Bill Maher & the Scientific Illiterate Left


Real Time with Bill Maher is one of the few shows I love, and can honestly say with a DVR, Xfinity OnDemand, and HBO podcasts, I never miss an episode.  Real Time brings to America something that is missing from almost every other political talk show, Real Time brings opposing views, and then allows them to talk.  It was listening to the podcasted episode from 9/13/13, which prompted this posting.

Bill Maher is an outspoken atheist, something I can really get behind, there aren’t enough people in the popular media who are willing to speak out against all religion   He is also outspoken on the anti-science policies of the conservative right such as; climate change denial, anti-evolution, and basic human sexual reproduction.  However, these are the low hanging fruit, and one would expect an atheist who is as adamantly anti-theist as Bill to speak out against these religious based ideologies.

Bill fails when it comes to issues from the left such as GMO safety, science based medicine, biology, even occasionally fossil fuels.  When it comes to these issues, he displays his scientific illiteracy proudly, making it clear he should remove the plank in his eye prior to commenting on the speck of dust in his political adversary.

Edwin Lyman, Senior Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, was explaining the environmental hazards posed by the damaged Fukushima reactor site which is currently leaking 300 tons of radioactive water a day into the ocean.

“In my assessment the dose associated with the leakage is not an immediate biological threat at this point, but it does tell us It does tell us they [Japan] don’t have control of the site, and that’s very troubling because there is still an enormous amount of radioactive material they have to clean up over the decades”

Bill immediately responds, asking Mr. Lyman why he doesn’t think the current rate of leakage is currently posing an immediate threat.  Mr. Lyman explains how the ocean dilutes, how 300 tons of radioactive water a day diluted into the ocean will not cause seafood or swimming to be any more unsafe.  Bill isn’t having any of that:

“I don’t like that low amount theory……I disagree with lots of people in the medical field about this.  The idea that you know, a small amount of poison is okay. I don’t like any amount of poison”

Mr. Lyman agrees the scientific consensus on radiation exposure is there is no safe level, and then goes on to briefly mention fringe pseudoscience health claims regarding radiation exposure.  It is upon this point that Bill shows his hypocrisy.

“Radiation is good for you?  Who are these people, and let me guess which political party?”

Many chuckles from Bill and the audience as this is an obvious reference to the Republican party, and their proud anti-science views, especially on matters of environmental importance.  Yet Bill seems blind to what he just did, how just moments ago he made an unscientific statement, and is now lampooning the right for making unscientific statements.

This is simply one example, and I’m only picking on Bill because 1, he can take it; and 2 because he is a well known face of the Left whose opinions on science reach a large audience of political like minded people.

Other examples include:

This isn’t just Bill though, this kind of thinking is to the Left what creationism is to the Right

Unscientific thinking permeates the culture, and is embraced by the Left and when it comes to food is mainstream.  Organic, farm raised, natural fill in the blank foods are hailed as more healthy than genetically modified foods, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.  Lost on the left is understanding that everything is a chemical, including water.  Supplements, vitamins, anti-oxidants, immune system boosters, detoxification, all pseudo-science happily being pushed by the Left into mainstream, none supported by actual double blind clinic trials.

As I stated above, I love watching and listening to Real Time, however one needs to listen with a grain of salt, and remember that when it comes to allowing one’s personal beliefs to color one’s understanding and acceptance of science, Bill is no better than those he is criticizing.

David Gorski from the Science Based Medicine blog did an excellent and thorough piece on this topic back in 2009 here.  Also big thanks to the Skeptoid Podcast, and to Twitchy for links.

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About Trans-Atheist

Trans* and an Atheist. Frequently in need of a hug, never in need of a prayer.

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