Ben Goldacre reviews the year …

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in bad science in the UK. Surely the U.S., the country with Senator Jim “climate change is a hoax” Inhofe, the anti-vaccination movement, and, of course, the ever-popular Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, can out-do those stodgy Brits in the bad science department! Post your best examples in the comments.

55 Comments

“I disagree with all these experts. Somebody has to stand up to these experts.”

- Mr. Don McLeroy, Chair of the Texas State Board of Education, trying to weaken the standards for evolution in Texas

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“Carbon dioxide…is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular life cycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental life cycle of Earth.

“As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study, because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of earth’s life cycle.”

- Michelle Bachmann (R, Minn.), Aprill 22, 2009 (Earth Day speech, US House of Representative)

Michelle Bachmann (R, Minn), is plainly a dribbling moron. Anyone who can get up in public and say that if a little is necessary, a lot must be harmless, is not fit to be out without a keeper.

Yes, and water is necessary for our life on Earth but too much of it and we will drown and die.

The CRUtape Letters scandal, and the increasingly desperate efforts by AGW disciples to pretend it doesn’t affect the “science” of their position. If I saw that kind of evidence for massive, widespread fraud from biologists, I’d start wondering about evolutionary theory my own self … and I’ve been defending evolutionary theory against creationist attacks for fifteen years.

Robert Byers Wrote:

Indeed the global warning stuff is not true and will be found out as years go by.

Just the anthropogenic part, or GW in general?

Rilkes Granddaughter Wrote:

Only a fool or a wicked person is a YEC.

If you define “YEC” as one who actually thinks that the evidence favors a young Earth, as opposed to those who “take it on faith” (the latter are “Omphalos” creationists) I think they just suffer from Morton’s Demon. If they refuse to challenge OECs and IDers, however, something else must be going on. Why the double standard if those “theories” differ as much from their “theory” as mainstream science’s do? Those “YECs” are not very confident in their YEC, and can reasonable be suspected of not believing it, but nevertheless believing that it is the best fairy tale to keep the “masses” behaving properly. If not for Henry Morris and other experts at selectively mining evidence & quotes, the politically correct fairy tale might have been some form of OEC, or maybe even a geocentric one.

With anti-evolutionists in general, though, the trend is away from “YEC (or other “literal” interpretation of Genesis) is true” to “mainstream science is wrong about anytyhing that does not fit our authoritarian agenda.” So there’s more about “Darwinism,” and what they say about it is more about how acceptance of it supposedly leads to bad behavior, and less about “the evidence is weak.” How often can one recycle those long-refuted misrepresentations anyway? Yes I know what Barnum said about suckers. But the increased reference to AGW as the example where they pretend that there’s a “conspiracy of scientists” may be a sign that they know that they are running out of options to misrepresent evolution.

Michelle Bachmann (R, Minn.), Aprill 22, 2009 (Earth Day speech, US House of Representative)

There is some truth in Bachmann’s comments that are acknowledged by essentially all climate scientists. If CO2 was an order of magnitude lower, the earth would be a sphere of ice, with no life or perhaps, just with prokaryotes and protists. CO2 is absolutely essential for making the earth inhabitable, and of course is essential for photosynthesis. Nevertheless, too much CO2 is warming the earth at a high rate and will be disastrous for humans and many ecological communities.

I’m guessing the hundreds of mice I sacrificed by CO2 asphixiation over the years would disagree with Bachmann that there was no evidence it is harmful.

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append above “many examples (dozens)”

wolfwalker said:

The CRUtape Letters scandal, and the increasingly desperate efforts by AGW disciples to pretend it doesn’t affect the “science” of their position. If I saw that kind of evidence for massive, widespread fraud from biologists, I’d start wondering about evolutionary theory my own self … and I’ve been defending evolutionary theory against creationist attacks for fifteen years.

Then you need to learn more about climate science. Given the tone of your post, this might be a good place to start.

wolfwalker said:

The CRUtape Letters scandal, and the increasingly desperate efforts by AGW disciples to pretend it doesn’t affect the “science” of their position. If I saw that kind of evidence for massive, widespread fraud from biologists, I’d start wondering about evolutionary theory my own self … and I’ve been defending evolutionary theory against creationist attacks for fifteen years.

Defenders of climate science (scare quotes not necessary) are becoming increasingly frustrated because the media and the public in general keep spinning the stolen CRU e-mails as “evidence for massive, widespread fraud” when in fact they is nothing of the kind. They are evidence of fraud exactly as much as my conversations with my supervisor about which micrographs to publish are evidence of fraud. They have been explained countless times, in countless places, and still people refuse to pay any attention – exactly like creationists.

All Byers-related comments will go to the BW, folks. He will not derail this thread.

Added in edit. As will John’s Neo-Nazi ravings.

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wolfwalker said: The CRUtape Letters scandal, and the increasingly desperate efforts by AGW disciples to pretend it doesn’t affect the “science” of their position.

Do you deny that the Arctic Ocean ice is disappearing every summer, that the Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up, that glaciers around the planet are disappearing? Do you deny these observable facts? How does any purported fraud - one way or the other - affect the observations which prove that global warming is taking place?

Not really pure science but I bet the Brits don’t have a science teacher that burns crosses onto the arms of their students.

Thanks John Freshwater!!!

BillD said:

Michelle Bachmann (R, Minn.), Aprill 22, 2009 (Earth Day speech, US House of Representative)

There is some truth in Bachmann’s comments that are acknowledged by essentially all climate scientists. If CO2 was an order of magnitude lower, the earth would be a sphere of ice, with no life or perhaps, just with prokaryotes and protists. CO2 is absolutely essential for making the earth inhabitable, and of course is essential for photosynthesis. Nevertheless, too much CO2 is warming the earth at a high rate and will be disastrous for humans and many ecological communities.

A 20% concentration of CO2 is lethal. It is a common form of euthanasia. The lower levels are preferred to kill because at higher concentrations the CO2 irritates the eyes and mucous membranes when it turns into acid in contact with water.

Why limit her argument to CO2? Cyanide is also a natural gas. So is methane, cabon monoxide and Hydrogen sufide etc.

wolfwalker said:

The CRUtape Letters scandal, and the increasingly desperate efforts by AGW disciples to pretend it doesn’t affect the “science” of their position. If I saw that kind of evidence for massive, widespread fraud from biologists, I’d start wondering about evolutionary theory my own self … and I’ve been defending evolutionary theory against creationist attacks for fifteen years.

I strongly suggest that wolfwalker read a bit more and watch a bit less Faux News. Start here. And I suggest he be a bit careful about accusations of fraud. They’re false. No evidence has been produced from those emails that supports an accusation of fraud.

Ron Okimoto Wrote:

Why limit her argument to CO2?

As you know, politicians all over the political spectrum know that they can make breathtakingly inane statements about science and get away with it, because most voters simply lack the education, time or interest to verify the claims. Many (most?) of those politicians are themselves clueless, but even those who aren’t, find it at least unnecessary, if not politically risky, to simply defer to the scientific community in matters outside their expertise. The net effect is that many (most?) politicians imply that 99+% of scientists are either “bullied” by defenders of the status quo, or part of the conspiracy to protect it. Sadly too few of us know that that is an outrageous lie.

For me it’s simple; if a politician pretends that he knows better than 99+% of scientists, he loses my vote.

Hard to avoid nominating stupid statements from AGW deniers, especially with the political climate recently.

Frank J said:

For me it’s simple; if a politician pretends that he knows better than 99+% of scientists, he loses my vote.

The hard part is trying to communicate that idea to the man in the street who thinks AGW is a big hoax. I often confront this with evidence that, among climate scientists, 97% or thereabouts accept AGW, and ask them if they REALLY mean to imply that all of them are incompetent, liars, or bowing to some vague political goal and hushing up to cover a known hoax in their own specialty. I usually never get a direct answer to that.
The sad part is that I can studiously avoid ever citing Al Gore or any think-tank, basing my rebuttals only on the state of the science and appealing only to scientific sources, but the “skeptics” never even try to do the same. They always cite some politician or talking head from a “free-market” think-tank. I suspect most of them don’t even see a problem with that.

Don’t forget Dembski et al. :
SHOWS USS THE SORSE CODE!!!

The hard part is trying to communicate that idea to the man in the street who thinks AGW is a big hoax.

I think climate change is pretty inevitable.

Logically, no matter what probability you assign to AGW, the expected value of doing nothing is negative.

But that doesn’t matter. To do anything about it would require an actual lifestyle change by the average American.

It’s not going to happen.

It’s not just apathy and selfishness. A solid proportion of the population will actually sacrifice in a perverse way to sabotage any efforts at doing anything, because their ideology commands them to hate “environmentalists”. Their self-image is heavily invested in group membership, and denial is the official position of the group.

It’s not that Americans are inherently worse than anyone else. Plenty of other countries have had self-destructive, irrational, misguided amoral political movements in times of stress and social change. It’s just that before the end of WWII, no single nation had the sheer power to do so much damage to everyone else.

I honestly think it’s time to be thinking of “plan B” - what will we do if our fellow citizens really succeed in messing up the environment in a big way?

“Carbon dioxide…is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular life cycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental life cycle of Earth.”

- Michelle Bachmann (R, Minn.), Aprill 22, 2009 (Earth Day speech, US House of Representative)

I’ve actually had people quote things like this to me (I live in Texas). The correct answer is, of course…

“Water is a also a product of nature. Water is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular life cycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without water. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have water as part of the fundamental life cycle of Earth.”

“Nonetheless, we still cover most of the coast here with dikes and pumping stations to control it, because if you let it get away from you, it gets out of control and really f**ks things up. Look at new Orleans, or Galveston, or Port Aurthur. Ask those people if there’s not such a thing as “too much of that natural water”.”

You think Bachmann is bad? Here is my congressmen, John Shimkus (R-IL), assuring us from his seat in the house that global warming is impossible because God promised Moses he would never flood the earth again, that wee need more CO2 so we can have flourishing life as in the age of the dinosaurs, and while we’re at it, wee need to repeal the clean air act (April 5):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5yNZ1U37sE

Promised Noah, of course, sorry.

Well, in the same vein, there’s Representative Joe Barton, Texas Republican, who (according to Improbable Research) told CSPAN

If we have ice thinning up on the polar cap, I would say that’s more natural variation than it is man-made CO2. For one thing there are not many people up around the North Pole, so it’s pretty hard to see how we could be causing it.

Wheels Wrote:

The sad part is that I can studiously avoid ever citing Al Gore or any think-tank, basing my rebuttals only on the state of the science and appealing only to scientific sources, but the “skeptics” never even try to do the same. They always cite some politician or talking head from a “free-market” think-tank. I suspect most of them don’t even see a problem with that.

The other day I was listening to Michael Medved on the radio. Although I’m almost certain that he knows better, he was portraying it as AGW “skeptics” - which by his description must include “end timers” like the Bible-quoting congressman in the above comment - vs. AGW alarmists like Gore. No mention whatever of the 1000s of scientists who would love to find a better explanation, but must at least tentatively follow the evidence. Many of those scientists are politically conservative, and do not want excessive government meddling even if AGW is real.

So in Medved’s fantasy world Gore is the spokesman for all of science, and the “silent majority” simply does not exist. He has taken a similar approach before with evolution, mentioning Dawkins many times, but never Miller or Collins. What’s especially sad, and the reason I think he knows better, is that his father was a physicist. Medved may be deliberately sensationalizing the situation for ratings. But it’s morally inexcusable.

RBH said:

Well, in the same vein, there’s Representative Joe Barton, Texas Republican, who (according to Improbable Research) told CSPAN

If we have ice thinning up on the polar cap, I would say that’s more natural variation than it is man-made CO2. For one thing there are not many people up around the North Pole, so it’s pretty hard to see how we could be causing it.

He needs to get his story straight with the Bible-quoting congressman. The “written word” says that there are many people (though most are quite tiny), and even a few reindeer, at the North Pole. So there’s no need to cherry pick “evidences” or resort to “were you there?” incredulity arguments. The “written word” is the Truth. Case Closed. ;-)

I think climate change is pretty inevitable.

Yes. It has been happening for decades.

It will continue to happen. The world hasn’t even started to deal with CO2 emissions. I have an editorial in Science by Steven Chu sitting here. Coal burning alone produces 18 billion tons of CO2/year. We now sequester a few million tons of that.

It would take decades to even make a dent in the CO2 emissions if we tried. We aren’t even trying.

The lead time for planetary scale engineering projects isn’t known. We’ve never done one. Humans are going to do what they have always done, nothing unless there is an immediate threat. Scientists for decades warned that New Orleans was vulnerable to catastrophic flooding because it was below sea level. No one cared much until it happened.

It will take some major climate induced catastrophes before anyone does anything but wave their arms.

raven Wrote:

Yes. It has been happening for decades.

It will continue to happen.

What is sad is that if I were to cite the recent and upcomimg cold wave in the NE USA as an example I could easily convince most nonscientists that it “disproves” GW. They either haven’t seen the graphs of average temps over the decades, or if they have, do not know how to read them. They don’t understand that exceptions like this are normal, and that all the data must be taken in context. For the same reason anti-evolution activists can convince even many non-Biblical literalists that evolution is in trouble by deliberately selecting “anomalous” fossils or DNA sequences. Then they top it off by pretending that Climategate and Piltdown are the rule, rather than something that science does not tolerate.

While I am in no way an alarmist, and might someday even be a denier of AGW (unlike with evolution I can at least imagine plausible alternatives, e.g. “heliogenic” GW), what annoys me most is how the self-proclaimed “skeptics” conveniently slip from “GW in general” to AGW to “what the govt. must do about it.” A 3-way bait-and-switch if you will.

As with evolution, it’s a case of “perps” who know better deliberately misleading the “rubes.” Unfortunately we keep voting for science-challenged rubes (& possibly a few perps) for public office.

Raven -

We aren’t even trying.

That would be bad enough, but a substantial proportion of the population, and the US media, is going beyond “not even trying” and actually “trying to stop anybody from trying”.

As I think we both agree, they’ve likely already won. Effective measures will not be taken. The game of chicken has started. Someone is going to get hurt, bad, before anything happens.

Frank J -

The other day I was listening to Michael Medved on the radio. Although I’m almost certain that he knows better, he was portraying it as AGW “skeptics” - which by his description must include “end timers” like the Bible-quoting congressman in the above comment - vs. AGW alarmists like Gore.

Yes, Frank, that is what 99.99% of “conservative commentators” and 100% of well-paid, well-known “conservative commentators” are going to say.

An ideology is an ideology. You’re in or you’re out. You don’t deviate if you want to be “in”. You don’t stand up in the Politburo in 1950 and start saying that maybe we should go for a partially mixed economy and give the kulaks a break.

(Note - one or more geniuses will now show up with a “you’ve got cooties too” argument, screaming that “evolution” is a ideology.)

While I am in no way an alarmist, and might someday even be a denier of AGW (unlike with evolution I can at least imagine plausible alternatives, e.g. “heliogenic” GW),

Well, the evidence points to more than just sun activity, but logically, if the sun were throwing a warming cycle at us, wouldn’t that be a good reason to try not to amplify the effect with our own activities?

There are obviously many influences on the climate, but that in no way makes it logical for us to create a new one that may be unfavorable.

what annoys me most is how the self-proclaimed “skeptics” conveniently slip from “GW in general” to AGW to “what the govt. must do about it.” A 3-way bait-and-switch if you will.

Actually, it’s much more than that. I’m paraphrasing someone else here and don’t have a citation, but basically, all of the following mutually contradictory arguments are heard, often from the same person in the same thread…

1) The earth isn’t warming. Claims that it is are a conspiracy.

2) The earth is warming but it isn’t due to human activity. Claims that it is a a conspiracy.

3) The earth is warming and it’s due to human activity, but it’s beneficial. Claims to the contrary are a conspiracy.

4) The earth is warming, it’s due to human activity, it may not be beneficial, but it would be even worse to try to do something.

5) The earth is warming, it’s due to human activity, someone may get screwed, but Americans won’t, so we shouldn’t care.

On and on. Does it look familiar? What do you always notice about the evolution deniers? Anything to deny evolution. Consistency and coherence are irrelevant, except for the consistency of saying anything to deny evolution. Two guys may have seemingly profoundly opposing views (“The universe is 6000 years old and was created Jehovah”/”The universe is 13 trillion years old and a few aspects of life on earth were tinkered with by a designer who could merely have been an alien”), but they’re instant allies because it’s “anything to deny evolution”.

Raven Wrote:

Scientists for decades warned that New Orleans was vulnerable to catastrophic flooding because it was below sea level. No one cared much until it happened.

Not only that, but most people still don’t seem to much care that vast areas of the Gulf Coast and Florida will be under water in a few decades if current trends continue. It’s understandable (albeit not acceptable) that people have a hard time getting worked up over the possibility of losing Bangladesh or some island in the Indian Ocean, but you’d think they would be more worried about losing parts of our own country.

Raven: Yes, Frank, that is what 99.99% of “conservative commentators” and 100% of well-paid, well-known “conservative commentators” are going to say.

The other day my husband reported that the barber had Limbaugh on and he said: “A Blizzard in the upper Midwest? In November? And they want us to believe in Global warming?”

It occurs to me the current storm in the NE is most likely being interpreted in the same way right now. Too bad Limbaugh doesn’t realize that global warming will not result in a noticeable uniform local temperature increase, but that it will result in more, and more powerful, storms.

This is one reference I found for what you’re talking about:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/200[…]s_denial.php

I think I posted something on this at PT at one point, but I can’t find the reference.

With respect to Helena Constantine’s comment, this spring, after I gave a public talk on the history and causes of global climate change over the last 3BY years (part of a global warming “teach-in” program, in one of my classes, a student claimed that the cool winter we had just gotten out of was a demonstration that global warming did not exist. When I pointed out the long-term nature of the process and she still didn’t agree. I asked her if, in the case of a particularly warm summer, she would agree to that as proof that global warming was occurring, and she emphatically said, “NO!” I then pointed out that this demonstrated that her argument against global warming was NOT on scientific grounds.

IMHO, that is the crux of the problem, and if we can get people to realize that their arguments (or the arguments they hear from Limbaugh etc.) are not based on science, they might start t-h-i-n-k-i-n-g.

harold said: Actually, it’s much more than that. I’m paraphrasing someone else here and don’t have a citation, but basically, all of the following mutually contradictory arguments are heard, often from the same person in the same thread…

1) The earth isn’t warming. Claims that it is are a conspiracy.

2) The earth is warming but it isn’t due to human activity. Claims that it is a a conspiracy.

3) The earth is warming and it’s due to human activity, but it’s beneficial. Claims to the contrary are a conspiracy.

4) The earth is warming, it’s due to human activity, it may not be beneficial, but it would be even worse to try to do something.

5) The earth is warming, it’s due to human activity, someone may get screwed, but Americans won’t, so we shouldn’t care.

On and on. Does it look familiar? What do you always notice about the evolution deniers? Anything to deny evolution. Consistency and coherence are irrelevant, except for the consistency of saying anything to deny evolution. Two guys may have seemingly profoundly opposing views (“The universe is 6000 years old and was created Jehovah”/”The universe is 13 trillion years old and a few aspects of life on earth were tinkered with by a designer who could merely have been an alien”), but they’re instant allies because it’s “anything to deny evolution”.

GvlGeologist, FCD Wrote:

IMHO, that is the crux of the problem, and if we can get people to realize that their arguments (or the arguments they hear from Limbaugh etc.) are not based on science, they might start t-h-i-n-k-i-n-g.

That always brings me back to my demographics analysis. ~25% of adult Americans are beyond hope; they will defend anti-evolution activists even if they contradict each other, and will not concede evolution under any circumstances. If they (the rubes) can’t spin their way of the inconsistencies, obvious “playing favorites” with evidence, etc. (like the perps can) they’ll often take the loophole that the Bible overrules any evidence. Never mind that that makes unnecessary the whole enterprise of “scientific” creationism/ID.

The big problem is that another ~20% has varying doubts of evolution, and yet another ~20% thinks it’s fair to “teach the controversy” in science class. It’s those latter groups that we must reach, not the hopeless ones and their scam artist “gurus.”

Frank J said:

The other day I was listening to Michael Medved on the radio. Although I’m almost certain that he knows better (snip) What’s especially sad, and the reason I think he knows better, is that his father was a physicist. Medved may be deliberately sensationalizing the situation for ratings.

I’ve always been almost certain most of the conservative bloggingheads actually know full well that they’re peddling crap.

After all, you have to be pretty bright to deal with the complexities of building up the business end of the show.

It’s just that whipping up their audiences by telling them that things are going to hell in a handbasket has always been an easier way to make money than getting a real job.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I was watching The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago and in one particularly hilarious segment Jon Stuart went off on the apparent stupidity of network hosts, especially the hosts of the Fox News morning show, “Fox and Friends”

I myself have been forced to watch the show (on a shared television) and frankly, it’s blazingly, infuriatingly stupid.

Like myself, Jon takes particular offense to Gretchen Carlson, the female lead, who appears to be a professional idiot.

Her standard sthick is that she’s an “aw shucks”, “just-an-ordinary-mom” type, and she often talks about how she has to Google complicated terms like “ignoramus” and “czar”, and then, of course plays dumb and takes those terms out of context - “Well, czar means ‘King’, so Obama is appointing a ‘King’ of education”.

(from Stuart)

How do you get a job on television if you appear to be one of those people who need to pin their address to their coat so a stranger can help them find their way home?

Stuart and staff did some Googling of their own, and found out that Carlson was actually valedictorian of her high school class, graduated with honors from Stanford and did independent study abroad at Oxford University.

Yes, that Oxford University.

She won the Miss America title in 1998, in part by acing the talent competition. Stuart showed the tape.

Turns out little Miss Carlson, America’s morning bubblehead, is actually quite an accomplished musician, and she amply demonstrated this by playing a complex classical piece – on a violin.

I almost pissed myself laughing.

The whole conservative blogosphere would be freakin’ hilarious if only they weren’t doing so much collateral damage.

GvLGeologist -

When I pointed out the long-term nature of the process and she still didn’t agree. I asked her if, in the case of a particularly warm summer, she would agree to that as proof that global warming was occurring, and she emphatically said, “NO!” I then pointed out that this demonstrated that her argument against global warming was NOT on scientific grounds.

IMHO, that is the crux of the problem, and if we can get people to realize that their arguments (or the arguments they hear from Limbaugh etc.) are not based on science, they might start t-h-i-n-k-i-n-g.

I doubt it. The denial is 100% emotional and reactive. They are deeply committed to a group identity, and “environmentalists” are perceived as an enemy group.

If you asked her the same questions, you’d get the same answers again, only more vehemently.

The most likely thing you achieved by challenging her is that, after a brief period of cognitive dissonance, she strengthened her irrational defenses. Now, she probably avoids that type of forum, or becomes hostile and disruptive if exposed to anything other than denialism. She probably consumes a fair amount of denialism, as well.

On Fox News, celebrity anchors who are revered as near-spiritual authorities simply state outright that they “don’t believe in global warming”.

Quite bluntly, I’ve come to the conclusion that if someone who ostensibly should know better offers up a blatantly false or illogical argument to begin with, they aren’t going to be responsive to evidence and logic. A three year old can see that if “today is cold” argues against global warming, then “today is hot” must argue in favor of it. So everyone who advances the “it’s snowing so AGW doesn’t exist” argument is implicitly saying “I have chosen a side and don’t care about logic or evidence”.

Of course you did the right thing, because ignorant but unbiased third parties saw that you were the logical one. But you won’t convince the ones who parrot the denialist arguments.

With evolution in public schools, they won’t win, because they’re fighting against what is now the default and they’re fighting to violate the constitution.

With AGW, all they have to do is prevent sufficient change. John Stewart says he’s buying “future beachfront property” in Eastern Tennessee. That may not be a bad idea.

harold Wrote:

A three year old can see that if “today is cold” argues against global warming, then “today is hot” must argue in favor of it.

However, since both of these are inadequate and unscientific approaches to the global warming debate, it might be better if pro-science folks would denounce both arguments with equal vehemence. Letting people get away with “today is hot==>global warming” arguments only perpetuates the myth that we can draw conclusions about global warming by looking at local conditions.

Two responses:

1. I have pointed out that both responses are incorrect, to friends, colleagues, and students.

2. However, I have only heard of isolated uses of the “today is hot; therefore global warming” argument, whereas I have read an editorial from a conservative newspaper) and heard or heard of several cases (including the Limbaugh argument listed above) where “respected” members of the conservative movement claim that a single year, season, or even day of cold disproves GW, and these people should know better.

So go ahead and blame the “pro-science folks” if you want, but the false arguments are used far more often by the other side. If the “pro-science folks” denounce the false anti-GW argument more often, it is because it is used more often than the pro-GW argument.

jkc said:

harold Wrote:

A three year old can see that if “today is cold” argues against global warming, then “today is hot” must argue in favor of it.

However, since both of these are inadequate and unscientific approaches to the global warming debate, it might be better if pro-science folks would denounce both arguments with equal vehemence. Letting people get away with “today is hot==>global warming” arguments only perpetuates the myth that we can draw conclusions about global warming by looking at local conditions.

stevaroni said:

The whole conservative blogosphere would be freakin’ hilarious if only they weren’t doing so much collateral damage.

I saw that Daily Show also; and I also think some of these conservatives in Congress know they are lying to the public.

The big question comes down to why they are doing this. Some of it is to get reelected; but some of it has to do with being bought out by special interests, especially theocrats with money.

At a time when the public needs to be informed and educated about really serious problems, there is a hell of a lot of money being poured into keeping them really stupid.

Some of those bizarre fundamentalist Congressmen are pretty scary. And that Eric Prince, head of Blackwater, is even scarier. It turns out that he has plenty of rich relatives and connections in the fundamentalist world.

These fundamentalist power-brokers are probably some of the reasons that a few of our fundamentalist trolls are so cocky in their taunting.

jkc -

harold Wrote:

A three year old can see that if “today is cold” argues against global warming, then “today is hot” must argue in favor of it.

However, since both of these are inadequate and unscientific approaches to the global warming debate, it might be better if pro-science folks would denounce both arguments with equal vehemence. Letting people get away with “today is hot==>global warming” arguments only perpetuates the myth that we can draw conclusions about global warming by looking at local conditions.

Let me explain again more clearly.

There is nothing in my post that either says that short term local warm temperatures support AGW, nor that accuses anyone else of saying that.

By definition, anyone who would offer an argument grounded in unexceptional short term local temperatures, on this subject, would not be “pro-science”. As GvLGeologist just explained, by an intriguing non-coincidence, only the deniers offer this argument seriously.

I do hear people joke around about “global warming” on hot days, but only as a joke.

Now my point, to clarify, is this…

Once someone opens there mouth and says “It’s cold today/this week/this month/this season in (random location), therefore AGW is a myth…”, that person has told you something.

Not just that they “disagree” with the evidence for AGW. They have told you more than that.

They have told you that they are committed to that “disagreement”, no matter what you say and what evidence you show.

How did they tell you that? By advancing an argument which is patently illogical to any adult in the first place.

They are telling you, non-verbally but clearly, this - “I already reject logic and evidence when it comes to this topic. I just made that clear by advancing a trivially illogical argument”.

Why do they reject logic and evidence when it comes to this topic?

Short answer - they are so emotionally committed to membership in a particular contemporary right wing ideology that is popular in the US that anything short of immediate personal physical threat, and maybe even that, will be ignored in the blind service of the ideology.

Potentially long answer (my hypothesis) - But why do they love this ideology so? It has to do with changes in the status of demographic groups in the US over the last forty years. People judge their status in comparison to the status of others, so if some groups’ economic disadvantages have been reduced (such as women who want to be independent, visible minorities, and openly gay people), other groups perceive their own status as having been lowered. It doesn’t matter if everybody went up to a lot of people. “The other guy got closer to me, so you lowered my status!” That’s how a lot of people think. And they’re so resentful of that, that they’ll fight savagely against those who “demoted” them until the day they die, and they may well be able to convince generation after generation after generation of children to do the same.

If you don’t think this is how the human brain works, get a book about the history of the Balkans or the Middle East. Or about psychology.

When I was a science student, I thought of science as a pretty “conservative” thing to study. I wasn’t conservative myself, and neither were a subset of others (although most of the freaks were in physics or math, not biology), and it didn’t matter because there was no discrimination. But I thought that overall, science was a matter of “Just the facts please, Ma’m”. In fact, one thing I loved about it was that people could start with all kind of different backgrounds, dispute like crazy, but come to the same conclusion in the end when they put their biases aside and logically interpreted the data.

But there’s another way to look at science. “Those scientists are part of the whole process that took away my special status, especially biologists and environmental scientists. I’m going to stick it to them every way I can until the day I die”.

So of course we should use logical, scientific arguments, and try to convince people to take easy actions that minimize harmful climate change, or failing that, to take actions that limit the harm that climate change does to innocent children and others, within jurisdictions we have some voice in. We should make the right arguments.

But we shouldn’t expect to convince the denialists, no matter what happens.

Because nothing will change them. They’ve been telling you that for quite a few years now in no uncertain terms.

FL on the anti-reason terrorism thread:

So you have to choose. Believe the Bible or believe the evolutionists. One or the other.

FL’s comments boil down to the above. Short and simple.

It is also wrong on several counts.

1. The majority of the world’s Xians don’t agree. They don’t have a problem with science and evolution and xianity. There are over a billion evolutionist Xians.

2. If one was to make believing creationism a requirement to be a Xian, that would be the end of the religion. Because 2 pages of bronze age mythology are just 2 pages of bronze age mythology and the real world is the real world.

There is something not right here and it isn’t going to be fixable. {Backs away slowly while fumbling for the cell phone}

Above comment was posted on the wrong thread. Ignore it.

Surely the U.S…can out-do those stodgy Brits in the bad science department! Post your best examples in the comments.

I’d like to nominate all of Conservapedia. Technically it covers more than science, but hey, where else can you read about dinosaurs roaming the middle-east in Jesus’ time AND the wonderful social benefits of McCarthyism?

eric said:

Surely the U.S…can out-do those stodgy Brits in the bad science department! Post your best examples in the comments.

I’d like to nominate all of Conservapedia. Technically it covers more than science, but hey, where else can you read about dinosaurs roaming the middle-east in Jesus’ time AND the wonderful social benefits of McCarthyism?

Not to mention re-writing the Bible (based on the KJV!) to fit their own “conservative” slant. Schlafly was on the Colbert Report one night and he brought up the parable about the cruel master condemning one of his three servants for not returning an investment in the talents he was given, unlike the other two (Of course, he phrased it as, “the one who had one [talent] didn’t make any more, he was sent to Hell.”). At the same time he also wants to re-write the parable of the corrupt manager to remove the master’s rewarding him for his “shrewd” money skills, because “shrewd” implies he’s rewarding the manager for something nasty.

Here’s a video of the interview (may not work outside the US?), I wish I could find a transcript ready. There’s a whole bunch of bullshit in there about crowd-sourced “reality” (a la Conservapedia) being superior to what the experts can come up with because the good stuff “rises to the top.” And yet, peruse the article on, say, Evolution… The funny part is that in the page on how their encyclopedia is different that Wikipedia, they say things like, “we do not allow liberal censorship of conservative facts. Wikipedia editors who are far more liberal than the American public frequently censor factual information. Conservapedia does not censor any facts that comport with the basic rules.” Try reconciling that with the evolution page.

There’s a whole bunch of bullshit in there about crowd-sourced “reality” (a la Conservapedia) being superior to what the experts can come up with because the good stuff “rises to the top.”

Of course, there is a “wisdom of crowds” effect in some problems, but it doesn’t work if you set up a biased crowd.

We’ve had obnoxious movements in the US in the past, but this may be the first time that we’ve seen a popular, media-favored “movement” that incorporates extreme denial of observable reality. It’s a very bizarre situation.

Please note that, other than a few medical quacks, most past “pseudoscience” didn’t actually contradict real science, but rather, “supplemented” it. Astrologers don’t typically deny astronomy, in fact, they make use of it. Yet despite this, the mainstream media has never taken old time pseudoscience seriously, astrology columns notwithstanding.

Today, Colbert may be making fun of this, but the Washington Post is running oh-so-serious ghost-written editorials about the “controversy”.

An ostensibly educated society that rejects scientific reality is a whole new concept. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

“The other guy got closer to me, so you lowered my status!”

And if those gays get married, it will threaten my marriage–so we need a “Defense of Marriage” act! ;)

I’m beginning to suspect that the whole thing is just adult bullying, pure and simple. There’s something in these people’s tone and body language that suggests they get off on the anger and outrage they’re causing among reasonable people by spouting their nonsense. And it makes them popular, because there’s always a crowd of feeble little eejits following the bully around going ‘yeah…hit him again’ because it’s better than being on the receiving end.

Only in this case the victim is reason, human welfare and in the case of AGW denial the future of the whole damn planet. But, of course, the bigger the victim and the more unpleasantness you’ve caused, the better you look and the more you impress the hangers-on.

I almost (very, very almost) wish that there was a higher ideology involved – that these people at least did have the courage of their convictions, even if those convictions are plainly stupid. But it really does look like nothing so much like the same old crowd of tedious, giggling, mean-spirited bastards ruining things for everyone else just because they can.

Evil, it turns out, is even more banal than even Arendt suspected. We’re doomed, aren’t we?

I almost (very, very almost) wish that there was a higher ideology involved – that these people at least did have the courage of their convictions, even if those convictions are plainly stupid. But it really does look like nothing so much like the same old crowd of tedious, giggling, mean-spirited bastards ruining things for everyone else just because they can.

I think this is somewhat true, but I also think that we see ideologies largely based in this type of “bullying” behavior gain power during times of social change and stress.

There is surely an ideology behind the science denial stuff. Granted, that ideology always leads to a predictable choice in every situation - whatever impacts most negatively on whomever is in the most vulnerable situation is always favored. However, deviation from the ideology is not tolerated, and today’s Fox and Frauds host will be find himself in the street with a heavy footprint on the seat of his pants if he deviates from the orthodoxy on any issue.

Evil, it turns out, is even more banal than even Arendt suspected.

I’m sure that’s true.

We’re doomed, aren’t we?

I’m not sure this is true, although I suppose it depends on who you mean by “we”.

The human brain is a pretty adaptable thing.

There is surely an ideology behind the science denial stuff. Granted, that ideology always leads to a predictable choice in every situation - whatever impacts most negatively on whomever is in the most vulnerable situation is always favored.

Well, this is my point. I’m beginning to suspect that ‘hurt the vulnerable’ simply is the ideology, as well as the result. And that ‘ideology’ is a rather dignified name to give to the sort of base-level malice evinced in toddlers when they decide to start hitting their siblings with a plastic hammer.

I’m not sure this is true, although I suppose it depends on who you mean by “we”. The human brain is a pretty adaptable thing.

By “we” I really do mean the whole of humanity. Six degrees is a solid, if marginal, possibility. But it’s also pretty horrible even if it’s just ‘modern civilisation’ – call me a hegemonic monster, but I like the enlightenment. While I’m happy for people to ignore it privately if they want to I think on balance it’s done more good than harm and would rather not see it reversed – either through screeching buffoons gradually reversing its gains or things getting so bad eco-wise that we haven’t got time to do anything except subsistence farming, hoarding canned goods and dying of drug-resistant cholera in a flooded shanty town somewhere in Kent.

The human brain is pretty adaptable, but the body that supports it is equally pretty vulnerable, and it doesn’t tend to do so well when it’s starving and/or under heavy machine gun fire.

There was the example of that Florida Legislator who claimed that he was going to introduce a bill to teach intelligent design earlier this year. What makes this example so pathetic is that just a few months earlier the ID perps had to run the bait and switch on a bunch of Florida school boards and legislators that came out and claimed that they wanted to teach the science of intelligent design. The ID perps had to run in the usual bait and switch scam. There were so many rubes popping up clamoring to teach ID in the different counties and in the legislature that the it must have been like a hyperactive whack a mole game for the ID perps running the bait and switch on them all. All the rubes got was the bogus switch scam that doesn’t even mention that ID ever existed, and then this IDiot legislator was stupid enough to claim to want to teach the non existent science of intelligent design after that. What makes it even more pathetic is that the guy bent over and took the switch scam from the guys that had lied to him about ID when he found out that he was a sucker for the ID scam.

When you depend on the ignorant, incompetent and the dishonest to support your political efforts you can expect boobs as pathetic as this to screw up the dishonest machinations that you are brewing.

The ID perps have been running the bait and switch on every rube school board and legislator that believed the ID claptrap and claimed to want to teach the science of intelligent design since Ohio in 2002-2003. They even tried to run in the switch scam on the Dover rubes. The reason that the ID perps have to keep running the bait and switch is because “one is born every minute” and there is no shortage of the clueless that still haven’t gotten the message that intelligent design was just a bogus scam.

I recall that the Thumb had a thread about this Florida Legislator but I can’t remember his name.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 18, 2009 10:48 PM.

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