Greg Laden, liar.

I know, right?

Anthony Watts, of the science-denialist Whats Up with That blog, has got his shorts in a knot because of a post I wrote indicating that he is a boob. He is upset because in a screen shot of him talking about a totally absurd pseudo-scientific claim that should have been rejected out of hand, I failed to include enough of the post to show that he was skeptical about the claim.

Let me be very very clear: This is not a claim to be skeptical about. This is a Teapot orbiting the Sun between Earth and Mars claim. A person who has reported debunked claims about alien life again and again, reporting in a fake scientific journal, has made an absurd claim. To understand the level of absurdity check out PZ Myers post, written after mine, which goes into more detail about the “journal.”

I did not need to show that Anthony Watts was skeptical because that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was funny that he was looking at this claim at all. But, fine, if he really needs me to include the snippet where he expresses his laughable skepticism, I can do that. Here, Watts says.

This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up.

… thus indicating skepticism. I’m sorry I did not include that sentence in the … wait, wait, hold on a sec. Hey, I DID include that phase about “if it holds up” in the original post? But Watts is saying that I did not include any of his skeptical language. Who is this Anthony Watts guy, some kind of liar? Huh.

Maybe he means this bit, the bit after the phrase “Look at what the electron microscope shows of a sample purported to be from the meteorite:” … that’s where he says I cut off the post, let’s see what he says there. Of the claim of Alien Life stuck to a meteorite, Anthony Watts says

It looks convincing, and the paper says: “Contamination is excluded by the circumstance that the elemental abundances within the structures match closely with those of the surrounding matrix.“, but I remain skeptical of the claim.

Freshwater diatoms

So, it looks convincing, but remains skeptical. Convincing is worrying, “skeptical” is not good enough, which was the point of my original post and which was the point Phil Plait was making in his post on the same topic.

I’m sure most of my regular readers will see why this is really funny. I didn’t really cherry pick Watts. I showed how he posted on this claim of alien life stuck to a meteorite, and I did not claim that he had been taken in and I said nothing about his skepticism one way or another. But, Watts is a minor leader in the Science-Denialist movement focusing on climate change, and you all know that those folks life to cherry pick.

Does cherry picking really bother Anthony Watts this much, and his readers, who have commented heavily on my post? If so, then they should stop doing it themselves!

Watts complains that I don’t provide a link to the original story. It is against my blog policy to provide links to science denialist sites. It would be unethical for me to do that on a regular basis because it would enhance the google juice of pseudoscience. I’ve got children. I want them to grow up in a better world, not the world that Anthony Watts wants them to grow up in. So, no. Now and then, if necessary, I’ll link, but normally not.

Then he goes on and on with a really boring post, but there are two comments in that post I’ll address briefly.

First, he complains about spelling. I know, I suk as speling. But it isn’t just that. I have a disorder that causes this. I am disabled. When Anthony Watts make fun of my spelling he is being an “Abelist” (or is it Ableist? Whatever). Nice guy. But that’s OK, many people are unaware that such a condition exists. I’ve gotten used to the thoughtless comments about that, even from friends, and I do appreciate having the spelling errors pointed out.

Second, Anthony Watts says, “The difference between myself and Mr. Laden is that WUWT isn’t afraid to have topics for discussion that might be proven wrong.” That’s not true. At the moment, I’m getting ready for publication on this blog a post about the highly controversial yet very interesting Ozone Theory of tree death and, believe it or not, a post about Aquatic Ape Theory from one of the main proponents of that theory. Recently, I was ruthlessly attacked for my position on the Flores (Hobbit) hominids, and I’ve invited the author of that attack to give me a guest post. He’s not gotten back to me on that, but a third colleague who has an opinion that might be very different the one I expressed has agreed to do so. These should all be interesting posts! And, these are all examples of me engendering discussion of topics where my previously stated position may be proven wrong. This is science we’re doing here. Being proved wrong is one of our main objectives.

(The Ozone and Aquatic Ape posts are delayed by sickness in my family, which has taken a few days out of my schedule and caused me to spel even werse!)

One last item, about meteorites with life on them. There is actually no reason to believe that a meteor or two having fossil or isotopic evidence that conforms to would call life could land on us from Mars. There are all sorts of problems with such data, and it is good that we have Robots on Mars checking things out there more directly. But the sample in question may not even be a meteorite, and yes, anyone in the climate sciences who has the remotest clue about anything should recognize what a FW diatom looks like, not necessarily to identify it to genus or species, but sufficiently to be suspicious. This meteorite, the one Anthony Watts laughingly accepts as something to be “skeptical” about, is not the same thing at all. Not even close. In fact, it might not even be a meteorite, according to Phil.

Comments

  1. #1 Martin Whitton
    England
    January 17, 2013

    I came across your blog for the first time today, and actually looked at the WUWT (Which I also had not looked at before) articles. I have to tell you.. I’m laughing at you right now. Put simply – You are ridiculous! I won’t be coming back here, you are petty and can’t be taken seriously. Some of your followers may post comments about how right you are here but unfortunately they will only be doing it because they feel sorry for you. This makes you look petty and anyone who actually looks at your claims will see that they don’t hold water.

  2. #2 Bart Flaster
    January 17, 2013

    It was the next sentence that extraodinary claims require extraordinary evidence which you left out. That would have been the end of your article.

  3. #3 Nerd
    January 17, 2013

    I went to Watt’s website. I’d say you’re the true liar.

  4. #4 Scott Basinger
    January 17, 2013

    Hi Greg,

    You may want to read the original article again for comprehension; in particular, the area highlighted in red.

    Another small point; if you’re going to put up an article for criticism, please provide a link for your readers to follow so that they can go there conveniently and make a reasonable judgement for themselves.

    SB

  5. #5 Anders Valland
    January 17, 2013

    Greg, you looked like a fool with the first post, now you look like – a double fool.

  6. #6 RickW
    January 17, 2013

    More cherry-picking? Why don’t you actually post what Anthony said? Here, I can do it for you.

    This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up. I would remind readers that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“. This needs to be confirmed by others in the science community before it can be taken seriously.

    How is that not skeptical?

  7. #7 Katabasis
    January 17, 2013

    Given the opportunity to man up and apologise for simple mendacity, Laden takes the cowards’ route out and digs himself an even bigger hole….

  8. #8 Jimbo
    January 17, 2013

    You need to stop living in denial and accept that you were being deliberately deceptive with your screen shot. It is deceptions like this that sceptics deal with everyday. Why not just own up that you tried to use deception and failed miserably.

    By the way there has been no statistically significant global warming in at least 16 years. Do you accept or deny this fact? What will you say if the world cools for the next decade (which non of the climate computers projected)? One day YOU might have to deal with your own denialist issues.

  9. #9 Richard Simons
    January 17, 2013

    The loons have been quick off the mark.

    “It was the next sentence that extraodinary claims require extraordinary evidence which you left out.”

    You are missing the point. This was not extraordinary evidence – it was naively ridiculous evidence and would have been recognised as such by any marginally competent commentator.

  10. #10 Richard Simons
    January 17, 2013

    By the way there has been no statistically significant global warming in at least 16 years. Do you accept or deny this fact?

    Cherry-picking the start date invalidates the statistics, which assumes it is randomly selected. There has also been no statistically significant deviation from the prior rate of increase in temperatures using any recent data.

  11. #11 Richard Simons
    January 17, 2013

    What will you say if the world cools for the next decade

    What would you say if trees pulled their roots out of the ground and started attending football matches? ‘What if’ questions based on fantasy are a waste of time.

  12. #12 dean
    January 17, 2013

    By the way there has been no statistically significant global warming in at least 16 years. Do you accept or deny this fact?

    Jimbo, I have no idea whether you are intelligent (or honest) enough to know why that comment is repeated specifically because the 16 year time span was picked to give a misleading result. I do know that the fact that you repeat says a great deal about your lack of honesty and knowledge about climate change.

  13. #13 Eric Grimsrud
    Kalispell, Montana
    January 17, 2013

    In view of my own experiences at WUWT (see ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com), I find Mr. Watt’s boasts about the openness and fairness of his blog laughable. I am an experienced professional atmospheric scientist who, with the assistance of his full-time, in-house goons was repeatedly expelled from WUWT whenever I showed up with a scientific comment. Yes, indeed, Mr. Watts is little more than a classical Denier of AGW who for obvious reasons does not allow the use of that word on his site!

  14. #14 Rob Honeycutt
    January 17, 2013

    Wow. The flying monkeys from the wicked witch of Watts wasted no time getting here!

  15. #15 Rob Honeycutt
    January 17, 2013

    To Jimbo…
    Perhaps you don’t understand what statistical significance is. There is warming over the past 16 years, but it only rises to the 90% confidence level.

  16. #16 daedalus2u
    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/
    January 17, 2013

    All I can say is that this is definitely not the first evidence of extraterrestrial life. There is plenty of other evidence that is just as compelling and which is completely up to the standards of the WUWT blog.

    There is just as compelling evidence that alien intelligent life that has visited Earth.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_astronauts

    Sure lots of people try to claim that they discovered something first, and something as important as finding evidence of alien life is no exception. Leave it to a denialist blog to try and add credibility to a johnny-come-lately “discoverer” of “evidence” for “alien life”.

    Typical practices of a pseudoscience journal, they didn’t cite prior research that was just as compelling.

    Typical practices of a denialist blog, cherry pick citations and don’t present any information that is just as compelling or even more compelling.

  17. #17 Jeremy
    Hobart
    January 17, 2013

    I love how the Watts Borg show up immediately and in their dogmatic defense quote Watts saying that the results have to hold up amongst *other* scientists, and think this is an example of good sceptical skillz.

  18. #18 Rattus Norvegicus
    January 17, 2013

    All you people defending Tony: this is exactly the sort of crap he posts about climate science. Plausible deniability all the way while exhibiting a level of credulity which is unmatched among the scientists he is criticizing.

    Quite frankly, I looked at the website for the “journal” and laughed. It was impossible to take the article Tony cited seriously after looking at the website for JoC.

  19. #19 FishOutofWater
    North Carolina
    January 17, 2013

    The oceans have been heating rapidly since 1998. A larger number of La Nina events which cool the air and warm the oceans have happened than El Nino events which warm the air and cool the ocean. The earth continues to heat up. Because of the La Nina events almost all of the added heat has gone into the oceans.

  20. #20 Roy Mustard
    January 17, 2013

    Standard Watts procedure. Post junk science and fill the piece with caveats like “if it holds up” and “I remain skeptical” in case it turns out to be wrong; words completely at odds with the rest of the piece. That isn’t real skepticism. And Allah be praised, a flood of comments – posted within small window of time – from people who have never been to Watts’ site before but agree with everything he says! It’s a miracle!

    My favourite part concerns Watts’ sudden embrace of scientific consensus – since when has ever cared what the scientific community thinks?

  21. #21 Roy Mustard
    January 17, 2013

    I also note that Greg has allowed comments disagreeing with him to go through moderation, even though those commenters are making claims that are blatantly false (“Martin Whitton”, I’m looking at you!). This is a far greater courtesy than Watts has ever extended to anyone who disagrees with him.

  22. #22 kap55
    United States
    January 17, 2013

    By the way there has been no statistically significant global warming in at least 16 years. Do you accept or deny this fact?

    True only if you use annual data. But if you use monthly data, the warming trend is hugely significant over the last 16 years. Those 190 degrees of freedom make a big difference.

  23. #23 Richard Simons
    January 17, 2013

    But if you use monthly data, the warming trend is hugely significant over the last 16 years. Those 190 degrees of freedom make a big difference.

    The trouble is, you cannot just use the usual regression procedures in this case. These assume that the data points are randomly distributed around the trend line, but in fact there is a strong correlation between the temperatures in two consecutive months (autocorrelation). My understanding is that autocorrelation can also occur between successive years, but obviously it will be less important.

  24. #24 thefordprefect
    http://climateandstuff.blogspot.co.uk/
    January 17, 2013

    One should also remember the pages of drivel written about super-cold anarctic temperatures and CO2 snow:
    search

    “CO2 condensation in Antarctica at -113F?”

    This is a toned down version of the original title (wish I could remember what it was – it was good)

    I also enjoy tony’s use of degF – really scientific!

  25. #25 makeinu
    January 18, 2013

    Just to clarify for the Watts-bots and their (apparently) limited reading comprehension:

    Let me be very very clear: This is not a claim to be skeptical about.

    (snip)

    I did not need to show that Anthony Watts was skeptical because that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was funny that he was looking at this claim at all.

    That’s totally aside from the fact that he wasn’t, you know, actually skeptical at all, words notwithstanding.

  26. #26 Green Dream
    January 18, 2013

    Kudos to Greg for demonstrating the openness of this blog by allowing the WUWT attack dogs to post their vitriolic bilge. No censorship here, wish the same could be said of Mr Watts and his cronies.

    The denialists are committing crimes against humanity, surely it’s time for legislation to close these sites down.

  27. #27 Montag
    January 18, 2013

    Reading comments from Watts-followers, what I don’t understand is: How can you be a “sceptic” and at the same time regard Anthony Watts as your Leader?

  28. #28 peter prewett
    Australia
    January 18, 2013

    Do not get between a denialists and a bag of money or a free trip to Australia all expenses paid.

  29. #30 Daniel J. Andrews
    January 19, 2013

    If I published a paper showing the moon is made of green cheese, would Mr. Watts reprint it, call it interesting, but say he’s skeptical? Or would he recognize it as nonsense and not even bother with it? The latter option is exactly what he should have done with the meteorite paper. If you’re not equipped to recognize science from implausible stuff, then why would you think you’re even remotely equipped to have a science blog.

  30. #31 dhogaza
    January 19, 2013

    thefordprefect:

    “One should also remember the pages of drivel written about super-cold anarctic temperatures and CO2 snow”

    Beat me to it, good on you! I’ll add that the best part about that post and the string of comments centers around Watts’ speculating that all standard texts on physical chemistry are wrong, Steve Goddard right …

  31. #32 Jackson
    January 19, 2013

    Your rebuttal is convincing, but I’m still skeptical.

  32. #33 Susan Anderson
    January 19, 2013

    In an earlier post I seem to have misspelled Russell’s wonderful take on WUWT, which is hard to find. Please don’t mistake it for the source of its humor: that’s two v’s

    http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/

  33. #34 Russell Seitz
    January 20, 2013

    There is actually no reason to believe that a meteor or two having fossil or isotopic evidence that conforms to would call life could land on us from Mars. There are all sorts of problems with such data,…

    What makes the short-range version of Hoyle & wickramasinghe’s old hypotheis problematic is that ballistics is a two way street ( Happy gun day by the way – pity nobody organized a post-boxing day shoot .) .

    The same hypervelocity asteroid fragments that whack bits of Mars int the inner solar system to fall to Earth as shergottites srtike divots off its surface and into the outer solar system as well.

    The odds on them hitting Mars are deeply discounted by the reversal of outbound accelerstion by the sun’s gravity, but since the time scale is astronomical, such things will and do happen, albeit as rarely as catastrophic asteroid impacts .

    If eevery earthly astrobleme represents a scatter shot of terrestrial debris in Mar’s general direction, we can expect inverse-shergottite meteorites ( what to call them ? the mineralogists have already pinched ‘tellurites’ ) to be only a few orders of magnitude rarer on Mars than here.

    So ballistics being blind, some few bits of terrrestrial material deposited on Mars in the last few billion years may already have been Returned To Sender by the impact pf near-Mars asteroids. Calculating the fraction that contain diatom fossils is best left to a bar-full of soft rock geologiists at an AGU meeting.

    Incidentally, I devoted an op-ed to this conundrum back in the day when the WSJ still had a science editor:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB111050427890376787.html

  34. #35 Chris Ho-Stuart
    January 22, 2013

    Jimbo asks: “By the way there has been no statistically significant global warming in at least 16 years. Do you accept or deny this fact? What will you say if the world cools for the next decade (which non of the climate computers projected)? One day YOU might have to deal with your own denialist issues.”

    Excuse me for being skeptical… but what data are you using?

    Over the last 16 years, through the end of 2012, the 16 year trend from HadCrut4 is 0.054 C/decade +/- 0.037

    That is 95% confidence limits using convention linear regression and monthly data points with global anomalies.

    The GISS data set gives 0.080 C/decade +/- 0.039

    So no, I think that the data DOES show a statistically significant positive warming trend over 16 years.

    Claims to the contrary by all the usual suspects notwithstanding. The data is there; look at THAT. It does show a statistically significant warming trend over 16 years.

    BTW, 16 years too short to tell you the longer term trend. The 16 year trend, no matter what value it shows, reflects a lot of short term variation that obscures the longer trend. Much of the online discussion of this denialist talking point has focused on identifying those short term influences that impact trends over these short time spans.

    But be that as it may; the data really does show warming over 16 years to the end of 2012.

    As for decades (an even shorter period) with a definite negative trend, that’s just “going down the up escalator”.

  35. #36 Joe
    Florida, USA
    January 22, 2013

    The larger point was that the claim is so ridiculous that it shouldn’t have entered the conversation in the first place. Period. Rattus Norvegicus (#18) got it exactly right. It’s like a snake-oil salesman plant in the crowd… “wow, if that stuff does what he says it’d be awesome.” Meanwhile the salesman is claiming the elixir makes you as strong as 10 men and twice as tall with just a sip. This is the claim you don’t even entertain.

  36. #37 Chris Ho-Stuart
    January 23, 2013

    In my comment above on significance, I took no account of autocorrelation, and this means I get more significance than I should.

    If autocorrelation is taken into account, then the significance becomes much smaller; or equivalently, the confidence bounds on trend become larger.

    This means that 16 years is too short a time to say anything much about trend simply from the temperature data. To say “no significant warming” invites confusion; the real situation is there is no significance for telling *what* the trend is doing.

    In particular, you can’t conclude with any confidence that the warming has paused, or stopped, or even changed.

    The solution to this is to use a longer period of time, in which case you *do* get significance… and it *is* warming. But if you are specifically interested in the last 16 years, then you either have to say “too short a time to say much of anything”, or you have to get more data about the sources of short term variation.

    If you stick with just the available temperature data, then you can’t conclude cooling or pauses with any confidence, because the significance does not allow for it.

    If you go on to look at sources of variation — which include greenhouse effects, ENSO and volcanic effects, and separate them out, then the data DOES allow you to conclude that the warming is continuing over the last 16 years with very good significance indeed.

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