It is not possible for anyone to understand every policy-important aspect of scientific knowledge at the level of detail necessary to accept that knowledge as valid, or to defend it against the evil anti-science denialists. So what is a skeptic to do?

Real science happens at the very edge of knowledge. If you go do real science for a while … a few weeks … then go back to science geek land where you normally live (and I know you live there because you are reading this blog) and read about the same topic you were exploring in real science land, you will see two different worlds. When a scientist doing actual scientific research is at work, and she gazes into a microscope, or a matrix of data from the latest sample run, or the profile just exposed by an ongoing excavation, she may be looking into an unordered mess of great potential or deep disappointment that does not yet fit into what she knows. If she is lucky, it never will fit. It will reshape what she already knows in a slightly uncomfortable way, or tie up a lose end while slicing open another, or something. Or, it just won’t work, and it will turn out that the sample is messed up or the trench was dug in the wrong place.

Most importantly, for her to understand the meaning of the newly observed data, she will have to have a great deal of expertise. Some of this expertise will be based on her own education, some from her experience with the particular problem she is working on, some garnered from colleagues with whom she consults, some from the generally available literature, some from in-house reports and other documents.

For a given cycle of data collection and analysis, which might incrementally change what is thought about a particular scientific problem, there is a story. Go ask the scientist “So, what happened at work this week?” and you might get that story (depending on the week) but if you are not already expert in that specific area, it might take a very long time for her to explain everything you need to know to really get it. And that can be the case for a tiny bit of some aspect of some molecule, or one aspect of the paleobiogeography of some snail, or whatever.

(This, by the way, is why one so often gets a flip answer from a scientist when you ask them what they are up to … most researchers develop a handful of standard responses to address people’s inquiries which ultimately avoid actually answering the question.)

But from what we often hear from those passers by, those with some interest in science, or those with a politically motivated denialist agenda, is so far from this kind of understanding that it can be very frustrating. It sounds like this … someone brings their car in to have it fixed and they are talking to the person behind the counter at the mechanics.

“My car is not running right. I think the elves that make it run have tummy aches.”

And then the mechanic tries to explain that there are no elves in the car, but the person insists.

“You have not seen that there are no elves in the car. And besides when you open the hood the elves become invisible. Anyway, the elves have tummy aches. Fix the tummy aches.” And so on.

That is what many people who are not scientists sound like when they are talking about science. The discordance between what is on one hand being said and sometimes insisted or demanded or required, vs. how things actually work is vast. Cars do not have living organisms inside them (usually). So insisting on a repair that addresses the tummy aches of these non existent beings is rather far from the point. But that is exactly what someone who complains about teaching evolution because of irreducible complexity sounds like. It is exactly what someone who complains about climate models because Malthus disappointed them sounds like.

There is a vast gulf between the science of complex natural systems and the level of understanding of that science among those involved in public discourse and important policy making. This gulf is one of the most significant problems we face in modern society. When an entire political party in the US devotes much of its energy to stand between scientific knowledge and policy making (see: The Republican War on Science), and our population becomes increasingly distant from understanding even basic science (see: Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future), we are in trouble.

Two very important defenses against the collapse of civilization owing to ignorance (see: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) are the science geek and the skeptic. Often but not always they are the same person. These are the people who will vote correctly and encourage others to do so. These are the people who will not let utterly stupid shit pass by in conversations at family gatherings, parties, in classrooms, at bus stops, and on the Internet, without a critical comment. These are the people who may be scientists themselves but more often are not, who push their skepticism out in front of them as the move with alacrity across their social landscapes, mowing down Teh Dumb as they encounter it.

But how does an earnest skeptic “know” a certain area of science well enough to incorporate that science into his or her life? This applies to the science geek who is not a scientist as well as to scientists concerned with areas other than their own. How do you know the greenhouse gas theory is correct, and can be used to estimate the link between CO2 and the Earth’s energy balance? How do you know that a particular phylogeny of proto whales based on fossils is probably valid? How do you know that this or that hominid walked upright something like a human?

I think there are two ways to approach this. One is to go as far as you can in grappling with the literature, to become a sort of quasi expert on a topic, so that over time you can explain the details to someone else and maybe convince them that you know what you are talking about! As you do this, you’ll become more familiar with a set of methods, a set of data, a bit of intellectual history, and so on. This kind of detailed familiarity in one area will allow you to evaluate evidence on a more cursory level in other areas. If you work with the fossil record and learn all you can about a particular question, you’ll learn about the importance of levers in mechanical reconstruction, of taphonomy, of cladistics, and so on, and can apply this understanding to other fossil related problems. If you work with a particular aspect of the immune system you’ll be able to much more easily absorb and evaluate, and use in your day to day skeptical activities, newly reported research in some other area related to the immune system.

The second approach relies on the first, and that is to learn who to trust, and trust carefully. There are excellent science communicators who can explain things with just enough detail that you get the interesting parts, but who are required (by the need for brevity, by their editors, or other factors) to gloss important details. You need to keep track of the difference between knowledge you’ve reconstructed from mostly original sources and that which you gathered from more secondary sources. These different sources will provide different levels of information, and also, qualitatively different information. Wrestling with primary literature means understanding methods in a way you will not have to if using only secondary sources. How exactly does a mass spec give you ratios of stable isotopes? What is proton emission tomography exactly? How does Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) let you observe the interaction between molecules in muscle tissue, and how does that shape how experiments are designed? Secondary sources skip over all this interesting stuff and give the broader picture, allowing you to cover more ground laterally, but with less certainty, and less ability to crush those who seem to be getting it rong on the Internet (or elsewhere).

There is a problem with exploring primary sources. You are not allowed to. Or at least it is not easy. You can’t just walk into a lab and volunteer to work there for a few months to learn all about some very specific research area. In fact, it would be very bad if research labs just let random people show up and volunteer, because that could go very badly. But maybe you do have some way of getting some kind of volunteer experience. A good friend of mine has been collecting inverts for the county for years, as a volunteer, and has gained a great deal of understanding of the methods, scientific questions, and particular local issues of water quality in her area. Check around, you will probably find something.

The published literature may be inaccessible to you because of the way that publishers have manage to get a stranglehold on what is often publicly funded research results. But you can access OpenAccess sources such as the Public Library of Science. And, your local library should be able to give you access to at least somewhat older source material, and the current published papers in major journals such as Science and Nature.

Blind trust is great. For bungee jumping. But calculated skeptical trust (in secondary sources) can be developed by dipping now and then into the primary literature and if at all possible, getting your hands muddy. Or scraped up. Or irradiated. Or whatever (depends on the science.) At the same time, embed yourself in a matrix of trustworthy contacts, and use the knowledge you gain from working with primary sources to evaluate all that information that is out there.

The use of trustworthy sources, and the “trustworthing” of those sources will become increasingly important, and difficult, as more and more fake science sites appear on the Internet. This is a growing problem. More about that at a later time.


  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    December 17, 2009

    How do I know that I can trust your advice?

  2. #2 Physicalist
    December 17, 2009

    Great post.

    A third relevant strategy for assessing whom to trust on matters of science is to look carefully at both side of an apparent debate to see whether one side is consistently (and perhaps exclusively) relying on standard denialist tactics.

    Once you’ve looked a little bit into creationism, lung-cancer skeptics, anti-vaxers, etc. you find clear patterns of fallacious reasoning (cherry-picking, faux arguments from authority, arguments from ignorance, misrepresentations of scientific results, etc. etc.).

    That’s what convinced me that the climate change “skeptics” were full of crap. Time after time, I’d look into their arguments, and inevitably they were just the standard denialist fallacies.

  3. #3 skeptifem
    December 17, 2009

    wait…there are lung cancer deniers?

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Yes, and in fact, they had a point! (they are mostly past tense). My over simplistic but not entirely incorrect view:

    Most human lung cancer is genetically determined, but you are most likely to get it if you smoke or work in a coal mine or whatever. Otherwise, smoking does not cause lung cancer easily. So:

    LC gene = maybe you get lung cancer
    SMoking = you probably won’t get lung cancer
    LC gene + smoking = you’ll die of lung cancer

    Smoking kills mainly though heart disease and other lung related diseases, but lung cancer is scarier and a better poster child for no smoking campaigns.

  5. #5 Physicalist
    December 17, 2009

    “lung cancer deniers” = Milloy and others financed by the tobacco companies to claim that there is no scientific consensus that smoking causes cancer.

  6. #6 Rod
    December 17, 2009

    One area you don’t address is industrial chemical manufacturing. Those of us who worked in indusrty for years come in for some grief from those who think that we routinely falsify findings, “lose” data, fail to explain, then when we try we are accused of overlooking so-called key info… the list goes on. The worst one is “They are paying you, you’ll say whatever they want” which is pretty insulting…
    Interested to hear any comments on this…

  7. #7 Alex
    December 17, 2009

    As long as someone doesn’t start yelling some claptrap like “evolution” or “vaccinations,” I’m good.

  8. #8 Jason
    December 17, 2009

    Rod, denialists lack integrity and falsify/misrepresent data gleefully so of course they assume those on the other side would too. And lets face it there are unethical industry scientist mercenaries out there. The fact that scientists are are the first to go after and expose these frauds should bring credibility, but instead denialists use it as further fuel to discredit science in general.

  9. #9 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    If science “denialist” is used in a way that it only bolsters the sense of status and moral superiority of the ‘reality-based community,’ then that is a problem. I think it is hardly a coincidence that when challenged on basic precepts many “humanists” react with hysterical moralism. That tells me that perhaps much of what they believe is rooted in a general faith impulse. Dare I say a faith gene(s)?

  10. #10 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos, you’re going to have to get more specific if you want me to follow what you’re saying. How is “denialist” used in that way? Which basic precepts are you talking about and what constitutes hysterical moralism?

  11. #11 Russell
    December 17, 2009

    You’re omitting an important, though negative, fact. Even knowing absolutely nothing about climate science, it’s pretty easy to read through most denialist writing and see that they are dishonest, political hacks who have zero interest in the science at all. That doesn’t say anything about the science, per se, and still leaves the issue of how someone outside the field is to evaluate it.

    But it clears away a lot of crap.

  12. #12 Anna K.
    December 17, 2009

    Terrific post. Thanks.

  13. #13 Dacks
    December 17, 2009

    How do I know what to believe? Good question. Educating myself, particularly in a way that helps me know which sources to trust, is part of the process. But I’m not convinced that I need to go as deep into the nitty-gritty as Greg describes to get a toe-hold on a complicated subject.

    First off, a skeptic only holds beliefs on a provisional basis. Right now I don’t believe there are canals on Mars, but if the Mars Rover sent back pictures of little green men holding shovels, I’d be more than happy to reconsider my opinion.

    Second, I will consider a hypothesis only after it meets the basic realities of the universe. I don’t need specialized knowledge to be doubtful of the idea that dilution of a substance makes it more potent, as in homeopathy. If I accept the role that the atmosphere plays in warming the earth, it seems likely that changes in the composition of the atmosphere will affect the earth’s climate.

    Of course, Occam’s Razor also plays a part. Controlling AIDS in Africa is more easily achieved by handing out condoms than by promoting abstinence.

    Big, new paradigm-shifting ideas always take time to overcome the previous mindset: Wegener’s plate tectonics, H pylori causing ulcers. But they win out because they are coherent, and they fit the observations. Once a new concept has done the work of getting accepted into mainstream science, it doesn’t tend to go away.

  14. #14 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    “Controlling AIDS in Africa is more easily achieved by handing out condoms than by promoting abstinence.”

    Here is a good example of what I am refering to: below a certain IQ threshhold (I think it is somewhere around 85 if I recall correctly) individuals lack the necessary amount of foresite to effectively, that is consistently, utilize devices that prevent pregnancy and the transmission of disease. The average group IQ of sub-Saharan Africans is around 70. In other words, short of perhaps even brutal totalitarian intervention, there is naught that can be done.

    Now, I wonder what the response will be to that hard truth, will it be hysterical, one of moralizing, both?

  15. #15 Sam N
    December 17, 2009

    I foresee Captainchaos getting an asswhooping (in written form, of course) by Greg fairly soon 🙂

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos. I am perfectly willing to accept these thee or four facts you’ve presented in your comment as likely true as soon as you produce credible peer reviewed references to support them. Unless you just made them up. However, I know you didn’t make them up because I’ve seen it all before.

    No games. Come up with the data to back up your statements so that they can be reviewed. You have six hours.

  17. #17 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos, what evidence do you have for your claims about IQ?

  18. #18 loli
    December 17, 2009

    Oh, yes, stephanie and I are getting excited just imagining gregs hand on the keyboard writing out this asswhooping. Mmmmm

  19. #19 NewEnglandBob
    December 17, 2009

    “The average group IQ of sub-Saharan Africans is around 70.”

    So Captainchaos says this group of humans is inferior to other humans. I really want to see THAT data. It smells like a racist comment to me.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    loli, you seem to have me confused with Sam. I wasn’t waiting for Greg to start in on this one.

  21. #21 loli
    December 17, 2009

    Welcome to tonights fight ladies and gentleman.,

    In the red corner, representing everything that is wrong with america, please depise and hiss for captain chaos. In the blue corner representing, truth, justice and the american wasy, please kiss his ass for our hero Al Gore. Unfortunately Al can’t make it tonight and in his place please bow down to our hero, kaptain Klimate Gre Laden.

    Bewteen the rounds, stephanie will be aternating between massaging gregs bruised ego and throwing salt in the eyes of captain chaos.

  22. #22 Dacks
    December 17, 2009

    I was using the condom distribution as an example of Occam’s Razor, (although I see now that it wasn’t a particularly good choice):
    AIDS is spread through unprotected sex.
    Health officials can slow the rate of unprotected sex by giving out condoms, or by promoting abstinence.
    Promoting abstinence is one extra step removed from the problem, i.e. unsafe sex, and is therefore less likely to be an effective solution.

    Whatever you claim for sub-Saharan average IQ, is besides the point of my (somewhat weak) argument.

  23. #23 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    loli, don’t give up your day job. You need a much better shtick if you want to make it in show biz.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Timo (loli) … do you really think I can’t see you?

  25. #25 gonzo
    December 17, 2009

    Hard to edit on a gphone while working

  26. #26 Dacks
    December 17, 2009

    Here’s a better example of how I use Occam’s Razor to help decide what to think about a new theory, without having any firsthand knowledge of the subject.

    Last month’s Scientific American had an article about the “hobbits” of Indonesia. A new group analyzing the bones found some very primitive characteristics. Their provisional theory is that the hobbits represent a branching of the hominid line from earlier than Homo erectus.

    I know that the anthropologists proposing this theory know much, much more about it than I do. But their theory requires two unlikely steps: this would be the first evidence of migration from Africa of hominids before Homo erectus, AND it would be a species very unlike any found before. In my reckoning, Occam’s Razor demands a skeptical view of this theory, contingent on more verification, because it depends on two unrelated coincidences.

  27. #27 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    First offering:

    See pp. 47-48 of IQ & Global Inequality by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in a section entitled Intelligence and Trainability.

    For instance: “Rows 4 and 5 [of Table 3.6] give the results from a study of the relation between intelligence and the training success in American military training schools. All recruits to the American military are given an intelligence test , the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test). They are then sent to training schools. At the end of training, they are assessed for how well they have done on the course by tests assessing job performance, knowledge, and skills. The results based on a sample of 472,539 military personnel have been analysed by Hunter (1986), who presents the correlations between IQ and training success for five types of training, namely: Mechanical, Clerical, Electronic, General Technical, and Combat. These correlations are shown in Table 3.6.”

    The correlations shown in Table 3.6 found on page 48 are .67 (Electronic), .62 (Mechanical), .62 (Technical), .58 (Clerical), and .45 (Combat).

  28. #28 Bill James
    December 17, 2009

    Highlights from Thursdays RBT post:

    Robert Bruce Thompson – “Hadley/CRU chose to incorporate the less reliable half of the data and discard the more reliable… …real scientists, have been betrayed… …AGW alarmists are now reduced to arguing from authority… …To any real scientist, the “trust me, I’m a scientist” argument is anathema…”

  29. #29 Texas Reader
    December 17, 2009

    You don’t really have to research the issues. With something like climate change where there are (basically) two sides, you can look at the folks on both sides as to 1 – what might their motivation be? does any party have financial gain or risk of loss which might influence what they say 2 – which side seems to have the most qualified people (the denialists have a bunch of folks with NO science background, and a bunch more with meteorology but not climate science (such as atmospheric physics) background then 3 – among the apparently qualified folks without money at stake, is there a strong consensus?

    With climate change the fact that NOAA, NASA, the National Science Foundation, most climatologists, and scientists from all over the world involved in IPCC all have no real personal money involved, and all agree, is enough for me. PARTICULARLY when oil companies have funded much of the PR from the other side.

  30. #30 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    Second offering:

    Steve Sailer’s review of IQ and the Wealth of Nations also by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen.


    “The book’s content is irresistible – at its heart is a table of the average IQ scores of 81 different countries, most drawn from studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The national average IQs range from 107 for Hong Kong to 59 for Equatorial Guinea.

    Lynn and Vanhanen benchmarked their IQ results so that Britain is 100. America scores 98 on this scale, and the world average is 90. IQ’s are assumed to form a normal probability distribution (“bell curve”) with the standard deviation set at 15.


    I expected a sizable amount of internal divergence. I spent 18 years in the marketing research industry, so I know how expensive it is to come up with a nationally representative sample. Further, Lynn and Vanhanen use results from quite different IQ tests. They rely most on the non-verbal Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which were designed to be used across cultures, even by illiterates. Yet, they also have a lot of results from the Wechsler exams, which are more culture dependent – the Wechsler include a vocabulary subtest, for example. And they report results from other IQ tests, including a few from the oddball Goodenough-Harris Draw-A-Man test. Also, sample sizes vary dramatically, from a few dozen in some obscure countries to 64,000 for one American study. Finally, some studies were of children, others of adults.


    Still, the correlation among results when there are two or more studies for a country is a striking 0.94.”

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos: The data you cite have no relation to the assertions you made earlier .
    Lynn and Vanhanen have largely been discredited for their use of bogus data produced by Rushton, which in turn among the most cooked data ever. (Here’s a quick and dirty contemporary critique of the Bell Curve and by implication Rushton’s data that is on the internet:

  32. #32 Sam N
    December 17, 2009

    I was far less interested in the claim about IQ of 70, for which I could imagine such a study.

    I was far more interested in evidence that people below and IQ of 85 are incapable of consistently using contraception. Given the many potential sources for measuring an IQ below 85 I have a hard time imagining how to even design a study that would prove the point.

  33. #33 Rob W
    December 17, 2009

    Great post, Greg! From my own POV — often being the sole skeptic (but not a scientist either) in conversations… I think that “science” to most people as they encounter it is represented by medical doctors.

    I personally interact with medical professionals with a maybe exaggerated level of distrust, particularly after a very unpleasant childbirth experience largely due to some traditional medical approaches to childbirth that are not at ALL supported by scientific research, and others that are just obviously stupid from a psychological standpoint.

    But medical doctors are as close as most people come to talking with scientists; sometimes I can understand why some people feel much more comforted by a quack who has a much better grasp of human psychology (but uses it to push homeopathy or whatever).

    Take a traumatic experience or two with medical professionals, and throw in some articles about doctors on cruises, then “big pharma” secretly publishing their OWN “peer-reviewed” journals, and people think they have the world of medical science pegged… and by god, maybe those nuts talking about conspiracies to cut world population through vaccines are onto something. And so it goes.

    The main arguments against this stuff are to try and expand the simplistic view into a more nuanced one, but it’s a lot of work and most people don’t hang in there for the payoff in understanding.

    I’m not sure how exactly to go about fixing the tarnished rep of “science” among the general population, but it’s something everyone who represents a public face on science (especially medical professionals, perhaps) should consider.

  34. #34 Sam N
    December 17, 2009

    After reading my comment I think I should clarify that I don’t think people of sub-Saharan Africa are less intelligent than people anywhere else, simply that I can imagine a study that would attempt to measure intelligence through an IQ-test and come up with a 70 point score. And thus while subject to the limitations of the IQ test, would be a valid, although not very useful measurement.

    I can not conceive of how a score below 85 on such a test could then be used to determine whether or not someone is going to be capable of using contraception however.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    OK, I’ll just point out that the 70 IQ score for Africans is incorrect, and it is based on a series of bad (sometimes simply nefarious) events in the history of IQ measurements, and we see the 70 IQ number again and again being touted by ignorant racists. It isn’t real.

    Sam N, I didn’t think you were saying anytying about the African IQ part, just writing it off, as is appropriate.

  36. #36 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009


    Only three of Rushton’s works are cited in IQ & Global Inequality out of over a hundred citations. Likewise, only fourteen of Rushton’s works are cited in Lynn’s book Race Differences in Intelligence, out of over a hundred citations. If Rushton is discredited, that hardly means much at all. All those other pyschometricians whose data point to disparities in racial intellience are cooking their books, it’s a conspiracy, do I read you right?

    Are the men and women who conducted this study in on it, Greg?;jsessionid=32D72F2B728A3117880E1F7FF267DF23.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=99813

    Btw, the link you provided is dead.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Yes, it is pretty much a conspiracy, no kidding.

    You need to learn a bit more about how the scholarly process works. Tell me where this 70 IQ value comes from. Exactly. Trace that number back to where it was first measured. Then let us know what you find. Provide citations.

  38. #38 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    “Yes, it is pretty much a conspiracy, no kidding.”

    I take it you are a man of sufficient intelligence (you do have a PhD, no?) to see the parallel vulnerability you experience as a proponent of global warming. Tread lightly.

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos, I’m waiting for you to tell us where the number 70 comes from. How did that number for “African IQ” come to be .. how was it measured, by whom, what population, etc.

  40. #40 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    Boy, have I got a treat for you, Greg. On pp. 31-34 of Lynn’s book Race Differences in Intelligence is a chart listing the average IQ scores of various sub-Saharan African peoples. There are 57 in all. The average of the IQ averages of all the studies listed is 67. How many of the studies listed did Rushton have a hand in? That’s right, none. Now, considering that the sine qua non of scientific respectability is the REPRODUCABLILITY of results in subsequent experimental testing, perhaps you should reconsider the way in which you have besmirched Rushton.

    Btw, Lynn does not contend that sub-Saharan African IQ is irremediable, he conjectures that with better childhood nutrition and stimulation that mean group IQ can be raised to a whopping…wait for it… 80.

    Also, it is not necessary to cite metrics of differential abilities for one to realize the intrinsic life interest one has in the genetic continuity of his own people (and obviously the attendant necessary conditions to facilitate that). There is after all what is know as ethnic genetic interests. You would not ask Tibetans to provide ANY qualifications that demonstrate their right not to be replaced in their own homeland by Han Chinese, now would you? That you hold those of European descent to a different standard does not speak well for your fairness, and needless to say your loyalty.

  41. #41 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    And truly, what should it matter to those of European descent is the earth warms a few degrees but their people cease to exist? In the coming century we will look squarely upon losing everything that makes life living in this world, if present trends play out long enough our people will be no more. I, for one, would rather the world burn to ashes than see my people die.

    That you, Greg, regurgitate what is but a third-rate echo of Frankfurt School social criticism does not speak well of you. Do you actually know just what rankest anti-White misanthropy is contained within that Frankfurt doctrine? It contends that all that is good in us is but mental illness!

    All of it is thoroughly documented in Dr. Kevin MacDonald’s book Culture of Critique. It is a totally damning indictment. If you are interested in the truth, take a look.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    You still have not answered the question. Lots of books have lots of data tables in them. That is not what you are required to produce.

    I believe I gave you ’till 9:00 tonight my time. You’ve got 55 more minutes.

  43. #43 Picachu
    December 17, 2009

    Nice work Captain Chaos,

    Your jabs and stomach blows have been effective and Kaptain Klimate is on the ropes. We can see he has underestimated your skills. Don’t get complacent though, Klimate has many tricks up his sleaves, good fighting skills, and unbelievable stamina. He will try and wear you down. He also has some supporters that may want to jump into the ring when they see he is getting tired. Keep up your guard, defend your head, fight hard and you may have victory this day. Good Luck Man.

  44. #44 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    timo/Picachu, you do realize you’ve just equated “The white master race is on the ropes” with “Nice work,” yes?

  45. #45 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    Laden, I told you where to find the information – book and page. Fifty-seven studies are listed therein. As is said, see for yourself. If you will not even spend the meager effort to look into the matter, your dogmatism is confirmed. You are an academic for chrissakes, where is your curiosity, your intellectual pride? Leave the rhetorical deadlines and posturing for the peanut gallery for the schoolyard. And give Dr. Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique a look (it is available for free in .pdf format on the Web – use Google).

  46. #46 picachu
    December 17, 2009


    Does Greg think of himself as a Master of the White Race? In that case I will be happy if someone slugs him. However, it looks like Captain Chaos is taking a breather, so it may have to continue another day.

  47. #47 Stephanie Z
    December 17, 2009

    timo, apparently you didn’t understand comment 41.

  48. #48 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    First you drag my infant son into your insane arguments, then you threaten to hit me. What kind of person are you?

  49. #49 picachu
    December 17, 2009

    Oops, I spoke too soon. C.C. is back and he is in fine form, swinging deftly at kaptain Klimate’s infantilism, superiority complex, and hypocrisy. Can Klimate recover? Stay tuned folks!

  50. #50 blizzard
    December 17, 2009

    My insane argument was that people who are so concerned about global warming such as yourself, but others too, should be willing to sacrifice their own pleasure, not only to help the planet, but also to act as role models to the people, like me, who are on the fence.

    That would mean: a) signing a public agreement to stop flying unless it is a family emergency

    b) Not eating meat, especially beef
    c) Boycotting automobiles except where it would cause a hardhip.
    d) reduce carbon footprint by living in a small house or apt, living in a densely populated area if possible,
    e) giving away a substantial part of one’s income to help the poor.
    f) not have children, by choice.

    I realize I may have stepped over the line with your son and I apologize. I was trying to make a point.

    And if you consider yourself a master of the white race then you deserve a punch. However, I doubt that is how you perceive yourself, so I retract it.

  51. #51 blizzard
    December 17, 2009

    Why ask me a question if you are going to delete it, laladen

  52. #52 Russell
    December 17, 2009

    Blizzard, your request reflects a poor understanding of economics. First, individual sacrifices don’t mitigate externalities, because an exploitable resource, such as the earth’s climate, will be put to use where it profitably can, whether or not some choose not to purchase the results. Capitalism works. It’s necessary to understand how it works. But it does work.

    Second, the goal of resolving an externality is not to hurt anyone, nor to distort markets, but to impede the economic process that externalizes its own costs.

  53. #53 Sam N
    December 17, 2009

    Ugh, I really dislike the argument that people who actually understand the science of global warming (I must admit I only understand the very basics, e.g. how CO2 affects climate and that humans are producing significant quantities), and the vacuity of AGW denialists (really? the sun is responsible for the warming trend, and other similar such nonsense), and understand the potential adverse effects should nevertheless be completely immune to all-to-human tendencies to consume fossil fuels for convenience.

    The very reason I am in favor of governmental intervention is because I understand that otherwise I will take shortcuts. If I am provided with a 50% tax on gasoline I will drive less. If energy is taxed at a higher rate I will use less because these are direct effects I experience, compared to the harm of AGW which is distant. Nevertheless, I would prefer not to be an asshole to my potential children and others who will want to thrive on this planet, thus I would really like sensible government interventions, to help me and many others, actually meet their ideals through regulation.

  54. #54 blizzard
    December 17, 2009

    You are right Russell, I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I mean I don’t understand, literally.

    I guess I have been listening to NPR too much. They suggest we all need to do something to help mitigate the effects of climate change, including reducing our carbon footprint. Why else use certain kinds of lighting, ride our bikes instead of drive etc. Am i missing something here?

    And my point is, even if you are right, most people believe that everyone should be doing their part to help the environment. I doubt there would be so many attacks against the idea of AGW, if proponents were willing to actually follows these guidelines. It seems hypocritical to be flying to a conference on global warming, and also advocating reducing carbon output by jets.

  55. #55 blizzard
    December 17, 2009


    I agree with you in principle, but according to proponents, the world is on the brink of disaster unlike anything we have seen in human history. Human History: not 6000 years, but to agree with Hitchens, at least 100,000 years, probably more. This calls for drastic action, and as I said, the average person would take their sacrifice seriously and I think would make them more believable.

    I am an Atheist, and agree with Dawkins that religious instruction is child abuse. Therefore, as much as I enjoyed hymns and Sunday School when I was growing up, I do not, and will not take my child to church. Do you see the analogy?

  56. #56 Captainchaos
    December 17, 2009

    Blizzard, you make some good points. Of course Laden would not move, himself and his family, to an area where Third World peoples, nor the conditions associated with that, predominate. Why? Because he is sane, and for the most part a morally normal man; though tragically misguided. Yet, he would will the policies that foist those conditions on the rest of his co-ethnics. He would “earn” his daily bread by propounding the ideas that pathologize the peoplehood of the White policemen, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers whose efforts and tax dollars make his comfortable life possible. That is not honorable. That is the station of a free-rider. Ironic, that his stock in trade – liberalism/humanism/post-modernism – is wholly predicated upon coloring the station of European peoples in this world as gotten by morally illegitimate means, and thereby shaming them falsely into submission. A tack, it should be noted, to which European Man, due to his unique evolutionary history, is particularly vulnerable. That we would even listen to such drivel for a second is singular proof of our goodness. If he were to give the same line to the Chinese the least of what they would do is laugh.

    If Laden cares to look into the matter, he will find my position vindicated. But, for those less inclined to the life of the mind, this should suffice: Laden, indeed all anti-White-ists, would have us believe in the absolutely equal genetic potentiality of all peoples, a condition that is actually manifested nowhere. We can say, with near self-evidence, all peoples are not of equal genetic potential. But, as I alluded to above, that should not matter, all peoples have an intrinsic life interest in the genetic continuity of their people. I only bring up the differences in civilization building capacity at all because for people like Laden, and sadly for most, the question arises, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Well, what’s in it for you, and all of us, is the desire not live in terror in a Third World shit hole.

  57. #57 Greg Laden
    December 17, 2009

    Captainchaos: Except all those years I lived in the Congo.

  58. #58 blizzard
    December 17, 2009


    It is not my job to defend laden. However, did I miss where he was pathologizing peoples people hood (?) and being anti-whitist? gulp! I guess I should have read more carefully your arguments. what do you mean by genetic potential? Genetic potential for what, exactly?

  59. #59 blizzard
    December 17, 2009

    I have read elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s excellent and moving books about the !Kung people of S.Africa, and Botswana. Nobody living with those people would say they have less genetic potential than anyone else. Indeed, if judged by the success and longevity of their culture and way of life, they are the most successful people on the planet.

  60. #60 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    timo and all the little puppets, grow the fuck up. Nobody cares what your gut says about AGW. Nobody believes you have an ounce of integrity after you said the science was right but you still don’t believe. Nobody cares what you think people should do to earn your trust. Nobody thinks your trust is worth anything.

    Nobody cares what radio station you listen to. Nobody cares about your weak grasp of economics. Nobody cares about your personal information and whether you’re being paid to be stupid or are doing it on your own. Nobody wants or expects Greg to apologize to you, because he hasn’t done even a tiny fraction of the damage to your “reputation” that you have. Nobody cares whether you’re real. Nobody thinks your jackassery is funny. Nobody cares whether Greg turns you on. Nobody even does more than skim what you have to say anymore.

    And nobody will. Dry up.

    Captainchaos, by the way, just to inform your reading-comprehension-impaired self, is a white supremacist with whom you’ve been cozying up because he’s insulted that Greg thinks race is an invalid biological construct.

  61. #61 Greg Laden
    December 18, 2009

    You would then also enjoy her brother, John Marshall’s films, if you can find them. “N!ai, story of a !Kung woman” is sometimes available at video rental places.

  62. #62 blizzard
    December 18, 2009

    Whenever I re-read The Old Way, which I have done at least 5 times since it came out, I once again look for John’s work on the internet, and have seen many photos. I haven’t found the film itself at my video store.

  63. #63 Greg Laden
    December 18, 2009

    It’s on Amazon as a video on demand:
    N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman

    I have no idea how that works. I once saw it at a “hollywood video” and of course, DER will be happy to sell it to you for 60 bucks:

  64. #64 blizzard
    December 18, 2009

    I lived in Chiapas, Mexico for a few years after the Zapatista revolution in 1994. My son was born there. Although, it wasn’t as third world as some places, and I agree that slum living would not suit most of us, I will suggest to you that it had certain advantages over life in America. And if it weren’t for my health, I may still be there.

    I think, some of the people, whom you call anti-whitist, are less anti-white, and more anti-imperialism and anti-white elitism. Perhaps it is a bit naive, but I see the world as a single unit with all human beings, at least in their rights to life, liberty etc, as equally deserving.

  65. #65 blizzard
    December 18, 2009

    Thanks. TT

  66. #66 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    You say that you have lived years in the Congo, Greg. Okay then, you cannot claim no knowledge of what I speak – I speak of the squalor and disorderliness, and the sporadic barbarism of the sub-Saharan African – that is unless you are willfully blind. And it is telling, too, that you have not chosen to live there all your life long, but have come have to your own people. I know, it feels oh so good, you, with your effervescent ‘altruism’. Chemicals coursing through synaptic clefts, that is all, I’m afraid. The religious man knows that too when he communes with his ‘God’. It is the behavior of an addict, a moralistic addict, with no real, rational perception of his life interests, and that those are bound irrevocably to his own people.

    Time to for brutal honesty: Our people, yours and mine, for the most part want no part of your diversity talisman. If indeed they did, then they would not engage in White flight. But they do, now don’t they? Yes. And what would happen to them if they said “no more”, if they said “not one step back, ever again”. You know…they would be visited by burly men in swat gear and have automatic weapons stuck in their faces. That it how it works in the real world, when the rubber meets the road. If you don’t know that, then you know nothing.

    So: right to self determination denied!

    A while back, former speech writer for the British Labour party Andrew Neather wrote in a newspaper article that is was always intended effect of the party immigration policy to change the demographic composition of the ancient homeland of Britons; motivated by the desire to see the Right have their noses rubbed in their ‘racism’. And what is more, if one speaks out against it in terms commensurate to just what is being done – the commission of a intentional slow-trickle genocide – one can be jailed for ‘incitement to racial hatred’. This is not the conduct of honorable men, but that of mentally disturbed totalitarians. You must ask yourself, and so must we all, which side of this thing are we on. Ultimately, there is no middle ground.

    As for me, the international system that obtains in the West has forfeited its legitimacy. The right of our people to continue to be at all if a right absolute. Therefore, those of us that love our people must be committed to doing whatever we must to remain forever ourselves.

  67. #67 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    Captainchaos, if you’d adopted chivalry as your anachronistic perversion, you’d at least have the girl.


  68. #68 blizzard
    December 18, 2009


    Somehow I missed your previous post. thanks for the constructive criticism. I appreciate your kindness in writing such a long and detailed post. Sweet dreams

  69. #69 blizzard
    December 18, 2009


    Somehow I missed your previous post. thanks for the constructive criticism. I appreciate your kindness in writing such a long and detailed post. Sweet dreams

  70. #70 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009


    If you are one of Laden’s students, and he is the one who told you that race is a “social construct”, then ask for your money back.


    “We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic
    population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure
    Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African
    American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States
    and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed
    near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/
    ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On
    the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within
    each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/
    ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population.
    Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.” – Tang H, Quertermous T, Rodriguez B, et al. Genetic structure, self-identified race/ethnicity, and confounding in case-control association studies. Am J Hum Genet. Feb 2005;76(2):268-275.

    Now Stephanie, why not run along and bake the kids some cookies. That is, if you haven’t been so brainwashed and denatured of your White femininity that you neglected to have any White children.

  71. #71 Sam N
    December 18, 2009

    Wow, I’ve never actually encountered such a racist jackass on the internet before. Sure, I’ve encountered lock solid crazy creationists, but this guy is both fascinating and disturbing. I really do live in an ivory tower of sorts in that I would never, ever encounter such a person within my own social circles. At least I haven’t yet.

    Captainchaos, how did you find this blog, I’m genuinely curious.

  72. #72 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    Yes, Captainchaos, I’ve read that study and plenty of others of the same sort, and I’m unimpressed by the geographical separation required in the locales of pre-immigration origin in order to produce any groupings of genetics. I’m also unimpressed with anyone who doesn’t understand that the history of immigration into the U.S. doesn’t produce anything like a representative sampling of world genetic distributions.

    However, if you’d like to console yourself for the personal failures you’re trying to bury under the excuse that your whole race is being persecuted, along with your gender, I can offer you a lovely cookie recipe. Assuming you’re competent to operate an oven.

  73. #73 Andrew
    December 18, 2009

    Don’t give him cookies.

  74. #74 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    “Captainchaos, how did you find this blog, I’m genuinely curious.”

    Razib Khan’s blog Gene Expression (GNXP) is part of this family of blogs (Science Blogs). He is a proponent of genetic differences in the potential of human populations referred to as human bio-diversity. If you want the skinny on HBD, go pay Khan a visit. Of course, Khan cynically rejects the concept of ethnic genetic interests – and doesn’t tolerate White Nationalists at his site – because he wants more of his co-ethnics (the intellectually gifted ones that is) to be allowed into America, and tacitly advocates for that. He is acting on behalf of his own ethnic genetic interests. I mean, if non-Whites have an interest in increasing their numbers in White homelands, then why don’t Whites correspondingly have an interest in keeping their numbers as high as possible in said? I’m willing to bet you never thought of it that way. Certainly not much original coming from Laden’s keyboard or lectern.

  75. #75 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    Jesus Stephanie, you are a walking bundle of cliches. Always with the psychologized pathologization with you people. When Polly asks for a cracker she should remember that Budgie is brain dead.

  76. #76 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    Aw, it’s been a while since I’ve been “you people”-ed. But the comment about cliches is pretty funny coming from the guy who wants me to bake cookies for my kids.

    Dude, if you were successful and so terribly concerned about some balance of skin colors, you’d be out producing more little shiny babies instead of commenting on blogs.

  77. #77 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    I can dig a little ad hominem, even if my interlocutor’s offering is not clever, and they are too daft to realize it. Ciao.

  78. #78 Joseph Hertzlinger
    December 18, 2009

    One side is complaining about a supposed “conservative war on science” with the global-warming controversy as a centerpiece. The other side of the political spectrum has responded with the traditional “I know you are but what am I?” and claimed there’s a “liberal war on science” with the IQ controversy as a centerpiece. I am very dubious about both sides.

    On the one hand, there are theoretical and empirical reasons to believe potential global warming is both anthropogenic and significantly deleterious and there are also theoretical and empirical reasons to believe group differences in measured IQ are both genetic and important. On the other hand, there were theoretical and empirical reasons to believe similar ideas in the past (for both sides) that turned out not be the case. In addition, some of the most fervent advocates for the claims are would-be totalitarians, which makes adopting the ideas much riskier than skepticism.

  79. #79 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    Listen to yourself Hertzlinger. Our ruling elites are CONSCIOUSLY going about the replacement of European peoples. I mean, they come out with projects upon which date we will become minorities in our own homelands with no announced plan to stop it! I hate to be crude, but it’s staring you right in the fucking face! News flash: there will be no fuzzy center for you to retreat to as ethnic conflict and power jockeying becomes RAMPANT, and the curtain of the total security state descends. And yet some here NEVER heard about any of this until I told them. Now why is that?

    There are only two ways this will go, and ain’t none of them pleasant:

    1.) Whites will organize politically and try to stop AND REVERSE these deleterious demographic trends via democratic means.

    2.) That failing, they will militarize and engage in armed revolution against the System.

    In the real world, how did any of you think this would all end but that?

    Btw, I’m advocating nothing, just telling you the way it is.

  80. #80 Russell
    December 18, 2009

    You’re correct, blizzard, that many if not most green choices by individuals don’t actually count for very much. The problem is that it’s often quite difficult for people to know, between alternative consumer choices in front of them, which actually has, say, a lower lifecycle carbon footprint. The economic fact is that the only thing that will be truly effective is systemic changes, i.e., policies that incorporate costs to the environment into pricing, all along the production chain. Sometimes, that will make little or no difference to the consumer at all: companies will alter the way they supply products and services without the consumer noticing. Sometimes, that will percolate into end prices.

    And it already does, to some extent. To a first-order approximation, the less someone spends, the greener they are. Go cheap, and you’re typically going green. 😉 Not always — the whole point of externalities is that their costs are not reflected in the price chain. But it’s good practice, in any case.

  81. #81 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    Captainchaos, ad hominem is insulting you in order to suggest your argument is wrong. I addressed the tiny bit of research you cling to in order to hope you are, against all evidence, some superior being. You haven’t brought any more. Insulting you is just gravy.

  82. #82 Sean
    December 18, 2009

    Captain Chaos…Which homelands do you refer to? You bring up Han plantation in Tibet, but how about white plantation in the Americas? You want some more white folks in Europe? Then follow your logic and expect a shipment of around 200 million in a few weeks.
    Since you are a Captain, you can drive one of the boats!

  83. #83 daedalus2u
    December 18, 2009

    Kind of pathetic that a white supremacist makes all these arguments about skin color and IQ; neglecting that there is much greater difference within each group that is considered an ethnic cohort than there is between different ethnic cohorts.

    But then we know which part of the IQ distribution Conservatives tend to be on, so it isn’t that much of a surprise.

  84. #84 Alex
    December 18, 2009

    Captain, do you know what an IQ measurement is? Can you explain to us how it is taken and arrived at? Please convince us that you have a clue as to what you are talking about.

  85. #85 BGT
    December 18, 2009

    Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!

    When did “Tiny Town” get connected to the Internet?
    I would have thought BillyBob and BobbyJoe would have been too busy cruising in their pickup truck protecting the integrity of their little society to be bothered with ScienceBlogs.

    Notice: The above comment contains gratuitous Dead Milkmen references.

  86. #86 blizzard
    December 18, 2009


    Though I did appreciate your penetrating insights about me, (unfortunately IQ is soewhat fixed, so I can’t really do anything about my stupidity), you did not respond to anything I said in my post about making personal sacrifices. May I (stupidly) infer that you are avoiding the topic so as not to expose your hypocrisy?


    Can you start a post that deals with this question? I would like to hear the arguments for and against. Thanks

  87. #87 blizzard
    December 18, 2009


    Though I did appreciate your penetrating insights about me, (unfortunately IQ is soewhat fixed, so I can’t really do anything about my stupidity), you did not respond to anything I said in my post about making personal sacrifices. May I (stupidly) infer that you are avoiding the topic so as not to expose your hypocrisy?


    Can you start a post that deals with this question? I would like to hear the arguments for and against. Thanks

  88. #88 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    blizzard, you can and will infer whatever you like. You’ll get the vast majority of it wrong.

  89. #89 blizzard
    December 18, 2009


    Avoidance and deflection. Excellent retort.

  90. #90 Stephanie Z
    December 18, 2009

    timo-blizzard, plenty of the behavior I take to address my carbon footprint is documented in the comments of this blog. Plenty of people reading know roughly how I live my life. They know because it’s useful to provide an example. To them.

    It’s pointless to do the same to you. You have no intention of changing your mind about AGW. You’ve done a very good job documenting this from your first comment on the subject. If believing that the science is good doesn’t do it, nothing will. You’re simply trying to use the demand as a bludgeon against anyone who ticks you off, and I see no point in playing that game.

  91. #91 Dave Dell
    December 18, 2009

    I’m one of those above referenced “science geek and the skeptic”, or at least what passes for one in my limited circle of friends, relatives and neighbors. I know I’ll never be on the cutting edge of any branch of science and technology since I’m aware of my limitations in mathematics.

    I do know enough, however, to know when someone says to me, “They used to think we were in for global cooling.”, to reply, “There’s more computing power on your laptop than existed in the rooms full of punch card driven computers at the University I went to in 1973.” When the creationists and the climate change deniers make statements that would void the entirety of a scientific field (or multiple fields) I know I’m listening to bullshit.

    So how do I know what to believe? I read books with footnotes and bibliographies by the very readable popularizing authors such as Fortey, Dawkins, Lane, Atkins, Ridley, Ridley, etc. etc. I read the footnotes. I see how many books in the bibliography sound interesting and try to read them as well. I go to the many, many web sites such as this one or pharyngula and astronomy picture of the day and I follow the links.

    When you first start this sort of reading it’s tough. You don’t have the vocabulary at first. After more than a few books have been read you have developed a “popular science” vocabulary. Good enough to tell when the dialogue of “The Big Bang Theory” science is valid and when they’re just tossing words into the void. Little by little you realize that you don’t have the real technical vocabulary of the scientists working in the various fields. You also realize that there are different approaches and interpretations of the data and that in many fields, new techniques and data are coming out all the time. You start to wish some authors would issue a 2.0 of their books.

    I’ve reached that point. I’ll read good, new, interesting books. (I’ll even buy some although I’ve gotten picky about what I put into my permanent collection). What to read? I rely on book reviews by you and yours. Show up on “The Daily Show” or “Colbert” and tout your book and it will likely get me interested enough to do some research to see if I want to read it. Review popularizers books on your blogs and web sites. The folks like me are always on the lookout to add to our list of “must reads”.

    One other thing. People like myself are interested in EVERYTHING. We’re interested in science and technology and literature and geo-political situations and politics and and and and …

    Oh, one more thing. I’d love it if there were more glossaries in the popular scientific literature.

  92. #92 Scotlyn
    December 18, 2009

    Great post.

    These different sources will provide different levels of information, and also, qualitatively different information. Wrestling with primary literature means understanding methods in a way you will not have to if using only secondary sources.

    Exactly – but get so frustrated at being unable to access so much of the primary literature? (PS I didn’t miss your hat-tip to the PLoS archives which are fantastic. But if you read something interesting there and want to follow up on the articles it cites – you will quickly run back up against a firewall.)

    Keep up the good work.
    PS I gave up on the actual thread once I realised it had been hijacked by the KKK. Pity.

  93. #93 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    I will not deign to address the droolcup set whose only interface with “reality” is platitude. That would manifestly be a waste of my time.

  94. #94 Yahzi
    December 18, 2009

    How does a non-professional know what to believe?

    In some cases it’s easy. For example, after this comment:

    I, for one, would rather the world burn to ashes than see my people die.

    I instantly knew that nothing Captain Chaos said was worth reading.

    As an engineer in the aerospace industry, one of the things we care about is process. An answer is useless unless you know exactly how that answer was obtained. You have to know the test environment, including the assumptions the tester was making. When you see a bad assumption, you invalid the answer without even looking at it, because you can’t trust it.

    When Captain Chaos invokes the concept of “my people,” then I instantly know he’s not operating from a scientific standpoint. He is operating (at least in part) from a sociological perspective. This invalidates any scientific point he could hope to make, much as the mere mention of Santa Claus instantly invalidates any paper on physics.

    So sometimes its easy to spot the lunatic.

  95. #95 Yahzi
    December 18, 2009

    Or, for example, consider this bit of logic:

    Our ruling elites are CONSCIOUSLY going about the replacement of European peoples. I mean, they come out with projects upon which date we will become minorities in our own homelands with no announced plan to stop it!

    The problem here should be obvious even to the layman. A claim is made and evidence is provided for it. Except the evidence doesn’t prove the claim.

    There could be many reasons why the ruling elites have not advanced a plan: they don’t know of one, they have but it’s not good enough to please, they have a secret plan, they don’t think it’s a problem, they are unaware of the problem. The reason “they want the event to occur” is only one of many possible reasons, and in any case the idea that “failure to act” equals “conscious intent to allow” should be ludicrous even to a 12-year-old.

    When someone advances their arguments in this manner – using this kind of specious logic – then you know you have to ignore their conclusions, because even if they’re right, they’re right for the wrong reasons, and that’s not good enough.

  96. #96 Greg Laden
    December 18, 2009
  97. #97 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    “When Captain Chaos invokes the concept of “my people,” then I instantly know he’s not operating from a scientific standpoint. He is operating (at least in part) from a sociological perspective.”

    Look at the abstract of the genetic study I posted above. Self-identified race clusters together with others who also so identify at a rate of over 98%. Perception validated by the scientific method. Without perception, that is without consciousness, there can be no scientific pursuit of the expansion and refinement of knowledge at all. So then, your “point” is really a non-point.

    “So sometimes its easy to spot the lunatic.”

    And it is even easier (for me at least) to spot a moron in that he applies “process” without incite.

    “The reason “they want the event to occur” is only one of many possible reasons, and in any case the idea that “failure to act” equals “conscious intent to allow” should be ludicrous even to a 12-year-old.”

    My god, you are tone deaf bordering on the autistic. As your logic machine clunks along you advance the position that because I did not provide all possible context which is supportive of my position that THEREFORE no other such bits of the fuller context exist.

    But I’m a nice guy, so I’ll humor you a little, just why the hell are we constantly needled to ‘celebrate’ ‘diversity’ if indeed our societal elites have a neutral or negative attitude towards the increase of the fodder for that celebration, eh?

    “they don’t know of one, they have but it’s not good enough to please, they have a secret plan, they don’t think it’s a problem, they are unaware of the problem.”

    Grasping at straws is barely sufficient to describe the above level of fatuousness.

  98. #98 Greg Laden
    December 18, 2009

    Self identified geography also clusters with what state someone lives in (in the US) but that does not obviate the fact that the boundaries between states are thin and arbitrary.

  99. #99 Captainchaos
    December 18, 2009

    “Self identified geography also clusters with what state someone lives in (in the US) but that does not obviate the fact that the boundaries between states are thin and arbitrary.”

    Geography, a given bit of land, is stone dead, Greg. It has no interests, or it cannot perceive and feel interests. Also, “someone” (an individual)can move from one geographic locale to another, thereby changing the cluster. One cannot, at least as of yet, change one’s genotype. So, consistent with the above, one has a real life interest in the transmission of one’s genes forward in time that inevitably involves one’s fellows. One needs at least a partner to breed with to facilitate the process of birthing, if not to aid in the raising to reproductively viable maturation of the resultant offspring. Now, one can go it alone like that, it is possible, but, in the competition for resources to facilitate the process of offspring rearing larger groups will out compete an individual. And, more cohesive groups, all else being equal, will out compete less cohesive groups. The question then arises, what better facilitates group cohesion? Well, ethnocentrism as the evolved affinity for one’s most closely genetically related others. And one’s most closely genetically related others are to be found in one’s extremely extended kinship group, or ethny. That is the way it is done if one wishes not to be an evolutionary dead end. What is more, I do not believe most people are ‘free’ to do otherwise. You can get them to mouth the platitudes of the doctrine of political correctness but not seemingly to get them to live around non-ethny members without at the last sticking a fucking gun in their faces. Why is it so hard, why is it so horrible, to face that; that European Man has an interest that he acts upon in his genetic continuity? Just what is lost really, something akin to the secular salvation of a true community of all men, i.e., Communism? It was never real, it was never to be, beautiful dream though it was. We must reconcile ourselves to the love of and loyalty to our own, and that is far from nothing.

  100. #100 Irene
    December 18, 2009

    Wow. Looks like we got ourselves a real nut case.

  101. #101 Tsu Dho Nimh
    December 19, 2009

    CaptainChaos …
    On one IQ test, I scored about 60. On another I scored whatever you get if you get all the answers right.

    What is my real IQ?

  102. #102 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2009

    Tsu: I think you add them.

  103. #103 Leni
    December 19, 2009

    I just wanted to add a few points to things that others have said about understanding science from a layman’s perspective.

    (I’m hoping the thread isn’t a total lost cause…)

    One of the things that has most benefited me is having a relatively firm grasp on processes, principles and “best practices”: things like reproducibility, transparency and error analysis, the difference between correlation and causation. Knowing what the scientific method is, etc.

    One of the upsides of a liberal education is that I came by many of these concepts outside of the science classes, particularly in philosophy classes. Or at least had them reinforced. One of the downsides is that I could get a BS in astrophysics and not be required to take at least one class on relativity, yet be unable to graduate without 3 credits in social science. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’d probably take the social classes again even if I didn’t have to. But it did come at the expense of more classes in my chosen field.)

    Anyway, the point is that a lot of the concepts necessary for understanding the process of science are sometimes sufficient for determining the quality of the evidence you are being presented with. Sometimes. This is why I’ve always thought they should be teaching more logic and philosophy at the high school level. (Maybe they do nowadays, but when I graduated in 91 they did not.) A lot of these basics could be covered there so that even those of us who never go on to college can have a good better head start.

  104. #104 Leni
    December 19, 2009

    One of these days I will learn to proofread… *sigh* Maybe I should have taken more writing classes…

  105. #105 blizzard
    December 19, 2009


    I hope you have calmed down since your little tirade. And though you probably won’t read this(you have made that clear), I will respond to you anyway.

    My first post on this blog began with me stating that not all Klimate doubters are right wing bible thumpers, nor are all part of a lobby, or a denial machine. Some, like me are generally in agreement with you on this blog, about evolution, liberal-democratic values, health care, etc. From that first day of blogging you stereo-typed me as a concern troll,and accused me of being an elaborate hoax and liar, even though I provided you with plenty of evidence to the contrary. My concern with global warming alarmism stems my view of history as littered with unfulfilled prophecies about the future, among other things, and as I pointed out, I don’t deny a firm scientific knowledge of the past. I have been chastised for this view as stupid and my philosophy as uninteresting, and it may be, but it is still my stupid, petty, uninteresting view. I didn’t really ask you to accept it, just believe that a person like me could hold it. Not too difficult, is it? Since stating this, James Randi, decidedly not a bible thumping righty, has expressed his own doubts. He was thoroughly reviled by most here, and someone suggested that all doubters on the left side or skeptic community, should just shut up.

    At one time the scientific consensus was that animals are mere automatons and don’t feel pain. Therefore any kind of “torture” applied to them was fine, since they didn’t have feelings. Although, I was not there, I hope that my hunch would have been to defend them against the consensus and “the data”. Of course, I would have been told I was stupid and my reaction uninteresting.

    I have been banned from this site, mostly because I ask the Klimate proponents to act in a consistent manner, such like David Suzuki has done, and refrain from flying except for family emergencies. Even just doing this would have a huge impact not only on CO2 emissions, but on public perceptions.

  106. #106 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2009

    Blizzard, you are obviously not THAT banned if your posts keep showing up. And you were not “banned” for the reasons you give. You were not banned because of your opinion on climate change (as borked as it is).

    SO CALM DOWN!!!!

  107. #107 Pierce R. Butler
    December 19, 2009

    See what happens to elf-deniers?

    Anyone who disrespects elves not only gets carbon-rich solids in their stocking, but also an onslaught from those loyal elf-allies, the trolls!

  108. #108 blizzard
    December 19, 2009


    I’m not that worked up. I’m celebrating secular Hannukah. Best wishes to all of you.

  109. #109 Petral
    December 19, 2009

    How to know what to believe:

    Changing the chemical composition of a planet’s atmosphere will alter the distribution of heat and water on that planet.


    take a wild guess.

  110. #110 John Springer
    December 20, 2009

    The “dead link” to the article about the Bell Curve book in #36 just has an extra ) at the end.
    Correct link is

  111. #111 bitfader
    December 20, 2009

    I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take one to realize that adding heat to a bowl of water with ice cubes in it will melt the ice cubes…scientists know from fossil records that the earth was once hot and had less ice…global warming real? yes. case closed. secondly, smoking causing cancer…well, firefighters and victims die from smoke inhalation. The real case against tobacco is selling something that does cause injury…as for the cancer portion of it who cares…it’s nothing short of a large manufacture recall with penalty to victims.
    Lastly, about the IQ of Saharan Africans, we were taught in psychology classes that these tests are fundamentally biased towards Euro-American groups because the test are geared to measure the intelligence of educated euro-cultured people. I would expect low scores if Martians were given the test as well even if they flew their interstellar ship to Earth to take part in the test.

  112. #112 naboo
    December 20, 2009

    I am familiar with the high-functional derangement exhibited by captainchaos. I think that any time spent with a true paranoid schizophrenic highlights the human potential abuse of sense. As it turns out, any human can champion any dataset to represent the proof of any cause.

    It is one of the most difficult issues I can think of to deal with cognitively. The best I have come up with at this point is to avoid zealots. People that are certain of anything are probably people that haven’t put much thought into the thing or have some flaw in what they have thought about said thing.

  113. #113 bitfader
    December 20, 2009

    Oh, I had an idea about reducing carbon footprint. It would be possible to devise a shredder to shred our waste goods and insert them into small openings between each wall stud in our homes and use that as supplemental insulation. Overall, it would reduce gas used by refuse trucks, insulate our homes better, and reduce the amount of CO emissions in landfills.
    Now, can someone get me the data on how much time we have left to implement this wonderful idea before we all have to swim to work?

  114. #114 gines
    December 20, 2009

    I will never understand how, after thousends or years of human existence, you have to explain such a clear concept on your blog, and I wonder why. And the answer I give myself is that we have abused liying so much that nobody trusts anybody. The human being has rotted. He has lost respect for himself. We don’t see humans as the perfect machines they could and should be, but as machines to laugh about each other. There is fear and mistrust for one another. I understood it bad or our skeptical nature could it be due to excessive consumption of carbon dioxide?

  115. #115 Chris M.
    December 20, 2009

    Wow. I just discovered this blog today, and found the opening post downright fascinating…

    …then read on into the comments and discovered the bizarre threadjacking that unfortunately took the place of any detailed discussion.

    Greg: I’m as big a believer in free speech as you’ll ever find, but context is important. You’re not a state agent and this isn’t an open public forum. You were generous in giving the noxious racist posting as Captainchaos six hours to validate his claims, but when he failed to do so you really should have banned him rather than let the threadjacking continue. It’s painfully obvious that we’re dealing with a person here who is simply mentally incapable of processing reality except through a racial/ethnic filter.

    As to the topic itself, which remains fascinating… I’m not a scientist. I’m an educated layman (background in politics and law) with omnivorous interests. I’m frankly not going to go delving into original literature to bone up on any given scientific subject; I don’t have the vocabulary or the math for it.

    What I do have is the critical thinking skills to assess what’s a logical argument and what isn’t, accompanied by a solid philosophical grounding in epistemology in general and the scientific method in particular. Or, to put it more concisely, a decent bullshit detector. This equips me sufficiently, I believe, to read works of popular science (which I do) and sort out the wheat from the chaff, or to dive into a site like (e.g.) and make sense of most (albeit far from all) of the expertise compiled there.

    While you’re right that scientific discoveries happen at the margins of knowledge, to be sure, what you may be overlooking is that the latest discoveries and disputes aren’t really what it’s important for ordinary people to know. The larger BODY of knowledge around which those margins exist is what’s important here; most of it won’t ever be disproven or radically changed (at least not in our lifetimes), and that’s the stuff people need to be acquainted with in order to intelligently discuss things like “intelligent design” or climate change.

    Without patting myself on the back too much, I find I’m generally better-informed scientifically than 98% of the other non-scientists I meet. There’s both good to that (I must be doing something right) and bad (it’s a shame there aren’t more people to discuss it with). But with science as with politics or any other realm of knowledge, good information IS out there, for those who take the trouble to look.

    The question should be how to encourage that kind of intellectual curiosity in more people. (Or, perhaps, how to avoid leaching it out of so many children, who have it in spades before formal schooling begins.)

  116. #116 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2009

    Chris M.:You were generous in giving the noxious racist posting as Captainchaos six hours to validate his claims, but when he failed to do so you really should have banned him rather than let the threadjacking continue. It’s painfully obvious that we’re dealing with a person here who is simply mentally incapable of processing reality except through a racial/ethnic filter.

    There is no clear way to handle this sort of thing. For one thing, if you really really really want to ban someone you have to have people register. Most people that ask to stop commenting just go away, but some insist on doing the total opposite and can’t stop themselves from posting and posting and posting using other IP addresses, other names, etc. And I’m not going to turn on comment registration.

    But this will help: One of the purposes of this blog, and of threads that elicit comments like Teh Captains (and others) (though I quickly add that was not the intention of THIS particular blog post) is to draw this sort of garbage out and get it on “paper.” It will then be used. I assure you.

    what you may be overlooking is that the latest discoveries and disputes aren’t really what it’s important for ordinary people to know. The larger BODY of knowledge around which those margins exist is what’s important here; most of it won’t ever be disproven or radically changed

    That could be, but i’ll give you a counter example. I’ve blogged elsewhere (see the “science pornography” post) about muscle tissue research. I’m interested in this because my wife has done some. Well, animal models are used in that research. A recent paper (that I’ve not blogged about yet) seems to show that much of that research is problematic because there is a protein in the usual animal model that is different from the human protein in a way that makes much of the exerpimental work done invalid.

    However, not all of the experimental work is done with the same model, and in fact, some is done with lab-built chimeras of more than one species, and so on and so fort.

    So, a discussion of how animal tissues are used as models in this research, and how and why animals are switched around and different ones are used (this is mostly methodological) will bring people in on very important details that will become very important when denialists start saying that “big pharm” has screwed it all up because this (one) paper shows that all this research is invalid bla bla bla”

    The tree ring example in the recent stolen email climate gate discussion is intereting. Very people understand that. The research is complicated. You can’t just say “we routinely throw out or majorly adjust all tree ring data after 1960 because we do” … you need to explain it. But once you start to explain it, you have to get into plant biology. And the first order of explanation makes global warming sound like a good thing and creates a conflict: Tree ring data are bad after 1960 because drought is mitigated due to C02. But, global warming is bad because it causes drought”

    In order to deal with that seeming contradiction, one must bring the read to the edge of the floor.

    how to avoid leaching it out

    … as per Neil deGrasse Tyson

  117. #117 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2009

    Chris, Captainchaos isn’t as off-topic as you might think. He’s thrown up comments that try to apply the authority of science to an argument that almost anyone has the experience to understand isn’t remotely scientific. Along the way, he’s uncovered for us a number of things one needs to understand to fully evaluate those claims: history of fraud/unreproduced results in a field, situational appropriateness of measurement tools, the need to identify and support all pieces of an hypothesis, the need to identify and test competing theories, the correlation/causation problem, the dangers of anthropomorphizing, and the need to understand the mechanisms of agency.

    By failing on all those scores, he’s produced a great negative example. Admittedly, it would have been a better example if he’d responded to being mocked by trying to prove me wrong instead of trying to make me go away, but if he were good at this, we probably wouldn’t be having the argument at all.

  118. #118 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2009

    There is usually an association between how good one is at making an argument and how “correct” on is in choosing a position. This is why when we see someone who is reasonably good at making the argument it is often a paid shill or politically motivated troll. (As opposed to a regular troll)

  119. #119 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2009

    Although that’s not necessarily true for the first comment from someone, since that’s often repeating someone else’s argument from elsewhere. The difference shows up better once you get into it.

  120. #120 george.w
    December 20, 2009

    Great post; as a science geek I struggled for years to be shed of cultural assumptions including religion. That struggle is of course ongoing.

    Captainchaos said that IQ tests were “benchmarked” to normalize on Britain. I’d love to see how HE would do on an IQ test that was “benchmarked” to normalize on survival in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa.

    Also, the jury is not in on the survival of Western society either. We’re doing great on fossil energy, cruise missiles and cluster bombs, so far…

  121. Well, kids, I’m a skeptic.

    Do you hate me already?

    (I must be a nutbag Christian evangelical republican racist who’s never taken a science course in his life, yes? A greedy pawn of the oil companies? (Guess conspiracy theories roll both ways, eh?) A dupe? A knave? A dangerous fool? Of course, DENIER must also be applied. Never read a science paper in my life, can’t tell a wiring diagram from a path integral, intelligent design trojan horseman, right?)

    Well, nix to all that.

    I’m not totally a skeptic either… I don’t doubt the physics of atmospheric CO2 in the abstract.

    I do, however, strongly doubt the margin of error claimed for the proxies and the climate models. I also wonder about this seemingly clear eyed presentation of the facts:


    Am I wrong to find this page persuasive?

    This is not shown on the linked page, but is it not so that human contributed CO2 amounts to .032 percent of the total CO2 in the atmosphere? Which means that 99.968 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere is there through natural causes?

    I hardly think I am some insane crackpot for merely considering, given the above, that the concern regarding the significance of our CO2 additions might be overdriven.

    Addenda: In case it matters to you, my view is that China and India are not going to deviate the least from their attempt to rise out of poverty. Thus the only way to actually reduce CO2, as well as the actually dangerous pollutants our current technologies admit, is to as quickly as possible develop next generation technologies which China and India might be persuaded to adopt because they are cost effective.

  122. #122 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2009

    This is not shown on the linked page, but is it not so that human contributed CO2 amounts to .032 percent of the total CO2 in the atmosphere? Which means that 99.968 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere is there through natural causes?

    No, not even close.

  123. #123 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2009

    DENIERRR, I think you’ve been had. Is that better?

    It isn’t the percent of CO2 in the atmosphere that’s human-produced (whatever it may be) that is causing people to regard global warming as anthropogenic. It’s the percent of the change in the amount of atmospheric CO2 for which people are responsible that is the issue. If a balance is perfectly level with 20 pounds on each side and I drop a paperclip on one side, I’m responsible for the fact that that side falls.

    I also don’t think you’re a capitalist stooge. If you were, you’d understand that the U.S. is going to be competing with China and India to come up with those next-generation technologies and that the current system of subsidies for the fossil-fuel industries are hampering R&D on these projects. We’ll be buying our green technology from China at this rate.

  124. #124 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2009

    Well, beyond that, the added CO2 in the atmosphere that is expected to be extant day to day in about 10 years from now put there by human activities is about 50%. Not a fraction of a percent.

    I am not sure what funny number tricks are used to get the cited fraction, and don’t care. It is meaningless.

    SO, I guess the latest thing is for people to show up and say “I’m not a denier, in fact I’m a pro choice feminist tree hugger… but, I was wondering, what about THIS denialist web site? What about THIS made up fact? …” and so on.

    Then, when they are told that no, this is not your private link farm and no, these bogus “facts” are … bogus and stuff… we will hear the shift to the philosophical argument. Which goes “I don’t believe it is possible to SAY the thigns the scientists are SAYING. …

    Then when called on that, it will be “You are trying to shut me up” and so on and so fort.

    Not very original. Is there a web site out there that tells you how to do this?

  125. #125 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    All modesty aside, and to be quite honest I’m not particularly modest, why I get what might be considered a ‘free pass’ is because I have an IQ two SD above the mean (and I’m a freakin’ manual laborer I might add) and, well, because I’m right. Some verbal facility and unlike many “intellectuals”, some synthetic intelligence, I’m cooking with gas.

    This is not your granddaddy’s “White supremacism,” we have a completely intellectually coherent platform. And we’re sick and tired of being hit so were going to start hitting back (figuratively speaking of course). In short: we fully intend to win.

  126. #126 DJ
    December 20, 2009

    Wow, I guess all us stoopid amerkinz best be on the lookout for you kooky “New Nazis” eh?

    Now I’m curious what exactly 2 standard deviations from the mean is…134-140? Hey, I just realized if you are a manual labor worker intent on taking over the world… am I in the 1980’s movie “Cobra”?

  127. #127 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2009

    Two SDs on the Stanford-Binet puts one at a relatively modest 132, making one “dumber” than about 2.5% of the entire population if IQ is normally distributed. It doesn’t say much for Captainchaos’s standing within this science geek group he’s failing to convince. It also doesn’t do much for a laborer because IQ was designed to measure how well a person would do in an academic setting.

  128. #128 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2009

    Actually, the IQ test was initially designed to determine how well one would fit into a leadership structure. As a follower.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that 2SD’s out from the mean is kinda low for this blog. But he’ll be OK as long has he has a sense of humor about his limitations.

  129. #129 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    “kooky “New Nazis” eh?”

    That’s Mr. Nazi to you.

    “Hey, I just realized if you are a manual labor worker intent on taking over the world… am I in the 1980’s movie “Cobra”?”

    The worst movie of the 80s, hands down. But that’s why I love it, because movies that suck are funny.

    “It doesn’t say much for Captainchaos’s standing within this science geek group he’s failing to convince.”

    I’m crushed.

    “…IQ was designed to measure how well a person would do in an academic setting.”

    I never liked school much, I like to read what I’m interested in, not what System hacks tell me I should.

    “Actually, the IQ test was initially designed to determine how well one would fit into a leadership structure. As a follower.”

    Yup, that’s me, Ward Cleaver with a copy of Mein Kampf under every pillow in my house. Whatever dude.

    “But he’ll be OK as long has he has a sense of humor about his limitations.”

    No respect. (shakes head, wipes away tear)

  130. #130 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    I should add: My attitude about my intelligence, and my disdain of brown people, is mainly compensation for the fact that I have a very small penis. This is in perfect accord with available research which shows an inverse correlation of primitive traits such as a sex drive and IQ. So you can understand that I would have to compensate.

  131. #131 planetspinz
    December 20, 2009

    There is some good news – by the time the oceans cover the earth Herr Nazi Captain ChoASS will be six feet under — hopefully for the rest of the thinking world way before that

  132. #132 FormerComposer
    December 20, 2009

    I noticed the Cap’n mentioned something about having “synthetic intelligence.” Would that be the kind that replaces real intelligence?

  133. #133 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    “Would that be the kind that replaces real intelligence?”

    Erm, no. That would be the kind that combines separate elements to form a coherent hole. In other words, I can put the pieces together unlike those who only appear to be able to engage in perhaps even high end memorization and regurgitation. Cookie cutter shit (yawn).

  134. #134 mk
    December 20, 2009

    I’m sure the Kiqueons are all over the good Nazi Captain like they were PZ and Ed Brayton… um right?

  135. #135 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    But I should add: This extra intelligence is only “turned on” if I take hormonal treatments that repress my ongoing desire to provide oral pleasure to 11 year old boys. Otherwise I just can’t concentrate.

  136. #136 ursa major
    December 20, 2009

    I will not deign to address the droolcup set whose only interface with “reality” is platitude. That would manifestly be a waste of my time.

    CC: project much?

    You do keep going back to notions disproven a few generations ago.

  137. #137 FormerComposer
    December 20, 2009

    “That would be the kind that combines separate elements to form a coherent whole.” OK, so synthetic intelligence is just like real intelligence.

    Seems to me that seeing things that aren’t there (like differences that aren’t differences) is one of the hallmarks of various kinds of mental instability.

  138. #138 Dr. Spock
    December 20, 2009

    The coherent whole is a sure sign of delusion.

  139. #139 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    “project much?”

    Whenever possible.

    “You do keep going back to notions disproven a few generations ago.”

    You Boas and his finagled skull measurements? Hardly. Studies utilizing fMRI to flesh out average differences in group cranial capacity, and a moderate correlation with intelligence pretty well put the bullet in that skull.

    “…my ongoing desire to provide oral pleasure to 11 year old boys.”

    A fan. Although I’m afraid I shan’t be joining him in his preferred activities.

  140. #140 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    “The coherent whole is a sure sign of delusion.”

    I’m glad you are setting the goals for the scientific community, my learned friend.

    “Seems to me that seeing things that aren’t there (like differences that aren’t differences) is one of the hallmarks of various kinds of mental instability.”

    Just how is it one is to parse without parsimony? At least Laden gives me a quiff of a challenge. At this point I must merely be indulging in some narcissism.

  141. #141 blizzard
    December 20, 2009

    First of all I want to apologize for bringing down the general IQ average on this blog.

    Second, I wanted to ask Greg whether he thought bitfader’s 3:58am argument in favor of global warming persuasive? Would you call it case closed based on that?

    Third, I wanted to apologize to Stephanie for making jokes in bad taste at her expense.

    Fourth, you are right, I really don’t understand the science of global warming, and thus my opinions on it are worthless. I know YOU know that. I am going to go back and look at those studies you cited in our first discussion a few days ago.

    Cheers and happy holidays

  142. #142 CaptianChaosExposed
    December 20, 2009


    Check this out:

  143. #143 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    Yup, you caught me. I’m actually Tim Wise, you all passed the test. Congrats. I expect a fat Christmas bonus this year from Morris. (I always did think Occam’s Razor was bullshit, glad you agree.)

  144. #144 Chris M.
    December 20, 2009

    First of all, thanks to Greg and Stephanie for the thoughtful responses to a newcomer ’round here.

    Second, I take the point about the difficulty of moderating a forum that doesn’t require registration. It seemed to me that since Greg’s a fairly active participant in the discussion, though, that after offering the 6-hour ultimatum, he could and should have followed up on it and deleted further posts from CC… who obviously came back with redoubled efforts to trainwreck the thread after it briefly circled back to the topic.

    (Is he serious? Or is he a “moby”? I say who cares: Poe’s Law applies here, wherein one just can’t tell satire of crackpot reactionary ideas from the real thing, so either way it’s a waste of everyone’s time.)

    As to the on-topic examples offered regarding general public knowledge and “what to believe”… with respect, I still don’t think it’s as problematic as Greg suggests. In certain specific contexts the details of animal muscle-tissue modeling, or the importance of adjusting tree-ring data, or questions of how to read CO2 statistics, may be very relevant indeed, of course. But so long as one is dealing with people who appreciate the underlying concepts of the scientific method and logical argument, details like those can be communicated in five minutes (or a few paragraphs) if and when necessary.

    What Stephanie posted really sums it up very elegantly: what people need to understand in a general sense is “history of fraud/unreproduced results in a field, situational appropriateness of measurement tools, the need to identify and support all pieces of an hypothesis, the need to identify and test competing theories, the correlation/causation problem, the dangers of anthropomorphizing, and the need to understand the mechanisms of agency.” In other words, well-rounded critical thinking skills. They’re important and in perhaps too-short supply these days, but that problem isn’t specific to scientific knowledge in particular.

  145. #145 Captainchaos
    December 20, 2009

    Chris M, any specific bones you would like to pick with me? Or is what I’m sure you think is jargon thicker than molasses pie (I mean hell, I’m an ‘ignorant’ ‘redneck’ – just keepin’ it real) spewed as one who is ‘enlightened’ when all you are doing is moralizing (yes, that really is what you’re doing I’m afraid) your only gear? I mean, as if all the body of knowledge that science (yes, I caught that, “SCIENCE”) has ever produced is perfectly consistent with you dearly held dreary little liberal milquetoastisms.

    Seriously man, don’t you guys ever get boarded with the ‘it’s not that God is Love, it’s that Nature is Love, have you hugged your Noble Savage today?’.

    Tell me, you really never noticed this (?): Puritanism -> Unitarianism -> Secular Humanism.

    That’s called an intellectual history, dude. You might find the concept of meme replication helpful here. Just sayin’.

    P.S. The next person who calls “Poe” on me I’m calling “shenanigans” on them. ‘Tis to laugh.

  146. #146 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2009

    Captainchaos, are you really suggesting that Chris’s comment was jargon-laden? No wonder you couldn’t answer Greg’s question about where the statistics you were quoting came from with a better answer than page X.

    It’s time to make up your mind. Are you perfectly happy with your lack of education, such that it doesn’t make you feel that you can’t keep up with everyone else? Or is Chris trying to keep you out of the discussion with those long words? You don’t really get to have both.

  147. #147 John Kwok
    December 20, 2009

    Really a great post Greg and one you should send to Chris and Sheril as a reminder with regards to how one ought to educate oneself in science.

  148. #148 Christie
    December 20, 2009


    Perhaps you would like to read The Impact of National IQ on Income and Growth, a peer reviewed critique of Lynn’s book. The link is a PDF.

    If you don’t have the time to read it, here’s a short summary:
    1) more than half the country “IQs” were estimated based solely on race composition, not taken from actual people taking tests.
    2) The tests that actually were given to peoples of various countries differ greatly in size, the point of time the IQ test was taken, the composition of the participants and the type of IQ test used.
    3) Even if you take the IQ numbers to heart, Lynn’s multivariate analysis sucks.
    4) Even if you completely buy the numbers AND analysis Lynn presents, it doesn’t explain more than 60% of the variance between countries

    There are plenty of other critiques of Lynn’s analyses, but I somehow doubt you’d be willing to read them, either.

    Lastly, since you seem to believe that all this IQ data is real and important, does this also mean that you believe the Asians are the noblest race? Because they blow us dumb whites out of the water when it comes to intelligence tests. Or does IQ only matter when it reinforces your beliefs?

  149. #149 llewelly
    December 20, 2009

    blizzard | December 19, 2009 3:38 PM:

    I have been banned from this site, mostly because I ask the Klimate proponents to act in a consistent manner, such like David Suzuki has done, and refrain from flying except for family emergencies.

    I stopped driving in 1991. I have flown 5 times in my life. 4 were necessary for legal reasons, one was a family emergency.
    And yet, I still get a great deal flack from AGW denialists – and whether they know I live this way or not makes no difference whatever. I keep track of which climate scientists make the sacrifices I have made – and which do not. And I keep track of how the denialists treat them. And no case has it made any difference whatsoever; a climate scientist can be a paragon of low-GHG virtue (and some are), and yet the overwhelming majority of AGW denialists will smear them with every lie they can dream up.

    There are many good reasons to reduce one’s GHG footprint as much as feasible. But changing the minds of AGW denialists is not one of them; if it makes any difference to them, it will make them angrier, and more eager to defame.

  150. #150 anthropologist Underground
    December 21, 2009

    Unfortunate threadjacking.

    I’m an anthropology/omnivorous science geek. I came to skepticism about six years ago, when I became a mother. A significant percentage of well-educated mothers in my peer group embraced all kinds of unscientific ideology: childbirth woo, vaccine denial, homeopathy, orthorexia, etc., and I decided to fact-check their claims.

    I don’t have time (nor the expertise) to thoroughly investigate the literature on a given topic, but I might start with a search of peer-reviewed literature just to see what’s available. I may even read an occasional paper if I can access it. I trust a limited few secondary sources, such as writers on SB. It seems to me that there are plenty of other scientists reading these blogs who will quickly point out misinformation, and the facts sort themselves out in the comments. Or not, and I look elsewhere for corroborating evidence. Reliable secondary sources also provide their primary sources, and this is a fantastic resource.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the same logical fallacies, ad hominems, and straw men show up over and over in pseudoscience. These serve as familiar red warning flags and heighten my critical thinking. I also listen more closely if the claim doesn’t seem to be making logical-progression sense. (Examples abound upthread.)

    I try to keep an open mind and modify my paradigm when I’m wrong. It’s an evolution.

  151. #151 Swami
    December 21, 2009

    OK, so any and all tests ever administered to sub-Saharan Africans in an attempt to measure IQ are so flawed as to render the results unreliable. Fine. Do we really need such tests in order to speculate on the relative intelligence of sub-Saharan Africans, or are there perhaps other indicators that might be used? Consider the rich history of written languages given to mankind by civilizations through the ages. What contributions have come from sub-Saharan Africa? In the fields of science, medicine, astronomy? What about the architectural contributions of the Mayans, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Chinese? Sub-Saharan Africa has given the world the mud hut, though in fairness to beavers, they stole the idea from them.

    Back to manmade global warming, our senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe, is the poster boy for AGW denial. He won’t even admit the globe is warming, much less that man has any role to play in the process. I believe global warming is an undeniable fact and I suspect that the activities of man are responsible to a large degree – but certain? No I’m not. There are some pretty compelling arguments on both sides. I’m trying to brush up on the facts enough to hold my own in an argument. There are so many, many reasons other than AGW to curtail the burning of fossil fuels.

  152. #152 Greg Laden
    December 21, 2009

    Swami, the list of accomplishments both good and bad from different parts of the world is very interesting. It is worth noting that most of the accomlishments you mention are non-white west-Asian or are European derivitivies of non-European accomplishments, or are European during the colonial period, during which time sub saharan afria was pretty much in a different situation than Eruope was in part, and eventually in total, because of Europe.

    But, if the view of history you prefer is the view your european white forebearers constructed for the purpose of justifying their nefarious practices, then you will never see the accomplishments of other people and live in a happy fantasy land. Which probably does not matter to you.

    What might matter to you is that even moderately well educated euroamericans have understood that the argument you are making is racist, unsubstantiated, wrong, and makes you look like an ass.

    Which is why I would like you to start using your real name on future comments of this type. I would prefer it if girls you try to date and prospective employers can find out about your attitude by googling you. So tell us your name, K?

  153. #153 Stephanie Z
    December 21, 2009

    Since the topic of IQ testing and heritability isn’t going to go away on this thread (or in general), here’s a list of background readings that a person should be familiar with if they don’t want to sound like they’re talking about those elves.

  154. #154 Chris M.
    December 21, 2009

    Stephanie, thanks for the fascinating set of links.

    Swami does touch on a significant point there at the end, though, albeit inadvertently. He/she isn’t “certain” about anthropogenic global warming. But that’s fine. The kind of knowledge we’re discussing isn’t about certainty.

    In science one can only really know something provisionally — just as in a court of law or most other realms of knowledge. You can say “based on the available evidence, XYZ looks like the best available explanation of things.” There’s no capital-T Truth that gets handed down by some ultimate authority. That this kind of provisional truth isn’t enough for some people… or even more perversely, that they use that fractional admission of uncertainty as an excuse to deny evidence, cling to false equivocations, or simply huddle in ignorance, never fails to surprise and perplex me.

  155. #155 Swami
    December 22, 2009

    Hi Greg, I want to apologize sincerely for the remark about the beavers. You were quite right to call me an ass. That was inexcusable. I stand by the remainder of the post.

    Yes, the list of accomplishments is mostly non-white. I’m not a white supremacist (although you can be forgiven for making that assumption). I see no evidence to support such a position. Please consider that perhaps you are so politically correct and idealistic that you refuse to consider the possibility that intelligence can vary from one race to another. Even moderately well educated bloggers (with their own science blog no less) know this compromises objectivity and runs counter to the scientific method.

    Not sure what you’re on about with this “European white forbears nefarious practices” stuff, so I’m not going to go there except to say that I hope you’re not about to trot out that old canard citing post colonialism as an excuse for sub-Saharan Africa’s status as perennial basket case.

    Sorry, I won’t use my real name. I’m well aware of how offensive these remarks are. Political correctness is so pervasive in this society. My workplace is not immune. My wife’s workplace is not immune. If that makes me a coward, then so be it.

    I enjoy your blog.

  156. #156 Qwerty
    December 22, 2009

    Interesting post. I became interested in evolution and its counterpart, creationists, after my sister claimed the earth was only 6,000 years old. (But whatabout dinosaurs bones I said to no avail.) Anyhow, I mostly read PZ Myers blog

    (And, yes, my sister is a born-again Christian. I bet that surprises you…. NOT.)

    Anyhow, I thought she could no longer surprise me with anything until we talked about my thinking the world is overpopulated. The same sister, who is also anti-abortion, tells me the state of Iowa can feed the whole world.

    This one left me speechless. What can one say to such simplistic thinking?

  157. #157 Anonymous Coward
    December 23, 2009

    Throughout your post you make claims that could be measured and falsified, and yet you never do. You simply assert you are correct and that your observations are universal.

    You are going to keep failing until you learn a bit of respect and humility for the rest of humanity, and realize and understand we live in a democracy and not a technocracy.

    Till then,

    [citation please] for most of your claims about what people are thinking.

  158. #158 Stephanie Z
    December 23, 2009

    What claims about what people are thinking?

  159. #159 ian
    December 23, 2009

    Now that you have fed the troll, how about setting him off in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa and see how well he fares. Who knows? He might even learn to respect the skills of those he so roundly disparages. Naww. He’d just be toast.

  160. #160 Greg Laden
    December 23, 2009

    AC: Huh? What items in this post would you like citations for?

  161. #161 SQB
    December 23, 2009

    Off-topic, but when I see “AC”, I think of this band.

  162. #162 Leni
    December 23, 2009

    Christie @ 148:

    Lastly, since you seem to believe that all this IQ data is real and important, does this also mean that you believe the Asians are the noblest race? Because they blow us dumb whites out of the water when it comes to intelligence tests. Or does IQ only matter when it reinforces your beliefs?

    I was wondering about that, too.

    I think what’s so disturbing about this conversation is that there is an implicit assumption that people with lower intelligence should be treated differently. And by differently, I mean badly.

    Suppose CaptainChaos is right. What are we supposed to do with this information? Would the “fact” that Sub-Saharan Africans are less intelligent than everyone else absolve us of the burden of injustice? Does it erase history? Does it mean they deserve whatever bad things happen to them? Would it justify (for example) immigration or economic policies that would discriminate against people who come from this region?

    In our culture less intelligent people are treated badly, but not so badly that we don’t recognize our obligation to help them. They can get public assistance- things like assisted living, medical care, job training, and housing. Granted, this is a level of intelligence far lower than what the racist literature is suggesting, but I think the principle still applies. We don’t abandon people because they are less intelligent, at least not as a matter of public policy. We don’t practice eugenics and most of us think this is a good thing, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. If anything, it would only obligate us to provide more economic aid.

    So even if CaptainChaos is right (and I don’t think he is), nothing really changes. We aren’t going to start using regional average IQ to determine economic policies. History will not magically change. Sure, people would be smug assholes about it, but that wouldn’t be much different than things are now. It seems to me that it would be irrelevant in nearly every way, except that it would give assholes like CC the appearance of justification for their smugness and petty nastiness. Since they are generally happy to be smug assholes as things are, I hardly see how even that would make it relevant.

    This just makes me wonder what the point of arguing this is. It seems as if the reason is simply to gratify the egos of people who do not need help gratifying their egos.