Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tim Ball and splitting hairs.

Some readers might be curious why I'm making such a big deal of climate change denier and corporate whore Tim Ball's lack of a Ph.D. in "Climatology." It's simple -- it's because he makes such a big deal of claiming to have one.

It's one thing to simply stretch reality just a wee bit and puff up your credentials on the spur of the moment, and hope no one looks too closely. It's quite another when you make that bit of fiction the main hook on which you hang all of your credibility.

A great parallel is when comedian Al Franken took right-wing blowhard and serial liar Bill O'Reilly to task for continually claiming to have won journalism's coveted Peabody award for O'Reilly's former show "Inside Edition," In fact, the show won the Polk award (not quite as prestigious), and that happened after O'Reilly left the show.

Now, that by itself wouldn't be such a big deal, except for the fact that O'Reilly kept rubbing the (fictitious) Peabody awards in everyone's face. As the Washington Post reported (emphasis added):

Investigative humorist Al Franken thought something was amiss when Fox News star Bill O'Reilly -- whose Feb. 10 speech at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach was featured last weekend on C-SPAN's "Book TV" -- claimed that his previous show, the syndicated tabloid "Inside Edition," had won the coveted George Foster Peabody award.

"It seemed strange to me, but he was so adamant," Franken told us ...

Exactly. It's not the false claim that's so grating, it's the fact that O'Reilly used that false claim as a club over and over and tediously over. And when your entire case rests on a claim like that, well, you'd better have all your i's crossed and your t's dotted because, as O'Reilly found out the hard way, when the truth comes out, having your fibbery exposed for the world to see can be a real bitch.

It's the same for Ball -- claiming a Ph.D. in "climatology" when he technically doesn't have one wouldn't be such a big deal, except he never shuts the fuck up about it. It's constantly the first thing out of his mouth, which makes it eminently fair game to demonstrate what kind of lying sack of weasel feces he really is.

And if you need another supporting example, well, it's kind of like Stephen Harper's conservatives, campaigning long and loud against Liberal corruption, then turning out to be just as corrupt and sleazy after they're elected.

Yeah, it's kind of like that.

AFTERSNARK: It should set off warning bells when the claimant starts to subtly change the claim, probably hoping you don't notice. In O'Reilly's case (and from that same WaPo article), we have O'Reilly's story undergoing just a bit of transmogrification, depending on when he tells it:

"A program that wins a Peabody Award, the highest award in journalism, and you're going to denigrate it?"

"All I've got to say is that 'Inside Edition' has won, I -- I believe, two Peabody Awards, the highest journalism award in the country"

So, is it one Peabody? Or is it two? Or is O'Reilly just not sure? Why can't he keep his story straight? You'd think that winning journalism's highest honour is not something you'd lose track of that quickly -- especially when you haven't actually won it at all.

It's the same with Ball -- sometimes he's Canada's first Ph.D. in Climatology, and other times he's merely one of Canada's first Ph.D.'s in climatology. So which is it? And why would he switch from one claim to the other? Unless, of course, they're both bullshit.

In any case, I think my work here is done.


M@ said...

Unfortunately, the work here is not done, because for every person who points out that Ball's climatology PhD story is balls, there are ten idiots to make the stupid, ignorant claim again.

And unfortunately, commenter Wayne is one of the small number of such claimants who will examine the evidence, and accept that the claim is wrong. Good on you, Wayne -- but most such claimants will just dismiss the actual facts as global warming lies (and Al Gore uses electricity!), or whatever, and not look into the story.

The whole thing is pretty disgusting. Until newspaper stories quote "Tim Ball, who does not have a Ph.D. in climatology", unfortunately, the work isn't done.

SouthernQuebec said...

If you repeat a lie more than three (3) times it becomes the truth. I'm sure I read that. I'm pretty sure it's true. I definately heard it somewhere.
See, it's now true. You should try this in your postings. Its called WrightsRule (TM)

Ti-Guy said...

Until the newspapers stop quoting the name Tim Ball and anything he says, no one's work will ever be done. Same with O'Reilly. The lies have piled up for years now, and he's still on the teevee. He should have been FIRED ages ago.

When the reaction to a perceived lie is not retraction or clarification, but obfuscation, that's where someone's true character comes out, and will continue to assert itself in the future. These types of people, by nature, are not to be trusted at all and their statements should be removed from the public forum.

Adam C said...

Personally I don't think that 'climatology' is a wholly inaccurate description of Ph.D. Unlike Bachelor's and Master's degrees, doctorates tend to be associated with the specific topic of study, which is relatively quite focussed. Ball certainly did study and research climatology in completing his degree.

Also: I could give a shit what his degree is in, he still (as the little guy noted) is full of lies and obfuscation. If your doctor tells you that you can cure cancer by drinking seawater it doesn't matter much if she calls her Ph.D. "Medicine" or "Oncology".

DanJ said...

I agree, in part. There are a few rules, though. But first, if someone with a PhD but without an MD or license to practice medicine prescribes a cancer cure for you, report them to the College of Physicians and Surgeons or other appropriate institution. Do give a shit about that one.

If someone with a PhD in, say, Sociology goes on TV and says "I was the first PhD in Oncology in this country, so you should buy my herbal cure, and by the way all the others don't know what they are talking about", and then repeats it at dozens of public lectures, it might be time to write a letter to the newspaper. Not much else you can do.

PhD's are given by Departments in Universities, and the University decides what the degrees are in (usually, the name of the Department, unless otherwise stated up front, not self-assigned decades later). It's not that different from Journeyman's papers, or engineering degrees. Someone who becomes a Journeyman Carpenter is not automatically a Journeyman Pipefitter, if for example he read up on welding. If a doctoral thesis in the Department of Education is entitled "Teaching Algebra to Disadvantaged Children", this does not give the author a "PhD in Mathematics". I would have no problem with the claim, "I have a PhD in how to teach math". If that person takes a job as an Assistant Professor in a Department of Childhood Education, they are not a "Professor of Mathematics". If the same person claims to have the "first PhD in Mathematics in the nation", or to have been a "Professor of Mathematics" back when they were still working on the Master's degee, it is time to laugh. Unless they are hurting someone. Like for instance the nation.

DanJ said...

Oops - the exception is if you're Rex Murphy. Then no study of any kind is required to know that the scientists are out to lunch.