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December 4, 2011 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Penn Jillette: An Atheist's Guide to the 2012 Election. [SLYT] Via BigThink, "A knowledge forum featuring the ideas, lessons, stories and advice of leading experts from around the world."
posted by furiousxgeorge (103 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
penn jillette happens to be a little 'randy', fyi
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:03 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jillette is an atheist, libertarian (he has stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist), and skeptic, as well as an adherent to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy [...] In January 2007, Jillette took the "Blasphemy Challenge" offered by the Rational Response Squad and publicly denied the existence of a holy spirit. His cars' license plates read "atheist", "nogod", and "godless". "Strangely enough, they wouldn't give me 'Infidel,'" he says.

In 2005 he wrote and read an essay for National Public Radio claiming that he was "beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God ... I believe there is no God." His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout. [...]

Jillette has stated that there is not enough information to make an informed decision on global warming, and that it is an emotion versus logic issue.


Heh.

I'm an athiest, and yet, guys like this always get me thinking of the Bible.
posted by kagredon at 10:12 PM on December 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Jillette always manages to make us hardline rationalist god-deniers look even MORE like smarmy assholes than we need to be. Sheesh, that guy..
posted by FatherDagon at 10:17 PM on December 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Jillette has stated that there is not enough information to make an informed decision on global warming, and that it is an emotion versus logic issue.

That's a gross misrepresentation of his position. He has stated that there HE is not qualified to make an informed decision on global warming.
posted by unigolyn at 10:23 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Penn Jillette: To be fair (and it's always important to be fair when one is being mean-spirited, sanctimonious and self-righteous), "I don't know" can be a very bad answer when it is disingenuous. You can't answer "I don't know if that happened" about the Holocaust.

But the climate of the whole world is more complicated. I'm not a scientist, and I haven't spent my life studying weather. I'm trying to learn what I can, and while I'm working on it, isn't it OK to say "I don't know"?


Well, the universe is a lot more complex, so Penn might want to consider becoming an agnostic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:25 PM on December 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


Objectivists are the asshole branch of Atheism anyway, the ones who lack the humanity to be Humanist.

And Penn is not qualified to make an informed decision on a lot of things.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:25 PM on December 4, 2011 [41 favorites]


Jillette has stated that there is not enough information to make an informed decision on global warming, and that it is an emotion versus logic issue.

I'm sympathetic to this viewpoint. I don't think there's enough information to make the call definitively, either. We're not talking gravity, or evolution, or special relativity here. Certainly not to the extent that propagandists on either side would like to have you believe. However, I think there is enough evidence and logic behind global warming, and the consequences of making the wrong call are such that we should behave as if it were a proven fact.

There are a lot of people on the left who are pushing global warming because they have an anti-pollution, conservationist, anti-industrial, anti-capitalist bias, and global warming is a convenient hammer to beat their political opponents with. And there are a lot of well funded think tanks on the right pushing the opposite agenda for their own selfish reasons.

I'm more sympathetic to the left's agenda, and I'm mostly convinced by what I've read about global warming so far, so I tend to side with them in arguments, but there's a skeptical, rationalist part of me that bristles every time someone on the left who clearly has no idea what they're talking about shouts down a global warming skeptic with arguments from authority, etc.

I'd love if people could have a sincere debate about it, but there's so much at stake on both sides that people just plant their flags and defend it to the death, logic and evidence be damned.

And what do you do about the fact that people that need to be convinced -- voters -- are generally going to be lazy and uninformed and aren't going to bother to research or get educated on their own? It's really hard to be the guy arguing 'Well, probably, maybe" when the other side is arguing "Absolutely and Definitely".
posted by empath at 10:27 PM on December 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


Penn jumped the shark after Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends (the video, not the book).
posted by jeremy b at 10:32 PM on December 4, 2011


This is the video that Wikipedia cites for that sentence. At around 0:45, he says "There's not enough information," but I can accept that he might have overstated what he meant. However, this (from furiousxgeorge's link):

Maybe they're right, but is there no room for "maybe"? There's a lot of evidence, but global warming encompasses a lot of complicated points: Is it happening? Did we cause it? Is it bad? Can we fix it? Is government-forced conservation the only way to fix it?

is weaselling, sorry. Lumping in "Is it happening?" (which is a demonstrable, evidence-based question) with "Is government-forced conservation the only way to fix it?" (which can certainly be approached with evidence, but has considerably more shading to it) and then shrugging at all of it as though there's no way for an educated person to make and stand by an informed decision is horseshit, and doing that while claiming to expose "bullshit" from people who do use evidence and come to conclusions and propose solutions is even worse.
posted by kagredon at 10:33 PM on December 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


But the climate of the whole world is more complicated. I'm not a scientist, and I haven't spent my life studying weather. I'm trying to learn what I can, and while I'm working on it, isn't it OK to say "I don't know"?

Perhaps Jillette should try to learn something from the people who ARE scientists and who HAVE spent their lives studying weather. Just because you admit your own ignorance of the subject, it does not follow that any discussion of the subject by other people is therefore illegitmate.

And on preview, what kagredon said as well.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:35 PM on December 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


With the opposing view The Moral Majority.

Silence the moneyed few.
posted by pianomover at 10:36 PM on December 4, 2011


what bothers me about dudes like that is they may have the potential to make things trendy by opposing them, which can be a Bad Thing if they are in favor of drug law leniency or greater secularism
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:37 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


what bothers me about dudes like that is they may have the potential to make things trendy by opposing them

I call it South Park Privilege.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:40 PM on December 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Amusing initially, but his conclusion runs off the rails. Religion has always included loony elements with which the plutocrats gas light the plebes. It's a feature, not a bug.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:40 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a huge fan of him due to everything most of y'all have said, but watching the video, and the discussion about the term "Christian" coming about in the 60s due to the abortion issue to unite the various sects and made it much larger than it used to be (i.e. removed the factionalism) was interesting (he said it's not his thoughts - so I googled the book he mentioned "A Short History of Freethought"). He gets a bit insufferable when he does the fundie atheist hammering the point home about why religion is bad, but the historical approach he talked about was fascinating!
posted by symbioid at 10:41 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I should add, that I see parallels of the facionalism of left-wing movements (and thus what ends up making them unsuccessful - and perhaps the democrats, as well) and the attempt of solving such a thing with the Occupy/99% movement to unite across the aisle for a mass movement approach.

I think I should go back and read The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, because she discusses the rise of the modern Christian Right movement, and I'd like to see her view on this concept of unification of the various sects.
posted by symbioid at 10:44 PM on December 4, 2011


Jillette isn't just "Agnostic" on global warming, he did a whole episode of his show "Bullshit" claiming that it was, well, bullshit.
In Episode 13, season 1 of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! they try to prove the global warming crisis, among other things, was created by the out of control imagination of hysterical hippies and environmentalists. This is why the episode is titled "Environmental Hysteria". We would just like to point out that Penn Jillette is a research fellow of the ExxonMobil and Industry funded CATO institute which has strong minarchist leanings. This gives Penn Jillete a conflict of interest when it comes to any topic that might require government regulation. During the show he puts Tobacco and Oil funded lobbyists against hippie college protesters.
The man is a bought and paid for global warming denier. Not "agnostic", not someone who "doesn't know", he's a guy who's out there misleading people about what's going on, claiming that it's a conspiracy of of scientists, etc. Fuck him.
penn jillette happens to be a little 'randy', fyi
Jillette is married to Emily Zolten and has a daughter Moxie CrimeFighter and a son Zolten Penn.

That's odd, but I wouldn't really call it 'randy'. I don't really know what his personal life has to do with anything.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on December 4, 2011 [33 favorites]


I didn't know that Jillette was an Objectivist. That's some bug-nut, batshit crazy shit right there. I lost a lot of respect for him just now, learning that. Ah, well. I guess I can be as generous about it toward him as he is to the Christians he discusses in this video.

For those who didn't watch it, he pretty much says almost nothing regarding comparing the politicians aspiring to be President (or remain President). A little bit, but not really that much. Mostly, he rants.

And, honestly, there's some good ranting in there and I couldn't help but find myself in complete agreement. And I'm an atheist who really dislikes the so-called New Atheists and often defends theists. But, you know, what he discusses here (what we might call the "No, really, God told me to do it" defense) and then the bit at the end, about how it seems like Christians who say they believe the Bible as literal truth must be speaking in some kind of code because they can't possibly actually believe that...well, I confess I've thought that sort of thing on a regular basis for most of my life.

Really, though, what Jillette and, honestly, myself don't understand is the simple common reality of human cognitive inconsistency and that it is, frankly, functional and adaptive. We hyper-rationalists are freaks, and quite possibly maladapted to our environment because of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:47 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's odd, but I wouldn't really call it 'randy'. I don't really know what his personal life has to do with anything.

Ah, I think they meant RANDy, as in Ayn Randy. As in Objectivist douchebag.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:49 PM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


And his global warning denialism is also bug-nut batshit crazy nonsense, too. But, hey, he already went around the bend when he embraced Objectivism. I'll repeat what I often say: Objectivism is cargo cult philosophy. It's only very superficially philosophical and it is only a relative ignorance that allows its believers to fail to recognize this truth.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:50 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Penn Jillette in this video: "You either believe that Obama is a man of Christ, he prays on what to do, or you believe he's a liar"

A politician? Lying? Heavens to Betsy!?

Anyway I'm not really sure what his point is about this. Of course politicians lie. I think Obama is one of those "weak" religious people who sort of split hairs about the semantics of the word 'god' rather then making decisions about the actual concepts that atheists and 'most' Christians are talking about.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like it's only a matter of time before he's on Monday Night Football.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:55 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course Obama lies about his religion, a Muslim could not really get elected.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:56 PM on December 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Are you trolling your own thread, furiousXgeorge?
posted by joe lisboa at 11:00 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it's more of an indictment of American culture (and neither atheism nor religion) that another atheist luminary is Bill Maher, the popular face of vaccine denial. Dawkins? Hitchens? The late great Douglas Adams? All British imports.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:00 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, just snarking it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:00 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


another atheist luminary is Bill Maher, the popular face of vaccine denial.

I thought this needed corroboration, so from wikipedia:
Maher responded to the criticism, noting, "What I've read about what they think I'm saying is not what I've said. I'm not a germ theory denier. I believe vaccinations can work. Polio is a good example. Do I think in certain situations that inoculating Third World children against malaria or diphtheria, or whatever, is right? Of course. In a situation like that, the benefits outweigh costs. But to me living in Los Angeles? To get a flu shot? No."[59] (see Vaccine controversy)
posted by Chuckles at 11:07 PM on December 4, 2011


Interestingly, research finds that Americans are more willing to vote for a Muslim for President than an atheist. And people are less inclined to trust atheists than, say, a known rapist. I'm not saying they're right to do so, but that's the way it is. People assume that morality arises necessarily from religious belief. That this is the case, and that this is so baffling to we atheists, signifies a very wide chasm between the theist and atheist worldviews and experience. It's exactly the sort of thing as Jillette's inability to understand how theists can believe self-evidently crazy things that would seem to require the theists to be crazy and yet somehow they manage to be self-evidently not-crazy.

People live in a deeply irrational haze of confusion. Some of us a little bit less so. That Jillette is an Objectivist who denies global warming and Maher is a antivax nut just proves that this is so. And Dawkins thought "meme" was a nifty idea. Hitchens? Fuck Hitchens.

Can't think of anything to say against Douglas Adams, though.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:07 PM on December 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Douglas Adams passed before pop atheists were insufferable talking heads. God rest Asimov as well.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:13 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And as for Bill Maher and vaccination and germ theory, here are some links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSg6lG3cvTE
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/11/bill_maher_flames_out_over_vaccines.php
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/08/bill_maher_antivaccination_wingnut.php
posted by Apocryphon at 11:18 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is Better Atheist Libertarian Literature than Any Ayn Rand Book.

How the "Babel Fish" May Promote Ethnocide.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:20 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's more of an indictment of American culture (and neither atheism nor religion) that another atheist luminary is Bill Maher, the popular face of vaccine denial. Dawkins? Hitchens? The late great Douglas Adams? All British imports.

We had Carlin.

signifies a very wide chasm between the theist and atheist worldviews and experience. It's exactly the sort of thing as Jillette's inability to understand how theists can believe self-evidently crazy things that would seem to require the theists to be crazy and yet somehow they manage to be self-evidently not-crazy.

I don't know, I try to be really wary of this kind of mentality. It's easy to say "Well, the only way that someone could've arrived at this conclusion is through irrationality," (I admit that I have a nasty tendency to indulge in this where Objectivists and libertarians are concerned) but that tends to lead to invalidating the lived experiences and knowledge of other people. I'm not an atheist because I'm way more rational than the average person; I'm an atheist because I have never encountered evidence that was, to me, compelling proof of a god or gods. And, you know, I looked for it. Praying, reading books on different religions, meditation, Wicca (which was kind of fun because I learned about all kinds of symbology), and in the end I never experienced any sort of change or revelation compared to my baseline, agnostic state. But, you know, other people do. And there are neurochemical explanations for why that would be (and had I, as a preteen, experienced some sort of transcendental moment, I'd probably try to start furiously replicating that experiment to better document and compare against the neurochemical hypothesis), but in the end, people who believe in God are doing so based on their knowledge, perception, and experiences--just like me. That we've come to opposite conclusions does not mean we were using fundamentally different methods.
posted by kagredon at 11:20 PM on December 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was assuming this would be one of those fun documentary bits with wacky photos. Instead, it's a blowhard bloviating in front of a white void for almost 20 minutes. I've stopped watching it. Does he talk about Jon Huntsman at any point? Or for more hilarity, does he talk about libertarian favorite and evolution not-believer anti-abortion, the good Dr. Ron Paul?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:26 PM on December 4, 2011


Penn Jillette is not right about everything, and the climate change issue has tripped him up because it has become an issue of Science vs. Business. As we just discussed a couple days ago, humans are super-bad at fairly evaluating positions we don't like. It bothers me when P&T point out that such-and-so from one thinktank is saying ridiculous shit and then put someone from the Cato Institute on the air. But I'd rather we had more people like Penn than the alternatives.

Penn is a person with whom you can have a reasonable disagreement, unlike the Republican candidates he's discussing in this video.

But you know, sure. Whatever. Let's just snark. Ok.
posted by kavasa at 11:27 PM on December 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ἀπόκρυφον, those are not links, they're URLs. No offense intended, but it's better if you link to stuff from explanatory text.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:33 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I've got some friends, close friends really. Two of these are mefites, though one of them never actually contributed anything but the $5... anyway...

Friend one is a secular humanist (as I am) who was mid-way through a PhD program in religion before quitting that to go to law school. Friend Two is Catholic, and is a PhD candidate in Biblical Literature at Catholic University of America. Friend Three is also Catholic, to about the same extent as Friend Two, and is also Objectivist.

And none of these people are like you'd expect given what I've just told you about them. Friend One, for instance, is by far the most conservative of the three. Friend Two can kick any of our asses in explaining why the Bible is not literally true and will be happy to do so. Friend Three (who has shifted and adapted his personal philosophy a lot in the time I've known him) embraces a very holistic view of Objectivism, wherein not only should one not live his life for another (the part everyone knows) but nor should they allow anyone to live their life for him (the part libertarians tend to forget.) In some ways this view has seemed almost karmic, as when in the first time I met him and we were out to dinner with mutual friends and I had little money, he bought me dinner because he trusted that if we kept hanging out it would all work out close to equal in the end.

All three are also staggeringly smart. I don't know if Friend Three would describe himself as Objectivist anymore (he made a point to me a year or so ago of saying that he was officially a liberal now) but I know that his Objectivist foundations were not crazy so much as idealistic. I don't subscribe to them at all, but in his view we all had something to offer, and all needed one another, and his philosophy was about seeking human equality within those boundaries.

Anyway...

I don't love Penn Jillette but I found this video interesting and (until the last few minutes) shockingly even-keeled. I believe that the "code" for biblical literalism is that it is the simplest way of saying, "I submit entirely to the authority of God," without having to explain personally how that manifests. Biblical literalism is, after all, a refusal to admit that the text is open to interpretation. It's not an accident that this claim is most often made by Republican politicians. the Republican Party is by general trend far more authoritarian than the Democratic party and this claim is the ultimate appeal to authority. I think people are also capable of a sort of cognitive dissonance, especially if it is drilled into them when they were young, that the early days written about in the Bible were full of Divine and Satanic magic the likes of which simply isn't seen today. Hence the lack of the "God Told Me To" defense.

But anyway, on a tangent, I was hanging out with Friend Two tonight, who is going into his last week of this semester which involves learning a lot of German and studying the implications of the differences in order of the Psalms in the common Bible we generally know, versus the order as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I learned that:

1. There are people who try to derive meaning out of the order of the Psalms.
2. There is a not-insignificant group of Dead Sea Scrolls enthusiasts who are apparently a highly schismatic, eschatalogical cult.
3. The grand majority of Biblical scholars put no stock into the idea of the Psalms being written by David, and those who do are forced to rely on a theory of David prophesying events five hundred years after his lifetime.

And many other things. But early on in the conversation I mentioned that looking for meaning in the order of the Pslams pushed things way too far into Dan Brown territory for me to take it seriously, and he agreed, saying, "It's the Bible. If you're looking for something, you'll find it."

Which is the most concise description of religion, both the good and bad aspects, that I've ever heard.

To elaborate on my earlier explanation of the "code" of biblical literalism, think of it through that lens. It is a book which can confirm any belief the reader wishes to impose upon it, more or less. When one says that they believe fully in the text, they are seeming to claim that none of it is metaphor (aside, I guess, from the parts specifically stated as metaphor?) and thus clear and clean in its message. In reality, it means, "I believe what you believe and cannot be shaken from that position." No matter that what one reader takes away from the Bible will be unlike what any other reader takes away from it - if the position is that it is literally true, there can be only one interpretation, right?

Wrong, but we humans are myopic enough to see things that way anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:38 PM on December 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anyone read Jillette's novel, Sock? It was shockingly entertaining, if you can look past the bombastic table-pounding Objectivist Lessons We Must Learn contained therein. Just about every sentence contains a quote, hidden or not, from a pop song. Puzzling out the pastiche of musical references makes for a fun read.

Preachy as all hell, though.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:49 PM on December 4, 2011


2. There is a not-insignificant group of Dead Sea Scrolls enthusiasts who are apparently a highly schismatic, eschatalogical cult.

This is fascinating, do you have links to this? I dearly want this to be true.
posted by empath at 11:54 PM on December 4, 2011


Jillette does that Bill O'Reilly thing where he says "Oh, I'm not smart enough to make this call" in a tone that says "and neither is anyone else, and you are foolish if you pick a side, so stick with what feels right".

I used to listen to his radio show and enjoyed it immensely. But I realized/remembered that he is an illusionist, and the patter is all about misdirection. He is really good at talking and *sounding* like he is saying logical things.
posted by gjc at 12:00 AM on December 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


But you know, sure. Whatever. Let's just snark. Ok.
The problem is people were downplaying his denialism, cherry-picking reasonable sounding quotes to make it sound like he thinks global warming is a reasonable idea and he's just not a scientist so he won't personally make a declaration, when in fact he's basically carrying the denial banner, slandering scientists, and producing essentially right-wing think-tank denialist propaganda.

The point is, let's not bullshit his views on global warming.
posted by delmoi at 12:02 AM on December 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


empath: I'll need to wait until my friend is awake again to ask him for more info on that, but I'll provide links when I can.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 AM on December 5, 2011


"You either believe that Obama is a man of Christ, he prays on what to do, or you believe he's a liar"

Thankfully, we know from C.S. Lewis that there is always that third option...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:15 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


as well as an adherent to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy

I have a lot of other problems with Penn, but this is just not true. He openly advocates charity.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:22 AM on December 5, 2011


Delmoi is correct, look at the link. In the Bullshit episode he says:

15:50 Penn says "they must remember we are still gathering information..... we are not sure yet!"

His position goes beyond personal ignorance to claim universal ignorance, and he uses a lot of FUD to make that case.

That said, you aren't going to find very many people on Metafilter to defend an "I" or a "We" statement there so we can probably do without hitting this topic much further.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:22 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, we know from C.S. Lewis that there is always that third option...

That's a fascinating and logical argument which refuses to believe that a revolutionary moral philosophy could come from someone mad enough to believe that he was, in fact, God.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:43 AM on December 5, 2011


From the Wikipeda article linked by Philosopher Dirtbike: Lewis's trilemma is based on the view that, in his words and deeds, Jesus was asserting a claim to be God.

The trilemma falls apart when we find that Jesus never existed.
posted by fredludd at 1:09 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or that Jesus never claimed to be god.
posted by empath at 1:15 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of other problems with Penn, but this is just not true. He openly advocates charity.

Yeah, I just listened to the WTF interview this week. Penn is really big on altruism, which certainly does not jibe with Rand. He's definitely more towards the anarcho-capitalist collectivist sort of thought, where the fortunate take care of the unfortunate willingly, than the objectivist sort of thought, where the unfortunate deserve to die.

He may claim that he's an objectivist, but this is not consistent with his other stated views.

Which is weird, because it's not like Ayn Rand is difficult or anything. Penn seems like a smart guy, and he should be able to realize that his stated embrace of altruism is at absolute odds with objectivism.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:49 AM on December 5, 2011


Dawkins thought "meme" was a nifty idea.

yes and..? how does that discredit him at all

anyway my prediction is that as the living situation in USA deteriorates people will turn to religion in increasing numbers and find reasons to think people who hate it are lame and that we need some kind of moral authority even if the stories arent technically true

this of course only really applies to the big two religions, though; if you are in a minority set that isnt allied with them you can bet things will get worse for you, as for all marginal/small groups, let alone those that can be entered by 'choice'

full disclosure i basically believe in PKD's god monster from "faith of our fathers"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:22 AM on December 5, 2011


Jilette is inconsistent in his adherence to objectivism, but he's very much an adherent; a simple search for his name and Rand's produces a wealth of material in which he quotes Rand, or recommends her books.

It's the same with Maher. And so we have two of America's most public voices against religion espousing a political philosophy that is unproven, ahistoric, and relies entirely on faith to support. Bravo.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:49 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


When atheism/religion is the topic of 'Big Think' it just makes me think of Mitchell & Webbs Big Talk: Is God Real?
posted by ts;dr at 4:08 AM on December 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


You can't answer "I don't know if that happened" about the Holocaust. But the climate of the whole world is more complicated. I'm not a scientist, and I haven't spent my life studying weather. I'm trying to learn what I can, and while I'm working on it, isn't it OK to say "I don't know"?

Why does climate science get special treatment for being so hard? By his standard, since he's not a historian, how can he assess if David Irving isn't really the one who's right about the Holocaust?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:56 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


He has stated that there HE is not qualified to make an informed decision on global warming.

To be sure. Somehow, the spectacle of a man who believes himself to be capable of conclusively disproving the existence of a God, yet incapable of having a well-informed opinion on a scientific hypothesis says everything that needs to be said about our age of rampant bullshit.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:32 AM on December 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


The worst part is that all this had made it impossible for me to enjoy Penn and Teller as stage performers, which they were great at.

Yes, Houdini debunked spiritual mediums. Yes, James Randi debunks spirit healers. That doesn't mean Penn and Teller have to debunk recycling, especially as they have repeatedly shown themselves to be lazy thinkers whose debunking technique seems to convince almost entirely of assembling cherry picked talking heads of the opposition who sound especially foolish and then screaming about what idiots they are.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:33 AM on December 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


convince? Consist!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:33 AM on December 5, 2011


Obama may be the "churchiest" by Penn's metric, but Penn is asking the wrong question. The right question is "Does this politician understand and respect the principle of separation of church and state?" Because it was G.W. Bush, not Obama, who brought us "faith based initiatives", and it is the Republican fringe who constantly seeks to enact legislation rooted in (their narrow interpretation of) the Bible, shoving their own religious tenets into the lives of everyone else.


delmoi: [Penn Jillette] is a bought and paid for global warming denier...

This really saddens me. How is it that I have been following the skeptical community for years and not know this? I've heard countless interviews with Penn Jillette, and hell, the guy is a noted skeptic. He's on the right side of other skeptic hot-button and atheist issues, how the fuck can he ally himself with the cranks and the cynical liars who continue to spout FUD about climate change?

I have heard him go off the rails into Objectivist territory, though. Most recently, at the end of his interview with Marc Maron. His take on things was interesting, if unrealistic: People are basically good, so they will help each other without being forced to do so by government. This stood in contrast to what I usually think about libertarians; namely, that they're hiding behind Objectism because they're selfish fucks who don't want to pay taxes and don't recognize any obligations of the individual to society.

Penn's reasoning reminded me of the South Park episode where Stan and Kyle confront college hippie anarchists: posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:35 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


And so we have two of America's most public voices against religion espousing a political philosophy that is unproven, ahistoric, and relies entirely on faith to support. Bravo.

That's why I'm a big believer in the law of the Conservation of BS. You can get people to stop believing in one source of BS (like religion) but something else will just pop up. This is where many atheists get things wrong. Religion is not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem. Getting rid of religion doesn't solve anything, since the problem is our minds.

People just aren't good reasoners, and just because you managed to doubt one silly thing that lots of other people believe doesn't mean a whole lot by itself. If you're outspoken about your beliefs, there will be something in there that is just plain stupid.

Personally, I believe that the entire world is ruled by intelligent donuts, but don't ask me to back that up.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


That's why I'm a big believer in the law of the Conservation of BS. You can get people to stop believing in one source of BS (like religion) but something else will just pop up.

Then what's mine? Then what's yours?
posted by JHarris at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2011


That's why I'm a big believer in the law of the Conservation of BS. You can get people to stop believing in one source of BS (like religion) but something else will just pop up.

Then what's mine? Then what's yours?


Yours? You secretly believe you are a brain in a jar.

Seriously, though, the "Conservation of BS" is not to be taken exactly, of course. I have no doubt that some people are marginally better reasoners than others, but I think it is important to be humble and keep in mind we all suffer from the exact same thing that causes other peoples' ridiculous beliefs: a human mind.

Also, we have to remember that even our tendency to believe silly things has good side effects, like trust, love, optimism, and creativity. All the monuments put up to all the gods in human history are really monuments to ourselves and our ability to see things that aren't there in really wild and interesting ways.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, in that Mark Maron interview, Gillette snuck in a sentence that made me question his quality as a thinker. It was something like, "It's easy to have universal health care when you share a border with America." Implying that's the only way Canada's system can work. That was just plain shitty. Really, dude? You're just going to ignore all of Europe?

Staying with the Lewis trilemma thing, it was either a clumsy bit of sophistry, or some piss-poor thinking.

However, in another part of the interview, he quotes his partner, Teller, about these wars we keep fighting, "Using money we don't have, to kill people we don't know, for reasons we don't understand."
posted by Trochanter at 8:42 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gillette started to lose me in that Maron interview right about the time he opined that America is becoming "more Socialist." Talk about WTF!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2011


I had no idea he was a Randian, so pretty much the whole last half hour of that Maron interview was like watching Heather Locklear in this classic SNL sketch.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:54 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "sharing a border with the US" trope is almost a standard argument from the right that I've heard when it comes to social services/military spending...

"Western Europe has US bases on their land, so they don't need to spend as much on the military, which means they can afford to have health care because they're not spending it on defense like we are..." (and of course included in that is a lot of dog-whistle politics including "welfare" and "lazy" and "we're the daddy of the world"/macho tough guy bullshit)
posted by symbioid at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2011


"It's easy to have universal health care when you share a border with America."

GROAN. No, it's not "easy to have" universal healthcare, ever, especially when you share a border with a country that constantly points out any perceived deficiency with a universal healthcare system in favour of it's own ideal free-market system. You have to fight for it, and continue fighting for it every time some jackass gets elected on a "common-sense"/cutting-taxes/slashing-public-sector platform, and every time some media blowhard tells us how much better it would be if only the rich had access to a second tier of for-pay health care options, and how that would not affect the quality of available care for the rest of us, yadda yadda yadda.

Or maybe I'm misinterpreting his point and he's one of these "you guys are lucky we're here to protect you from Iraq" types.
posted by Hoopo at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to listen to his radio show too, which was great whenever he stayed away from politics. He called himself Libertarian, but he managed to repeat every current right wing talking point.
posted by rfs at 10:18 AM on December 5, 2011


Obama may be the "churchiest" by Penn's metric, but Penn is asking the wrong question. The right question is "Does this politician understand and respect the principle of separation of church and state?" Because it was G.W. Bush, not Obama, who brought us "faith based initiatives"

Obama supports them too. He differs a bit from Bush on discriminatory practices in hiring for faith based charities but in general he is okay with taxpayer money going to churches.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:56 AM on December 5, 2011


Somehow, the spectacle of a man who believes himself to be capable of conclusively disproving the existence of a God
posted by octobersurprise at 2:32 PM on December 5


And where, exactly, did he claim to be capable of that?
posted by Decani at 11:03 AM on December 5, 2011


Jilette's interview with Maron really left me thinking. He's clearly a smart guy, and I believe that he's well-meaning. But in the back half of that interview, he just sat there and spouted horseshit that falls apart if you think about it for even a second (the aforementioned US-Canada health care thing, his use of Lasik as a model for whole health care should be implemented, his repeated "the well-meaning rich will feed people!" assertion).

In the end, I think he's just a prime example of a pretty smart guy who hammers every incoming fact into unrecognizable shapes so that it'll fit into his preexisting worldview.
posted by COBRA! at 11:09 AM on December 5, 2011


Here's an LA Times op-ed piece frmo 2008 where Penn clarifies his stance on global warming.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:43 AM on December 5, 2011


That doesn't mean Penn and Teller have to debunk recycling, especially as they have repeatedly shown themselves to be lazy thinkers whose debunking technique seems to convince almost entirely of assembling cherry picked talking heads of the opposition who sound especially foolish and then screaming about what idiots they are.

I'm starting to think that this Michael Moore school of documentary (to be fair, Moore does use other techniques- some no less fallacious or agitprop though) is yet another problem in American culture. Maher certainly used it in Religulous. There's too much appeal to ridicule going around.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:43 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the same with Maher. And so we have two of America's most public voices against religion espousing a political philosophy that is unproven, ahistoric, and relies entirely on faith to support. Bravo.
Maher is an Objectivist? That seems kind of hard to buy given the fact he's a hard-core liberal. I catch his show every once in a while and he's expressed admiration for euro-style socialism. Hardly something Rand would appreciate.
Why does climate science get special treatment for being so hard? By his standard, since he's not a historian, how can he assess if David Irving isn't really the one who's right about the Holocaust?
Well, I'm sure historians will complain about this but do you really need that much special training to understand history? Obviously real historians go back and look at primary source material, but other then that it's just reading.
"Western Europe has US bases on their land, so they don't need to spend as much on the military, which means they can afford to have health care because they're not spending it on defense like we are..." (and of course included in that is a lot of dog-whistle politics including "welfare" and "lazy" and "we're the daddy of the world"/macho tough guy bullshit)
The problem with this argument is that, if it were true, then U.S taxpayers are actually subsidizing all those eurozone perks. In which case the question is why are we doing that? Why should Americans suffer and die due to a lack of healthcare while we make it possible for European and Canadian allies blow cash on social welfare?

It's not a very well thought out argument.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maher is a social libertarian, not an objectivist.

The problem with this argument is that, if it were true, then U.S taxpayers are actually subsidizing all those eurozone perks. In which case the question is why are we doing that? Why should Americans suffer and die due to a lack of healthcare while we make it possible for European and Canadian allies blow cash on social welfare?

It's not a very well thought out argument.


Well, Libertarians will agree we should not be doing that. It's different when you hear it from a Republican.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:59 PM on December 5, 2011


I could respect Penn Jilette's thoughts on Atheism and the elections a bit more, if many of his personal beliefs weren't as dogmatic as the religions he rejects.

Really, how hard do you really have to look in order to realize that Ayn Rand's use of logic was primarily focused on selfishness and self-justification, as opposed to achieving an ideology that was consistent with how things work in the real world? The simple fact is, humans are not purely selfish creatures, while Randians are not benevolent master builders, opposed to hurting others and destroying lives in order to further their own ends. Pure, unrestrained capitalism can be a *very* destructive force, and, contrary to what Rand's writing oftentimes suggests, wealth, liberty, etc. is not a zero-sum game.

Now, Penn Jillette apparently buys into this dogma. (Sometimes, he seems somewhat human(e) about how he approaches it, but stilll... he's been employed by Libertarian think tanks to write, speak, etc. so he's ideologically attached at the hip.) But he's familiar with con-men enough to notice that Rand's beliefs are a kind of con, you'd think. But then again, he's never been one to turn down a buck made in the working of a con, so all's fair, I guess. He's just being ideologically consistent.

Still, I don't see a good reason why someone who is, essentially, the mouthy comic relief apprentice to a significantly better magician should necessarily be taken all that seriously writing an Atheist's guide to anything, really. Yes, he is an Atheist, but he's not a particularly rational one. And that's okay... many aren't. But he certainly doesn't speak for those who aspire to be, by rooting out dogma and fluffy thinking in their own lives, where they see it.

I'm so sorry that the POTUS upsets him because he's not openly atheist enough... not that he ever said he was an atheist at all. Perhaps Juillette should at least be somewhat more rooted in the real world, and realize that politicians have to be more tactful about matters of religion and faith than, say, a professional blowhard?!
posted by markkraft at 1:02 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maher is an Objectivist?

I should have said "espousing political philosophies."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2011


My conservation of BS is that I believe people are generally good at the core and the world is a pretty good place, considering all known alternatives.

If that fails, I might think vitamins, in general, produce good results at a reasonable cost.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal: Why does climate science get special treatment for being so hard? By his standard, since he's not a historian, how can he assess if David Irving isn't really the one who's right about the Holocaust?

delmoi: Well, I'm sure historians will complain about this but do you really need that much special training to understand history? Obviously real historians go back and look at primary source material, but other then that it's just reading.

I don't really see a difference here. It takes a lot of time and specialized knowledge to be able to conduct original research in climate science, and your typical layperson is not going to know how to interpret raw spectral data or build a model, but any literate adult is capable of learning about what major evidence has been collected, reading about the basic arguments, and evaluating how seriously they should take those arguments. For crying out loud, 7th graders learn basic climate science (or, well, they did, until people started believing the lie that there's not enough evidence to treat it as "real" science or teach it in schools.)
posted by kagredon at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm curious if he believes in evolution.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on December 5, 2011


The man is a bought and paid for global warming denier. Not "agnostic", not someone who "doesn't know", he's a guy who's out there misleading people about what's going on, claiming that it's a conspiracy of of scientists, etc. Fuck him.

If you'd actually seen the episode, instead of reading some bullet point summary about it somewhere, you wouldn't be saying that.

The episode was NOT about global warming, and he does NOT get paid by the Cato Institute. He holds a ceremonial title from there, just like P.J. O'Rourke does.

There is plenty of underhanded fearmongering, as well as financial and political profiteering going on in the name of environmentalism. No one, least of all Penn, is telling you to oppose all environmentalism, kit and kaboodle, because they point out aspects of it that they find underhanded. And both he and Teller have publicly stated, on multiple occasions, that they trust the expertise of scientists on this issue.

He's basically techno-utopian in his worldview, and is alarmed by the primitivist current in the environmental movement. As am I. This doesn't mean we disagree with the findings of science, it just means we disagree with non-scientists who are using those findings as tools for pushing through their own political agendas.

I think Penn is a libertarian whackjob. I don't want him in charge of anything. But he doesn't want to be in charge of anything. He speaks his mind about things that he cares about, and sometimes he's on the right side of the issue, and sometimes he isn't.

If you can't handle someone being wrong about something, you're doing this whole society thing wrong.
posted by unigolyn at 2:40 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm curious if he believes in evolution.

Of course he does?

Seriously, MetaFilter, I know this is hippie country, but everyone who disagrees with a certain subset of your beliefs isn't automatically a 700 Club host.
posted by unigolyn at 2:44 PM on December 5, 2011


You may have missed the point. If he doesn't feel qualified to have an opinion on global warming, perhaos he also doesn't feel qualified to have an opinion on evolution.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's clearly a smart guy, and I believe that he's well-meaning. But in the back half of that interview, he just sat there and spouted horseshit that falls apart if you think about it for even a second [...] In the end, I think he's just a prime example of a pretty smart guy who hammers every incoming fact into unrecognizable shapes so that it'll fit into his preexisting worldview.

This is the kind of thing that, when I'm feeling gloomy, makes me despair about the future. I'm smart, I think that smart people are the best hope we have, but over the years I've realized more and more that smart people -- myself included -- are at least as full of shit, bound by ironclad preconception, and locked into spirals of wrongheadedness as anyone else.

Sigh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Being and atheist doesn't make you smart, by default. Who says he's smart?
posted by delmoi at 5:45 PM on December 5, 2011


He is a mensa guy.
posted by Trochanter at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2011


And yet, Jimmy Carter, the religious ex-president mentioned in the video, took time out of his BUSY DAY to write ME a letter! "Dear Sneebler, yadda yadda and so on. We're WAGING PEACE! And you can be a part of it!" (plus three more pages of the same - he put his HEART AND SOUL into it!).

Too bad his reply envelope only works in the US. I'm keeping the letter though - at least until I hear from Bush Jr. or Rick Perry.
posted by sneebler at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is the kind of thing that, when I'm feeling gloomy, makes me despair about the future.

Oh, cheer up. The vulgar materialist consumerism of humanity will drive science and allow us to continue to have fancy technological improvements and toys, despite our inherent species' stupidity. And our current pressing global ecological and economic problems are largely caused by simple animalistic greed and shorts-sightedness, not simply by ideological blindness. So... we're still screwed, but not so much for the reasons you're despairing about, but for other ones.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:12 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's what I don't get. When I don't feel qualified to decide on something, I turn to the experts for advice rather than putting my hands in the air and choosing not to make a stance.

For example, I have no idea how a blood test works or how to tell if I have cancer. But if a doctor tells me a blood test tells me I might have cancer, I pay attention. I don't ask non-doctors for second opinions, or say that cancer is made of tiny cells nobody can see and such tiny cells can't even have an impact on a body made of trillions of cells.

Likewise, if the vast majority of people who study climate trends say there is a large shift in the planet's climate that correlates well with CO2 levels and they have a parsimonious theory to explain how CO2 raises the temperatures, I listen. Especially if the impact of doing nothing creates a slew of potential problems like drought, famine and disease, particularly for the world's least fortunate who lack the infrastructure to adapt.

Thinking otherwise is like thinking doctors are part of a conspiracy to sell false treatments for cancer when homeopathy is the true cure. It's wishful thinking at best, and callously malicious at worst.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:15 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, cheer up.

Do I know you?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:20 PM on December 5, 2011


You may have missed the point. If he doesn't feel qualified to have an opinion on global warming, perhaos he also doesn't feel qualified to have an opinion on evolution.

This assumes he denies that global warming exists. He doesn't.
posted by unigolyn at 10:40 PM on December 5, 2011


This assumes he denies that global warming exists. He doesn't.
He says the same thing about Global Warming that Rick Perry says about Evolution.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 PM on December 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


BECK: Do you believe in the global warming thing?

JILLETTE: I don't know enough. But you have to remember that global warming is all lumped together and it breaks down into many things. Is it happening? Did we cause it? If we caused it, can we stop it? You and I can start pushing a truck down a hill. That doesn't mean we could stop it.

BECK: Right.

JILLETTE: If it's happening and we caused it and we can stop it, is it a bad thing? If all those things are true, is the way to stop it by conservation, and then the other thing is, if all of those things are true, is the way to do that government power? And that all this gets thrown into one question.

BECK: You never hear that conversation.

JILLETTE: As one question.

BECK: Everybody shuts you down. You can't even discuss that. Are you are amazed at how many things we are doing right now that are gigantic, that nobody is even really talking about?

JILLETTE: It always bothers me that when you say there is some more thinking to do on global warming, they deal with you — in some cases — I have been called this literally like you're a Holocaust denier.

BECK: I have been called that, too.

JILLETTE: Because you say you have questions about it, but the truth of the matter is we have never solved anything with conservation. In the '50s, there was a huge shortage of tin, and we tried to conserve tin and then aluminum came along. Now there is more tin than there ever was. It will always be technology. It will always be moving ahead. It probably won't be conservation. And that's if you take all of those others as given. I think the world probably is heating up, but I don't know how much further I'm willing to go than that.


He dances around it, but there is no doubt he denies the existence of a scientific consensus on global warming and its causes. Being clear here, he isn't even denying if the scientists are right or they are wrong, he is acting like they haven't even taken up the questions.

He is correct there needs to be more work on developing the proper solutions, but the sincerity of his concern on the issue is somewhat called into question because he is ON THE GLENN BECK SHOW spreading FUD about science while using the holocaust as a rhetorical sledgehammer.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:24 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


He dances around it, but there is no doubt he denies the existence of a scientific consensus on global warming and its causes. Being clear here, he isn't even denying if the scientists are right or they are wrong, he is acting like they haven't even taken up the questions.

That isn't the way I read it. I take it that he simply doesn't care one way or the other. As I put it to a customer very gently a few weeks ago, "the people of Tuvalu know Global Warming is true, and they need it to stop." Jillette doesn't so much deny it, he just doesn't give a shit about the people of Tuvalu.
posted by Chuckles at 12:34 AM on December 6, 2011



That isn't the way I read it. I take it that he simply doesn't care one way or the other.
Part of the problem with saying "I don't know" is, you know why don't you get educated? I don't know much about Hungarian folk music, but I don't go around talking about how I don't know, I don't have people criticizing me for (supposedly) not knowing and I'm not constantly talking about how I don't know anything about it year after year. Why is there such a strident need to defend ignorance. If it's such an important issue, why not not actually look into it?

You don't need to be a scientist to know that most scientists know global warming is happening.
posted by delmoi at 1:23 AM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


If he's going to bring up Holocaust denial, then one would hope that his "I don't know" is similar to the way Holocaust denial works. They don't say there was no Holocaust. They say they don't know if there were six million people. They say they don't know that there was an organized plan of mass murder. They say they don't know that it wasn't disease that killed the Jews. They say there are so many things we don't know that we can't be sure something called the Holocaust ever happened.

He doesn't know? So he says the same thing you say about the Holocaust: There is a near-total consensus of historians/scientists that it happened, but it's not my bailiwick, so I can't speak to the subject further. "I don't know if it happened" isn't skepticism, it's weaseling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:42 AM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


then one would hope that HE KNOWS that
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:43 AM on December 6, 2011


If you can't handle someone being wrong about something, you're doing this whole society thing wrong.

Old n' busted: You can't handle the truth! New hotness: You can't handle the wrong!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:01 AM on December 6, 2011


He says the same thing about Global Warming that Rick Perry says about Evolution.

Yeah, except the level of evidence for evolution is higher by orders of magnitude, and it's taught in schools, it's the only non-supernatural hypothesis, and there is no financial gain to be had in selling Natural Selection Quotas. Evolution as a political issue is a dichotomy, you either believe it or you don't.

You don't need to be a scientist to know that most scientists know global warming is happening.

He's NOT DENYING THAT IT'S HAPPENING. For fuck's sake.

He's saying there is more than one topic involved in the issue. Is it happening? Did we cause it? Can we stop it? How do we stop it?

He's saying you can't ask a question about "did we cause it?" or even "can we stop it, and how?" without being labeled as a denialist, without the assumption that that you're now some loon who sees a blizzard and thinks this means the earth is not warming at all.

There is scientific consensus on the first two being true. There is no scientific consensus on whether we can stop it or how we can stop it. Politicians and special interests have hijacked the issue at that point.

I don't believe conservation is the answer either, especially not the half-assed conservation of carbon quotas and toothless Kyoto protocols.

Penn believes technology and progress will solve it, like they've solved every other problem humanity has had. And I agree. I would rather Tuvalu gets flooded and we evacuate them to higher ground than erase the past 200 years of progress and make everyone have the standard of living of pre-Western contact Tuvaluans.

If those idiots hadn't developed raft technology, they wouldn't be in this trouble to begin with.
posted by unigolyn at 2:27 AM on December 7, 2011


Part of the problem with saying "I don't know" is, you know why don't you get educated? I don't know much about Hungarian folk music, but I don't go around talking about how I don't know, I don't have people criticizing me for (supposedly) not knowing and I'm not constantly talking about how I don't know anything about it year after year. Why is there such a strident need to defend ignorance. If it's such an important issue, why not not actually look into it?

Because he's not QUALIFIED. And neither are you. The only thing any of us laypeople can do is defer to scientific consensus. Show me where Penn Jillette doesn't defer to scientific consensus.

Climatology is actual hard science, dealing with very complex systems. It's not comparable to "Hungarian folk music".
posted by unigolyn at 2:31 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no scientific consensus on whether we can stop it or how we can stop it.

Eh? I believe that you'll find that scientists are pretty convinced that we have to try to stop it. Whether or not that's possible remains to be seen.

I would rather Tuvalu gets flooded and we evacuate them to higher ground than erase the past 200 years of progress and make everyone have the standard of living of pre-Western contact Tuvaluans.

Oh, sorry, I didn't realize that you were trolling. Carry on.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:46 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's NOT DENYING THAT IT'S HAPPENING. For fuck's sake.

He's saying there is more than one topic involved in the issue. Is it happening? Did we cause it? Can we stop it? How do we stop it?
Sure, but he does seem to be denying the fact that most scientists believe it's happening, that the scientific evidence, given our current understanding is pretty conclusive. The problem is you can be pretty weasel-y with words and if you put together 30 minutes calling global warming "bullshit" you can do it without directly stating it. The problem is that Penn is creating a false impression that it's unlikely global warming is happening compared with the reality that scientific consensus supports it.
Because he's not QUALIFIED. And neither are you. The only thing any of us laypeople can do is defer to scientific consensus. Show me where Penn Jillette doesn't defer to scientific consensus.
Doing a 30 minute TV show calling scientists liars is not "differing to the scientific consensus. If he doesn't know anything about global warming why is he talking about it as a public figure? Why is he deliberately spreading doubt about something he's not qualified to talk about? Like I said, I don't know anything about Hungarian folk music and therefore am not talking about it at conferences and producing propaganda shows about it.
posted by delmoi at 6:15 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck did the same manuver on flu vaccines last year, IIRC. He had a whole show acting like the effectiveness and safety of vaccines were an unknown up to debate. And not, like, empirically tested and documented.

The false doubt thing is an easy way to create deniers or at least people so unsure they won't act. You have to prove a claim that something is certainly false or wrong. Not so when you're just seeding doubt.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:10 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regarding Jillette and the "Environmental hysteria" episode of "Bullshit!", see here.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep, he's not a denier, per se; he just happens to say the exact same things deniers say. Strikes me Penn does that with a lot of his political chatter.

He supposedly has these well reasoned beliefs, and yet, by some slight of hand, VOILA! His little take away bullet points sound like Rick Perry could have said them.

(Again, except about the wars. He's dead right about the wars.)
posted by Trochanter at 7:42 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Climatology is actual hard science, dealing with very complex systems."

So is biology. Yet here we are.

The forms of the argument (Penn is using) are similar in both cases.
Even if he's not explicitly saying he doesn't believe in global warming, the rhetoric and use of it is very similar.

Thus the comparison (and thanks Bunny Ultramod. I typically hate overexplaining but I'm also never sure if someone is going to catch the meaning. You renew my faith. :-)

I can't wait to tell the guys at the rifle range I got called a hippie. On Metafilter.

I don't believe conservation is the answer either, especially not the half-assed conservation of carbon quotas and toothless Kyoto protocols.

Answer to what? Those of us that value the land (I'm a hunter, and so a member of the largest group of financial contributors to the insane hippie environmentalist movement) enjoy the preservation of the natural habitat, not dying in flash floods or mudslides or avalanches because of erosion, stuff like that.

Pisses me off that I spend an hour and a half looking for a spent shell casing while people hurl styrofoam hamburger packaging from their Hummers on the highway denying global warming because they've never gone further than 1/2 a mile from a road.

I don't know anything about the science. Last time I was in Canada though you could see the changes in land that's been the same way its been for hundreds of years.
Porcupine Caribou aren't following the same migration patterns. Somethings going on. Who's doing it, what, what isn't, all that, I have to defer to the science. Although I know drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge would seriously mess Caribou up further.
But then, I've actually been there, and up in the Brooks range, and over in the Yukon, and talked with natives (shared meat,'cause you often can't take it out with you), talked to guides, pilots, other people who live there.
What they have to say lines up with what I've seen.
What Jillette has to say (particularly in "Bullshit!") doesn't.

I don't know anyone who opposes conservation who's been out there and seen it. (Well, one springs to mind, but she "hunts" by helicopter)

Value? Yeah, whole other question. I can see where you're coming from on that angle unigolyn.

I pay fees to support the wilderness above and beyond the taxes that go to preserve our wildlife refuges. I'm outdoors all the time. I go into some goofy places. And when I relax, I go out even further. I love the outdoors. I commune. I eat what I kill. I bury my poop. I leave no trace. I respect nature and understand how it restores my connectedness with other living beings.
In every way that means anything short of living in it (and you can't live in government preserves - legally), it's mine.

Penn Gillette lives in an air conditioned building in a desert in a city surrounded by artificial light even in broad daylight.

So I believe I may have a more personally informed opinion on the value of nature conservation than Penn Jillette.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


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