Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Denialists In The Canadian Classroom

In the last couple of weeks, stories in the American media have appeared  outlining how the Heartland Institute has been plotting to sneak climate change denialism onto the U.S. K12 curriculum.  Unfortunately, we in Canada are way ahead of them. As I have noted previously, Tom Harris (once of the discredited Friends of Science,  later with the discredited Natural Resources Stewardship Project, now with a discredited international group whose name I forget) has been allowed to teach a 2nd year course on Climate Science to non-science majors at Carleton University.  Naturally, Canadian journos are too science-ignorant to have made a fuss, but the UK Guardian arrives this morning with a story on the topic:

An associate of the Heartland Institute, the thinktank devoted to discrediting climate change, taught a course at a top Canadian university that contained more than 140 false, biased and misleading claims about climate science, an expert audit has found.

The course at Ottawa's Carleton University, which is being accused of bias, was taught for four terms from 2009-2011 by Tom Harris, a featured expert at the Heartland Institute.

Others can go into the details of the Audit, which can be found here (direct link here).  In any case, I've written plenty on Tom Harris.  But to understand quickly why his course is crap, here's a sample of the student feedback to it:

Great prof, awesome course with alternative views on global warming. I managed an A+ and I am doing an arts degree, not science. I find it hard to believe any science students had a hard time with it.
Yeah, kid, if you're doing arts and had no trouble with a science course, you've been pandered too AND been conned out of a portion of your tuition fees.  And I know whereof I speak; I attended (If you can hold a fork, you can go to) York U, which is barely a half step up from (If you can walk and talk, you can go to) Brock.  In other words I know all about academic mediocrity.  This is mediocre stuff even by Carleton's standards.

In any case, Tom Harris and Carleton can blather on about academic freedom all they want (I hear Tom is due on Sun TV in the near future), but if you want to know what the guy is really on about, here's a quote of his from Free Dominion:

 I completely agree with fourhorses that the ultimate aim is to create a situation where the CPC can say assertively, "The science no longer supports the assumptions of the Kyoto Accord."

However, politically this cannot be done overnight without the Conservatives taking what they consider to be an unacceptable hit (do people think they would really lose votes with this statement (from Canadians who would otherwise vote for them, that is?).

So, the solution put on this site a little while ago by Tina is one I would support as well - namely, they don't take sides at all and admit they don't know and so are holding unbiased, public hearings in which scientists from both sides are invited to testify. The resulting chaos, with claims all over the map, will do enough to thoroughly confuse everyone (which is appropriate, actually, since the science is so immature and, frankly, confusing) and take the wind out of the sails of the "we are causing a climate disaster and must stop it" camp entirely, and the CPC can quietly turn to important issues without really having had to say much at all.

Nuff said.


mauser98 said...
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Holly Stick said...

A commenter here (near the bottom) says Carleton U says Harris is no longer teaching this course:

Good riddance! I think Tim Patterson had something to do with getting Harris to teach the course, and perhaps also F. Michel.

See also

bigcitylib said...

His course has been rotated out as part of the natural scheme at Carleton. Hopefully, after this it will not be rotated back in.