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« Explain this | Main | Consensus collapse »

Silly social science

From the long and turgid annals of the Society of Silly Social Science Studies comes a paper by two academics at the University of Maine. Bridie McGreavy and Laura Lindenfeld have been examining three examples of the cinematographer's art as applied to the global warming debate, namely The Day After Tomorrow, Sizzle and An Inconvenient Truth.

All three films had their critics. All three have their factual errors and distortions. All three have their hidden agendas. None of the films is peer-reviewed science...obviously. Nevertheless, such storytelling does have an impact on popular culture and public perception regarding a given issue. McGreavy and Lindenfeld suggest that dominant representations of race and gender in these films fail to align with the key sustainable development goals of equity, freedom and shared responsibility. Instead, their position as "entertainment" influences our sense of the world, guides our relationships and may well affect, in a detrimental manner, our collective abilities to create a sustainable future.

You thought that the problem with An Inconvenient Truth was that it was a lot of scientific baloney. But actually the film's big failing is that it reinforces "racial, gender and sexual stereotypes". Who would have thought it?

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Reader Comments (28)

That's the problem with consensus science - one man's (or should I say unspecified gender person - or is that speci-ist, should I instead refer to "unspecified sentient entity;)

... so one unspecified gender sentient entity's consensus is ... What was my original point?

Oh yes, it's a load of carp and totally subjective.

Which is why we need skeptical science - fact based science and not this consensus "items of a potentially recyclable nature - which will most likely end up as land fill in China at huge public expense".

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

All three have their hidden agendas.


Jun 5, 2014 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

This new research reinforces racial, gender and sexual stereotypes about social researchers.

ps sustainable development cannot coexist with freedom as we know it - that's more than obvious. Watch as the definition of freedom gets changed.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:25 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Hypothesis: They wanted to study stereotyping in movies. They could not get funding. So they proposed to study stereotyping in movies about climate change. They got funding.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

I'm sure students at the University of Maine are very happy that their annual fees of $23,000 a year help support this kind of research.

And Americans in general will agree that even though a child somewhere in the world dies every 10 seconds from hunger, it is a necessary sacrifice for the money spent on social sciences.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterChip

As a social scientist, I would contest your description of this as social science. Humanities, perhaps. Cultural studies, perhaps. Tosh, almost certainly.

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Talking of cinematic stereotypes here's a classic....Please listen to the narrator right through.


Jun 5, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

No navel un-gazed.

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Ahh heck...Can't resist.....There's a gargantuan wealth of archived material these jokers haven't clocked yet....Here's a helping hand....

Classics all...

1. "The Night The World Exploded" (I kid you not...)..

2. "The Magnetic Monster"..........

3. "The Day The Sky Exploded"......

4. "Creature With The Atom Brain"(honest...).......

5. "Night of the Twisters"......1996 this un...

Plus many many many more...

I'll get my coat........

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones


Watch as the definition of freedom gets changed.

I posted this comment just after Ed Davey stated that we (climate sceptics) should all shut up.

First they were for the Free Man.
Then they were for the Free Men to decide The Common Good.
Now they are for the Free Men to be informed of The Common Good.
Next will be that The Common Good requires that there be no Free Men.

I have a great fear that you are right.

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Oh, is "social science" a "science at all in the true definition of the term?

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

This blog forum is becoming increasingly like joining my old man and his mates on their monthly meet up...all 80 plus and the chat is very similar.

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

With age comes wisdom. There is usually a lot to be learned from listening to the discussions of old men.
Feminist academics, not so much.

Jun 5, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Another social science car crash in the comments here.
Physicist Phil Moriarty writes a post on the nature of science and mentions the Sokal incident.
Read the last few comments between him and David Bell. Bell brings in racism and sexism and says that the way we see time is a result of our white male culture...

Jun 5, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It is also worth noting that the film 'An Inconvenient Truth' used parts of 'The Day After Tomorrow', because the real footage was not spectacular enough.

Jun 5, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

'Oh, is "social science" a "science at all in the true definition of the term?'

As 'disciplined study' - which much which sails under that flag is not.

Jun 5, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Mike Jackson
With age comes wisdom.: There is usually a lot to be learned from listening to the discussions of old men.
Feminist academics, not so much."

True but you also get a large dose of bigotry and a certain view of a 'woman's' role?

Jun 5, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard


Aye, I think I see your point.

The link below is an interesting take on "social science" by Richard Feynman.

I notice even the AGW crowd rarely attack this man.

In fact, I've not ever seen a character assassination that I can recall....Would be very interesting to see how such would be formulated.


Jun 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

"Silly social science"

If a subject has the word "science" in its title, that's a pretty good indication that it is not science.

Social science
Climate science
What else?

Jun 5, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

@Martin A

Political science ... the ultimate insult to the word.

Jun 5, 2014 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve C

Is there some kind of Siamese Twin Oyster card, which allows somebody to board two gravy trains, simultaneously?

Jun 5, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Gore has been in politics for 30 years and he hasn't changed his gender, sexual orientation or race.

Jun 5, 2014 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Is this a subtle suggestion that the Goracles Oscar-winning tome is a work of fiction?

Jun 5, 2014 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Journalism is a science now?

I thought it was a way to produce copy so that the advertisements didn't run all together...

Jun 5, 2014 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligulaJones

Films are peer reviewed but the peers of film makers are other people in the film industry. The Oscars are a giant peer review orgy. Perhaps scientific publishers could do something similar. Michael Mann might never become a Nobel Prize winner but perhaps he could win an Oscar!

Jun 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

True but you also get a large dose of bigotry and a certain view of a 'woman's' role?

Care to cite an example of either, Richard? By the way - other than sneering comments devoid of intellectual content, do you have anything to add here?


Jun 5, 2014 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

Jun 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered Commenter Roy

Michael Mann might never become a Nobel Prize winner but perhaps he could win an Oscar!

Nah! I don't think so. Well, not unless the Academy decides to introduce a category of "Most mediocre actor of 'em all"

That Mann should have fallen so low as to team up with Lewandowsky (as he indisputably did circa November of last year) and that he didn't even make the list of those quoted by the Washington Post [h/t Donna Laframboise] on Obama's - and the EPA's - latest and greatest attempts to get himself a favourable review in the history books, strongly suggests that Mann has fallen into the category of day-before-yesterday's man.

IOW, for all his ill-informed caterwauling via twitter and Facebook (and even the HuffPo) in the last year or so - not to mention his attention-seeking, money-guzzling libel suit games against his betters - Mann has effectively reduced himself to the status of little Johnny-one-note, whose only remaining "line" of note is a whiny version of "Out, out damn spot".

The mileage of others may certainly vary, but that's the view from here ;-)

Jun 5, 2014 at 9:57 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Jun 5, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Richard, have you always considered your dad a fool, or is it something that has come to you recently?

Jun 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

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