Via Pure Pedantry, I’ve become aware of a post that resonates over here, given the recent series of posts I did about a certain comic who, unable to dispute the science behind global warming or the health hazards of secondhand smoke in any serious way, has a penchant for labeling scientists who support such positions and think that indoor smoking should be banned as fascists (or Maoist), power hungry, bureaucrats who don’t view people as individuals, geeks who got beat up on the dodgeball court and are now taking their revenge, or avid players of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons who now think they can play any role in real life.

In the post John over at Chicago Boyz makes the point that, yes, a lot of scientists are jerks, but that doesn’t invalidate science. I’m not sure I would go quite as far as he does, but here’s his point:

The scientific method is a mechanism for the evolution of thought. Evolution depends on conflict and stuggle as its motive engine. Conflict requires competitive personalities. Those personalities are not always the easiest to deal with. QED, most good scientists are jackasses.

I don’t think I’d agree that “most” or “most good” scientists are jackasses, but it is true that a sometimes distressing number of them are. The same can be said of many surgeons. Science is a competitive field, in essence intellectual competition between competing hypotheses, and if a scientist wants to convince others of the correctness of his or her ideas, the only support available includes the evidence (most important) and the ability of the scientist to persuade fellow scientists that the evidence supports his or her ideas. John concludes:

I’m the first to admit that most scientists are egotistical jackasses, more so than they need to be. However, every scientist needs to be a jackass to a certain degree. Everyone wants to be the maverick that comes up with a novel application of existing knowledge, or overturns conventional wisdom and wins everlasting glory. The progress of science depends on the majority of us being jackasses so that we can overcome biases. It’s an evolutionary system in action, and without external stimulus or competition, the stronger ideas, the ones that more closely model reality, do not beat out the weaker ones. Groupthink wins and we enter a new Dark Age.

Yes and no. If we’re going to continue with the evolution analogy, just as there are many strategies for evolutionary success in biology, there are also many strategies for success in science. Not all of them including being an overbearing asshole. (In fact, I would argue that, while some do, most do not.) In biology, other strategies for success include cooperation, altruism, and various other strategies that organisms also use in evolution, and so it is in science, too. In other words, you don’t have to be a jerk to succeed, and sometimes it’s even harmful to one’s scientific career. It’s painting with way too broad a brush to label the vast majority of scientists to be egotistical, overbearing, jackasses.

This brings us around to the “skepticism” about global warming and secondhand smoke that we’ve been dealing with here for the last month or so. Even if every caricature of scientists presented over the last month were true, even if we were all geeks seeking revenge for childhood indignities heaped upon us, power-hungry fascists wanting to impose our will on society, or cold, impersonal bureaucrats who do not see people as individuals but rather as experimental objects to manipulate, like lab animals, it would not invalidate what science says. That’s because of the scientific method and the scientific process, as Jake points out:

My argument is that whether or not I like the guy who made gathered the data, I trust the scientific process enough to produce data that is reliable. This trust is justified because the scientific process is so competitive that even if you do cheat or lie about your data is unlikely that is going to remain secret for long. The more controversial a subject is the more likely that someone is going to check your data, largely because the professional benefits of showing that the prevailing wisdom is wrong are so high.

Let’s look at it this way. There are a number of surgeons whom I personally view as arrogant clods and would never want to hang out with socially. Many of these same surgeons are simply fantastically talented individuals, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go to them if I had a surgical problem that was within their area of expertise, my opinion of their personality notwithstanding. The same is true of scientists. How nice a person you are is not necessarily correlated with how good a scientist you are, nor do the personalities found in scientists as a group invalidate science. If you’re going to argue against a scientific consensus such as anthropogenic global warming or the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, you have to do it with scientific arguments and evidence, not commentary on the personality defects, whether real or imagined, of scientists if you want to be taken seriously.


  1. #1 Ezekiel Buchheit
    August 14, 2007

    You only believe that evidence matters because you’re a scientist. Here in the real world what matters is who is the loudest and has the biggest gun. (That’s all said tongue-in-cheek)

    “Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the gun.”

    As I put myself and my wife through college (she’s doing nursing, I’m doing microbiology), I work at a grocery store. This is an upscale, “healthy” grocery store that has a department that sells all sorts of trinkets and goodies for what ails you, but no actually medicine. If people ask me where something is, I tell them. If they ask me my opinion of something, like say whether or not this homeopathic brand is better than that homeopathic brand, I answer honestly.

    I have made few friends this way.

    People generally don’t care about reality. They are more interested in what feels or seems right/good/appropriate. Not what really is. What is “real” often takes a whole hell of a lot of effort to research, and it’s all complex and all these shades of grey and often boring and so forth. But man, affecting your cellular energy fields on a quantum level, dammit, for $25 a tincture, you’re really doing something.

  2. #2 Russell
    August 14, 2007

    It’s important to separate the factual conclusions from the normative framework one brings to it. There are quite a few people who simultaneously accept that second-hand smoke has health risks, and who think smoking should still be allowed at bars. Risks are relative, and there is value on the side also of generally letting people do what they want to do.

  3. #3 DragonScholar
    August 14, 2007

    Actually I’d say most scientists I know are not jerks, and in fact their jerk-percentage is lower than the general population.

    However, most scientists I know are also very inquisitive, they are competitive in a rather civil way, and they have extremely low tolerance for BS and dishonesty. Under the right situations they can be extreme jerks, but its usually understandable.

  4. #4 Occam's Trowel
    August 14, 2007

    Great topic, Orac.

    I think that it’s also easy to let the blogosphere leave us with a skewed impression of who scientists are. In addition to our fine, reasoned arguments, IMO we get way too much pleasure out of making fun of what jerks the Refuddlicans, cranks, and other assorted flat-earthers out there are. And the blog market loves it, too — sensationalism sells, even here in SciBling land. It would be easy to conclude that we are still just grinding the axes we forged in grade-school kickball lineups. The ad hominem smackdowns get old pretty fast, though, and I’ve simply stopped reading the science blogs that seem determined to confirm that we’re jerks.

  5. #5 richard
    August 14, 2007

    I’d say that scientists are not that different from most at their socio-economic level. Many jobs are in competitive environments that can stimulate jackass behavour; many science jobs, by contrast, are not in highly competitive environments (i.e. careers may be on the line, but rarely is employment). There are some large egos in science, but I’d suggest that is because of a lack of real-world humbling than competitive pressures.

  6. #6 Anne-Marie
    August 14, 2007

    I’m an undergrad research assistant in the biology department of a large university, and, while there are a couple of token assholes, for the most part I’ve had great experiences dealing with faculty, most of which are prolific researchers/authors. The vast majority of professors seem to be really passionate about their research and sharing it with others, and I’ve heard them rib each other about differing views (ie group selection, neutralism), but overall the attitudes make for pretty pleasant working environment. I don’t think a scientific mindset necessarily means you’re going to be a jerk, if anything I think the scientific method should teach us to be willing to listen to new ideas and give other people a chance to support their suggestions with evidence as opposed to dismissing them out of hand.

  7. #7 David D.G.
    August 14, 2007

    The bottom line is that personality has relatively little to do with results. Even if your personality leans toward dishonesty, and you personally don’t care about the evidence, you HAVE to deal with it as carefully as possible or expect that someone will eventually call you on it — as a certain Korean chap learned not long ago.

    ~David D.G.

  8. #8 Sastra
    August 14, 2007

    A while back I was discussing a “Wellness Fair” with some woo-minded friends who are fans of alternative medicine (needless to say the ‘Wellness Fair’ consisted of nothing but) and I found something interesting. When I pointed out that, unlike real scientists, alt med practitioners seemed perfectly happy peddling their stuff right next to other hucksters peddling stuff which claimed to work through methods completely different — no arguments, no disputes — my friends seemed unable to understand the problem. Yes, scientific conferences were filled with people contradicting other people, trying to break down others arguments or show flaws in research or pick holes in theories. That sort of contentious peer review is, as they see it, a weakness in science.

    What’s wonderful about alternative medicine, they told me, is the harmony, the acceptance, the lack of bitterness or ego. One person says cancer is caused by blockage of chi energy and another one says it’s caused by poor nutrition. So? Maybe it’s both — why should either one try to prove the other is “wrong.” The fact that they don’t is a sign they can be trusted. If you’re on the track to understanding health, they think, you’re going to be comfortable with diversity.

    Scientists are not comfortable with diversity. It’s all ego, ego, ego, and cutting down others to elevate the self. That’s why they don’t like it, or trust it.

    It struck me that they seemed unable to distinguish between the truth of an idea and respect for other people. When you wrote “How nice a person you are is not necessarily correlated with how good a scientist you are,” I suspect they would disagree. Rigorous critique of colleagues is seen as a sign of personal character flaws and is therefore an invalid approach to Health.

    Though I note they and the alt med hawkers have no problem viciously criticizing allopathic Western medicine and Big Pharma.

  9. #9 bug_girl
    August 14, 2007

    As someone who’s experiencing a barrage of “bug girl is a B!tch/liar/etc.” posts by another blogger, I’ve noticed his posts attack *me*, but almost never the actual information I’m presenting

    I take that as a sign of work well done 🙂

  10. #10 Nat
    August 14, 2007

    Dear Richard

    I’m afraid our employment is on the line. Every year. Until we retire.

    I don’t know any other professionals who have to competitively apply for their own jobs annually.

    As for being jackasses. Scientists should have no problem ripping your argument to shreds but still enjoying your company personally. The jackasses might be the ones who can’t see this distinction. People outside of science are also not attuned to the difference between scientific argument and personal animosity.

    I attack the hypothesis not the wo/man who proposed it.

  11. #11 kemibe
    August 14, 2007

    As a corollary, bloggers can use nughty words when labeling the opposition, but that doesn’t make idiotic ideas correct.

    If there’s one good reasons not to call the Luskins of the world f*cking dumbasses and so on, it’s not because this is not a perfectly apt description; it’s because it gives that crowd one more feeble but facile excuse for avoiding the substance of the discussion. Give these anatomical gigglesticks the chance to yell “Look at the ad homs and anger from the Darwinists!” rather than answer to the charge that their science is crap, and of course they’ll take it.

  12. #12 cooler
    August 14, 2007

    Have you guys even seen the great global warming swindle on bbc………….its free on google.

    they make some good points, I saw Gore’s movie and was totally convinced, now I don’t really know.
    Some points the experts in this bbc special made
    -only 3% of carbon is manmade
    -from 1940-70 the temp. actually lowered, this was strange considering this was the start of the Industrial revolution, and much more Co2, they were television shows about an impending ice age back then!
    -The temprature in the past has been much hotter and had much more Carbon in the Air in the Earths history, and everything was dandy.

    Before people attack me , I have made posts advocating that 9/11 might have been an inside job and that the case for HIV is not as strong as one might think, just a premeptive strike from people who are bound to attack me, I own up to what I believe and am willing to debate those who call me a “woo.”

    I thought these theories were nuts all my life until I saw heard other points of view. This film HIV fact or fraud is with Duesberg and his pals made me agnostic on the hiv issue.

    And the film Loose change on google is what made me and millions of others 9/11 rethinkers. I am willing to debate those who insult me personally.

  13. #13 Nat
    August 14, 2007


    0% of carbon is man made. It’s an element.

    1940 was not the start of the industrial revolution.

    -End of troll feeding-

  14. #14 cooler
    August 15, 2007

    Man made co2 is what I meant, you know theres a difference between the Co2 your car makes, thats coined as man made, its not supposed to be taken literally which is obvious,and non man made sources like Volcanoes. Because you are so gullible and take everything literally, I’ll use “man produced” to make you happy, even though most scientists use “man made.”

    The post world war 2 era, when the industrial production was at a very high level,the “man produced” Co2 levels were at a very high level, you would expect the following decades to see an increase in temp, not a decrease. I’m sorry if you lack critical thinking skills and try to get off on technicalities.

  15. #15 DuWayne
    August 15, 2007

    cooler –

    Good gods, what the hell did common sense do to you, that you beat the hell out of it ran away? Seriously, I’m fairly credulous myself. Aware of this, I try my damndest to compensate through investigation and study of the evidence. You seem to have taken credulous, to the level of pathology. You are seriously ill, please consider getting help – you quite obviously need it.

  16. #16 Jud
    August 15, 2007

    Interesting take on the scientific method I hadn’t seen before:

  17. #17 cooler
    August 15, 2007

    You are the one that needs help. Please get checked out and leave your adhominem attacks to yourself, learn to defend arguments, please get educated. Have a nice day.

  18. #18 vlad
    August 15, 2007

    I actually just saw gore’s interview on Oprah. I don’t buy what gore said as fact for the simple reason that he has too much to gain from it. However, the ice caps are definatly melting and the world is getting warmer. In the are of tropical fish there are lion fish up near the cost of new england. So the water is definatly getting warmer. Corals are starting to bleach more readily and the stuff showing up at the pet stores (unless it cultured coral) looks worse and worse. What’s causing the global warming may be debatable yes I can see some credence to both natural and man made explanations.

    The HIV and 9/11 stuff is pure crap. I have looked at the evidence from 9/11. There is nothing (a few sloppy circumstantial bits of evidence) that points to anything other than what it is. A terrorist attack that killed many Americans. Do I trust the government no not really but the government trusts itself even less. Do you really think that the government could pull this off and it never gets out? They can’t even secure a border or agree on healthcare and you think they could have done it? The HIV denialism is total crap, so it the viral weapons theory. Try pandering the HIV denial in any gay community, please put it on U-tube after. What about Africa, the denialism took root there because of political convenience.

    Sorry back on topic yes I have met some scientists that are assholes. With all the conspiracy theories about them and all of the alternative theories shouted louder and louder (with no actual evidence) of course they become ass hole to the general public. How many time do they have to answer the same question presented by the same idiot with the same evidence? I’d become a far more unpleasant asshole under these circumstances than any of the scientists I know have.

    Academia is a different story but since my first 4-year incarceration I’m definatly subject to exterem observation bias.

  19. #19 phdwannabe
    August 15, 2007

    skepticism/critical thinking is great, but eventually it all comes down to what can be demonstrated.
    no solution/answer is perfect, but if it looks like a strawberry, and the available test suggest that it is a strawberry, then it is logical to assume that what you see is indeed a strawberry and proceed accordingly. now it is very likely some people will disagree with this assumption and claim that what you have is in fact a tomato. fine, but unless they can prove that it is indeed a tomato or at least not a strawberry, the strawberry hypothesis stands. sorry to get all metaphorical, but i fear getting into a specific subject (e.g. HIV causes AIDs) would draw us/me away from the point.

  20. #20 Oldfart
    August 15, 2007

    (1) I gave up smoking 5 years ago.
    (2) Even when I was smoking I couldn’t stand smoky rooms.

    Now that I’ve presented my credentials, I can go on to say that scientists and other do-gooders should allow the market to set the rules. It is very simple: allow smoking bars and non-smoking bars, allow smoking restaurants and non-smoking restaurants. Make it perfectly clear to the customers and the employees which one they are visiting or employed at. After a few years the market will decide which is more viable. If it is the non-smoking establishments, then you have won a bloodless war. If it is the smoking establishments, then you have to admit that you are up against a cultural phenomenon. That people enjoy drinking and smoking together. And, just give it up.

  21. #21 richard
    August 15, 2007

    Nat: “I’m afraid our employment is on the line. Every year. Until we retire. I don’t know any other professionals who have to competitively apply for their own jobs annually.”

    Nat, I think you most be in an unusual position; very few working scientists (not counting those in ‘science’ jobs who do not spend most of their time doing research) have to apply for their jobs annually. Most academic scientists are in tenure track positions (or aspire to be); once they have tenure, employment is quite secure.

    Contrast that situation with professionals outside of academia. They can often be dismissed at any moment, and advancement almost always takes place at someone else’s expense. Much more competitive environment, IMHO. Universities can be miserable places, full of petty back-stabbers, but in general, academics don’t know how good they have it. The outside world is far more competitive wrt to job security.

  22. #22 Orac
    August 15, 2007

    Universities can be miserable places, full of petty back-stabbers, but in general, academics don’t know how good they have it. The outside world is far more competitive wrt to job security.

    Indeed. In big pharma, for instance, my colleagues, although usually better paid than my colleagues in academia, usually can’t work on whatever they want to work on and live in constant fear of the next corporate merger or reorganization that causes the company to need to cut costs, usually through eliminating scientists and workers. All too frequently, there is little or no notice; when you’re fired or laid off in the corporate world, it’s not uncommon to have you clean out your desk and leave right after the meeting at which you are informed of your unemployment. There are other perks of academia, such more vacation time.

  23. #23 AngryToxicologist
    August 15, 2007

    This reminds me of something that my prof in scientific communication/writing class in grad school said (yes I can remember that far back). It went something like this: Policy people and science people don’t often get along very well, especially when discussing research. The reason is that most policy write in ways that advance their own line of reasoning while not slamming the other person while scientists tend to come right out and challenge your facts, your data, your way of thinking. This may seem an afront but it’s not meant to be offensive. We want to be argued with. “I challenge you, you challenge me” is ingrained into scientists as the best way forward.

    There’s a lot of truth in that, I think. I would add that it may not always be the best way forward. Challenging your spouse for data that they hardly ever go out with their friends isn’t likely to go over well. 🙂

  24. #24 cooler
    August 15, 2007

    The explosive theory can easily explain the evidence.

    -the simultanoues failure of all the columns (how could fire weaken them all at the same time?) Especillay building 7, all 90 columns would have to fail at the same time AT DIFFERENT LEVELS throughout the building

    -the huge explosion the janitor and several other witnesses heard and felt before the first plane impact

    -What happened to the tops of the towers (above impact zone), how did they disintergrate? explosives are the only/easiest explanation.

    -how did 80 floors of cold steel superstructure provide very little resistance?, if you dropped a 15 story building through air it would have fell to the ground at almost the same time as if you dropped on a 80 story building according to the official theory. Explosives can easily resolve this paradox.

    -many people like Scott Forbes and Willaim rodriguez noted many unprecedented power downs before the collapse, im sure ther are others who are to afraid to speak out.

    -experts have a tendancy to support the States propaganda, like they did in Russia and Germany. This stuff is high school science anyways. Many experts have questioned the collapse anoynomously, and many more have come out. (Architects and engineers for truth)

    -Fire/Damage has never caused the complete collpase of a steel framed building

    -what evidence do you guys have of your conspiracy theory? The fatty bin laden tape, the terrorist’s passport and bandana found in the ditch in Shankesville, too bad 99% of the plane dissapeared!(they never revovered 95% of the plane, theres no visual evidence of that) the Terrorists passport found at ground zero when they couldnt find the black boxes? lol

    13 of the 19 HIjackers never appear on any airport surveillence cams, and the ones that do were released 3 years later, and look like they could be anybody, so youre left with Atta and his pal at the wrong airport.

    See Loose change, 9/11 coverup film

  25. #25 Orac
    August 15, 2007

    I got very little sleep last night (I was up until 4 AM finishing a grant); so I don’t have a lot of patience to deal with idiotic 9/11 conspiracy theorist trolls such as yourself. All I’ll say is: Get thee hence to Screw Loose Change. It’s a good start for a place to address the pseudoscience, misrepresentations, and lies you’re parroting.

  26. #26 cooler
    August 15, 2007

    Wow, youre really classy, making personal insults to someone you dont even know, is that how you treat your patients? probably. Its nothing to get so touchy about, especialy after the joints cheifs of staff put plans on paper in th 60’s to committ acts of terrorism against Americans and blame it on Cuba, Operation Northwoods, google it.

    You seriously need to get checked out. Coming from someone who’s favorite movie is where a living brain with tentacles prances around, I don’t take being called an Idiot by you personally, have a nice day.

  27. #27 Nat
    August 15, 2007

    -Stop the troll feeding-

    Richard. Whilst many in the States over a certain age might be tenured that does not mean that this system exists for younger scientists or for scientists overseas. There are numerous complaints from American scientists about the endless postdoc.

    If you and your colleagues don’t get the grants in from somewhere you don’t have a salary. Tenure seems to still be solid for teachers but it isn’t for people who are primarily researchers.

  28. #28 DuWayne
    August 15, 2007

    Cooler –

    I wasn’t engaging in adhominem attack, I was as serious as a heartattack. I have observed your comments on this and other blogs, your behavior is pathological. I have no desire or need to address your actual “arguments,” as there is an abundance of evidence that pretty much everything you have to say is flat out nuts. Too, I quite honestly don’t have nearly the patience that many others, who do address your arguments have.

    Your favorite brand of woo, the HIV/AIDS denialism, kills people. I volunteer a fair amount of my time, providing in home care for persons with HIV and AIDS. I have lost an uncle to AIDS, as well as a few friends. I have a couple more friends, people that my son and I help care for and care about, very deeply, who will probably be gone within the next year or so. One of them bought your brand of crap and refused to take the meds for too long. She could have had many more years to grace us with her warmth and friendship, were it not for people like you. Because of people like you, she will probably not be around for my son’s seventh birthday, if she even makes it to his sixth.

    You’re either pathologically credulous, or you’re absolutely evil. I choose to think the best of people, thus I assume you’re nuts. I have, remarkably, managed to avoid adhominem attacks against you. You and your ilk make me very, very angry. Angry because your insane rants actually manage to relegate some people to horrible, painful deaths, whether they choose not to have safe sex, or choose to forgo medications that can extend their lives indefinitely.

    Yes, the medications are unpleasant, I regularly clean up fecal matter and vomit, that result from those meds. But the death they stave off, is infinitely worse. Have you ever seen someone, who if healthy, should weigh about 160#, who weighs little more than half that? Have you ever watched someone you love, waste away, their organs failing, their body rotting away in front of you? I have. And I am watching it happen now, because a young women, listened to lunatics like you. Adhominem? I think I’ve been pretty bloody well reserved in addressing you.

  29. #29 Orac
    August 15, 2007

    Wow, youre really classy, making personal insults to someone you dont even know,

    That “someone I don’t know” wrote something profoundly stupid and worthy of ridicule.

    9/11 conspiracy theorists who credulously parrot pseudoscience and lies are not worthy of my respect, and I just happen not to be patient enough today to put up with such idiocy.

  30. #30 cooler
    August 16, 2007

    People make descions based on informed consent, not because they are being forced to do things that people tell them. You should check out Tara smith’s blog and see the many hiv positive people who found Duesberg’s arguments compelling and lived for decades without getting sick, and they are pretty pissed off at people like you killing their friends with AZT. I think you are mentally ill for mindlessly beleiving everything the government tells you.

    Real scientists dont get so upset if people have different views than they do. You can’t defend a single argument I made above,and refer me to some idiots blog. A real scientist would examine the evidence and tell me why I’m wrong, not have a hissy fit.

    A real scientist would propose expirements that could clarify ambiguities, such as suggesting the release of the footage of the 80 cameras at the pentagon, or in the case of thimersol, conducting a study comparing thousands of people with no thimerosol vs. people who had the 1991 levels, seeing the difference in problems, not going woo woo” crank crank” which is all you seem to do 24/7.

    Just the fact you get so upset is very telling in itself, your reaction is like a kid who is told Santa Claus doesnt exist, this is your caliber of your discourse. It’s pretty funny to be honest.

    I don’t remember the best scientists in history acting in this xenophobic and condescending manner, they were too busy being creative and conducting expirements rather than using the same redundant drivel that is repeated over and over on your blog. How many posts do you have with the word “woo” and “crank”, can’t you come up with anything else? Are you that insipid? Seems like it.

    If you think you are so special you should debate Dr. David ray Griffin on 9/11, or Duesberg on HIV etc. You never would because you feel safe asscociating with your small cadre of mindless sycophants that beleive everthing the government and the media tells them. You’ll never get out in the real world and defend your psuedoscience publicly, because you couldnt handle being revealed as the very person you’ve reduntantly accused others of, a psuedoscientiic crank.

  31. #31 richard
    August 16, 2007

    Nat: “Tenure seems to still be solid for teachers but it isn’t for people who are primarily researchers.”

    I expect the opposite is true. The majority of working scientists in academia are in tenure-track positions. It is true that in some universities a certain number of research positions are filled by persons who have tenure but don’t get a salary unless they bring in sufficient grant funds, but those are a small minority of the total academic research community in North America. By contrast (in North America anyway), a good percentage of teaching staff (lecturers,etc) in universities don’t have the same job security.

  32. #32 Luna_the_cat
    August 16, 2007

    Another thought or two re: scientists being “jerks” —

    First, as a scientist one has to deal on a daily basis with data which do not care what you want, and which may, in fact, give your favored-hypothesis-which-may-net-you-a-paper-in-Nature a regular kicking. In order to deal with the fact that the universe is profoundly indifferent not just to your desires, but also to your mere existance and to the progression of your experiment, your ego has to be fairly robust. Robust egos manifest themselves in a number of ways.

    Second, there is the understandable frustration of the person who has spent the majority of his or her adult life struggling to master complex material, living on pot noodle, and sacrificing too much of their money and social life, in order to make sure that they actually understand their topic of choice to the greatest extent possible — who is then faced with the people who have slightly less exposure to the topic than a bright high school student and a very obvious lack of reasoning skills (take a bow, cooler), who inevitably start off conversations with “I’m not a biologist [climate scientist/physicist/take your pick], but it’s obvious that [insert ignorant lunacy here]”. People who would never dream of telling their TV repairman how to do his job are happy to dismiss your years of study with a contemptuous snort at your closed-mindedness, because this pursuit of knowledge and understanding has obviously left you with less understanding of the “real world” than a “regular person”. How can that NOT induce a certain level of screaming rage after a while?

  33. #33 Orac
    August 16, 2007

    Real scientists dont get so upset if people have different views than they do.

    That is true when those views aren’t obviously utter pseudoscientific idiocy that’s been rebutted again and again but that, like a zombie, keeps rising from the grave, thanks to people like you with very bad critical thinking skills. If those views are obviously utterly pseudoscientific idiocy, as 9/11 denialism and conspiracy theories almost always are, then scientists do have a tendency to get a little perturbed when they see the same canards and lies regurgitated again and again–and rightly so!

  34. #34 Luna_the_cat
    August 16, 2007

    cooler, there is an old Russian Jewish saying:

    “If one person tells you that you are a donkey, you are not a donkey.
    If two people tell you that you are a donkey, you are not a donkey.
    If three people tell you that you are a donkey, you are not a donkey.
    If ten people tell you that you are a donkey, you are not a donkey.
    If a hundred people tell you that you are a donkey…maybe you’re a donkey.”

    You passed donkeyhood some time ago. Time to contemplate the possibility that you really don’t know what you’re talking about, and you will never be taken seriously because of your obvious (to everyone else) poor understanding of the subjects involved. This situation will never change unless you acknowledge that it exists.

  35. #35 Ambitwistor
    August 16, 2007


    I don’t intend to engage in endless debate with you over this, since the general credulity in your posts suggests an unsurmountable eagerness to embrace any kind of pseudoscientific position. However, for the benefit of other readers, I will point out a few things regarding the “documentary” you cite. (You can learn all these things with a simple Google search on the documentary, but I will summarize them myself.)

    “-only 3% of carbon is manmade”

    However, almost 100% of the carbon added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution is manmade. The latter is the figure which is relevant.

    Natural sources add a great deal of CO2 to the atmosphere, but natural sinks remove an almost equal amount, leaving the total amount roughly constant. The additional CO2 humans have added have overwhelmed the natural sinks; they are only able to take up half of it, leaving the other half to keep accumulating in the atmosphere every year. This leads to the elevated CO2 levels now present (so far ~35% larger than in pre-industrial times).

    We know that almost all of that extra carbon is due to human sources both from measurements of natural sources, estimates of human emissions, and direct isotopic fingerprinting of carbon (fossil fuels have a different isotopic signature).

    “- from 1940-70 the temp. actually lowered, this was strange considering this was the start of the Industrial revolution, and much more Co2,”

    The industrial revolution started in the late 18th century. But you are correct that CO2 levels increased during the cooling period you mentioned.

    The “documentary” implies that this disproves the warming effect of CO2. In actuality, there are many warming and cooling effects in the climate besides CO2 which must be taken into account.

    During the 1940-1970 period, there was increased air pollution, which cools the climate due to reflecting extra sunlight passing through the atmosphere, and there was also somewhat elevated volcanic activity, which does the same. That led to a net cooling.

    Since 1975 or so, the continued increase of CO2 levels has outstripped the manmade and natural cooling influences, and for the most part will continue to do so in the forseeable future, leading to general warming.

    Climate models actually predict this, by the way: when you add in all natural and manmade warming and cooling factors, they reproduce the 1940-1970 cooling trend as well as the later warming trend.

    “they were television shows about an impending ice age back then!”

    No one was predicting an impeding ice age in the 1970s (impending meaning “within our lifetimes”). People today have mixed up several studies back then that were poorly reported, including one that suggested that air pollution would cool the climate, and some that suggested that the Earth was going to gradually slide into an ice age (barring any human influence on the climate!) over the next few thousand years.

    “- The temprature in the past has been much hotter and had much more Carbon in the Air in the Earths history, and everything was dandy.”

    Well, that depends. Temperatures and CO2 levels were higher in the Triassic period, and that was fine for the dinosaurs, but I don’t think the U.S. being a tropical jungle is “dandy” for us.

  36. #36 Ambitwistor
    August 16, 2007


    “I don’t buy what gore said as fact for the simple reason that he has too much to gain from it.”

    1. What does Gore have to gain?
    2. What did he say that is not supported by, say, the findings in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment report?

  37. #37 Tim Slagle
    August 16, 2007

    Orac writes:

    “scientists do have a tendency to get a little perturbed when they see the same canards and lies regurgitated again and again”

    Not necessarily. It seems that many scientists only get upset when lies are told that oppose the Left Wing agenda. (You’re stance on vaccines and 9/11 conspiracies does seem to be an exception however).

    Back now

    Response here.

  38. #38 cooler
    August 16, 2007

    I do not claim to be fully knowledgable on all sides of the Global warming issue, but I Did find that documentary compelling, but you made some counterpoints that sounded reasonable, Id like to see a public debate on issues like this so people can learn more.

    Luna the cat,
    Nobody I associate with thinks im a donkey, I went to a really good University and I had many good looking, intelligent and outgoing friends that have seen the same documentaries I’ve posted here, and have many doubts/questions I have. I value thier opinion much more than a fat ugly pig with no friends like you. (Call me a donkey, what do you expect, a cookie?)

    The 9/11 theories are not psuedoscience, why do you think you’re some type of grand gatekeeper that instructs others what they can and can’t debate?

    A whole group of architects have just supported the explosive hypothesis. Two swiss structural engineers said Building 7 was brought down with explosives, Stephen Jones, a former Physics professor published a paper while at BYU giving making a good case for explosives, many engineers and physicists agreed with him, including an MIT physics professor, they only left thier first names because of fear of repurcussions, there are probably hundereds more too afraid to speak out. Here is Jones’s paper.

    Who do you have on your side? The NIST goverment scientists, most independent structural engineers have not given an opinion either way, so please don’t claim they suppport the OCT.

    Anyways, since you people only resort to ad hominem attacks I’m going to be hanging out with my friends, hot good looking intelligent girls, not a bunch of angry militant reject morons like the people who mock me here and can’t defend a single argument, and are despised by most everybody they come across.

    Here is the Architects for truth site, if they are any normal open minded people here.

  39. #39 Orac
    August 16, 2007

    Not necessarily. It seems that many scientists only get upset when lies are told that oppose the Left Wing agenda. (You’re stance on vaccines and 9/11 conspiracies does seem to be an exception however).

    Actually, neither the left nor the right have a monopoly on antivaccination pseudoscience. Dan Burton, for example, is one of the biggest antivaccination loons in the House of Representatives, a huge proponent of the “mercury causes autism” lie, and he’s hardly what you would call “left wing.” I can easily refer you antivaccination sites that are associated with fundamentalist conservative Christian websites that deny evolution. There is also a strong strain of antivaccination sentiment in conservative Muslim nations. You’re very wrong if you assume that antivaccination idiocy is even close to solely the province of hippy-dippy New Age left wingers. Sadly, it’s not. In fact, Dawn Winkler, the Libertarian candidate for governor in Colorado last year, is a died-in-the-wool antivaccination nutcase.

    9/11 conspiracy theories are also a bipartisan affair., for example, can hardly be characterized as a “left wing” website, but it’s full of right wing New World Order conspiracy-mongering and frequently publishes or links to articles by proponents of 9/11 lies. It’s also full of Holocaust denial,

  40. #40 Luna_the_cat
    August 17, 2007

    Wow, cooler, that was an even less rational response from you than I expected — and I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much.

    Just to try to spell this out to you: you have many intelligent, rational, well-educated professionals trying to point out that you are entirely too gullible and don’t seem to be very good at interpreting evidence, explaining how and why they say this, and trying to point you towards better resources. Your responses almost uniformly indicate that you have either not read or not understood the resources pointed out to you, and invariably tend more towards insult and ad-hominim attack than any good faith discussion of, well, anything. You act irrationally. You need to address some deeper issues, here. That’s all.

    Tim Slagle — I have personally found that belief in pseudoscience and woo is most prevalent on the far left in the form of belief in “new age” (or alternatively, “traditional”) and “alternative” medical therapies, whereas the far right tend towards anything anti-environmentalist as well as creationism. Belief in conspiracy theories seems equally spread across the board. No one group anywhere has a monopoly on stupidity.

  41. #41 tina
    August 17, 2007

    scientists tend to be very strong NTs on an MBTI scale. They have pretty accurate BS meters and are very critical of anything new until it’s worth has been proven.

    Ego however is elevated as you switch departments. Math guys are aliens and don’t really live amoung us. Physicists are amazingly openminded and are so smart they don’t need to be assholes. Chemists are mostly okay with the exception or the organic guys who torture one another as a right of passage.

    Biochemists vary depending if they are in a med school or not. Once you get in a med school people get nasty and stressed and also cut throat. MD researchers seem to be the most egotistical. Likely they are INTJs, like most surgeons and just not fit for public consumption.

    MD researchers are more likely than pHD researchers to fabricate or cheat on data, likely due to the extremely high competitive midset it takes to finsish the med school/residency process.

  42. #42 DuWayne
    August 17, 2007

    cooler –

    Good grief, you are a complete and utter, contemptible fool. I would find you absolutely laughable, were it not for the fact that your sorts of rants kill people. The governemnt? I believe what the givernment tells me? What planet are you from? Do you honestly believe that the entire body of scientific research and modern medicine, is somehow the purview of the government? What government would that be anyways, the New World Order?

    And for the record, I make absolutely no bones about having multiple neurological disorders. I suspect you visited my site the other night and should be well aware of that. Indeed, I suspect that they lend to my own credulousness, which is something that I work very hard to compensate for. Compensate for through educating myself as much as possible.

    The first step to recovery, is recognizing you have a problem.

  43. #43 Ed
    August 18, 2007

    Some points the experts in this bbc special made
    -only 3% of carbon is manmade

    Natural emissions dwarf human emissions

    -from 1940-70 the temp. actually lowered, this was strange considering this was the start of the Industrial revolution, and much more Co2, they were television shows about an impending ice age back then!

    What about mid-century cooling?

    -The temprature in the past has been much hotter and had much more Carbon in the Air in the Earths history, and everything was dandy.

    What’s wrong with warmer weather?

    All from How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. It’s well worth having a read through their other answers, too.

  44. #44 tim slagle
    August 19, 2007

    Orac writes: “Actually, neither the left nor the right have a monopoly on antivaccination pseudoscience.”

    I never claimed a monopoly. It’s just that the anticorporatist stance inherent in Left Wing dogma fits better with the anti-vaccinationists. And blaming September 11th on the CIA and President Bush, falls right in line with the Bush Lied contingent of the DNC.

    As for Libertarians believing some whoppers, well… When you are a Party that actually BRAGS about being a home for wayward political orphans, you’re going to get all kinds.

    Who can forget the famous Blue Candidate?

  45. #45 Orac
    August 19, 2007

    It’s just that the anticorporatist stance inherent in Left Wing dogma fits better with the anti-vaccinationists.

    Actually, the antigovernment stand inherent in Right Wing dogma fits just as well with the antivaccinationists. Indeed, I can tend to tell who is left wing and who is right wing when I come across antivax loons. The left wingers will rant about pharmaceutical companies profiting off vaccines and “generating” bogus science to cover up their dangers, while the right-wingers will rant about the FDA and the CDC “covering up” the dangers and how the government has no right to require vaccination.

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