Talk:Penn and Teller: Bullshit!

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Do you have the date and time when their secondhand smoke episode aired, or a link to a transcript? --Sheldon Rampton 22:40, 2 Jun 2004 (EDT)

Since my facts don't get in the article

Thanks for removing the factual information I just added. So useful. I will state what I posted in the article here, so that people might actually have a chance of reading it and deciding for themselves.

During one of the Season One shows (perhaps the Second Hand Smoke episode), Penn quite clearly stated that they are as "biased as fuck" but that they try to be honest, or words to that effect. This is in fact true, and if one looks back to whichever show it was on, then the whole basis of the article - that the show is somehow trying to dictate people's opinions for them. In another instance, when faced with the sort of criticisms made here, they have said, specifically: don't trust us, think for yourself - or words to that effect. --Tom Morris 18:23, 18 Jun 2006 (EDT)

only partly sarcastic

I was just wondering how THEY were advocationg on the show since Teller doesn't talk during his performances. It isn't entirely sarcastic or rhetorical either. Penn openly advocates his political position often, usually describing his politics as socially(sexual connotations are defined as being within this concept) extremely liberal and fiscally very conservative.

Also, there seems to be a very large degree of prejudice towards all libertarianism within this short article. It seems that the author thinks the government has a right to dictate personal behaviours of its citizens regarding health. Certainly antithetical to libertarianism's core beliefs. If the government has a right to order good health practises, it will also claim the right to dictate all personal behaviours. It's kind of like the commerce cluase in the constitution being used as a universal governmental claim of rightful overreacch. It will never end.

Cato claims to be libertarian, and to a great degree they are, but they do not define libertarians or totally advocate the Libertarian Party's platform.

Besides that, does not everyone have a right to use their public stage for political purposes if they desire? Just because Penn and Teller's speech is offensive to some, doesn't make it any more wronful than Actors receiving awards who speak out, or Bono using his fame to increase awareness of aids or...

unsubstantiated anti-libertarian bias

This article is laughably biased. In the first paragraph are two groundless allegations illustrative of this:

  • libertarian beliefs interfere with their judgment
  • libertarians attack government regulation with disinformation

These claims come from... let me guess; a democratic voter whose party is so lame the best they could offer in the past two election cylces for president as cannon fodder for the inbred warmongrel, whose ancestral home is Kennwefukdapoor, Maine, was a mama's boy born to be president Wonk and a doucebag lurch look-alike whose inability to express kibble and bit soundbytes was his own downfall.

America's BiPolar politics will be the end of liberty. Whether it's Reno or Ashcoft who stole constitutional rights is a moot argument to me. they have still disapeared.

First question i have regarding the article is what did the FDA do in their second-hand smoke stucdy to adjust for any imbalance skewing their population data?

People exposed to second-hand smoke might very well be predisposed to unhealthier lifesyles than people who are not exposed to second-hand smoke. Many may have been former smokers, heavy drinkers or maybe other environmental factors were in play. What were the population study groups used? Did persons exposed to second-hand smoke tend to come from skewed economic/social groupings?

Second, court cases rarely get overturned on questions of fact. Please cite the case that flopped Judge Osteen's trial, and let me read that it was one of the rare appeals that was not overturned on procedural grounds.

Thirdly, is an author of ths article also the author of the blog linked to in it, "A Skeptical Blog: Looking at the world through skeptical eyes"?

If so, was the ludicrously ironic title and content intentional? The implications that someone who holds a degree in political science is less able to perceive reality and/or is less moral than someone who has studied "hard science" is absurd. Oppemheimer's folly? The "scientific' Iraqi Body Count is off by more than double, yet the link and silly javascript routine is proudly displayed on the site. The sound mind of the scientist. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

I am not one to defend the hypocrite Jerry Taylor, but there is quite a bit of truth in his claim the government's disdain for individuals has played a large role in the pollution of this world. America's government has subsidised oil's extraction and gasolines' refining. Taylor's bragging rearding his SUV is proof of his arrogant naivete in regards to the less than free market forces that have made his choice of vehicles cheap enough to utilise. To burn a valuable and decreasing commodity in inefficient energy using automobiles is obscene. The absolute insanity of mandated fuel efficiency for sedans while excluding trucks is the seed of the caddilac jeep. Reap the whirlwind. The other main problem with pollution is the shield of liability public corporations have been given by the government. Allow privitisation of public lands and avenues of aggressive redress in civil courts for pollution of these property rights, and the world would be better off. Screw the class action lawsuit, bury the polluters in a never ending carousel of litigation, one case at a time, and they will clean up quickly. Leave it to the government, and humanity will slowly kill themselves in their own greed and lust for power.

"the Bureau of Land Management controls an area almost twice the size of Texas, including nearly all of Alaska and Nevada. Much of this land is rented to ranchers for grazing cattle. Because ranchers are only renting the land, they have no incentive to take care of it. Not surprisingly, studies as early as 1925 indicated that cattle were twice as likely to die on public ranges and had half as many calves as animals grazing on private lands.
Obviously, owners make better environmental guardians than renters. If the government sold its acreage to private ranchers, the new owners would make sure that they grazed the land sustainably to maximize profit and yield.
Indeed, ownership of wildlife can literally save endangered species from extinction. Between 1979 and 1989, Kenya banned elephant hunting, yet the number of these noble beasts dropped from 65,000 to 19,000. In Zimbabwe during the same time period, however, elephants could be legally owned and sold. The number of elephants increased from 30,000 to 43,000 as their owners became fiercely protective of their "property." Poachers didn't have a chance!
Similarly, commercialization of the buffalo saved it from extinction. We never worry about cattle becoming extinct, because their status as valuable "property" encourages their propagation. The second step libertarians would take to protect the environment and save endangered species would be to encourage private ownership of both land and animals.
Environmentalists were once wary of private ownership, but now recognize that establishing the property rights of native people, for example, has become an effective strategy to save the rain forests. Do you remember the movie, Medicine Man, where scientist Sean Connery discovers a miracle drug in the rain forest ecology? Unfortunately, the life-saving compound is literally bulldozed under when the government turns the rain forest over to corporate interests. The natives that scientist Connery lives with are driven from their forest home. Their homesteading rights are simply ignored by their own government!
Wouldn't we be better served if naturalist organizations, such as the Audubon Society or Nature Conservancy, took over the management of our precious parks? The Audubon Society's Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary partially supports itself with natural gas wells operated in an ecologically sound manner. In addition to preserving the sensitive habitat, the Society shows how technology and ecology can co-exist peacefully and profitably.
The environment would benefit immensely from the elimination of sovereign immunity coupled with the privatization of "land and beast." The third and final step in the libertarian program to save the environment is the use of restitution both as a deterrent and a restorative. Next month's column will feature the second part of the Pollution Solution, answering the question: "How would libertarians keep our air and water clean?"
Ruwart, Mary; "The Pollution Solution: Stopping the environment's worst enemy"; The Libertarian Party website.

--Hugh Manatee 06:57, 21 Feb 2005 (EST)


This article was largely unreferenced. I'm going to relocate most of it here. It refers to a number of shows but the website of Bullshit! is blocked for non US users so I'm not sure whether they have an archive there or not.--Bob Burton 01:12, 6 Jul 2005 (EDT)

= Second-hand smoke

In the episode "Second-Hand Smoke", they claim "not one study anywhere offers conclusive proof that breathing in second-hand smoke causes cancer. Not one!" To back up this claim, they get Elizabeth Whelan, the president of the American Council on Science and Health to say the evidence is "extremely scanty" and Judge Osteen's ruling concluding an EPA study was a "procedural failure" and "cherry picked" data. (Penn: "Translation? They faked it.")

Finally, they say the EPA's claim that secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer by 25% is overblown, suggesting the accurate figure is that the exposed group had 12.5 deaths per million while the not exposed group had only 10 deaths per million, a difference which they claim isn't statistically significant.

They do not mention the ACSH is funded by right-wingers and industry, nor that Judge Osteen's ruling was vacated on appeal, concluding he "improperly exceeded the scope of judicial review". Worse, the 25% claim they dismissed is actually the standard method for measuring relative risk. And their claim about the deaths not being statistically significant (which appears to be based on the Philip Morris GEP campaign to get rid of relative risks less than two) simply is untrue -- epidemiologists do not simply dismiss such risks out of hand.

The episode also included scientific claims by radio host Larry Elder and Constitutional Law scholar Bob Levy, perhaps because no one better-credentialed would make claims as extreme as they desired.

And while a World Health Organization study found no correlation between second-hand smoke and cancer, numerous other studies have.

As Sheldon noted over a year ago we need a reference for the date of the program.

Bullshit! on climate change

Penn and Teller also use language to frame how we think about the experts on both sides of the issue. They choose journalism professor Rob Gelbspan, who has done excellent work on how the media covers environmental issues such as global warming, and use highly negative descriptions such as "whackjob" to describe Gelbspan and his work. In "[1]Boiling Point," Gelbspan argues in one chapter that the way the US media covers global warming elevates a minority set of studies, largely funded by industry, on par with the dearth of scientific evidence worldwide of the human contribution to global warming. Penn and Teller make no mention of this. The people brought on the show to debunk environmental studies are largely treated in glowing terms.

Its Ross Gelbspan and as far as I know hes a journalist writing on climate change issues but I'm not sure that hes teaching journalism. (if he is this needs a ref). But more significantly, we need a reference to the particular show where P&T refer to cliamte change.

Further, Penn and Teller showcases a segment in which one of their producers get people at the environmentalist demonstration in Washington D.C. to sign a petition against water by describing it in scientific language. At no time do they let the viewing audience see how many people knew the petition was a deliberate ruse. The framing effect? Liberals will sign any petition.

Again, need the ref to the particular show - and if its not online at least its title and broadcast date and, if possible, any secondary citations.

Environmental Hysteria

In the episode "Environmental Hysteria" they treat one girl at an environmental protest as some sort of official spokesperson for the environmental movement, while all they say about her credintials is: "Shes the chosen spokesperson of the Rainforest Action Network" ( While the long clips of her stumbling over their most basic questions can be humorous, the fact that they didn't try to find anyone more articulate doesn't inspire confidence in the show's position.

Again no reference on program title or broadcast date.

Relocating Unref'd comments

Relocating here - maybe these claims are true but they lack specifics and supporting references. --Bob Burton 18:12, 18 Jun 2006 (EDT)

Most of the time they debunk things like talking to the dead and alien abductions, but occasionally they criticise government regulation such as on environmental issues or restrictions on second-hand smoking.

The show gives plenty of airtime to "experts" who hardly seem impartial, including libertarian and conservative talk radio hosts and industry-funded organizations. People who disagree are usually ridiculed.

In the show's defence, Penn has stated on the show that they are "biased as fuck".

On the show

Shall I spell it out?

In the show's defence, Penn has stated on the show that they are "biased as fuck". --Tom Morris 18:36, 18 Jun 2006 (EDT)

Thanks Tom. For material to be on the pages it should be, wherever possible, referenced to a url or details reference. I did a quick search on the expression + Penn and couldnlt find anything. See for further information on referencing standards in SourceWatch.
I relocated the section, not only because your minor addition was unreferenced, but the preceding pars were a critique without being specific. It might be a valid critique but it needs to be more detailed than it was. cheers --Bob Burton 04:56, 19 Jun 2006 (EDT)