC Theater. The video is down because it wasn’t supposed to go up till 9pm. Youtube had a little hiccup and accidentally made it public after we all went to sleep.

  11. #11 DLC
    January 31, 2010

    But, we have to Tell Both Sides even if Side 2 is blatantly non-science and illogical. Just like we have to Teach the Controversy with respect to Evolution vs Creation. It doesn’t bloody matter that the creation they want taught is unsupportable scientifically or that it’s not the only creation tale (as an amateur historian I find the Hindu creation myth much more palatable… )Oh, and it certainly doesn’t matter that there’s really no scientific controversy at all, outside of a few cranks and religious zealots, we have to teach the controversy!

  12. #12 Harry Eagar
    January 31, 2010

    Yeah, well, if we newspapermen had accepted the demands of Schlesinger, Schneider and other climate alarmists to stop ‘reporting both sides’ and stop ‘trying to provide balance,’ you’d still be going around claiming that IPCC reports are based on peer-reviewed science, and now we know that’s lying crap.

  13. #13 Orac
    February 1, 2010

    Yawn.

    Same ol’ same ol’ AGW denialism, eh, Harry? Truly, you are a one note wonder on this topic.

  14. #14 Anthro
    February 1, 2010

    I thought steak knives in the eyes was (although cringing) hilarious. It definitely made the “point”!

    While the examples of alt med and creationism are obvious, the problem becomes more muddles with things like exercise, nutrition, mental health, and pharmacology. One of the problems is that so many people who write about science have little or no science training. They may be good at putting the science into everyday language, but they lack the training to sift through the evidence.

  15. #15 Citizen Deux
    February 1, 2010

    It was actually very funny, in a juvenile high school sort of way. Kudos to the SMBC crew for some nice production values and extremely funny moments.

    Steak knives…

  16. #16 James Sweet
    February 1, 2010

    I dunno, I kind of got a chuckle out of seeing a guy with knives in his eyes screaming, “We exist in different epistemological paradigms!”

    @Harry Eager… except that IPCC reports are typically based on peer-reviewed science, no matter how many times you parrot your empty conservative talking points. Just sayin’…

    But I guess we exist in different epistemological paradigms.

  17. #17 Scientizzle
    February 1, 2010

    Harry Eager:
    Assumning you’re referring to the Himalayan glacier thing, surely a newspaperman such as yourself knows there’s an important distinction between “claiming that IPCC reports are based on peer-reviewed science…[is] lying crap” and “an erroneous claim can be found in one paragraph of the 938-page 2007 Working Group II report in which an incorrect figure for a projected loss of the Himalayan glaciers was attributed to a source that had not undergone peer review.”
    Balanced reporting should cover this stupid mistake, how it occured, the (peer-reviewed) reality of Himalayan glacier loss, and the response by the IPCC to re-evaluate its review procedures and standards of evidence. Unbalanced reporting would suggest that such an error crucially undermines the findings of the overall report.

    But as a newspaperman, I’m sure you know that…

  18. #18 Harry Eagar
    February 1, 2010

    Please try to keep up, Scientizzle. Faked Himalayan glacier reports are so last week. There have been about two dozen examples of non-peer reviewed claims in IPCC 4 turned up since.

    So the issue is not whether one mistake was made, but whether claims that IPCC 4 was based on peer-reviewed papers was an honest claim.

    It was not, so now you have to sift through those 900 pages page by page and figure out which one were fakes or which were real.

    Or, if you are a newspaperman like me, you probably just toss the whole corrupt gang out and go looking for a reliable source of information. (Which I have; had it before IPCC was published. And, no, it isn’t any Big Oil PR guy.)

  19. #19 Scientizzle
    February 1, 2010

    Hmmm…Two dozen examples? That’s a different story!
    Fact is, I can open up the latest Science or Nature and read the papers that keep telling the same story as the IPCC and their multitudinous peer-reviewed citations. I assume these journal authors are the reliable sources of information you’ve contacted? The published leaders of their field? Right?

    Right?

  20. #20 Orac
    February 1, 2010

    Harry seems to be laboring under the delusion that anything he is citing is anywhere near enough to cast serious doubt on the science showing that AGW is happening. He also forgets that, even if the IPCC report had never been written, the science would still support AGW. The IPCC report is a convenient bogeyman for him.

  21. #21 MartinM
    February 1, 2010

    It’s worth pointing out that the recent kerfluffle over the IPCC reports surrounds the WGII report, which deals with impacts of climate change. The science of climate change is the purview of WGI, which is correspondingly more rigourous. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the accusations against the WGII report are just plain wrong; this one, for instance, is based on a table which includes only selected references,’ (Table 1.2, pg 86) but pretends that there aren’t any others to support the claims being made.

  22. #22 Marina
    February 1, 2010

    Speaking of crappy little machines that look like Scientologists made them, I run a meet-up group in my neck of the woods from which weird people pretty much weed themselves out because I have zero tolerance for woo, and make no attempts to hide it. Every now and then woo-believers/pushers will join us for dinner or an outing, but upon hitting the zero tolerance wall, they don’t come back. Once in a while, we get a more resilient variety, but none have stayed with us for more than three meet-ups. Your post reminds me of one such person. This guy: http://shop.biophysica.com/home_page.php

    And here’s the weirdest part: I ran into him at a solstice party where, aside from one person, the rest of the guests were agnostic-atheists. I didn’t talk to him, so, I’ll never know if he considers himself a skeptic or he just likes to pretend. But I digress. I mainly wanted to share the humor of his machines. Perhaps not so funny are the prices his customers pay to purchase them.

  23. #23 Harry Eagar
    February 1, 2010

    Please try to keep up, Scientizzle. There seem to have been some breakdowns at Nature, and possibly at Science.

    And, yes, my scientific sources are leading peer-reviewed scientists. If you look in the astrophysics journals, you can find papers accounting for climate variation without the need for heavy breathing about carbon dioxide.

    Also, since we are in the realm of reconstructions of conditions never scientifically observed, leading historians. We can be certain that claims that recent temperatures are unprecedented in a thousand years are bunk. Roses were blooming in January 591 in Tours.

    You have to look around.

  24. #24 mk
    February 1, 2010

    Harry’s an ignorant little child. To be ignored.

  25. #25 Dedj
    February 1, 2010

    It’s hard to know what Harry’s arguement actually is. It’s not as if astrophysics journals are unavailable to climatologists, and it’s not as if climate models don’t attempt to model climate variation that derives from variation of solar input.

    Come on Harry, even my home-study Open Uni courses discussed this in NatSci 101. What you’re postulating is not new, novel or overlooked.

    Have more respect for people, and stop assuming gross widspread stupidity amongst people who deal with this for a living.

  26. #26 AJ Milne
    February 1, 2010

    A Hulda Clark parody, where the alt-med practitioner claims that all cancer is caused by a liver fluke and that it can be cured by a crappy little machine that looks like a Scientology E-meter would have been plenty ridiculous–and it would have had the virtue of being a real example…

    (Spits coffee thru’ nose…)

    Wait. What?

    I dunno, Orac… So it’s liver flukes and e-meters on the one side… Versus steak knives in the eyes…

    I’m thinkin’ either way, the audience is thinking: ‘Oh, c’mon… They’re kidding, right? I mean, whoinhell really believes that?’

    (And somewhat more seriously, I cracked up pretty hard at the ‘We just live in different epistemological paradigms!’ bit, too.)

  27. #27 MartinM
    February 2, 2010

    If you look in the astrophysics journals, you can find papers accounting for climate variation without the need for heavy breathing about carbon dioxide.

    That’s a fairly blatant lie. Provide citations or retract, please.

    We can be certain that claims that recent temperatures are unprecedented in a thousand years are bunk. Roses were blooming in January 591 in Tours.

    Right, and if it was nice and warm in one place, the global reconstructions, all of which show current temperatures as unprecedented in 1000 years, must be wrong. Brilliant.

  28. #28 zafir seba
    May 10, 2011

    Maybe it wasn’t up to his standards. Usually SMBC videos (and the comic) are quite hilarious. Either that, or he respects your opinion: if he didn’t chances are he would’ve made ad-hominem attacks rather than take the video down.
    hii yeşilçam zafir seba

  29. #29 baltbear
    May 15, 2011

    ..but they do exist in different epistomoligical universes..and in a “free market” there gets to be a bet
    as to which has a more firm ontological basis.
    from my pov, the humour is a function of the same mess that gave us 2008: what the movie “money never sleeps” identifies as moral hazard.

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