Anti-Science

Fox News: Climate Change is False Because the Moon

Watch Bill Nye treat a Fox News talking head like a small child, first gently correcting him on the fact that volcanoes on the moon (or elsewhere) have nothing to do with climate change on Earth, then congratulating him on coming up with a coherent follow-up question. “That’s actually a really good question, Jonny! Look at you, coming up with questions that are relevant to the discussion. Just like a real interviewer!”

via Carl Zimmer

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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53 Comments

      1. I thought Nye’s answer was great, and the host clearly realized he wouldn’t win an argument with Nye, because he didn’t push the issue, which means Nye’s answer was left un-“refuted,” which implies it was correct.

  1. One thing is quite sad in this. And that is that so few people realize just how much we know about Earth from exploring our solar system.
    When you realize people like that ‘presenter’ are talking to millions, you can just lol in despair hoping one day they will vanish in the void they came from.

  2. Bill Nye is aptly named The SCIENCE Guy! Every chance he got, he plugged the value and universality of science. Perhaps the specifics of this news item might not sink in, but he was definitely on message. SCIENCE RULES!!!

  3. At least the spokesmodel newsreader said a number bigger than 6,000 when he guessed how long ago the moon had volcanoes. He was off by an order of magnitude, but it’s a step in the right direction.
    .
    And did anyone else catch when Bill said “volcanoes are not connected to the burning of fossil fuels, they’re connected to mining.”
    .
    WTF?
    .
    Oh wait; as Daffy Duck said, “pronoun trouble.”

    1. Somebody has to be pedantic: not 1 but 3 orders of magnitude.
      .
      Yeah, mining? I think he meant geology. Or maybe the fact that many mineral veins are produced by volcanoes? Anyway, just to sit and converse with a Foxbot without turning into a gibbering idiot shows amazing intellectual fortitude. I’m sure he meant something sensible even if we can’t quite figure out what it was.

      1. I really wasn’t trying to be pedantic, it just struck me as funny.
        At worst I thought that he meant fossil fuels were related to mining and the “they” was simply unclear but as @suraky points out below he may have meant what he said and I simply didn’t understand.
        Either way Bill Nye rules, just don’t let him try to sell you any cleaning supplies. ;)

        1. Sorry, I meant *I* was being pedantic by pointing out that difference between millions and billions is 3 orders of magnitude, not one.
          .
          BTW, I thought I already posted a comment saying this, but it seems to have disappeared, though later comments of mine do show up. Or maybe I forgot to click submit?

    2. I wouldn’t read too much into that comment. As quick as Nye was on his feet, the sheer stupidity of the question asked probably overwhelmed Mr. Nye for a second. He was probably prepared for a lot of questions like how old is that volcano, why isn’t that active any more, or even where did the moon come from? But how could anyone be prepared for that question? How could any rational mind expect to make the connection between an extinct lunar volcano, fossil fuels and global warming? Bill Nye probably was trying to figure out something that the interviewer could relate to that was related to volcanoes. Mining was the first thing that popped into his head. And volcanic activity and mining are connected.

  4. I’ve been trying my best to figure out just what bizarre logic lead the FoxBot to ask that question, and as near as I can tell, it’s this:

    1a. Volcanic eruptions add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
    1b. But the temperature on Earth doesn’t go up after every volcanic eruption.
    1c. Ergo, the existence of volcanoes disproves global warming.

    2a. Mean scientists use big words on me every time I mention this obvious truth to them.
    2b. Stupid scientists.

    3a. Hey look, there are volcanoes on the moon too!
    3b. More volcanoes = more proof that global warming is a myth. You stupid scientists can’t escape now!
    3c. With this in mind, I will set a trap of words for Bill Nye.
    3d. Stupid scientists.

    I’m not sure I’ve got it exactly right, but there’s definitely a strong belief on the right that volcanoes disprove global warming, one way or another. The FoxBot’s diarrhetic logic must have something to do with that.

    Or maybe I’m over-thinking it. Maybe the logic just went like this:
    1. The moon weighs more than a duck.
    2. Blow up the fucking moon.

    1. Could go something like this too.
      .
      1. Volcanoes cause higher temperatures.
      2. My sources say the Earth is not warming.
      3. Volcanoes are a lie perpetrated by the Global Warming Cabal.
      4. Bill Nye says there are volcanoes on the moon.
      5. Bill Nye must be lying.
      6. AHA! I’ve got him!
      .
      Makes as much sense as most of their crap.

  5. Speaking as a person who once worked as an exploration geologist, Yes volcanoes can indeed be linked to mining. Bill’s answer was quick and accurate.

    Several types of economic mineral deposits are created by the heat, fluids, and minerals that are introduced by intrusions of magma deep under a volcano. Or just from the intrusion if no volcano forms.

    Much of the world’s copper comes from Porphyry deposits, which form in and above the tops of large intrusions deep underground. Under the right conditions, hot fluids from the magma carry dissolved minerals away from the heat source where they are concentrated into deposits as the fluids cool and as the pH changes. If a few kilometres of rock is eroded away over a few million years, the deposit will be near surface or exposed, where a lucky prospector might stumble upon it. Some of the world’s largest open pit mines are this type of deposit.

    In another example, you can actually see mineral deposits forming at ‘black smokers’ along the mid-ocean spreading ridges. These underwater geysers of hot mineral rich water are powered by hot magma intruding from below. When the hot water mixes with the cold ocean, the dissolved minerals precipitate out and crystalize, concentrating valuable minerals in basins on the ocean floor. This is called a Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide deposit.

    The googles and wikipedias have some good articles on mines where the mineral deposits were created by volcanic processes. … Oh sorry, you aren’t a Fox News fan, so I shouldn’t talk down to you like you’re a child :)

    1. Thats interesting, you learn something new every day.
      I actually thought that Bill had simply been unclear and that the “they” in the sentence refereed to the fossil fuels being related to mining rather than the volcanoes, but he might have meant this.
      .
      Either way he seemed to be struggling through his need to laugh, or slap someone, or vomit; I’m not sure which but if he hadn’t had years of dealing with off-the-wall questions from kids he might have just lost it.
      .
      I think he did better than most would, I just found the sentence to be strange that’s all.

  6. “He doesn’t understand. Explain as you would a child.”

    It’s fun to make fun of Fox News, but other news channels are just as bad at their science reporting. Good thing I don’t get my science news from mainstream news outlets.

  7. That is the most effective approach I have seen for dealing with the Fox talking heads. Turns out they respond well to condescension. Not that I would ever consider Bill Nye arrogant or anything.

  8. I think his logic was actually pretty simple to follow:

    1. My boss told me to work climate change into this somehow.
    2. He’s not giving me anything to work with.
    3. Just repeat whatever he said last and imply that it disproves climate change.

    1. @NotMyGod: I had forgotten that – thanks for the reminder. Even if people like that are told the facts, they simply choose to ignore them, sadly. Creationists are exactly the same. You can produce a mass of evidence, and they will dismiss it all.

  9. I think perhaps the reason Bill Nye said the “connected to mining” thing was that before he was derailed with the global climate change subject, he was perhaps about to explain how they were able to use the photo of radioactive materials to get to the conclusion of volcanoes by way of science obtained from mining. It’s just a guess, though.

  10. Why is the title of this article an assertion? The Fox News talking head was not asserting that there was a connection between climate change and volcanoes on the moon, he was asking Bill Nye if such a connection existed. Was it a silly question? Absolutely, but let`s not mince words.

  11. Looking at the question in the best possible light, I think the point is that climate can change quite a bit even without human involvement.

    If it’s true, then it enhances the case for skepticism on the attribution question.

  12. I am going to play the eternal optimist card here:

    To me, it seems like the interviewer was suggesting that volcanic activity can be connected to climate change. I thought that there was some basis in science for this view (someone help here?!). And in his own way was saying that as climate change is thought to be aggravated by the burning of fossil fuels, that can result in more volcanic activity. So did the fact that there were these volcanoes burning without any fossil fuels having been burned have any effect on the debate regarding fossil fuels and climate change.

    It came across as him being surprised that volcanoes could happen without the burning of fossil fuels. But he at least seemed to suggest that fossil fuels and climate change are linked, which is good as I somehow expected Fox to be deniers.

    ?!?!

  13. I’m not a particularly huge fan of market analysts, on the whole… but aren’t they giving them a little less credit than they deserve by suggesting “number crunching”?

    Do they honestly think that these poor bastards tasked with repairing a global economic collapse haven’t tried using maths? It sounds insulting, is all I’m saying.

    Bill Nye rocks as well… I figured that was implicit, though.

  14. I don’t leave many comments on this site (and don’t come here often), and the ones I do leave relate to politics in some way. But this post and the associated comments are entertaining in their cognitive dissonance.

    I learned about Ms. Watson and this site through the SGU podcast – I’m a huge fan. On that, and at times on this blog, the Huffington Post is used as a punchline for it’s pseudoscientific slant. However, on other matters, it’s cited approvingly here and elsewhere on the left side of the isle for its political reporting.

    Unlike the HuffPo, however, on this site Fox News on routinely derided as a propaganda mouthpiece for the right side of the isle. And, when an anchor (not a ‘talking head’) asks an admittedly asinine question, one for which his motive is unclear from the video, this is supposedly because of Fox’s nefarious right wing slant.

    To recap: HuffPo’s horrible science reporting, no relation to it’s actual left-wing bias. Fox’s horrible science reporting, it’s an extreme right-wing noise machine with an agenda.

    For self-proclaimed skeptics this is an interesting train of reasoning. And I’m not trying to paint with too broad of a brush, I realize not all of the commenters profess to hold these views.

    Now, for some actual science about the political bias of varying news organizations, I’d suggest taking a look at the work of UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose. He’s written a book called “Left Turn.” He has a thesis, and he has empirical data to back up his findings. And, in my opinion, his findings will be counterintuitive for many commenters on this site (and Rebecca herself!), but as open-minded skeptics we should be willing to change our opinions as new facts or studies are brought to light….right?

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