Easy Ethics Quiz: Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Ambush Slapdown

On his own Reddit forum where readers are allowed to “Ask Me Anything,” Bill Nye the Science Guy, who has recently been making a pretty penny shilling for the climate change policy lobby, was made the target of this:

Hi Bill,

I have a great way you can start. Stop pretending you’re a scientist.

In science, we begin with facts. The facts show you have no formal science education beyond a Bachelors in mechanical engineering from Cornell. That’s it. Not even a Masters degree, let alone a Doctorate. You literally have no formal science education beyond an undergraduate degree. The facts also show that the whole “Science Guy” persona emerged out of a stand-up comedy routine you used to perform on local public-access TV back in the 80’s:

Good science requires valid data, so, here you go:

You’ve spent years parading around in a lab coat, even after your Disney series ended.. parading around in a way which makes most people, particularly children, think that you’re qualified to speak on matters you have no formal experience, education, or training on. For all intents and purposes, you’re a talented actor-comedian with an opinion who inserts himself into public dialogue…and that’s about it.

Good science also requires peer-review, so, here you go: Continue reading

KABOOM! “Discrimination In Portugal,” The Sequel


First I checked, double-checked and triple-checked to see if this was a hoax. Then, once I was confident that it was true, I allowed my head to explode.

The headline to today’s head-blasting post requires a bit of explanation.

As a senior at Arlington High School (Massachusetts), I was editorial editor of the school newspaper, The Arlington High Chronicle. I had to choose, edit and publish the best of the submissions from the staff, and usually wrote the lead editorial myself. Well, one week I was up against a deadline and had nothing to fill an empty space on the page except a dog’s breakfast of miserably written options. Desperate, I decided to turn the crisis into an opportunity. I took the worst of the articles, cut out each line, mixed them up in a bowl and picked them out at random. Then I retyped the incomprehensible result, adding capitals and punctuation, and headlined it “Discrimination in Portugal.” That was how it was published. I always suspected that nobody read the editorials; this was my chance to find out if my suspicions were correct.

Nobody said a word. The paper got one letter from a student saying that he disagreed with the piece, but other than that, there was no evidence that anyone noticed that one of the editorials was complete gibberish.

Now this, from Nature:

“The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

“Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers.” Continue reading

Annie Dookhan, The Nightmare Employee

Funny---she doesn't LOOK evil.

Funny—she doesn’t LOOK evil.

Every organization dreads the falsely competent employee who is secretly cutting corners and covering their tracks. Sometimes, they are embezzlers. Sometimes they are plagiarists, or journalists who fabricate quotes and only pretend to check sources.  Sometimes they are managers, CEOs, generals and leaders who are faking it, not providing oversight and diligently making sure that others are doing their jobs. These people are thieves, essentially: they are stealing their salaries under the false pretense that they know what they are doing and can be trusted. Often they are worse than thieves, because they sap their organizations of efficiency and momentum, secretly, stealthily. Needless to say, government bureaucracies are crawling with them, and they cost all of us money, security, hope and happiness.

Annie Doohkan is one of the worst of this breed I have ever encountered.  She was a state chemist in Massachusetts who intentionally mishandled evidence in drug cases, rushing results, falsifying them, certifying that she did tests when she really didn’t. Finally the lies became too much to hide, and she was exposed, but not before her perfidy forced the release of hundreds of convicts, raised new questions about thousands of other cases, and forced the state to spend millions of dollars. Apparently she had no greater motive for inflicting this carnage than her desire to give police and prosecutors what they wanted, and to appear to be fast, efficient and reliable. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: Animal Planet”

Arthur in Maine contributes the Comment of the Day, expanding on the predictable comparison between Orson Welles’ Halloween radio broadcast of his adaptation of “War of the Worlds,” which many gullible listeners believed was a real invasion, with the misinformation broadcast by Animal Planet in its recent fake documentary claiming that mermaids may exist. I have a few comments afterwards; meanwhile, here is Arthur’s interesting perspective on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Animal Planet”:

“I’ll give Welles a pass here. Because of my work, I am a student of the media (contrary to the assumptions made by a kindhearted poster on another thread).

“Welles was not irresponsible. He was groundbreaking in his art, using a new form of media in a way it had never been used before. The program was announced as a radio play; it was interrupted by commercial breaks, it ended in an hour, nothing about the invasion was carried on other networks, and even more to the point: the panic ascribed to “The War of the Worlds” broadcast never happened. Continue reading

Story Update: the Fake Law Firm’s Purpose Revealed

Ethics Alarms honored the web site for Cromwell and Goodwin, an apparently imaginary law firm, in its

Yeah, these people always seemed a little creepy to me...

“Unethical Website” category, without being certain what unethical purpose the site served—though I had my suspicions. As many suspected, it was fishing for scamming victims, and one of them contacted The American Law Daily in May to tell his story. The Am Law Daily, to its credit, held on publishing the story until his efforts to recover the money failed, and now we can all read about it. David Tucker, a 66-year-old fire investigation scientist from London, lost roughly $6,775 to the Cromwell & Goodwin scammers, and gave the legal news publication copies of documents printed on “firm” letterhead to support his claims. You can find his account here.

Unethical Website of the Month: Cromwell and Goodwin

These lawyers do not exist.

Cromwell and Goodwin’s new website is a mystery. Nobody knows why it exists, or who created it. It appears to be the website of a law firm, if a somewhat language-challenged one. The problem: the law firm doesn’t exist. Its history is imaginary. Its partners do not exist. Its headquarters in New York at 221 E 18th St # 1 New York, NY 10003-3620 are vacant.

The firm, or whatever it is, claims to be 30 years old but only got around to launching  a website on March 19 of this year. A press release on a free publicity distribution service called PRLog.org about Cromwell & Goodwin’s involvement in an upcoming conference  regarding telecommunications consolidation projects in emerging markets also surfaced, for no discernible reason. The release referred to Joachim Fleury, a London-based Clifford Chance  partner, as “Global Head of Cromwell & Goodwin.”  Yet neither Clifford Chance, one of the largest law firms in the world, nor Fleury, who is real, knew anything about Cromwell & Goodwin when they were queried by reporters. Continue reading

Should It be Illegal to Buy Counterfeit Designer Goods?

The ethics of this issue are clear, I think. The mystery is: Why did it take so long, and why isn’t there a national law?

New York City councilwoman Margaret S. Chin, whose district includes Chinatown, has introduced a bill would make it a misdemeanor  to  buy fake designer merchandise on the street or anywhere else. Violators would face a $1,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.

The New York Times interviewed a tourist who articulated the argument against Chin’s bill.
“I come down here, I will continue coming down here, and I will follow the Chinese people wherever they take me,” the New Jersey resident told the Times reporter “as she stood amid the purse and sunglass vendors on Canal Street.” “I don’t believe in child labor and I don’t believe in supporting terrorists, but if I want to buy a knockoff, that’s my business.” Continue reading