PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Science Crusader, Penn Stater John Mashey Leads Seminar On Campus

Distinguished computer scientist, entrepreneur, climate crusader, and Penn Stater John Mashey delivered a special seminar through the Earth Systems Science Center Thursday at the Walker Building. There, he articulately and engagingly connected invisible dots between think tanks, climate change deniers, tobacco companies, the media, and even universities.

Mashey, whose seminar was titled “The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science: Science Bypass and Confusion Tactics Inherited from Big Tobacco,” attended Penn State from 1964-1973 and graduated with a BS in math, and an MS and PhD in Computer Science. Born and raised on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, Mashey’s career quickly took off. He spent a decade at Bell Labs in New Jersey, developing computer software programming that bore his name. He soon moved to Silicon Valley, working on supercomputers. Through that work, he termed the now popular and widely implied concept of “big data.”

A heart attack quickly slowed Mashey’s career — “my doctors told me to get out of the fast lane, or you’ll stop driving,” he said — and soon developed a second career, one as an investigative blogger that studies climate science and highlights “anti-science” and energy issues, the basis for Thursday’s seminar.

Mashey began his presentation by defining the difference between anti-scientists and pseudo-scientists, both of whom he’s worked diligently to discredit in his career.

If science is a brick wall, anti-scientists, he said, “are folks who think if they can find one flaw in science anywhere, the whole thing falls down.” Pseudo-scientists, meanwhile, draw conclusions based on invalid scientific principals. It’s these approaches that Mashey defined as science bypass: an attempt to throw out all accepted research, while always calling for more research to be conducted. This ploy allows anti- and pseudo-scientists to reject any current scientific findings, be it for climate change, the harms of tobacco (Mashey’s two specialties), or anything else.

“Who can argue with more research,” he hypothetically posited.

Mashey, who now enjoys semi-retirement writing for science-positive websites including the climate change-oriented DeSmogBlog and Skeptical Inquirer, demonstrated how the Koch brothers and tobacco, backed by pseudo-scientific think tanks, essentially fueled the creation of the Tea Party. The significant financial contributions from the incredibly wealthy Koch brothers created misinformation that, Mashey said, “convinces people to support agendas against their own best interest.”

But this flow of misinformation and mysterious funding doesn’t stop at political lobbyists and large corporations, he said, but instead is also found at universities. A center at George Mason University is entangled with the Heartland Institute, a think tank that is in turn supported by the Koch Brothers.

Perhaps his most famous example that demonstrated his unique skill in combining science and journalism was his scathing 250-page critique of the Wegman Report, which worked to validate criticism of new evidence towards climate change. This more or less rebuttal to a rebuttal was featured in USA Today and marked a low moment for the pseudo-scientists that Mashey discredits.

“They don’t like me very much,” he said with a spry chuckle.

Image: Penn State

About the Author

Ben Berkman

State College, PA

Comments

More by Ben

Nassib Healthy To ‘Kick Some Ass,’ Johnson And Hackenberg Seek Pro Evaluations

James Franklin made two things clear before the Lions travel South: Carl Nassib is 100 percent healthy for a game for the first time in more than a month, and Christian Hackenberg and Austin Johnson have both applied for draft evaluations from the NFL.

Gameday Observations: Return To Rec

Penn State Stomps Canisius, 81-67, In First Of Two Rec Hall Showdowns

Athletics

Penn State Women’s Volleyball Releases 2018 Schedule

Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions won’t play a single home match in September, electing to test themselves against teams like Stanford and Oregon early in the season.

Penn State Hoops Alumnus Joonas Suotamo’s Journey To Becoming Chewbacca Featured On ESPN’s ‘E:60’

Evaluating Tony Carr’s Performance At The 2018 NBA Draft Combine

Penn State Hockey Commit Evan Bell Wins Clark Cup With USHL’s Fargo Force

Center Ludvig Larsson Transfers To Penn State Hockey From Merrimack

Student Life

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

Career Services To Launch Integrated Career Management & Recruiting Platform

Penn State Esports Wins Tespa Collegiate Hearthstone Championship

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Predicting Penn State’s 2018 Kickoff Times

As the Nittany Lions have ascended back into college football’s elite, they’ve taken the field at night more often in the past few years and avoided the dreaded early kickoff.

Career Services To Launch Integrated Career Management & Recruiting Platform

Penn State Career Services will launch Nittany Lion Careers on June 18.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

Send this to a friend