Respectful Insolence

A couple of years ago, fellow ScienceBlogger Mark Hoofnagle over at Denialism Blog coined a most excellent term to describe all manners of pseuodscience, quackery, and crankery. The term, “crank magnetism,” describes the tendency of cranks not to mind it when they see crankery in others. More specifically, it describes how cranks of one variety (for instance, HIV/AIDS denialists, will be attracted to another form of crankery (for instance, anti-vaccinationism or the 9/11 Truth movement) because, as Mark put it, cranks and pseudoscientists see themselves as iconoclasts, brave mavericks opposed to orthodoxy, be it scientific, historical, or other disciplines. Indeed, I’ve given several examples of this over the course of this blog, including Dr. Lorraine Day, who is very much into alternative medicine but also into Holocaust denial; Melanie Phillips, whose crank magnetism attracts both creationism and anti-vaccine beliefs; Sharyl Attkisson, who is into both anti-vaccine beliefs and various cancer pseudoscience; Bill Maher, who is into cancer quackery, vaccine denialism, and animal rights activism; Vox Day, who hits the crank trifecta of anti-vaccinationism, evolution denialism, and anthropogenic global warming (AGW) denialism); Nicholas Kollerstrom, who hit a different crank trifecta of Holocaust denial, astrology, and crop circles; and Mike Adams, whose crank magnetism encompasses virtually all forms of pseudoscience other than AGW denialism.

Speaking of AGW denialism, an old friend of ours has reminded me of crank magnetism in a big way. Yes, I’m talking about the creationist neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor, whose penchant for logical fallacies, pseudoscience, and bad arguments seemingly knows no bounds. This time around, as P.Z. Myers and the Sensuous Curmudgeon have pointed out, Egnor is letting his crank magnetism cause creationism to collide with AGW denial over the recently leaked e-mails from emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, where a webmail server was recently hacked by AGW denialists. The result of this leak has been a crankgasm from the AGW set claiming that this is the “smoking gun” that the community of climate scientists has been in cahoots to suppress “dissenting” science because–gasp!–scientists tend not to be as guarded in discussing data and science with each other over e-mail as they are when speaking in public. I don’t want to rehash how ridiculous the overreaction of the usual suspects has been over this issue, given that folks who know a lot more about the issue have taken the time to explain it. For such explanations, head on over to Real Climate for context; Climate Progress; John Cook at Skeptical Science; James Hrynyshyn at The Island of Doubt; William Connelly at Stoat; Chris Mooney at The Intersection; and Joshua Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas. A careful reading of the issue shows that, the claims of AGW denialists notwithstanding, there’s just no “there” there. Of the various reactions, perhaps the most amusing is Brendan Demelle’s definitive proof that Isaac Newton was wrong based on “evidence” in his e-mails of insulting dissenting scientists, “conspiring” to avoid public scrutiny, and other nefarious activities.

No, what this incident led me to think of, particularly Dr. Egnor’s own crankgasm over the hacked CRU e-mails, in particular his “word of advice to the scientists,” is that the principle of crank magnetism has at least one corollary, and I think we’re seeing one at work here. The Sensuous Curmudgeon actually nailed it with what is an excellent name, specifically the “vindication of all kooks doctrine.” What is this doctrine? Basically, it’s the tendency of cranks to view anything that they perceive as “vindication” of another bunch of denialists to be similarly “vindication” of their own crank beliefs. Dr. Egnor demonstrates this in spades with his spittle-flecked attack on not just evolution but science itself:

…there will be an accounting for this fraud. People are very very angry, and while the skeptics whose darkest doubts have been vindicated don’t pull the levers of organized science (the frauds do that), there are some financial and political resources available to the skeptics who have been demanding integrity in science, and they understand now that this is war.

He makes it explicit here:

A cabal of leading scientists, politicians, and media concubines have conspired to lie about global warming. The reasons are obvious: power and money. The illusion of planetary crisis serves as vehicle for ‘emergency measures to save the planet’, which are merely measures to empower and enrich an elite few. Al Gore, carbon-credit entrepreneur who puts his ‘mouth where his money is’, had it figured out a decade ago. The fraudulent scientists who suckle off the 7 billion dollars spent this year alone on the global warming scam (more than the U.S. spends annually on cancer research and AIDS research) are merely using science, rather than hedge funds, to enrich themselves…

I’m not sure that the scientific community can or will respond to this debacle in a courageous or ethical way. The ID-Darwinism debate clearly demonstrates that venality and shameless self-interest, as well as a toxic leftist-atheist ideology, runs very deep in the scientific community.

And here:

‘Consensus science’ isn’t science. ‘Consensus’ is an attribute of politics, not science. Science inherently involves utter transparency and rigorous and respectful open debate. Real scientists welcome scrutiny and critique; the hallmark of a good scientist is that a good scientist reserves his most rigorous scrutiny for his own work. Censorship, invocation of ‘consensus science’ to elide scrutiny, real or threatened use of judicial coercion, and professional destruction of skeptics- which are characteristic tactics of global warming alarmists and of Darwinists- are tactics used to circumvent the scientific process.

And there you have it, the “vindication of all kooks” corollary to the principle of crank magnetism. Because Dr. Egnor is anti-science to his very core (which is one reason why he hates “Darwinism”) and perceives himself as a brave maverick for bucking the “orthodoxy” of science, anything that he perceives as a black eye to science–any science–becomes to him vindication that he must be correct in questioning evolution too. After all, it’s “consensus science”! Not for brave mavericks like Dr. Egnor is anything that even has a whiff of “consensus” science about it! Not for him are those mountains of evidence supporting evolution! That’s all for those unimaginative sheeples! (Hmmm. I wonder if Dr. Egnor belongs to the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons or is a big Ayn Rand fan.) Admittedly, AGW is not quite as well settled as evolution, but the comparison is apt nonetheless, particularly given that most of the resistance to AGW is as motivated by ideology as the resistance to creationism is. Indeed, Dr. Egnor sees what he perceives as the “silence” of science bloggers (such as myself) over this issue as more evidence supporting his belief that “Darwinism” is as much a conspiracy and scam as he apparently perceives AGW to be. He sees conspiracies everywhere and imagines that the “conspiracy” he sees over AGW based on the hacked CRU e-mails is evidence that “Darwinism” is a similar “conspiracy.”

But Dr. Egnor is not alone among cranks in rejoicing over the leaked CRU e-mails and somehow thinking that they “vindicate” pseudoscience. Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute makes the connection more explicit:

But in the end, the ideologues and censors can’t make dissenters go away. Popular belief in global warming is plummeting precisely because people see these tactics for the desperate impositions that they are. The public now knows that adult stem cells are making the most progress, and hence much of the ESCR controversy has faded. My DI colleague Stephen Myer’s book, Signature in the Cell, is in its fifth printing and was named one of the best science books of the year by the Times of London.

The most severe harm these scientism ideologues cause is to science itself. And to think these censors and bullies smugly presume that they’re walking in the footsteps of Galileo, when in fact, they are actually the new Inquisition.

Yes! No crank argument is truly complete without an invocation of the Galileo gambit, although the invocation of the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum is a nice touch that many cranks like. Of course, the “vindication of all kooks” corollary to crank magnetism doesn’t just apply to evolution denialists intersecting with AGW denialists. For example, here is a commenter named Bob Moffit on Age of Autism:

I do not know if you are aware of the growing controversy over “global warming science” that is under heavy criticism for being based upon fraudulent data manipulation discovered through the uncovering of emails between some of the “most highly regarded, best-credentialed experts in the field of global warming”.

Apparently, preeminent “global warming” scientists desperate to declare the issue settled…resorted to tactics eerily similar to other “scientists” desperate to declare the issue of vaccines and autism closed. Such as, subjecting “scientists” who disagree with them to savage personal attacks, ridicule and scorn..in an effort to discredit and debunk any “science” that threatens their lucrative rewards for promoting the “global warming” agenda.

Yes, we will agree to disagree…but… please try to cast a critical eye on ALL data purported to be the ONLY TRUTH on ANY SCIENTIFIC SUBJECT.

As if these e-mails and files have anything at all to do with vaccine science. In fact, the only connection they have with vaccines is that some anti-vaccinationists perceive them as “proof” that climate scientists are hopelessly corrupt and censor “dissent.” By extension, they see it as vindication that, similarly, medical science must be behaving similarly. Indeed, the principle of “vindication of all kooks” is why anti-vaccine zealots and advocates of “alternative medicine” often latch on to any perceived change in medical science that they think they can exploit. One example of this comes from (where else?) Age of Autism, which used the recent UPSTF recommendations regarding mammography as evidence for “vindication” of their point of view with regard to informed consent for vaccines.

Not to be left out of the action, HIV/AIDS denialists are leaping on the CRU hacked e-mails as vindication for their pseudoscience as well. Here is an example from Henry Bauer:

“Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change” (New York Times, 20 November 2009; “Hacked e-mail is new fodder for climate dispute”, by Andrew C. Revkin).

Mutatis mutandis, the same story could be written about HIV/AIDS:

“The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate HIV/AIDS researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views. . . . In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical ‘trick’ (and a computer model) in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend increase in HIV/AIDS. In another, a scientist refers to climate HIV/AIDS skeptics as “idiots.” . . .

Some of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them. The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming HIV as cause of AIDS is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument.

Yes, indeed. Because Bauer thinks that these released e-mails show that climate science has been “manipulated,” that must mean that his “skepticism” about HIV as the cause of AIDS must have scientific merit!

Even the one crank to rule them all (aside from the Time Cube guy), the über-crank extraordinaire, Mike Adams, couldn’t resist getting in on the action with a tirade of his own entitled ClimateGate scandal demonstrates intellectual protectionism of modern scientists. (I’m actually surprised that it took Adams nearly two weeks after the initial revelations to respond, but respond he did in his usual inimitable fashion:

If you think the ClimateGate emails are revealing, just imagine what kind of similar emails are flying around between Big Pharma scientists who routinely manipulate study data and commit scientific fraud in the name of medicine. Time and time again, we see revelations of manipulated clinical trials where data was intentionally distorted in order to make a dangerous, useless drug appear to be safe and effective.

What ClimateGate scientists and Big Pharma scientists have in common is that they have both abandoned the core principles of good science in their quest to be right. Rather than asking questions of nature and humbly listening to the answers provided by the data, these scientists have staked out a position and decided to defend that position at all costs — even if it requires hiding or distorting data!

That approach is entirely unscientific, of course. In my mind, it now puts much of the recent global warming science in the same category as Big Pharma’s research: Pure quackery.

And:

What’s truly sad about all this — both in the climate change community and the pharmaceutical community — is that real science has seemingly been replaced by pseudoscientific quackery. I’ve known for a long time that you can’t trust scientists who work for pharmaceutical companies because they tend to distort their findings to support their employer. Now learning that a similar approach to junk science was apparently pursued by climate change scientists is more than a little disconcerting. It makes me wonder: Are there any honest scientists left anywhere?

All kooks vindicated, indeed, and there are few, if any, kookier than Mike Adams and his embrace of everything quackery, be it colon cleanses, anti-vaccine nonsense, claims that chemotherapy can’t prolong survival in cancer, or whatever. No woo is too far out for Adams, and no quackery too outrageous for him to support. Since he now thinks climate scientists are corrupt, it only feeds into his view of medical scientists and tells him that he must be right!

Meanwhile, our favorite booster of pseudoscience, be it creationism, anti-vaccinationist nonsense, or accepting pseudoscience with regard to abortion and breast cancer, misogynistic wingnut Vox Day, stated the principle of vindication of all kooks far more explicitly than anyone else:

Atheists and evolutionists should keep this quote in mind the next time they wish to make an appeal to what an overwhelming majority of scientists believe:

The overwhelming majority of scientists believe the global warming is real and the result of human activity, but a vocal majority maintains that the science is not proven.

It’s not clear whether the journalist meant to write “minority” in referring to scientists or if he is referring to the majority of the non-scientific public, since either interpretation would be correct. Regardless, if anthropogenic global warming is subsequently proven to be real, then those who believe there is no God or believe in evolution by natural selection can quite reasonably argue that the opinion of the unscientific masses on the matter should be at least somewhat influenced by the opinion of the self-appointed scientific elite. If, however, it is subsquently proven to be false, any attempt to argue that the unscientific masses should pay any attention whatsoever to the latest way the winds of scientific consensus are blowing can and should be ridiculed.

It doesn’t get much more explicit than that. Vox thinks that the science behind evolution is linked inextricably with the science behind AGW. If one is invalidated, to him both are invalidated. I’ve written before about a favorite crank gambit, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (FIUFIO), which means “false in one thing, false in all things.” In reality, the “vindication of all kooks” gambit is nothing more than FIUFIO writ large and expanded beyond the science that individual cranks detest to include the entire scientific endeavor. In this case, the idea is that, if the climate scientists whose e-mail and files were leaked were indeed conspiring to hide “inconvenient” data or stifle “dissent,” then all scientists by extension are doing the same thing, and that means that “doubts” about evolution, whether HIV causes AIDS, or the safety and efficacy of vaccines are validated; if you’re a crank, that is. That’s why FIUFIO is favorite of creationists who see a bit of data that changes the way we think about evolution and concludes from it that all of evolution must be false; of Holocaust deniers who find an example of a Holocaust survivor telling false stories or being shown to have a faulty memory in some aspects of his experience during the war and using that to argue that the Holocaust is a “hoax”; or by various alternative medicine practitioners who see a formerly accepted treatment in the realm of scientific medicine be shown to be ineffective and try to use that to argue that all science-based medicine is ineffective.

Unfortunately, FIUFIO is a legal principle, not a scientific principle. It is primarily used (and makes sense) in the courtroom, not in science. That’s why lawyers are so aggressive at trying to impeach the credibility of a witness (and lawyers on the other side labor so hard to prevent that from happening). If a witness can be shown to have been mistaken or to have lied about one thing, then by the principle of FIUFIO, it is reasonable to question everything else in that witness’ testimony. In a criminal case such questions could easily be enough to cast “reasonable doubt” on the testimony, which is all that’s required for an acquittal. In contrast, FIUFIO doesn’t work at all in science. In most cases in science, being incorrect doesn’t mean the scientists were lying, and it is the totality of the evidence that must be weighed. Moreover, science is not a single witness that can be interrogated. Well-accepted scientific theories (like evolution, for example) are always supported by multiple converging lines of evidence from multiple different sources and even disciplines. If you impeach one source or piece of data, it does not automatically invalidate the rest of the supporting data. Moreover, when scientists find inconsistencies in the data supporting a hypothesis or theory, they do not reject the entire theory out of hand in this manner, as cranks do. Rather, they use such anomalous pieces of data or experimental results as a chance to improve our understanding of a phenomenon. They see if the theory can be modified to account for the observation. They make hypotheses about potential explanations of the anomalous observations and then test them experimentally. If they see if a new theory with better predictive power and utility than the old can be developed that takes account fo the new observations.

Let’s put it this way. Even if the fantasies of AGW denialists dreamed in their wettest dreams about these leaked e-mails were 100% true and AGW was found not to be valid science, it would say nothing–absolutely nothing–about whether or not evolution is valid as a theory, and vice-versa. Ditto AGW and HIV/AIDS denial or vaccines. If AGW were to fall, it would say absolutely nothing about the science behind HIV or the science showing that vaccines do not cause autism and that they are safe and effective. They are all independent scientific problems, and in the exceedingly unlikely event that the denialist cranks who rail against any of these areas of science were every somehow vindicated to the point where the scientific paradigm had to move in their direction, it would say nothing about the other areas of science. As the Sensuous Curmudgeon observed, even if AGW were revealed as a scam, it shouldn’t affect the rest of science and most assuredly would not lend credence to creationism, HIV/AIDS denialism, or anti-vaccine beliefs. We already know that “intelligent design” creationism is pseudoscience. Even if we were to find that AGW or any other science were pseudoscience, it would not lend any credence whatsoever to ID.

So why do denialists of all stripes cling to the “all kooks vindicated” corollary to the principle of crank magnetism. Let me finish by speculating on a possible reason. Above all else, cranks cling to beliefs that go against established science. They do this because they do not recognize bad science, either because they do not understand the scientific method and/or because ideology in the form of politics or religion interferes with their critical thinking. They thus come to view not just the science that refutes their crankery as the enemy, but rather all science. Thus, any black eye against science, be it in the form of leaked e-mails, problems with ghost writing, big pharma chicanery, or whatever, must be evidence that their distrust of science is justified. It becomes in their mind a vindication of their view that science is hopelessly corrupt or rigged against them and that they therefore must be on to something. Sadly for them, being on to something in science requires more than just misconduct, real, exaggerated, or imagined, in an area of science completely unrelated to theirs. It requires real data and experimental evidence of a quantity and quality sufficient to be in at least the same order of magnitude as the evidence supporting the current paradigm. Creationists are virtually guaranteed never to achieve this level of evidence, and neither are HIV/AIDS denialists or anti-vaccine kooks.

In the end, much like the principle of crank magnetism and how it results from an inability to recognize flaws in reasoning or bad science, the corollary of the “vindication of all kooks” if one kook appears to be vindicated derives from a profoundly anti-scientific world view in which the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and if my friend prospers so do I. The problem is that the enemy in this case is science itself.

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    November 30, 2009

    They’re also subject to simplistic, black-and-white thinking. “Falso in uno, falso in omnibus” is a very common attitude amongst kooks of all kinds – which is why they’re always so keen to dredge up the “Science has been wrong before” gambit.

  2. #2 Sigmund
    November 30, 2009

    These individuals are the sort that decry science as a ‘religion’. From that perspective its understandable that the exposure of a single flaw or incorrect result will show the whole scientific system to be fallible and thus inferior to their own infallible views.
    You see it again and again with denialists. A single radiometric date anomaly means all dating methods are inherently untrustworthy. A single claim about the numbers or dates in the history of the holocaust means the whole consensus story is false.
    Egnor is a particularly special case since he actually seems to have a reputation as a good surgeon yet listening to his arguments against evolution is like tuning in to a parallel universe that has never seen logic (‘gene duplication doesn’t add information to the genome – its like copying at an exam!’).

  3. #3 davemabus
    November 30, 2009

    Kicking in the heads of atheists one at a time…

    http://nostradamus-america.atspace.com/

    PZ, I thought the Morris Police Department was going to save you from the wrath of God…

  4. #4 Duae Quartunciae
    November 30, 2009

    Just for fun; here is a oddity to think about. Ian Plimer.

    Plimer is a geologist, who is very much opposed to AGW, and has recently produced the book “Heaven and Earth”; a startling compendium of bad science dressed up to look like science.

    And yet, before this Plimer was best known to aficionados of kook-spotting for his take down of creationism, in “Telling Lies for God”.

    There were, it must be said, warning bells that the anti-kook Plimer’s attack on creationism was itself a tad sloppy. Jim Lippard and Jeff Shallit and a few others (me included I bashfully acknowledge) had taken him to task for this. Deltoid documents this, in retrospect on publication of his AGW screed, at Jim Lippard on Plimer (Deltoid).

    An interesting case. It turns out Plimer also likes the “iron sun” hypothesis! There are some relevant musings at Ian Plimer And The Iron Sun (BigCityLib blog).

    And this, in turn, brings me to another blog article that speculates that a kook might deliberately seek out other kooks, recognizing that here, at least, they will at last find wider acceptance. See There’s A New Denier In Town, Or: Who The Heck is Oliver “Iron Sun” Manuel?, at BigCityLib again. Extract:

    If I were to guess, I would say that Mr. Manuel is looking to raise the profile of his pet theory by tying it to dissenting positions in other fields. Denialists tend to be far more supportive of one another’s ideas than is the case in the scientific community as a whole. Its a bit like North Korea forming alliances with Iran; the outcasts tend to stick together.

  5. #5 Jordan
    November 30, 2009

    Why does animal rights activism get lumped in with everything else? Is Peter Singer a crank?

  6. #6 Ramel
    November 30, 2009

    There is nothing in the known universe, not quack nor even truther that bugs me more than naming a scandal by just adding the word gate. Those responsible should be hunted through the streets with dogs.

  7. #7 Christophe Thill
    November 30, 2009

    Apparently Vox Day is also into alternative ergonomy: see the computer mouse he designed.

  8. #8 Katharine
    November 30, 2009

    Don’t listen to Mabus, he’s a deranged genocidal moron.

  9. #9 A. Taylor
    November 30, 2009

    Boy are you a goof-ball. It must have taken you hours and hours and hours to write that (seemingly endless) pompous sarcastic self-congratulating diatribe.

    I actually agree with you about plenty of your points, but the way you say things is so petty, smart-alecky and tedious that I wonder why anyone would give you a forum (or maybe you just give a forum to yourself).

    One thing I can’t agree with – is the importance of the hacked emails and documents. They are very important!

    It seems to me that you are so busy holding tight to your position that you aren’t noticing something major happened there… and what happened reflects very very badly on the global warming theory. Open your eyes and your mind. Global warming is not a religion, and you won’t go to hell if you question it.

  10. #10 Orac
    November 30, 2009

    David Mabus has been banned, at least until he finds another sockpuppet to reappear under.

    As for A. Taylor, it looks as though I may have gored an ox of his. (Given that AGW is part of the topic here, I couldn’t resist using that particular phrase.) Too bad Taylor doesn’t realize that his little comment sounds exactly like what I was talking about in my post! It’s also funny how my writing is “detailed,” “funny,” and “exhaustive” when people agree with me but suddenly becomes “smart-alecky,” “seemingly endless,” and “pompous” when they don’t. Strange that.

    In any case, if Taylor doesn’t like my writing style, there’s nothing here that says he has to continue to read it.

  11. #11 DLC
    November 30, 2009

    Nuts. it’s always the nuts at the other end of the bar.
    I’ve not read any of those emails. I understand there must be quite a lot of them. Plenty of material to cherry pick from.
    Every time someone said “shut up, dummy you’re getting it wrong” will be taken to mean that The Truth was being squelched! But I’ll wait and see. I’m betting we wind up with nothing but a bunch of cherry-picker material and some rude scientists.

  12. #12 Ray
    November 30, 2009

    @3: Wow, start talking about kooks and who shows up? Mabus.

    @A. Taylor: By coming here, reading and commenting, YOU are the one giving Orac a forum. Do you know what blog you are on? Insolence is right there in the name.
    I agree when you say “Global warming is not a religion” because the people who question and test it the most are… wait for it… scientists! Generally the people who can question it effectively are the ones who understand it the most completely.
    Cheers & Happy Monkey,
    Ray

  13. #13 david saintloth
    November 30, 2009

    “Above all else, cranks cling to beliefs that go against established science. They do this because they do not recognize bad science, either because they do not understand the scientific method and/or because ideology in the form of politics or religion interferes with their critical thinking. They thus come to view not just the science that refutes their crankery as the enemy, but rather all science.”

    This is precisely the conclusion I’ve come to given countless “debates” with people both inside and outside of areas of scientific study. Critical thinking is not a given, many people are completely unaware of the useless nature of self reports that have now independent confirmation to science, they are convinced that their limited experience or knowledge of a subset of some “phenomena” must necessarily extrapolate to all. This tendency is so rampant as to be epidemic and underscores why there aren’t more scientists. The discipline required to do good science is far beyond what can be generated by most before a false conclusion is made on a bad interpretation of a limited set of data or on some anecdotal point. All H.S. , nay Junior H.S. students should be given a course in ‘critical thinking’ that goes beyond just a description of the methods of doing good science but also lists the pitfalls that lead to bad science. Such training should disabuse some of the great mass of laymen from making these common mistakes.

  14. #14 anon
    November 30, 2009

    Another corollary: the grudging acceptance with which I must sometimes agree with your commentaries, while in general finding your blog offensive, self-righteous and misguided.

  15. #15 LK PhD
    November 30, 2009

    Excellent post. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon myself.

    BTW, Michael Specter (“Denialism”) is going to be on the Daily Show this coming Thursday. AofA is trying to get their devotees to post comments on the Comedy Central site, in an attempt to influence Jon’s questions, apparently. I suggest we do the same:
    http://www.comedycentral.com/help/questionsCC.jhtml

  16. #16 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 30, 2009

    Why does animal rights activism get lumped in with everything else? Is Peter Singer a crank?

    Animal rights is behind all manner of lies about the use of animals in research. Besides misrepresenting animal research as routinely cruel and sadistic, the ARA (animal rights assholes) claim that it is misleading, useless, and done only for “convenience” or kicks.
    Peter Singer committed a number of these falsehoods in his book. I would consider him a crank on this basis. Apparently he has eased his position on animal research recently. If so, good for him. Maher certainly hasn’t.

  17. #17 Joseph
    November 30, 2009

    Dr. Egnor:

    Popular belief in global warming is plummeting precisely because people see these tactics for the desperate impositions that they are.

    I think popular belief in global warming wanes and thrives based on temperature and natural disasters. 2008 was a relatively cold year, so questioning global warming is in vogue. The number of major storms in the Atlantic hasn’t been too great either in recent years. You can see a correlation between temperature and the number of storms, but you need at least a 15-year moving average to see it clearly. The series are very noisy.

    2009 is going to be one of the warmest years on record. I bet either 2010 or 2011 will be record-breaking years. Things will turn around shortly.

  18. #18 Paul Browne
    November 30, 2009

    “Why does animal rights activism get lumped in with everything else? Is Peter Singer a crank?”

    AR activism might seem out of place at first, after all unlike most of the other anti-science causes Orac listed it is not founded primarily on a rejection of a particular aspect of science, but AR activists do employ the whole suite of tactics that are characteristic of cranks. For example if you read almost any AR website, and particularly the more extreme ones, you will find the same kind of conspiracy allegations that are typical of the claims of AGW “skeptics”, while misrepresentation of facts, FIUFIO and quote mining abound in their propaganda.

    You also don’t usually have to dig to deep into AR activist organizations to find support for various types of quackery, ranging from good old fashioned alt-med woo to anti-vaccination and even HIV/AIDS denialism, so the principle of crank magnetism holds.

    It is interesting that anti-vaccine lobby has become the crankery that attracts both left-wing and right-wing cranks, rallying both those who rail against the role of the private sector in healthcare and those who attack public sector involvement in healthcare. Kinda ugly if you ask me!

  19. #19 Terry
    November 30, 2009

    http://www.cnsnews.com/PUBLIC/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=46203

    The scammers knew that the arctic melts periodically. They may be crooks, but they are not stupid. It follows a repeated cycle of solar activity. Last one was in late 20s to early 30s. This was a sure thing for them and why they loved to point at it the most.

    Also, the glaciers of India are not melting. The polar bear population has increased. The ice of Antarctica has increased twice as much as was expected and the earth has had seven constant years of cooling.

    The only denial cranks are those who are into faith based CO2 global warming.

  20. #20 Sam C
    November 30, 2009

    In the realm of “deniable” subjects, AGW seems to me to be the nastiest, and the East Anglians’ naughtiness has not been helpful.

    Why the nastiest? Because for most of the others, the denialist side is clearly nonsense to anybody who engages their brain and applies a bit of analytic or scientific thought. Animals are clearly more or less related in a way that fits evolution and fossils clearly fit into that pattern and there’s zero evidence for creationist drivel. Vaccines clearly work because smallpox, polio, measles etc. are no longer the scarey diseases that they once were. Vaccines-causing-autism is clearly rubbish, as anybody who paid any attention to the Omnibus trial could see. Homeopathy and other quackery is clearly rubbish because it’s medical nonsense promoted by charlatans with no evidence base.

    But AGW is different: it’s not obviously true in the same way. For a start, it’s not that far-fetched to deny GW (compared with the other bits of denialism), especially after a cold spell. I can’t recognise a 1 degree change in annual average temperature. And while I can read and broadly understand pieces about climate change, there’s no way I can honestly evaluate them. How can I tell if the statistical analysis is correctly applied? How am I to judge whether Michael Crichton’s appealing rants in his book (I have forgotten the title) are well-founded insight, or denialist nonsense? In reality, I rely on climate scientists arguing it out amongst themselves.

    How does one solve that problem? In reality, I think the AGW side is effectively saying “look, listen, we’ve analysed the data very carefully and a lot of people have argued about it and we’re really, really confident of our conclusions”. It’s a matter of trust.

  21. #21 Joseph
    November 30, 2009

    http://www.cnsnews.com/PUBLIC/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=46203

    The scammers knew that the arctic melts periodically. They may be crooks, but they are not stupid. It follows a repeated cycle of solar activity. Last one was in late 20s to early 30s. This was a sure thing for them and why they loved to point at it the most.

    Let’s see the data. Sea ice extent looks like this since 1978.

    D’Aleo’s assertion is demonstrably wrong:

    “You can see very warm temperatures in the 1930s then cooling and another warming in the last few decades in close correlation with solar activity,” he added, “but with a poor correlation with CO2.”

    That’s just made up. There are solar cycles but the ones we can see in such a short span of time last about 12 years.

  22. #22 Left_Wing_Fox
    November 30, 2009

    Jordan: There seems to be a delineation between animal rights and animal welfare; the fundamental sticking point being whether animals should have the right to complete autonomy from humans. While animal welfare activists push for better living conditions for pets, livestock, test animals, zoo animals and the like, animal rights activists push for the complete abolition of those institutions. Almost everyone here is for animal welfare, animal rights, however, is a much less defensible position to most.

    One of the major consequences of wanting to abolish animal testing is an opposition to the science endeavors which benefit from studying living creatures. Telling people it’s not worth the life of a lab rat to test a potentially life-saving medical treatment tends to be… unpersuasive. So, many AR folks, convinced of the rightness of their cause, argue that science-based medicine is harmful instead of lifesaving, and push for the AR-compatible alternative medicines derived from untested remedies and animal-safe herbs.

  23. #23 Donna B.
    November 30, 2009

    #20 – “It’s a matter of trust.”

    Yes, it is. And it would be much easier to trust the AGW scientific consensus if it were not so politicized and monetized. Frankly, the carbon credit business looks like, smells like, and operates like a financial scam (a bit like a pyramid scheme) — and it relies on AGW being completely true (and truly complete) to have any basis at all.

    Since research continues, how can either of those things be true?

  24. #24 Michael
    November 30, 2009

    Orac, I think you’re downplaying the seriousness of the e-mails. There’s allegations that the scientists violated the Freedom of Information Act, for example. (We don’t have enough information to know whether or not these allegations are true yet.) George Monbiot called for the resignation of the head of the CRU. Of course, even if the allegations that the scientists mentioned in the emails engaged in misconduct are true, it does not logically follow that ALL scientists engaged in global warming research are engaged in misconduct. The problem, as Sam C pointed out, is that most of us can’t understand the science well enough to determine whether the AGW side is correct, so ad hominem attacks damage the credibility of the AGW side in the eyes of the public. (A surprising number of people are unable to grasp that some scientists in a field lie does not mean that most scientists in a field lie.)

  25. #25 The Curmudgeon
    November 30, 2009

    It was good of Orac to mention my humble blog. Carry on, gentlemen.

  26. #26 Michael Ralston
    November 30, 2009

    Donna B: I assume you are unaware that cap and trade has been successfully used to address SO2 and NO emissions already – or do you think that elimination of acid rain was a scam?

  27. #27 Denice Walter
    November 30, 2009

    Ah, Mike Adams! He and Gary Null are my absolute *faves*!Seriously though, because of crank magnetism,both Adams and Null accomplish another amazing phenomenon: the *Gathering* of the Kooks.About 9 years ago, I “inherited” the task of monitoring prices of family investments when my father was becoming ill.I had some free time around noon,so I put on the radio as I watched the CNBC/Bloomberg charts and chirons flash by, and *Voila!*- Null’s Noontime Woo-fest. I had heard *all* manner of nonsense over these tainted airwaves: if there is pseudo-science,it will be presented, usually praised, and its author will be an honored guest.Nearly two years ago,I started commenting about my experience because radio woo is *usually* so much more spontaneous and therefore, egregious, than is written woo.However,Mike Adams is capable of overflowing mendacity( seemingly unemcumbered by higher cortical processing) even in print.He also sponsors a coalescence of crankery at his website(and other media).Lately,these two have each branched out into economic prognostication and political activity, expanding their *oeuvres* into new, exciting areas of inexpertise.If we want to combat the spread of “bad science”,we need to think about its publicizers(maybe *proselytizers* is a better word)- perhaps it’s like vampires,you need to deal with the higher ranks first,the lower echelons will automatically diminish.(BTW, I don’t believe in *real* vampires, only the kind who suck money from unsuspecting,trusting victims)

  28. #28 Natalie
    November 30, 2009

    #24 – Is there a UK Freedom of Information Act? Considering the researchers in question are in the UK, I don’t think they can violate a US law.

  29. #29 Natalie
    November 30, 2009

    Sigh, answered my own question. Ignore me.

  30. #30 Colugo
    November 30, 2009

    There is a particular advantage that anti-global climate change (anti-warmist, climate change denialist whatever.) has: it has nothing to do with the establishment clause. It need not be handicapped by an association with religion nor by a hostility for science itself. Case in point: Dyson. There will no Judge Jones to save legitimate climate science’s bacon in another Dover vs Kitzmiller. Besides the real battle is not in the classroom or the courtroom, but in the court of public opinion.

    And in that arena the anti-climate change side has been granted its greatest public relations coup ever.

    I have been inside the catty, petty, data-diddling sausage factory of science, so I was hardly scandalized by those hacked emails. But some of them look kind of fugly to the naive lay public and naive journalists. I doubt that the scientifically-minded understand how bad these appear to the unwashed masses, nor just how damaging this whole thing is. For gosh sakes, Monbiot practically recanted (right before backpedaling)!

  31. #31 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    Here’s what angers me most about this whole hacked-email thing: since when did criminals get to pretend they had anything to contribute to ANY grownup conversation?

    Seriously, if someone broke into your house and stole anything from you, pricey or not, damaging or not, would you trust his word on any subject afterwords? Of course not — you’d kick his small-time-criminal ass to the curb and warn as many people as you could that he’s a criminal and can’t be trusted. People convicted of serious crimes have a hard time getting jobs, and no one lends them money or allows them hear their kids. So why are the people who STOLE the CRU emails being treated as players at all? They’re nothing but criminals; the people who use the stolen goods and praise the thieves are aiding and abetting criminals; therefore NOTHING they have to say is worth our time — especially when they try to lecture others about ethics. These hypocritical asshats need to be ostracised as criminals; that’s all they deserve, and not one thing more.

    After eight years of Republican misrule, our public discourse seems to have become so perverted that a significant number of people can traffic in stolen emails, and use them to support an ideology, without a trace of shame or irony. When are decent people, scientists and non-scientists, going to grow a spine and reaffirm that this is just plain wrong?

    You think the CRU is doing something illegal or unethical? There’s an app for that, one that doesn’t involve committing crimes. The denialists chose not to use it, therefore they don’t deserve respect.

  32. #32 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    And it would be much easier to trust the AGW scientific consensus if it were not so politicized and monetized.

    And it would be a bit easier to trust the AGW denialists if they didn’t STEAL things they had no right to take, and then LIE about what they’d stolen. (As if the denialists are any less “politicized and monetized.) Donna, you’re mentally bankrupt and morally retarded. If you think thieves are so much more trustworthy than scientists, then go hang with thieves and see where it gets you.

  33. #33 Colugo
    November 30, 2009

    Donna B.: “Frankly, the carbon credit business looks like, smells like, and operates like a financial scam (a bit like a pyramid scheme)”

    I agree completely with that statement. And I also accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.

    Did you know that Goldman Sachs owns 10% of the Chicago Climate Exchange? The more I look into it, the more the whole ‘carbon credits’ scheme appears to be an unseemly clusterfudge between investment banks, polluting corporations, and politicians.

  34. #34 James Sweet
    November 30, 2009

    I have been inside the catty, petty, data-diddling sausage factory of science, so I was hardly scandalized by those hacked emails

    Add “science” to the list that includes “making laws” and “making sausages”, perhaps…

    I think what people are forgetting is that, even if we assume the CRU guys were deliberately trying to find the most AGW-confirming interpretation of the data possible (which I actually don’t think is that far-fetched), there would be plenty of other teams of scientists deliberately trying to interpret the data to put their pet hypotheses in the best possible light.

    Funny that the same people who have almost a religious fervor for free market economics fail to see that similar principles apply in the scientific community: Just about everybody is trying to spin the data to confirm their hypotheses, and ultimately the scientist(s) with the most accurate hypothesis will be the most successful at this game.

    The system partially breaks down when there is deliberate falsification of data, but even this is only a temporary setback, because everybody else will want to make a name for themselves debunking the erroneously-derived conclusions. And there is no evidence of deliberate falsification of data in this case anyway, only that they were arranging the data in the way that was most favorable to their hypothesis. To that, all I have to say is, Welcome to the real world.

  35. #35 Pamela
    November 30, 2009

    #11: I’m stealing “Every time someone said “shut up, dummy you’re getting it wrong” will be taken to mean that The Truth was being squelched!”. It’s such a helpful summary of the problem.

  36. #36 Michael
    November 30, 2009

    #31, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers ILLEGALLY but technically he didn’t steal them. Everyone agrees the Times was right to publish them. I’ve never understood this “logic”- newspapers shouldn’t publish stolen documents but they should publish documents obtained illegally?
    In any case, prosecutors ARE allowed to use stolen documents, as long as the government wasn’t involved in the theft. For example, suppose a thief had broken into Bernie Madoff’s office and stolen incriminating documents planning to blackmail Madoff. Then, he was arrested by the cops. The authorities could have used the documents to prosecute Madoff.

  37. #37 Dan Weber
    November 30, 2009

    Seriously, if someone broke into your house and stole anything from you, pricey or not, damaging or not, would you trust his word on any subject afterwords?

    If someone released internal confidential documentation from (say) Merck that showed officials were responding to a court subpoena of email records with instructions to delete email and data, we wouldn’t be asking hypotheticals like the one you posted.

    White-collar criminals are most often in jail because they tried to cover something up or delete evidence. Martha Stewart didn’t go to jail for insider trading, it was lying about it during the investigation.

    This doesn’t disprove AGW at all, of course.

  38. #38 Donna B.
    November 30, 2009

    #26 – I’m saying that the expansion of the carbon credit market beyond trading between industries is beginning to smell like a scam.

    When, say timberland owners, who are going to be managing these lands for maximum sustained timber growth (if they’ve got any sense) have been sequestering carbon “voluntarily” for years.

    Now, an industry that emits carbon into the air can buy credits from timber owners who are doing nothing different and that allows that industry to do nothing about lowering its emissions.

    The entry of more entities who have been sequestering carbon all along into the market increases the number of credits available, bringing down the price and ultimately making it cheaper for the industry to emit than to spend money on reduction techniques.

    But everybody’s making money, and it sounds like they are acting in a good “green” way, so who cares?

    This is entirely different from the regulated programs which cap both emissions and allowances.

  39. #39 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    If someone released internal confidential documentation from (say) Merck that showed officials were responding to a court subpoena of email records with instructions to delete email and data, we wouldn’t be asking hypotheticals like the one you posted.

    If that someone released said confidential information to the appropriate investigative/law-enforcement authorities, and let them handle it; and if what they released was a well-ordered compilation of relevant information that supported specific criminal charges; then we wouldn’t be having this argument. Neither of these holds true for the denialists’ recent crime-spree.

  40. #40 Russ Finley
    November 30, 2009

    #34, That was a sweet comment, James.

    Nice OP as well.

    Ran into this link in the comment field of another blog post:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

    Some of us are too stupid to know how stupid we are.

  41. #41 Dan Weber
    November 30, 2009

    If that someone released said confidential information to the appropriate investigative/law-enforcement authorities, and let them handle it; and if what they released was a well-ordered compilation of relevant information that supported specific criminal charges; then we wouldn’t be having this argument. Neither of these holds true for the denialists’ recent crime-spree.

    Nonsense. This might be your first trip in the world where someone’s private communications are exposed to the public but we have lots of history here. See the Zyprexa case, in which the New York Times reporter was actively involved in getting the documents that were under court-ordered seal, and he absolutely knew that. From the judge’s opinion:

    Both Berenson and Egilman were cognizant of the fact that paragraph 14 of CMO-3 took
    account of the possibility that the protected documents could be subpoenaed by courts or
    executive agencies. So Berenson provided Egilman with the name of an Alaska attorney, James
    Gottstein, unconnected to the instant litigation, who might be willing to employ a pretense to
    subpoena the documents and help disseminate them in violation of the protective order. See Part
    II.D, infra.

    Of course Berenson wasn’t shunned by polite society for daring to do something illegal. More the opposite. His homepage at the NYT even talks proudly about how he covers the pharma industry.

    The elephant in the room is that most people ask “do I like the person who had their privacy violated?” If you like them, then the exposure of private communication is horrible. If you don’t like the victim, then it is brave whistle-blowing. Any rational test is tossed aside for the current political situation. Otherwise known as “it’s okay when my side does it.”

  42. #43 Matt
    November 30, 2009

    Great post on the CRU ‘debacle’ here

    http://coast.gkss.de/staff/zorita/

  43. #44 Dan Weber
    November 30, 2009

    Matt, Zorita may not be the unbiased observer he pretends to be. Stoat asks the question of why Zorita included Stefan Rahmstorf in his list, and provides a possible answer.

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/zorita_goes_for_the_jugular.php

  44. #45 Kristjan Wager
    November 30, 2009

    Where Matt? I could only see a fact-challenged and evidence lacking piece of conspiracy-filled garbage. Maybe you posted the wrong link?

  45. #46 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    Otherwise known as “it’s okay when my side does it.”

    Actually, Dan, it’s known as “It’s wrong, and a punishable crime, but the overall judgement of the action is also influenced by the circumstances and results of the action.” When a whidtleblower or journalist releases a coherent set of evidence to prove wrongdoing, and tells the truth about the whole affair, then it’s excused; but when the same person releases an unorganized mess of stuff that doesn’t paint a clear picture of anything, and then lies about it for obvious purposes of defamation and disinformation, then it’s not excused.

  46. #47 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    Matt: who on God’s Earth calls himself “climate research infantry?” And where were the specific citations from specific stolen emails to back up even ONE of that crank’s allegations?

    And if these denialists can steal internal emails, and lie about what they say, and tell inconsistent stories about how they got it, without a trace of shame, how can they be trusted not to tamper with what they stole?

  47. #48 Michael
    November 30, 2009

    Raging Bee, have any of the scientists denied the emails? As far as I can determine, and correct me if I’m wrong, the answer is no. They’ve claimed some of them were taken out of context but they haven’t claimed any of them were false.

  48. #49 Raging Bee
    November 30, 2009

    Weber: the Berenson example you cite described a person going through legal channels and maneuvering to get certain relevant information released. The maneuvers may have been a bit shady, but there was at least a veneer of legality to them. That’s a LOT more than the AGW denialists can say. Your analogy is not appropriate.

  49. #50 phantomreader42
    November 30, 2009

    SamC @ #20:

    How am I to judge whether Michael Crichton’s appealing rants in his book (I have forgotten the title) are well-founded insight, or denialist nonsense?

    The fact that the book in question is a work of fiction, admitted as such even by the author, could be a little clue.

  50. #51 Russ Finley
    November 30, 2009

    Crichton’s book, State of Fear. Funny review found here:

    http://www.grist.org/article/roberts-fear/

  51. #52 Todd W.
    November 30, 2009

    It’s amazing the difference in tone of the comments between here and Bad Astronomy. The majority of the comments here have been pretty level-headed. BA’s been inundated with “yell first, think later” comments.

  52. #53 Donna B.
    November 30, 2009

    Raging Bee: Whichever “side” of this debate you’re on — take a chill pill, OK? Or sober up, or something.

  53. #54 Dedj
    November 30, 2009

    “BA’s been inundated with “yell first, think later” comments.”

    Indeed. I had to stop going over because it was impossible to tell who was being serious and who was mocking or making a parody of the CRU-knockers, if indeed, anyone was being mocking at all.

  54. #55 Mal Adapted
    November 30, 2009

    No crank argument is truly complete without an invocation of the Galileo gambit

    eppure riscalda

  55. #56 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 30, 2009

    @Terry: Do you have any evidence for your statements? They’re composed of lies, mistatements and misunderstandings that have been debunked umpteem times. If you ever want to be taken seriously you need to avoid using any of that nonsense you posted. Wherever you read that, know that they are either lying to you or are also passing along misinformation they haven’t thought critically about.

    Dr. David Archer has posted his climate lectures online. Google david archer climate lectures uchicago. They’re for people with little knowledge of science. Learn this basic material and you’re less likely to be fooled by the lies and distortions.

  56. #57 DLC
    November 30, 2009

    In the early days of climate change debate there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of AGW. It was new science, and there was little in the way of quality science behind it.
    But things change. Data improves, studies improve, and the overall quality of the science improves. In the meantime, the general public doesn’t see what goes on behind the scenes.
    They don’t see the discussions, debates and even downright angry shouting matches. I still haven’t read the emails — I probably won’t — but I’d be willing to bet a fair sum that much of what you’ll see in them is merely an extension of the process. These often-rude exchanges aren’t new.

  57. #58 Porlock Junior
    December 1, 2009

    Well, crank magnetism is a catchy name, but it smacks too much of “animal magnetism” for my taste. A much better analogy is to hydrophobic bonding.

    Their shared repulsion from reasoning drives them all together. And isn’t hydrophobic a word that naturally suggests itself in this context?

  58. #59 Dr. F. Grogan
    December 1, 2009

    Thanks for articulating pretty much what has been swirling in my mind. Yes – they do magnetically get drawn towards each other. If have also described another phenomenon I have yet to see disproven – that of 2 degrees of separation:

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/nononsense/forum/topics/2-degrees-of-separation

    That is, in the tangled web of crank-dom, each crank is connected to every other crank and separated at most by 2 degrees of aquaintance.

  59. #60 ruralcounsel
    December 1, 2009

    #26 There is a world of difference between cap-and-trade with trace pollutants like SOX and NOX, and a ubiquitous essential building-block component of carbon-based life like CO2. If the only tool you have is a hammer, it doesn’t mean everything you see is a nail.

    #57 Would that it were so. The emails suggest a concerted effort to suppress opposing views, delete data, massage data to make known events disappear (like the Medieval Warm Period), intimidate peer-reviewed journals, slander scientists with opposing views or alternative theories and explanations, deny data to those requesting it for verification purposes…saying that it is part of the rough-and-tumble of scientific debate is like saying the McCarthy House UnAmerican Activity Committee hearings are a normal part of political advocacy.

    The emails don’t prove AGW theory is wrong. But what they do suggest is that this “consensus” that everyone has been using to justify their uninformed opinions is utter crap. You have been manipulated. Whether you want to deny that, or get angry about it, or use it to reconsider the science is up to you. I recommend the latter.

    With regard to the legality issues, I suspect UK law is sufficiently different fromUS law as to make most whistleblower discussions irrelevant. What will be interesting is whether UK’s version of the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) will go after the climate scientists who have clearly withheld or destroyed data. The argument, as I understand it, has always been that the data was public domain, since it was collected by government funded efforts, and therefore no one had a right to make it secret. This is akin to Ollie North’s secretary shredding documents, but without the national security cover. If they are running for attorneys now, its likely because they think they’ve done something they could be convicted of. They already trashed their scientific credibility when they refused to provide the data to permit attempts at model verification.

  60. #61 ruralcounsel
    December 1, 2009

    Here’s a bit more detail about what the leaked emails contained.

    http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/lorrie_goldstein/2009/11/29/11967916-sun.html

  61. #62 3B
    December 1, 2009

    The conservatives who deny global warming seem to be in step with the neocons on the other side of D.C. who argue for putting more “politics” into the analytical divisions of the various intelligence communities. Yea that’s it, take “politics” out of science and politicize all the spook organizations. What a country.

  62. #63 Donna B.
    December 1, 2009

    #62 — um, governmental intelligence agencies have ALWAYS been political. How could they possibly be otherwise?

    Comparing any kind of science to spies and spooks is so obviously apples and oranges, I can’t believe you tried it.

  63. #64 ruralcounsel
    December 1, 2009

    3B: How so? Not that I know anything about the issue of putting “politics” into intelligence analysis and neocons and that ilk. Though it strikes me that intelligence gathering is inherently a political activity, conducted by governments.

    Are you arguing that politics should be in science? We should color our science to meet certain political goals? Wasn’t that the experiment the Russians conducted with Lysenko?

    Just that my take on the global warming issue has always been that insufficient science had been input into the debate.

    There are three basic issues: (1) Given the many different natural cycles and large natural variability, how long does a temperature trend have to last to be “climate”?, (2) How do we know the earth is warming, in the sense of climate as opposed to just weather or some shorter term phenomema or due to one or several of the aforementioned cycles?, (3) Even if we could say it is truly warming, how do we prove the cause of that warming? What influences those natural cycles, and by how much? By what mechanism(s)? How do they interact?

    AGW tried to short circuit all three. There were weaknesses in the data sets, weaknesses in the numerical models, weaknesses in the understanding of what should be modeled and what the interaction terms were. And there were plenty of scientifically sound and interesting alternative explanations, particularly after people began to spend some time looking in to it. Admittedly, when AGW first became popularized, there may have been a certain lack of alternatives.

    But it was seized upon by all manner of folk, and built up a lot of momentum, and suddenly it became heresy to question it. The loudest supporters (and deniers!) always seemed to have the worst credentials for independent intellectual judgment. The issue quickly polarized. It became too important to delay, too critical to wait, too urgent to allow reasoned debate. And so an artificial “consensus” was manufactured to halt the debate and silence the doubters. If one dared to ask hard scientific questions, they labeled you a “denier” and drew parallels with Holocaust deniers…despite the shear absurdity of comparing someone who denied something that had been witnessed and documented in modern times with someone who questioned a theory that made long term future predictions that couldn’t be proven or even compared, based upon questionable data of too short a duration for climatic inferences or data sets manufactured by assumption piled on assumption. Believe me when I say there haven’t been a lot of precise global temperature measurements made prior to 1700. Take a look at our current ground monitoring network, and you wouldn’t be far wrong saying that there still aren’t.

    The “politics” emerged when the costs of addressing man-made CO2 emissions and the likely economic, political, and social costs started getting debated. The costs were astronomical, the results miniscule, and the theory and predictions were tenuous at best.

    I don’t know that it is a “conservative” point of view or not, but abdicating our nation’s sovereignty to the auspices of the UN’s IPCC and various poorly thought out highly political international treaties imposing draconian constraints on our country’s industrial base and society just does not appeal to me. Our own politicians are bad enough. Convince me it has more to do with the science, and less to do with money, power, and control.

    I’m willing to listen. But I’m not willing to take anything on faith, so you better be able to back up your statements, produce your data, disclose your assumptions and simplifications, and honestly discuss the strengths AND weaknesses of the approach. Anything else isn’t science.

  64. #65 gcarson
    December 1, 2009

    What’s with the constant use of the terms “denier” and “denialism” for people who don’t buy AGW? THis is the kind of language I’d expect to hear from a political commissar in the Soviet Union, not an “objective scientist.” Calling skeptics “deniers” is a transparent attempt to link them with holocaust denial. They’re “deniers,” so they must be cranks, right? It’s a good way to shut them down. Kind of like calling people “racists” because they criticize Obama. Personally, I don’t have a clue if there’s anything to AGW or not, but these attempts to demonize critics and the fact that AGW is being pushed by the likes of Al Gore and the IPCC, not to mention the fact that the whole thing’s tied up with these harebrained schemes for “global governance” and “carbon taxes” makes me think that something’s seriously wrong with the whole theory.

  65. #66 Joseph C.
    December 1, 2009

    What’s with the constant use of the terms “denier” and “denialism” for people who don’t buy AGW?

    The term “denialist” came into play when the AGW skeptics started using the same tactics that you see used by other denialist camps. The similarities are striking if you compare the writings of AGW skeptics to Holocaust deniers, HIV-AIDS deniers, etc.

  66. #67 Orac
    December 1, 2009

    Exactly. Denialists of all stripes use very similar logical fallacies, cherry-picking of data, and bad science and reasoning, not to mention invoking conspiracy theories. We’ve seen all of this when it comes to AGW denialists.

    In any case, denialism is not a viewpoint; rather, it’s a fallacious method of arguing against something. In fact, the very reason the word “denialism” was coined was exactly the opposite reason as is being alleged. It was not to link denialists with Holocaust deniers, but rather to avoid using the words “denier” and “denial” outside the context of Holocaust denial. The terms “denier” had taken on the connotation of Holocaust denial; so a new word, denialism, was coined. It’s not the best word to describe the phenomenon, but it’s entered the lexicon. Personally, I’m starting to think that the term “pseudoskeptic” is a better term to describe denialists.

  67. #68 Brian X
    December 1, 2009

    I don’t like “pseudoskeptic” for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s so overwhelmingly a term used by cranks to describe their critics that it’s essentially contaminated. The second is that the people we are describing are often true skeptics, albeit of a pigheaded Fortean type rather than rational/empirical skeptics. (Those that aren’t are outright liars.) They aren’t searching for truth so much as validation for themselves and shame for the ideas they deny.

    I got into an argument with a materialism-denier the other day — kept insisting that scientists used to not be prejudiced against the supernatural, essentially the “open-mindedness” argument. Not only would no amount of prodding get him to admit that if it couldn’t be directly observed that it didn’t matter, but he kept on about his point while hitting practically every cliche in the crank playbook. (I don’t remember him playing the Galileo gambit, at least, but calling rationalist materialism “outdated” was close enough. Like when OSI networking supporters in the 1990s referred to TCP/IP as “legacy”.)

  68. #69 gcarson
    December 1, 2009

    I must be a global warming denier, then, because I don’t buy any of this stuff. Maybe it’s all true and we’re going to drown in a rising ocean full of dead polar bears unless we ban plasma TV’s and start paying carbon taxes to the U.N., but I really doubt it. I can’t prove it one way or another–and I’m too indifferent to the whole issue to even try–but I’ve developed a sixth sense about this stuff after years of ignoring apocalyptic warnings from “credible authorities.” If a limousine liberal like Al Gore thinks it’s true, then it’s got to be false. You can take that to the bank. Likewise for the Federal government and the mainstream media. After everything that’s happened over the last fifty years, you’d have to be insane to believe anything they say about anything. If George W. Bush or Barack Obama told me the Earth was round, I’d have to seriously consider the possibility that it was really flat. And I wouldn’t believe ANYTHING coming out of the U.N. or the IPCC (unless I was getting paid for it.) Never mind ClimateGate. If those Eurobots say global warming’s for real, then I figure it’s just another one of their sinister schemes to take over the planet and cull the population in some kind of massive eugenics program. Anyway, everybody knows that those UN types are all shape-shifting alien reptoids and I’m not about to let a bunch of lizards from another galaxy tell me what I should believe. As for the so-called “scientific establishment,” I’m getting pretty sceptical about them as well. The government types have been fatally blighted by their association with our Beltway Kakistocracy; the corporate types are almost indistinguishable from PR hacks; and the academics seem to spend all their time hustling grants and tenure, stabbing each other in the back and chasing their female grad students around their desks. I’ve got a technical degree myself, but I lost my rapture for the Scientific Method a long time ago. It’s better than Theosophy, sure, but it has a tendency to confuse models of reality with reality itself and it can be just as bullheaded and dogmatic as the worst Bible-thumping Creationist. And speaking of models, I wouldn’t trust a mathematical model of a complex dynamic system like the global climate to produce accurate results even if it’s algorithms weren’t oversimplified and its data completely bogus or at least incomplete. To sum up this longwinded, but no doubt fascinating rant, I’ve got to say that I’m generally sceptical about everything outside the narrow horizon of my own perception–and sometimes I find that pretty hard to swallow. I’d find this stuff a little easier to believe if it didn’t always involve some bloated, giggling bureaucrat groping around for my wallet.

  69. #70 Cyber-Dog
    December 2, 2009

    I dunno. I’m a real fence sitter on all of this. There is THAT much woo on both sides, it’s hard for the average layperson, such as myself, to work it all out.

    The woo and psuedoscience is aplenty on the Alt-medicine side. They are seriously starting to do my head in with their relentless anti-vax attacks against anyone who is even slightly pro vaccine, including everyday parents who are just trying to protect their children such as myself.

    BUT…and it pains me to say it…

    There is also a heck of alot of woo going on in Pharmaceutical medicine. For example, I was just reading a package insert the other day for an Eli-Lily drug for ADHD. Fuck me. That drug has some serious side effects, including stunted growth! There is definitely alot of woo going on with that one. How the heck did it get approved?

    I’m very confused and disheartened by BOTH camps TBH. I know I’m gonna get crucified for saying that here…but I know I’m not alone in my thinking.

    These are very hard and confusing times for the average parent like me. Sorry for my rant, but I am down about the whole thing ATM.

  70. #71 Militant Agnostic
    December 2, 2009

    For example, I was just reading a package insert the other day for an Eli-Lily drug for ADHD. Fuck me. That drug has some serious side effects, including stunted growth! There is definitely alot of woo going on with that one.

    Way to miss the point – Cyber-Dog. The scientific method has shown the drug to be both effective and to have serious side effects. No woo there – although it way be questionable whether the benifts outweigh the risks. Woo has no scientific evidence and little or no mechanism for detecting side effects.

  71. #72 David T.
    December 2, 2009

    I don’t appreciate the assertion that all animal rights activists are against science-based medicine and medical research. I think factory farming is unspeakably cruel and also has terrible environmental effects. Does that make me a crank? I think lumping ALL animal rights activists in with HIV/AIDS denialists is a bit much. Are all christians members of the KKK? Are all muslims members of hamas? Likewise, I’m an animal rights activist that doesn’t want to discontinue valuable medical research on animal models.

  72. #73 Orac
    December 2, 2009

    You sound like an animal welfare activist, not an animal rights activist. There’s a difference:

    http://www.amprogress.org/site/c.jrLUK0PDLoF/b.1147219/k.B4C7/RIGHTS_VS_WELFARE.htm

    If you support animal research, you are almost by definition not an animal rights activist.

  73. #74 James Sweet
    December 2, 2009

    I’m very confused and disheartened by BOTH camps TBH. I know I’m gonna get crucified for saying that here…but I know I’m not alone in my thinking.

    Not by me. I mean, after all, conventional medicine is also being run by a bunch of homo sapiens, and last time I checked, that species was a little weak in the rationality department all around (I include myself in this characterization).

    Still, there are two critical differences between so-called CAM vs. mainstream medicine:

    1) Mainstream medicine, for all of the bullshit that makes it through, has unqualified success to point at. Vaccination and antibiotics come to mind. Show me one CAM treatment that has saved a tenth as many lives as either of those.

    2) Mainstream medicine, and any science-based field, at least has a mechanism for self-correction. It doesn’t always work in a timely manner, nor does it work as accurately and effectively as we all would like. But the mechanism is there. CAM, on the other hand, tends to be one big circle jerk. Everybody’s right, as long as they are “alternative”!

    To take a specific example, my wife points out that even if you know absolutely nothing about vaccines, vaccine safety, etc., it ought to be obvious after a while that the anti-vax side is full of shit. On the pro-vax side, when one person says something that clearly contradicts what another person says, they make their disagreement known, and sometimes it leads to lively debate. In contrast, on the anti-vax side, you will often hear two people make assertions about vaccines that cannot possibly both be true, but since both of them support the idea that Vaccines Are Bad, Mmm’kay, the two individuals just nod and agree.

    Not that there aren’t disagreements within the CAM community as well, but there doesn’t seem to be as much worry about getting stuff wrong, or improving on past mistakes.

    Another quick litmus test: How much has pharmacology changed in the past one hundred years? It’s barely recognizable, because we keep fixing our old mistakes. In another hundred years, it will probably be unrecognizable again, and mistakes we are making now will seem stupid and barbaric to our great-grandchildren. Okay, now how much has homeopathy changed in the past one hundred years? Not one whit. Because they’re not even trying to be right.

    Alternative “medicine” and mainstream medicine may both have a whole lot of shit wrong, they both may be infested with irrational homo sapiens and all of their dumb biases and mistakes… but one of these is trying their damnedest to get it right, and the other isn’t. It’s okay to be disheartened by the many failures of modern medicine — as long as it doesn’t drive you into the arms of a movement that isn’t even trying to fix its failures.

  74. #75 David T.
    December 2, 2009

    @orac 73

    I didn’t know until today that there was a distinction between the two. Thank you for teaching me in this instance, and in many others.

  75. #76 Cyber-Dog
    December 2, 2009

    @71 “Way to miss the point – Cyber-Dog. The scientific method has shown the drug to be both effective and to have serious side effects. No woo there – although it way be questionable whether the benifts outweigh the risks. Woo has no scientific evidence and little or no mechanism for detecting side effects.”

    Thanks for not going too hard on me. I don’t have any sort of scientific background, I’m just a parent trying to wade through all of this information. ADHD is not based on any scientific evidence. There are no clinical tests to diagnose ADHD. That was my point about the woo I guess. Yes, you can drug up a child to make them less hyperactive, but are the side affects of that drug, like stunted growth, ethically sound? Our TGA in Australia obviously thinks so. I find this worrying.

    Sorry if I seem overly passionate about this subject. I’m going through this with my daughter and it’s very hard to know what to do. I have looked at both sides and am finding woo everywhere.

  76. #77 Cyber-Dog
    December 2, 2009

    James Sweet – Your post makes alot of sense, thanks.

  77. #78 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 2, 2009

    ADHD is not based on any scientific evidence. There are no clinical tests to diagnose ADHD.

    There’s no laboratory tests to diagnose migraine, either. Does this mean that the existence of migraines is not based on any scientific evidence? Of course not; it simply means that the scientific evidence on which our knowledge of migraines is based does not lend itself to any laboratory test. When enough patients present with the same pattern of symptoms it can lead to a firm conclusion that there is something causing that pattern of symptoms, even if it’s not yet known what that something is.

  78. #79 snerd
    December 2, 2009

    ADHD is not based on any scientific evidence. There are no clinical tests to diagnose ADHD.

    Scientoligist-like typing detected.

  79. #80 Scientizzle
    December 2, 2009

    ADHD is not based on any scientific evidence. There are no clinical tests to diagnose ADHD.

    I’ve a lot of familiarity with the clinical research regarding ADHD. What do you mean by “clinical test”? If you mean only a genetic test or a blood test or some detectable alteration in physiology, then you’re correct. However, what’s the clinical test for schizophrenia or depression, for example? Just like ADHD, diagnosis depends primarily upon behavioral evaluations consistent with the DSM-IV guidelines; and I bet you wouldn’t claim these conditions don’t exist.

    The claim that “ADHD is not based on any scientific evidence” wildly inaccurate. There’s substantial information regarding substle physiological differences in ADHD brains, genetic variants associated with ADHD, and several working hypotheses being researched to explain the observed behavioral phenotypes and the therepeutic actions of successful pharmacotherapies. The observational diagnosis of health professionals may not have the seeming weight of a blood test, but it’s not woo.

    Yes, you can drug up a child to make them less hyperactive, but are the side affects of that drug, like stunted growth, ethically sound?

    Potential side effects of any drug treatment are an important consideration. If the ADHD patient’s behavioral issues substantially negatively affect the patient’s life, then some risk of decreased height may be the best choice. A Sep 2008 literature review (PMID: 18580502) concluded:

    Treatment with stimulants in childhood modestly reduced expected height and weight. Although these effects attenuate over time and some data suggest that ultimate adult growth parameters are not affected, more work is needed to clarify the effects of continuous treatment from childhood to adulthood. Although physicians should monitor height, deficits in height and weight do not appear to be a clinical concern for most children treated with stimulants.

    (Laymen’s: the drugs may reduce expected height and weight, but generally only a moderate amount and patients ultimately end up approximately normal size)

    I wish you the best of luck with your choices…

  80. #81 Cyber-Dog
    December 2, 2009

    Thanks Scientizzle for your constructive post.

    Is it possible for you to post some links regarding the physiological differences and genetic variants associated with ADHD? It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  81. #82 Mark P
    December 3, 2009

    Late to the party, but three points.

    1. Anti-AGW people do not exhibit crank magnetism. It is true that cranks tend to like fighting “the man” and so oppose the global warming hypothesis. But you can tell they are cranks because they deny that the earth has warmed at all.

    The main anti-AGW strand are resolutely scientific. Indeed a great many are scientists. And, while they tend to get over-exhuberant about their own side’s evidence, they don’t go all woo-woo. Nor do they deny the obvious, such as the earth is slowly warming.

    2. The leaked e-mails contain nothing new. That’s why they are so damaging. They contain confirmation of what the anti-AGW camp has been saying for years. Fussing about their legality/morality is a blind for ignoring the long-standing issues behind them.

    There is confirmation in them that leading AGW lights have been inappropriately blocking access to important journals. Long suspected, now shown.

    There is confirmation of some inappropriate fiddling of the “consensus” too. Well established, but hard to prove.

    But the really damaging material is not in the e-mails. It’s in the Harry_read_me file. In this a programmer describes how corrupt the base temperature data is, and how unreliable any result based on it will be.

    So the HadleyCRU climate models are based on data that even the person who cleaned the data thinks is corrupt! And that is what the IPCC bases its assessments on! We are going to Copenhagen with reports based on data known to be false and misleading! Where is the science in that?

    3. Finally:
    “2009 is going to be one of the warmest years on record. I bet either 2010 or 2011 will be record-breaking years. Things will turn around shortly.”

    The method of most psychics is to predict something bleeding obvious, and then claim victory when it happens. The world’s temperature will rise 50% of the time. Big deal. That is not proof of CO2 warming. Especially since we are in a warming period.

    And if you are wrong, will you be like the psychics and ignore your misses? Or will some scepticism kick in?

    It’s vital to remember that the bulk of climate “deniers” do NOT deny warming. This is why the use of the tag “denier” is so offensive to them. They deny that the warming is accelerating as a result of CO2 increases.

  82. #83 Scientizzle
    December 3, 2009

    @ Cyber-Dog,

    I’ll limit myself to one hyperlink, but plenty of PMIDs…

    Start here for a good science writer’s discussion of the developmental differences in ADHD brains campared to neurotypical brains. In PubMed you can find relevant studies on cortical thinning and developmental delay in ADHD, the relationship with known associated genes, and theoretical models of what makes an ADHD brain act differently with these PMID numbers: 19730275, 16961425, 19627998, 16209748, 15949993.

    17679637 discusses the association of the most common gene polymorphism associated with ADHD (DRD4.7, a seven-repeat allele of the dopamine D4 receptor) and cortical thinning. One interesting and unconfirmed hypothesis (19500778) suggests that the DRD4.7 allele may act as a “plasticity gene” that can increase the risk of developing ADHD given other developmental risks, such as prenatal smoking (prenatal smoking as a risk factor is discussed here: 12777257; and there may be some risks with post-natal tobacco exposure: 19525745)

    19948192 discusses the potential role of D4 signaling in neural circuits encoding emotional memory and expression.

    For an interesting look at the possible evolutionary significance of the surprisingly common DRD4.7 allele, check out these: 15077199, 11756666.

    …I hope these help!

  83. #84 Joseph
    December 3, 2009

    Nor do they deny the obvious, such as the earth is slowly warming.

    Slowly warming? If you look at normal pre-historical temperature shifts, these seem to occur at a rate of 0.1C/century, at best. The current IPCC estimate is 2C/century.

    There is confirmation in them that leading AGW lights have been inappropriately blocking access to important journals. Long suspected, now shown.

    Nope. There’s is evidence that they thought a particular editor had an agenda, and they wished the guy would be fired.

    In this a programmer describes how corrupt the base temperature data is, and how unreliable any result based on it will be.

    This is misinformation, and a lose interpretation of facts.

    The world’s temperature will rise 50% of the time. Big deal. That is not proof of CO2 warming.

    I didn’t say they will be warmer. I suggested they might be record-breaking years (simply because record-breaking years occur with some frequency recently.) That’s different. And I didn’t say that’s proof of CO2 warming. If I wanted to prove CO2-caused warming, I’d use a different method.

  84. #85 Типография
    February 5, 2010

    The conservatives who deny global warming seem to be in step with the neocons on the other side of D.C. who argue for putting more “politics” into the analytical divisions of the various intelligence communities. Yea that’s it, take “politics” out of science and politicize all the spook organizations. What a country.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!