'Think Progress,' or Think Poorly?

Why? Why do I follow Think Progress on Facebook? Well, two reasons—one is that I think it’s important to know what the other side is saying. The other reason is because sometimes it’s downright hilarious.

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This falls into both camps.

Think Progress thinks it embarrasses conservatives anytime they express even the slightest doubt that man-made climate change is upon us. All the more reason for them to go nuts when they heard that a Michigan congressman had not only said he didn’t see the evidence behind the global warming hype, but that he called himself a scientist. They published an article, which was the lead for several hours on their website, entitled: “Congressman: ‘I am a Scientist’ And There’s No Evidence Of Manmade Climate Change.”

The ultra-liberal Center for American progress uses Think Progress as their primary blog, and Time Magazine included it as one of the top-25 blogs. They don’t necessarily call themselves a source for news, but they do present their findings as facts, and sway people’s opinions with their logic.

Let’s go back to the Michigan congressman, Rep. Dan Benishek.

He has a degree in Biology from the University of Michigan, and a Medical Degree from Wayne State University, and he’s been a practicing surgeon most of his life. I am fairly familiar with him and his excellent work, because I lived and worked in Michigan for almost a quarter of my life. He is a man who retired from his medical practice, and realized that the world wasn’t the way he wanted it to be for his grandchildren. So he did something about it—he ran for US Congress, and currently serves.

He apparently said that, as a scientist, he only believes something if it is supported with evidence in a peer-reviewed journal. And, he argues, he has not seen support for the idea of man-made global climate change in such a peer-reviewed manner.

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I’m not going to argue one way or another on climate change; do your own homework.

But, this is why Think Progress went crazy. They heavily implied that Benishek was not indeed a scientist, and most of the Facebook comments were as such. Firstly, lets put this to rest—being a Medical Doctor is being a man of science. Its called Medical Science! Let alone having a science degree in Biology. Some of the most scientific discoveries have been written about in medical peer-reviewed journals, like the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, etc. Even if he is not directly a climatologist, he is still a scientist, even in the way he would go about researching a topic.

But, I’m more concerned with the poor quality of the Think Progress article itself. The writer, Jeff Spross, is a “reporter and video editor for ThinkProgress.org,” and has worked for such publications as The American Prospect and The Guardian. One would think that in an article, where he questions the validity of someone’s claims, that he has fact-checked his own claims. Well, even in the case of this so-called reporter, you’d be wrong.

The original article (he has updated it a couple times) had this sentence in the very first paragraph: “In recent months, American politicians from House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to Louisiana Governor Rick Scott (R) and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R-IA) have all responded to questions about humanity’s role in climate change with some version of ‘I’m not a scientist.’” He goes on to talk about where Benishek gets his campaign money from, that many scientists agree on climate change, and that there are peer-reviewed sources for his info — but can we trust an article with two blatant misstatements in the first paragraph?

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Let’s start with the fact (uncorrected as of writing this, by the way), that John Boehner is not the House Majority Leader. He is the Speaker of the House, second in the Presidential line of succession, and presiding leader over the House of Representatives. The House Majority Leader is California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and he is only the leader of the Republicans in the House. Boehner is the leader of all House members. And, Rick Scott is indeed a Governor, but he’s the Governor of Florida, not Louisiana.

This type of article is cited and treated as a sacrosanct argument for leftists on Facebook. If a ‘reporter’ is going to cite figures and facts, he should also be able to at least get the most Google-able stuff right. This type of sound bite journalism is part of the problem with American civics knowledge, and makes you wonder what other non-factual blog posts they sneak by with.

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