Respectful Insolence

I don’t mean to beat up on Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick. I really don’t. I realize I rather harshly criticized him yesterday for being so hostile to the concept of “denialism,” to the point where he characterized even the use of the term as a means of “suppressing” free speech. Normally, that criticism would have been enough. If Dr. Fitzpatrick answered, that would be all well and good; if he didn’t, I’d move on and forget about it. Unfortunately, I was made aware of another article he published at his usual gig at Spiked Online entitled Censorship is not the answer to health scares.

Damn if it wasn’t like waving a cape in front of a bull.

It really is depressing when someone whose work and activism against pseudoscience and quackery you usually admire a lot lets you down in such a spectacular fashion. In this case, Dr. Fitzpatrick is not only once again characterizing the British General Medical Council (GMC) action to strip Andrew Wakefield of his medical license, a decision that was announced on Monday, but he is also characterizing the sacking of Bruce Charlton, the editor of the distinctly cranky “journal” Medical Hypotheses similarly, as the enforcement of “doctrinal orthodoxy” against the “heresy” of “questioning science.” How I hate it when people mischaracterize science as religion as a way of defending cranks. I hate it even more when it’s someone who really, really should know better, someone like Dr. Fitzpatrick, who otherwise has done yeoman work in opposing pseudoscience. Unfortunately, here he seemingly willfully confuses threats to free speech with legitimate attempts to maintain scientific, medical, and professional standards. The two are quite different, albeit related issues.

Dr. Fitzpatrick is rather clever, though, in how he frames it. He starts by castigating an excellent editorial that appeared in the journal Vaccine by Dr. Gregory A. Poland, the Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Mayo Vaccine Research Group, and Ray Spier (D.Phil, FIChemE, FIBiol, FRSA) President of the International Society for Vaccines, Emeritus Professor of Science and Engineering Ethics, Former Professor of Microbiology at the University of Surrey, entitled Fear, misinformation, and innumerates: How the Wakefield paper, the press, and advocacy groups damaged the public health.

This is how Dr. Fitzpatrick characterizes the article:

How could this have happened?’ asks a splenetic editorial reflection on the MMR-autism controversy in the current issue of Vaccine, the leading scientific journal in the field of immunisation. The authors – Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic and Ray Spier from the University of Surrey – proceed to blame everybody but the scientific authorities for the scare that was launched in a notorious (and now withdrawn) Lancet paper by the former Royal Free gastroenterology researcher Andrew Wakefield who was finally struck off the medical register this week on charges of serious professional misconduct.

They blame Wakefield (citing the General Medical Council verdict that he was ‘dishonest, misleading and irresponsible’), public health authorities (who ‘stumbled in responding poorly and immediately to the issue’), and the public (for being ‘innumerate’ and ‘uncritical’). In the tone of exasperated schoolteachers scolding truculent adolescents, the authors also attribute ‘significant and disproportionate blame’ to autism advocacy organisations and recommend a period of penitence: ‘deep self-reflection would be appropriate’.

As I read this introduction, I couldn’t help but think: What’s wrong with the Vaccine article? Very little, from my perspective. In fact, I had planned on blogging about it, but the schedule just got too crowded and I let it pass. The editorial hits most of the right notes, but I will concede to Dr. Fitzpatrick the point that the article neglected to criticize one set of people who are deserving of criticism in l’affaire Wakefield. It’s true. Peer reviewers failed. Editors of The Lancet, in particular Richard Horton, failed. Even so, one must point out that peer review is particularly bad at catching outright fraud; so the fact that the peer reviewers failed is not in and of itself necessarily an indictment of the peer review system. However, where Dr. Fitzpatrick sees “exasperated schoolteachers scolding truculent adolescents,” I see two public health researchers expressing understandable exasperation at how the anti-vaccine movement, spurred by Andrew Wakefield, with the complicity of the credulous and sensationalistic British press, led to plummeting MMR vaccine uptake and the resurgence of measles in the U.K. In that, Poland and Spier are expressing nothing other than what I and many other supporters of science-based medicine have expressed. I guess that, to Dr. Fitzpatrick, outrage at pseudoscience and the promotion of an ideology that leads to disease and death is “scolding” and and being condescending. Either that, or it’s “censorship” or an urge to “stifle debate.”

To that, I respond, quite simply, bollocks. (I’m a bit of an Anglophile and love the lingo.)

Unfortunately, Dr. Fitzpatrick compounds his error by linking the General Medical Council (GMC) hearings that found Andrew Wakefield to have committed research misconduct in the ethics of how he conducted the study leading to the 1998 Lancet paper and ultimately led to the GMC stripping him of his medical license in the U.K. to the efforts of Elsevier to rein in a journal in its stable, Medical Hypotheses, that, under the leadership of its editor Bruce Charlton, had become a willing outlet for the publication of pseudoscience, HIV/AIDS denialism, anti-vaccine nonsense, and other woo:

The notion that organisational methods of censorship and repression are the appropriate response to influential currents of pseudoscience has unfortunately become widely established. This is well illustrated by the recent controversy surrounding the journal Medical Hypotheses – published, like Vaccine and the Lancet, by Elsevier. Under its founding editor David Horrobin, and his successor Bruce Charlton, Medical Hypotheses has rejected the procedures of peer review now standard among academic journals in favour of a policy of selection by the editor, according to what he considers interesting, provocative, entertaining. The result is an eclectic mixture of science and pseudoscience, sense and nonsense.

I suppose you could describe it that way, although the pseudoscience and nonsense seem more prominent. Moreover, an “eclectic mixture of science and pseudoscience, sense and nonsense” is not what I would consider a ringing endorsement of a journal that represents itself as being every bit as serious as a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

I’ve written about this situation before in detail. In brief, after Charlton went one woo too far, publishing an awe-inspiringly awful bit of HIV/AIDS denialism from Peter Duesberg in the pages of Medical Hypotheses (MH), an article so bad that Elsevier dissed Peter Duesberg and withdrew the article. Next, after an investigation, Elsevier issued an ultimatum to Charlton: Institute a system of real peer review rather than the system of “editorial review” that Charlton used to publish submitted papers in record time, or Elsevier would not renew his contract as editor. Clearly, what happened is that Charlton had gone too far with MH, and Elsevier was finally embarrassed enough by something published within its pages to be forced to act.

Another consequence of the Duesberg MH debacle was that a group of scientists got together to do something that should have been done a long time before, and that is to petition the Library of Medicine to delist MH from Medline, thus removing it from PubMed. In their letter, they cited their reasons, citing that the journal is not peer-reivewed; that the quality of articles in the journal has declined preciptously since 2003; that MH doesn’t publish original research, only editorials and letters to the editor; that MH has “developed a reputation for publishing trivial and occasionally offensive articles with no obvious relation to genuine medical research”; and, finally, that MH “has become a tool for the legitimization of at least one pseudoscientific movement with aims antithetical to the public health goals of the NIH and the NLM.” For this latter complaint, it was specifically HIV/AIDS denialism to which the authors were referring, but it could equally refer to anti-vaccine pseudoscience as well. After all, MH was where the Geiers published one of their most-cited papers (by the anti-vaccine movement, that is) that promoted chemical castration to treat “vaccine injury”-induced autism, as well a pseudoscientific tripe by Mark Blaxill blaming mercury in vaccines for autism.

Actually, the GMC striking off Andrew Wakefield and Elsevier reining in MH are related, but not because they represent some sort of fascistic “censorship” of iconoclasts. No one is preventing Andrew Wakefield from speaking out about his pseudoscience and anti-vaccine views to his heart’s content, for example. Just witness him speaking on Saturday at Autism One in Chicago. Witness Wakefield’s new book, Callous Disregard. Witness his being interviewed by Matt Lauer. Witness his speaking at an antivaccine rally just yesterday. To claim that Wakefield is being muzzled is, quite simply, nonsense. What has happened is that Wakefield has paid a professional price for his dishonesty, fraud, and abuse of human subjects research ethics. There may be a right to free speech, but there is no “right” to practice medicine. It is a privilege, and when that privilege is abused society has every obligation to its citizens to remove the offending physician from a position where he can continue to abuse the privilege of treating patients. Nor is there a “right” for pseudoscientists to publish their pseudoscience in the peer-reviewed medical literature or a “right” not to be shunned by the scientific community when they breach the standards of science and medicine so egregiously. Physicians who abuse their trust deserve to have their licenses revoked. In fact, at least in the U.S., it doesn’t happen anywhere near often enough to protect the public from bad practitioners or outright quacks. (Witness Dr. Rashid Buttar or Dr. Roy Kerry–or Dr. Wakefield himself, who got away with his misconduct for over six years after it was revealed by investigative journalist Brian Deer, a discovery that took the six years prior to unearth. Dr. Fitzpatrick seems to willfully conflate professional sanctions for misbehavior with “censorship” of “dissenting” scientific speech, which is utter rubbish.

Then he does exactly the same thing in his discussion of MH, but only more so:

Medical Hypotheses and its editorial policy were safe – indeed the journal has flourished under Charlton’s editorship – until he published an article by Peter Duesberg, the notorious retrovirologist who rejects the theory that HIV is the cause of AIDS. This brought Charlton into conflict with one of the most powerful scientific advocacy lobbies, the AIDS establishment, which ranks second only to the climate-change crusade when it comes to trying to suppress its critics, who are stigmatised as ‘denialists’ of doctrinal orthodoxy.

Oh, no. It’s the “science is religion” fallacy. I really, really hate that fallacy, because it’s so demonstrably, well, fallacious. Science is not a religion, and there is no “orthodoxy.” No one denies that humans have biases, and that the prevailing scientific theories of the day can sometimes ossify more than they should, making them more resistant to change than they should be in response to new evidence and data. But change they do in response to new evidence. It may be a very messy process and take longer than we’d like, but eventually evidence wins out. People who start disparagingly referring to science as “orthodoxy” or “dogma” are creeping towards crank territory.

Based on this fallacy, Dr. Fitzpatrick sees all sorts of dire conspiracies to “censor” Charlton. Oh, no! He insinuates, Charlton has offended the dreaded and mighty “AIDS establishment” and was therefore silenced like the heretic he was. To hear Dr. Fitzpatrick speak, it’s a good thing Charlton didn’t offend the global warming lobby. If you believe Fitzpatrick, you’d almost expect that Charlton would be buried under the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium if he had offended the apparently all-powerful anthropogenic global warming cabal!

The problem is that there is no “right” to be an editor of a scientific journal. Editors are hired and fired according to the company’s needs, and they are expected to uphold scientific standards. There are standards for editorial independence, but arguably Charlton abused those standards to the point where he was endangering the existence of MH itself. There is a lot of leeway, but arguably Charlton had gone beyond any reasonable accommodation. In fact, I am puzzled why Elsevier put up with him for so long and can only conclude that Elsevier didn’t much care about the quality of the science published in MH as long as the journal made money. Why do I say this? Simple. It’s because Charlton had published a constant stream of dubious science over the years, but it wasn’t until he had finally endangered MH’s status on PubMed and thus, arguably, the very existence of MH itself that Elsevier acted, despite numerous complaints over the years. The Duesberg paper was, quite simply, the last straw. Scientific journals that are not listed on PubMed are not nearly as widely cited or read, and fewer authors want to publish in such journals because they don’t show up in PubMed searches. When Charlton’s antics finally endangered the listing of MH on PubMed, they endangered the journal itself, as well as embarassing its publisher, which acted. This was not “censorship.” It was a long overdue attempt to impose a modicum of scientific rigor on a journal that had been sadly lacking them.

As I’ve said before, I don’t really have a problem with a magazine or journal that publishes speculative science, however irresponsible. There should be a role for such a journal, where scientists and physicians can let their minds wander and see what comes of it. That’s free speech. It may need to be countered, but I would never advocate censoring it. What I do have a problem with is when that journal’s editor thinks he has a right to be listed in MEDLINE, abuses that listing to publish irresponsible articles by HIV/AIDS denialists, and then cries persecution when his irresponsible publication policies lead to calls to delist his journal from MEDLINE. Worse, the only time Charlton appears to try to disabuse anyone of the notion that MH is a peer-reviewed journal is by occasionally showing up in the comments of a critical blog post (as he has before on this blog and others) to opine that, really, you shouldn’t take this stuff so seriously because it’s all highly speculative, and, oh, it’s “editorially reviewed” rather than peer-reviewed–which, he promises, is really, truly just as good.

I also have a problem with people like Dr. Fitzpatrick, who defend such editors and label attempts to enforce a modicum of scientific “rigor” as “censoring free speech.” While I agree (and have said many times) that the best response to hate speech or irresponsible speech is to refute it long and loud, that does not mean that there should not be sanctions for professional misconduct (which Andrew Wakefield richly deserved) or that scientific journals journals giving a platform to pseudoscience (which is what MH did on a routine basis) should not suffer some sort of professional and/or financial penalty, be it being delisted from Medline or losing readership. In advocating this, Dr. Fitzpatrick seems to be taking a position that is either so open-minded that his brains fell out or so enamored of the iconoclast or underdog that it has undermined all sense of scientific rigor. Want more evidence? Take a look at how Dr. Fitzpatrick closes his article:

The Vaccine sermon concludes with a declaration: ‘One and only one principle should characterise all actions and discussions in this regard [questions about vaccine safety and efficacy] – truthfulness and credibility via full transparency that evokes the trust of the public must be the one and only goal.’

Apart from the apparent innumeracy of this statement, it is contradicted in practice by the growing popularity among scientists of the principle of ‘the good lie’. This is the notion that it is justifiable to be ‘economical with the truth’ or to ‘spin the facts’ in the service of what engaged scientists deem to be a higher cause (saving the planet from global warming, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, deterring people from smoking, promoting ‘healthy lifestyles’, and now preventing childhood illnesses through immunisation). The pervasive cynicism of ‘the good lie’ is a bigger threat to trust, and ultimately to public health and welfare, than the pseudoscience of Andrew Wakefield.

Unfortunately, Dr. Fitzpatrick does not tell us poor, deluded and apparently repressive and fascistic scientists out to crush dissent and free speech under our jackboots exactly what the “good lie” was that Andrew Wakefield was “censored” to protect. Does Dr. Fitzpatrick believe that vaccines cause autism? No, he most definitely does not; he has said as much repeatedly. Does he believe that vaccines are safe and effective and that the anti-vaccine movement spawned by Andrew Wakefield and the British press is a threat to public health. I certainly hope he does and have no reason to believe that he does not. So where is the “good lie” for which Wakefield was apparently sacrificed? The same sorts of questions apply to MH. Where is the “good lie” being protected by Elsevier’s decision not to renew Bruce Charlton’s contract? Is it the “lie” perceived by HIV/AIDS deniers that HIV causes AIDS and protease inhibitor cocktails prolong lives? I certainly hope not, and have no reason to believe that Dr. Fitzpatrick doesn’t accept the science behind HIV and AIDS showing that HIV does cause AIDS and that the drug cocktails do work.

Dr. Fitzpatrick’s argument here is incoherent.

I do now detect one commonality to the sorts of scientific endeavors mentioned by Dr. Fitzpatrick as the sorts of science that to him scientists are all too eager to defend with “the good lie.” They are all scientific findings whose implications strongly suggest that public or governmental action is required to address a major problem: global climate change, deterring smoking, promoting healthy diets, and protecting children through vaccination. In an earlier review of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, Dr. Fitzpatrick wrote:

Yet other examples of pseudoscience that have, arguably, greater influence on the life and health of the nation remain curiously neglected in Goldacre’s account. For example, as recent contributions to spiked have argued, controversies over population, passive smoking, the HIV/Aids epidemic and the links between diet and health are characterised by the subordination of science to propaganda.

And:

These include a pessimistic outlook towards the prospects for nature and society, reflected in the popularity of apocalyptic and doomsday scenarios of all kinds, and notably in a willingness to embrace the likelihood of catastrophe from epidemic disease (whether in the form of AIDS, mad cow disease, SARS, bird flu or mere obesity). They also include a misanthropic outlook towards humanity, expressed in contemptuous attitudes towards the masses, notably towards people who vote for George W Bush or against the EU, those who smoke or are overweight. A third theme is a growing sympathy for authoritarian interventions to deal with social problems, whether the issue is AIDS, banning smoking, banning trans fats, or banning advertising for ‘junk food’.

He’s also written articles entitled The ‘McCarthyism’ of the anti-smoking lobby.

Oh, dear. I think I understand now. It’s those evil fascistic liberals wanting to impose their liberalism on brave libertarian iconoclasts like Dr. Fitzpatrick, who, even though he doesn’t smoke or believe vaccines cause autism, fully supports people’s right to smoke and pollute the air of people around him with their smoke and for physicians to engage in professional misconduct in order to promote their anti-vaccine agenda! Trying to curtail smoking is fascistic, as is enforcing professional standards, which, by the way is also “censorship.”

How sad.

In the cases of Andrew Wakefield and Bruce Charlton, it was more than just engaging in free speech that got them into trouble. In Wakefield’s case, he committed serious breaches in the professional ethics of the medical profession. As a result, the governmental body charged with regulating the professional conduct of physicians conducted an investigation and hearings and found that Wakefield had committed serious misconduct. That’s not “censorship.” That’s upholding the standards of the medical profession. In the case of Bruce Charlton, Elsevier arguably put up with him a long time. True, it was probably because MH made money under his editorship more than out of any concern for scientific accuracy, but eventually Charlton went too far to the point of violating the standards applied to journals indexed in PubMed. That led scientists to complain and Elsevier to try to tighten up the scientific standards.

As I’ve said before, scientists are human. Like any group, they sometimes engage in more tribalism than is good for them. Sometimes that tribalism even betrays science. A trait that is simultaneously both good and bad, scientists tend to have a very low level of tolerance for pseudoscience and anti-science. However, the difference between scientific discourse and just discourse is, of course, science. The same is true in medicine. Physicians and scientists have every right to free speech. They do not, however, have the “right” to expect that that free speech won’t have consequences in their profession.

Comments

  1. #1 Denice Walter
    May 27, 2010

    Two formal complaints about Duesberg’s 2009 MH article led to UC,Berkeley’s ongoing misconduct investigation of the HIV/AIDS “dissident” by Public Health faculty member,Art Reingold(AIDSTruth.org;4/29/10).So I imagine journals like MH *do* serve a useful, although unintended, purpose.

  2. #2 David
    May 27, 2010

    I just love this quote (in Poland’s editorial): “Sadly, we have moved from evidenced-based, to media- and celebrity-based medicine.”

    “celebrity-based medicine” is an absolutely perfect phrase.

  3. #3 Dunc
    May 27, 2010

    at his usual gig at Spiked Online

    Ah, that explains a lot… It’s a funny beast.

  4. #4 symball
    May 27, 2010

    Can I be picky about why AW was struck off- It wasn’t scientific misconduct- it was his clinical ethics that got him removed from the register. the panel deliberately disbarred themselves from commenting on his science- it was the abuse of his position to perform non- clinical tests on children that got him struck off.

    It is a minor point- but one which completely blows fitzpatricks argument about censorship out of the water.

  5. #5 Calli Arcale
    May 27, 2010

    Fitzpatrick has stepped into a classic blunder, I suspect, and is having difficulty seeing the way out. He is confusing disagreement for censorship. It’s the confusion that occurs when one sees a person expressing a controversial idea and then seeing it shot down: he is forgetting that the dissenter is not the only one allowed to dissent. The establishment gets to dissent as well.

    Or, as I like to put it, free speech is a two-edged sword, and it has to cut both ways or it isn’t really free. Wakefield has the right to state that he believes he has found a cause of autism. Meanwhile, others have the right to point out that his data is highly suspect, tainted by ethical abuses, and has never been replicated (despite several attempts).

    It’s easy to confuse disagreement for censorship with the one disagreeing happens to be a regulatory body or otherwise part of “the establishment”. But no idea, no matter how commonplace or controversial, should get a free pass from scientific scrutiny. Otherwise, we would never realize when someone was pulling the wool over our heads. Though he doesn’t intend it, Fitzpatrick is advocating a course which would allow fraud to pass unchallenged.

    symball of course makes an excellent point which Fitzpatrick overlooked: Wakefield was not struck off because of his science but because of his ethical lapses. Regardless of how one feels about debunking suspicious claims, surely Fitzpatrick does not have the same attitude towards ethics. If a person is causing pain to children for purely scientific purposes, must we allow it lest we squelch someone who is challenging the mainstream? Is questioning authority really more important than the lives and welfare of children and other test subjects?

    I doubt Fitzpatrick would agree with that, but in effect, that is what he argues. Wakefield’s conduct as a physician was (and continues to be) abysmal. He caused needless pain and suffering. That cannot be ignored.

    Einstein questioned the scientific consensus. If he had also tortured puppies, would it have been a scientific witchhunt to bring him up on animal cruelty charges? Of course not. What Wakefield did was wrong, period, and the GMC was right to remove his ability to legally practice medicine in the UK. He demonstrated himself unfit to do so. It has nothing to do with his unscientific views and everything to do with his callous disregard for his patients and test subjects in favor of his own pocketbook and prestige.

  6. #6 Composer99
    May 27, 2010

    I think there is a moral problem with someone who characterizes 50+ years of science backing “preventing childhood illnesses through immunisation” as a “good lie”.

  7. #7 Orac
    May 27, 2010

    Can I be picky about why AW was struck off- It wasn’t scientific misconduct- it was his clinical ethics that got him removed from the register. the panel deliberately disbarred themselves from commenting on his science- it was the abuse of his position to perform non- clinical tests on children that got him struck off.

    To physician-scientists who do human subject research (i.e., people like me), ethical misconduct with regard to human subjects in a clinical trial is scientific misconduct. In human subjects research, the two are so closely linked as to be inextricable; at least they are in my mind, and the minds of many physicians who do clinical research.

  8. #8 symball
    May 27, 2010

    Oh- I agree they are inextricable, but as I said I was being picky about the wording.

    Using the word scientific makes it sound like the GMC were ruling on the science of his paper when in reality they actively ignored that as there were enough ethical violations to have him struck off (probably several times if it were possible!)

    Just semantics, but I feel that by being precise about why he was struck off you can really highlight that the GMC were not picking on him because of his message about MMR, but because he was a lying scumbag who put his wallet and ego above the wellbeing of the children he enrolled on his trial.

  9. #9 Orac
    May 27, 2010

    Actually, perhaps a better word is “research misconduct.” That is a catch-all that covers everything, and it’s accurate.

  10. #10 Jud
    May 27, 2010

    If Poland and Spier really did blame the public for being ‘innumerate’ and ‘uncritical,’ I suppose at least that part of Fitzpatrick’s criticism would be apt.

    However, considering the general tone of what you’ve quoted from Fitzpatrick, I’d certainly want to look at Poland and Spier’s editorial (which I haven’t done) to see whether Fitzpatrick is taking their remarks out of context. I’d imagine there’s a good possibility that the editorial may cite public innumeracy and lack of skepticism as contributing factors, without “blaming the public” for collectively having those characteristics.

  11. #11 Sastra
    May 27, 2010

    Years ago, in the early days of the “skeptic movement,” a group of scientists got together to protest the publication of a book by Velikovsky: they wanted it stopped. The public quickly got up in arms over the “censorship” of a dangerous idea, the book was published anyway, and skeptics received a black eye.

    Except, that wasn’t exactly how it happened. IIRC, the book was being published by a major publisher under its prestigious designated science branch, which had a specific name and reputation. The scientists didn’t want it completely suppressed: they weren’t even arguing that the publishing house shouldn’t publish it. They wanted the book moved to a less scholarly section, away from their own books — because it wasn’t science, and didn’t meet the standards.

    This slightly different state of affairs was apparently overlooked and unmentioned, in the general outrage over skeptics trying to censor the freedom of the press, and suppress the freedom of speech. The more things change…

  12. #12 Brett
    May 27, 2010

    I do now detect one commonality to the sorts of scientific endeavors mentioned by Dr. Fitzpatrick as the sorts of science that to him scientists are all too eager to defend with “the good lie.” They are all scientific findings that suggest that public or governmental action is required to address: global climate change, deterring smoking, promoting healthy diets, and protecting children through vaccination.

    So he’s a Lolbertarian concerned about the Big International Socialist Conspiracy? That’s sad, but not surprising – I got that impression when I was reading through the excerpts you posted earlier in the post.

  13. #13 AGWSkeptic
    May 27, 2010

    Science is not a religion, and there is no “orthodoxy.”

    But then, AGW isn’t science, it is politics dressed up in sciencey-looking clothes. The TrueBelieversTM become most offended when anyone dares question their most sacred Truths.

    If you believe Fitzpatrick, you’d almost expect that Charlton would be buried under the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium if he had offended the apparently all-powerful anthropogenic global warming cabal!

    If you believe the AGW alarmists, you’d almost expect that anyone who subscribes to any of the “theory” of global warming would be drowned in a barrel of Texas crude if he had offended the apparently all-powerful Big OilTM cabal.

    See how easy it is to come up with tinfoil hat conspiracy theories?

  14. #14 Ian
    May 27, 2010

    @AGWSkeptic

    Except that there probably are dyed-in-the-wool alarmists who believe that the oil companies are suppressing data. And, if they have no evidence, they shouldn’t claim that it’s the truth.

    Fitzpatrick is one person, and it is reasonable to make that conclusion upon reading his statement.

    And any inkling I had to believe that you are a reasonable person flew right out the window when you claimed that AGW is, in fact, merely a political issue with no science supporting it. You are daft sir, to call black “white” so earnestly.

  15. #15 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    But then, AGW isn’t science, it is politics dressed up in sciencey-looking clothes. The TrueBelieversTM become most offended when anyone dares question their most sacred Truths.

    This coming from a man who posted a link to a blog that thinks engineers shouldn’t be laughed at when they present their idiotic ideas about global warming.

  16. #16 BKsea
    May 27, 2010

    I laughed out loud at the statement that a scientific journal should publish “according to what [the editor] considers interesting, provocative, entertaining.” “Well, the science is complete trash, but it was a hoot to read – let’s put it in the New England Journal of Medicine!” I had visions of Medical Hypotheses sitting on a news stand between People magazine and the National Enquirer. Does this guy even know what a scientific journal is?

  17. #17 David N. Brown
    May 27, 2010

    I don’t have a problem with calling editorial action against unethical researchers “censorship”. The only qualification in order is that this is not the kind mandated by the government, but the voluntary exercise of judgment by private individuals.
    In any event, as AoA demonstrates on a regular basis, it is “cranks” who go furthest to stifle opposition. I have sought to make the point to AoA that the use of editorial censorship to prevent timely corrections makes them more vulnerable to being sued.

  18. #18 BKsea
    May 27, 2010

    I have to disagree with the statement by Orac that peer review failed in the case of Wakefield’s Lancet paper. Can you provide any example from the paper itself where peer reviewers should have picked up on a problem? As a peer reviewer, I have to believe an author who says they have IRB approval or that they recruited consecutive subjects. This opens the door for authors to lie, but the consequences (e.g. withdrawal of paper, loss of medical license, scientific disgrace, etc.) are dire. Thus, most researchers play by the rules. To some extent, I believe this is a case where the system “worked” and is a lesson on ethics for the entire research community.

  19. #19 AGWSkeptic
    May 27, 2010

    You are daft sir, to call black “white” so earnestly.

    This coming from a man who posted a link to a blog that thinks engineers shouldn’t be laughed at when they present their idiotic ideas about global warming.

    Yep, name-calling and ad hominem. That’s all you alarmists have.

    What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995. An inconvenient truth for the alarmosphere, to be sure.

  20. #20 AGWSkeptic
    May 27, 2010

    And any inkling I had to believe that you are a reasonable person flew right out the window when you claimed that AGW is, in fact, merely a political issue with no science supporting it. You are daft sir, to call black “white” so earnestly.

    This coming from a man who posted a link to a blog that thinks engineers shouldn’t be laughed at when they present their idiotic ideas about global warming.

    Yep, name-calling and ad hominem, the staples of the alarmosphere. Just like the anti-vaccine types.

  21. #21 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    Yep, name-calling and ad hominem. That’s all you alarmists have.

    Nope. Considering the fact that I am an engineer I happen to know first hand that any engineer who tries passing themselves off as having the necessary skills to discuss global warming is an idiot. Its the skeptical litmus test I use to apply to whether or not someone is a crank in this context.

  22. #22 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    Yep, name-calling and ad hominem, the staples of the alarmosphere. Just like the anti-vaccine types.

    Awwww… Someone is upset that I just pointed out that the experts that global warming skeptics trot out are probably just as intellectual honest as Wakefield.

  23. #23 AGWSkeptic
    May 27, 2010

    Nope. Considering the fact that I am an engineer I happen to know first hand that any engineer who tries passing themselves off as having the necessary skills to discuss global warming is an idiot. Its the skeptical litmus test I use to apply to whether or not someone is a crank in this context.

    So tell me, Adam_Y, do you apply the same “litmus test” to computer scientists (like Timothy Lambert) or biologists (like PZ Myers) or failed presidential candidates (like Internet CreatorTM Al Gore) who pass themselves off as having the necessary skills to discuss global warming? Or do engineers have a monopoly on stupidity? Or is it that they happen to agree with you? No, that couldn’t be it. Could it?

    Awwww… Someone is upset that I just pointed out that the experts that global warming skeptics trot out are probably just as intellectual honest as Wakefield.

    Who said I was upset? Looks like you are upset because I pointed out that the likes of Hansen and Gore are not quite as intellectually honest as Wakefield.

    That’s called projection, by the way.

  24. #24 Pablo
    May 27, 2010

    I have to disagree with the statement by Orac that peer review failed in the case of Wakefield’s Lancet paper. Can you provide any example from the paper itself where peer reviewers should have picked up on a problem?

    I would agree, but I think Orac actually hedged a bit in that regard. It is certainly true that as a reviewer, I can’t be held responsible for falsified data (I can note that an observation might be surprising and needs to be confirmed, but if the author avers that it is indeed accurate, I don’t have grounds for objecting)

  25. #26 Scott
    May 27, 2010

    Can you provide any example from the paper itself where peer reviewers should have picked up on a problem?

    Two routinely mentioned glaring flaws in the paper were that the description of the PCR done was minimal (i.e. insufficient to evaluate it) and that no sequencing was performed.

  26. #27 Brian Deer
    May 27, 2010

    Symball is incorrect. It is a common misconception that Wakefield was not found guilty of research misconduct, but that the GMC panel was only concerned with ethical issues.

    In fact, Wakefield was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty in his research: (a) falsification of the paper, particularly with regard to the pre-selection of patients in what appeared to be a routine clincal case series, and a dishonest failure to identify that the project was intended to find a pre-determined “new syndrome”; (b) in the use of funding provided for that research; (c) in an act of lying in response to a letter to the Lancet questioning the source of research subjects; (d) in an act of lying to a panel of the UK Medical Research Council, likewise trying to find out where he got the children. The source, status and admissions criteria of subjects enrolled in biomedical research are fundamental questions: more so even than results data. The panel’s findings in this regard are findings that may commonly be described as “research fraud”.

    The GMC panel made clear that it was not adjudicating on the science of MMR. However, it very clearly was adjudicating on the research paper of February 1998. You can read the panel chairman’s statement at:

    http://briandeer.com/solved/gmc-wakefield-sentence.pdf

  27. #28 Composer99
    May 27, 2010

    AGWSkeptic:

    You should perhaps refresh yourself on the scientific evidence regarding the human-driven energy imbalance whose affects are summed up as global warming. I recommend a website such as Skeptical Science.

    Also, kindly explain how considering a projected 1-2 m sea level rise an unpalatable state of affairs for coastal cities or countries such as Bangladesh or the Netherlands constitutes ‘alarmism’.

  28. #29 JohnV
    May 27, 2010

    The time to Al Gore for this thread was under 6 hours. We’re improving

  29. #30 mikerattlesnake
    May 27, 2010

    “What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995. An inconvenient truth for the alarmosphere, to be sure.”

    weren’t you properly trounced on this assertion last time you wandered in, or was that some other idiot? Either way, I’m not explaining statistical signifigance AGAIN.

  30. #31 Ian
    May 27, 2010

    @AGWSkeptic

    None of the examples you cited is an ad-hominem attack. THIS is an ad-hominem attack:

    The reason you are wrong about AGW is because you are have sexual relations with pigs. The pigs don’t like it. Please stop doing it.

    Also, why is 1995 important? What happens when you go back to 1985? 1975? 1965?

  31. #32 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    So tell me, Adam_Y, do you apply the same “litmus test” to computer scientists (like Timothy Lambert) or biologists (like PZ Myers) or failed presidential candidates (like Internet CreatorTM Al Gore) who pass themselves off as having the necessary skills to discuss global warming?

    Can you actually pick someone I know of besides in name? I doubt you will be able to because surprise surprise my comments aren’t based off of some “religious ideology”.

    Or do engineers have a monopoly on stupidity?

    Yes they do in the science community. Rustum Roy believes in homeopathy. God only knows how many creationist engineers are. The field I belong in has an entire journal dedicated to alternative cosmology theory.

  32. #33 Scott
    May 27, 2010

    “You are an idiot, therefore you are wrong” is an ad hominem. “You are wrong, therefore you are an idiot” is simply an inference.

  33. #34 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    And just to let you know what hit my sore point in AGWSkeptic’s blog. This came from Burt Rutan:

    For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product whose merits are dependent on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit.

    Its Jenny McCarthy and University of Google logic. What about band diagrams for semiconductor materials? Its freaking quantum mechanics. It involves complex experiment data the likes of which make my head hurt. And yet because the merits of these semiconductor materials rely on those experiments they are more likely lying? No!

  34. #35 Adam_Y
    May 27, 2010

    And just to let you know what hit my sore point in AGWSkeptic’s blog. This came from Burt Rutan:

    For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product whose merits are dependent on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit.

    Its Jenny McCarthy and University of Google logic. What about band diagrams for semiconductor materials? Its freaking quantum mechanics. It involves complex experiment data the likes of which make my head hurt. And yet because the merits of these semiconductor materials rely on those “complicated experiments” they are more likely lying? No!

  35. #36 Composer99
    May 27, 2010

    Last I checked, most airplanes are technical products whose merits are dependent on complex experimental data. It’s just that the data is in some cases now decades old.

  36. #37 jre
    May 27, 2010

    Well, there are some parallels between vaccine and climate denialism, aren’t there? One could point to the thousands of articles published yearly in Nature, Science, Tellus, the Journal of Climate, Geophysical Research Letters, or any of the other many scientific publications dedicated to climate studies, but to AGWSkeptic “AGW isn’t science, it is politics dressed up in sciencey-looking clothes.”
    Or, paraphrasing Poland and Spier, one could ask him

    Do you really believe that everyone in the NAS, the AGU, the AAAS, the AMS, or the scientific academies of every technologically advanced nation in the world — all of which have issued statements affirming the reality of human-induced climate change — and all the thousands of individual climate researchers reaching the same conclusion, have pulled off a giant conspiracy to hide the truth about climate change from you?

    We already know the answer (hint: think Jenny McCarthy my experts are as good as yours science doesn’t operate on majority rule Galileo blah). Use caution when accusing others of being True BelieversTM. You may be looking at one every time you shave.

  37. #38 Elihphile
    May 27, 2010

    Orac and Dunc have already picked up on this, but I think it’s worth emphasising the degree to which Michael Fitzpatrick’s arguments are driven by his political ideology. Spiked Online, who he is affiliated with, is one incarnation of a very bizarre libertarian sect. George Monbiot has the definitive article on them here:

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/09/invasion-of-the-entryists/

    and there’s more in this blog:

    http://rcpwatch.wordpress.com/

    Particularly note the entry on the Spiked/Fitzpatrick silliness on swine flu. It’s understandable that Spiked would oppose the concept of denialism, as they themselves publish lots of denialism. Just have a poke around the Spiked website, and you’ll soon pick up on the fact that all the articles, written by different authors, have a distinctive, and very annoying, flavour of sophistry. Their big ideology is a nebulous concept of “progress” and “optimism,” and contrast this with the forces of “misanthropy” which are to be opposed regardless of the facts.

    I think that the main message to take away is that it’s best to be very wary of forming allegiances with these sorts of groups, on the occasions when the science happens to be in accordance with their agenda (eg vaccines), because they will quite happily push science under the bus, so to speak, when it comes into conflict with their worldview.

  38. #39 trrll
    May 27, 2010

    AGWSkeptic:

    What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995.

    As it turns out, basic statistical analysis shows that from 1995 to now is right on the verge of long enough to establish a statistically significant warming trend, if the trend is real. And what do you know? Warming since 1995 is right on the verge of being statistically significant.

    Of course, anybody who has actually taken statistics knows that “no statistically significant warming” does not mean “no warming.” There could be as little as a 6% chance of a trend being due to chance, and we’d still call it not statistically significant. Don’t engineers take statistics? Are you a real engineer, or do you only play one on blogs?

    It seems that we have only three possibilities:

    1) You don’t understand statistical signficance, and therefore you are not actually an engineer, or at best you are a very incompetent one.

    2) You learned about statistical significance, but you are so blinded by bias that you are incapable of being critical of an argument that supports your bias, even though you have the basic knowledge to do so.

    3) You know about statistical significance, and you know that it is a deceptive argument, but you are unethical enough to try to use it to fool the unwary.

    So which is it?

  39. #40 Orac
    May 27, 2010

    Two routinely mentioned glaring flaws in the paper were that the description of the PCR done was minimal (i.e. insufficient to evaluate it) and that no sequencing was performed.

    Wrong paper. Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper didn’t report any PCR for measles sequences.

  40. #41 Joseph
    May 27, 2010

    What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995. An inconvenient truth for the alarmosphere, to be sure.

    But see, the trend is significant from 1994, is it not? In any time series, if you don’t have enough data points, you won’t see a significant trend.

    If you do an analysis of trends starting with 1970-2010, then 1971-2010, then 1972-2010 and so on, you’ll see how the noise behaves.

  41. #42 GlblWrmngIsAScm
    May 27, 2010

    What is the optimal temperature of the planet?

  42. #43 Joseph
    May 27, 2010

    What is the optimal temperature of the planet?

    The planet doesn’t care about temperature. The right question is: What is the optimal temperature for the current biodiversity of the planet, or how fast can it adapt to abrupt temperature shifts?

    The Earth has been 6 degrees warmer than today, but the biodiversity was completely different. The time-frames were completely different too.

  43. #44 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    how fast can it adapt to abrupt temperature shifts?

    You mean like when the temperature goes down at night and comes back up in the morning? That sounds pretty rapid to me, and we seem to be doing pretty well with it.

    But then, the planet has been cooling since 1998.

  44. #45 Joseph
    May 27, 2010

    You mean like when the temperature goes down at night and comes back up in the morning? That sounds pretty rapid to me, and we seem to be doing pretty well with it.

    That’s complete nonsense.

    But then, the planet has been cooling since 1998.

    And this is clearly false.

  45. #46 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  46. #47 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  47. #48 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  48. #49 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  49. #50 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  50. #51 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  51. #52 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  52. #53 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    That’s complete nonsense.

    You mean the temperature doesn’t go down most nights and I’ve been hallucinating some sort of “night coldness” all these years? Whoda thunkit?

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

  53. #54 Dave Ruddell
    May 27, 2010

    Sounds like somebody needs to learn the difference between climate and weather.

  54. #55 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    Sounds like somebody needs to learn the difference between climate and weather.

    Warmista definitions:

    Climate: anything which leads to our pre-defined conclusion that global warming is happening, humans are responsible for it, and we’re all gonna die

    Weather: any data not made up or properly altered by Michael Mann or the IPCC

  55. #56 Fuzzzone
    May 27, 2010
    how fast can it adapt to abrupt temperature shifts?

    You mean like when the temperature goes down at night and comes back up in the morning?

    No, not like that at all actually. But I suspect you knew that.

  56. #57 Denice Walter
    May 27, 2010

    More flotsam and jetsam trailing in Andy’s wake:1.Severing ties with Old Albion,Andy says he will remain in the US,as we are so much more adept at that revolution stuff.(Dan Olmstead reporting on AW’s Chicago speech;Age of Autism)2.Mike Adams urges support for the “Free Speech about Science Act”(NaturalNews;5/27/10) in Congress;sponsored by the Alliance
    for Natural Health.3.The Struck Off One himself spoke with kindred spirit,the stricken one,Gary Null(see Progressive Radio Network Archives;The Gary Null Show,3PM,5/25/10).Mercifully,my computer refused to play that interview, sparing me for more pressing, less exasperating tasks.

  57. #58 Michael Ralston
    May 27, 2010

    But then, the planet has been cooling since 1998.

    You need to keep up with your Troll School continuing credits – the correct talking point now is that the planet has been cooling since 2005, since 2005 is the warmest year on record now, not ’98.

  58. #59 jre
    May 27, 2010

    And this is clearly false.

    Evidence?

    Well, this.

    To which, of course, the correct answer is “HansenflurgleIPCCmnarfGoreisfatpzargMannianblatzfoozle.”
    One the one hand, you guys are pathetic. On the other hand, you are also invincible in your ignorance, so I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or congratulate you. Which, of course, is the whole point. Good job keeping the fact-based community off-balance, skeptic-boyz!

  59. #60 GlblWrmngIsAScam
    May 27, 2010

    2005 is the warmest year on record now, not ’98.

    Only after the decline is hidden.

  60. #61 Zetetic
    May 27, 2010

    Ian @ #31:

    Also, why is 1995 important? What happens when you go back to 1985? 1975? 1965

    1995 is important to people like AGWSkeptic because they know that it as far back as they can go and still quote Phil Jones stating “no statistically significant Global Warming”. The trick is that people like AGWSkeptic know that it’s a lie since the question given to Phil Jones was specifically framed that way, since they knew that from 1994 to today that Jones would have said that there was statically significant warming.

    This was recently covered in Pharyngula…
    Climate denialists should fear this fellow
    Be sure to watch the video which shows the utter intellectual bankruptcy of people like AGWSkeptic, and others. I mention AGWSkeptic specifically because either that person (or someone using the same handle) posted in the comments of that same thread.

  61. #62 SC (Salty Current)
    May 27, 2010

    Ah – I was going to point out earlier that it appeared that AGWSkeptic was in fact GWIAS, banned at Pharyngula and Deltoid and possibly here as well for infesting threads with his inanity. He’s a fungus.

  62. #63 Phoenix Woman
    May 27, 2010

    Ah – I was going to point out earlier that it appeared that AGWSkeptic was in fact GWIAS, banned at Pharyngula and Deltoid and possibly here as well for infesting threads with his inanity. He’s a fungus.

    Ah, so then “GlblWrmngIsAScam” is one of his sockpuppets?

    And yes, it’s interesting that they both pimp the bullshit “1995″ lie even though it’s been debunked to hell and back.

  63. #64 Daniel J. Andrews
    May 28, 2010

    What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995.

    No no no. You got your lie fact wrong. It’s not been warming since 1998, not 1995. Besides, Mars and Jupiter are warming so it is the sun (oops, that means Earth would be warming too but it isn’t so cancel that).

    Anyway, it’s a natural warming every 1500 years (S. Fred Singer)–oh damn…ignore that one too).

    It’s volcanoes…it’s all due to the volcanoes putting out too much CO2 and heating the atmosphere (sheesh, scratch that too…I repeat the planet hasn’t warmed since 1995, I mean 1998. Just remember that and ignore anything or anyone that contradicts it–including surface temp data, satellite data, ocean temp data, temp proxies, borehole analysis, peak meltwater flow, ice breakup, glaciers, fish migration, plant bloom times, not to mention prominent skeptics like Dr. P. Michaels, and Dr. J. Christie, and those pesky statisticians who found an increasing trend even when they didn’t know what the data represented…

    …Ignore them all, I say, ignore them all.

    p.s. Al Gore is fat.

  64. #65 Interrobang
    May 28, 2010

    To get back on topic, ahem, and a little Rhetorical Insolence (sorry, Orac, borrowing your schtick for a mo) — the language in Fitzpatrick’s piece was so loaded, I’m surprised it didn’t snap under the strain. I mean, he seemed to be using deliberately slanted words in order to conjure the most negative picture of the scientific establishment that he could (and, by contrast, to make the quacks and cranks look as sympathetic as possible — vilification has its other side, which is to create a favourable emotional response toward the other party).

    “Splenetic”? I’m frankly surprised he didn’t go for the misogyny twofer and say “hysterical,” although “splenetic” does have the nicely pejorative connotation of not simply unreasonably angry but also rather retrograde. In other words, with one word, he just called the scientific establishment a bunch of hidebound reactionaries who are physically disposed to be out of sorts. Nice one, Dr. Fitzpatrick. He reinforces that one with “sermon” later on, too. Do you know any Gregorian Chant, Orac? Don’t hold out on us, now.

    Also, if you note, he goes out of his way to use pejorative terms to talk about scientists — “establishment,” “lobbies,” “crusade.” According to this framing, all of the causes he associates with these terms are entirely political battles, and have no factual merits whatsoever, and, in fact, are not even being discussed or determined at the level of facts whatsoever. (Which, if you’ll note, is precisely in line with the AGW trolls on this thread. Pray tell, AGW trolls, precisely what is the World Socialist Conspiracy™, all billion or so of us, supposed to do with the world once we take it over? I’ve never quite figured out what the point of the conspiracy is supposed to be. Apparently I’m not high enough up to either be privy to that information or getting phat paid. Bastards.)

    In other words, what we have here is a shoddily built, almost entirely emotional appeal (naughty naughty Dr. Fitzpatrick) studded with more loaded words than a punk’s collar has spikes. He’s not actually looking to convince anyone, here, just hit them with enough emotional resonators so they’ll feel the truthiness, all the while claiming that he’s having a civil discussion about science…

    …which is about as intellectually dishonest as it gets. Rhetoric. Use it for good, not evil.

    (Disclosure: Interrobang has a master’s degree in what amounts to applied rhetoric. Discourse analytics is Interrobang’s turf.)

  65. #66 The Panic Man
    May 28, 2010

    Ah, so then “GlblWrmngIsAScam” is one of his sockpuppets?

    No – for it to be a sockpuppet, he has to try and make you think it’s not him. The fact that it is him should be blaringly obvious – he just wants to dodge killfiles.

    Thankfully mine is always accepting new applicants. What would I do without Greasemonkey and Killfile (shameless plug)?

  66. #67 Eleanor
    May 28, 2010

    Ace post, Interrobang.

    Dr Evan Harris has a really good article about the responsibilities the Lancet and Royal Free had in the whole MMR affair
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.c2829?ijkey=66THZwWzbXRH2&keytype=ref&siteid=bmjjournals

  67. #68 symball
    May 28, 2010

    @ Brian Deer- what do you know about it anyway:p

    I stand corrected

  68. #69 AGWSkeptic
    May 28, 2010

    Ah – I was going to point out earlier that it appeared that AGWSkeptic was in fact GWIAS, banned at Pharyngula and Deltoid and possibly here as well for infesting threads with his inanity. He’s a fungus.

    Riiiight, because there can’t possibly be more than one person who disagrees with your fantasies, right SC? Or are we all just a part of the BigOilBigBusinessDenialistVastRightWing conspiracy?

  69. #70 Composer99
    May 28, 2010

    @ 62:

    Accusing someone of being a sockpuppet requires no conspiracy.

    Indeed, on this thread, at least, no one has suggested that a conspiracy of fossil-fuel extractors exists to suppress research into global warming (indeed, such a conspiracy could only be accounted a complete failure if it existed) or that people engaged in global-warming denialism are actively colluding in a secret and illegal fashion.

    Indeed, one does not have to presuppose that people or organizations are acting in bad faith or immorally to conclude they are denialists: one needs only demonstrate that their facts are wrong and/or that they are resorting to the forms of argumentation common to all forms of denialism.

    I believe the only person who has used the conspiracy canard on this thread is you.

  70. #71 AGWSkeptic
    May 28, 2010

    Accusing someone of being a sockpuppet requires no conspiracy intelligence. It is the ultimate form of “IKYABWAI”.

    All fixed.

  71. #72 AGW Skeptic
    May 28, 2010

    Accusing someone of being a sockpuppet requires no conspiracy intelligence. It is the ultimate form of “IKYABWAI”.

    All fixed.

  72. #73 AGW Skeptic
    May 28, 2010

    I believe the only person who has used the conspiracy canard on this thread is you.

    Posted by: Interrobang | May 28, 2010 12:44 AM

    Pray tell, AGW trolls, precisely what is the World Socialist Conspiracy™, all billion or so of us, supposed to do with the world once we take it over? I’ve never quite figured out what the point of the conspiracy is supposed to be. Apparently I’m not high enough up to either be privy to that information or getting phat paid. Bastards.

    Reading comprehension much, 99?

  73. #74 Composer99
    May 28, 2010

    Kindly explain how Interrobang is claiming there is a conspiracy among fossil-fuel extractors and/or political/media figures of certain ideologies and/or a mish-mash of scientists & engineers to suppress global warming research or discredit global warming activism.

    It seems to me he is mocking the denialist position, which requires a conspiracy for the body of contemporary climate research to be a hoax.

    As such, I stand by my statement – you are the only one who is seriously using the conspiracy canard.

  74. #75 AGW Skeptic
    May 28, 2010

    And of course, 99 has to use the “denialist” canard in a thinly-disguised attempt to evoke Holocaust denial. And don’t try to “deny” it, 99, or that will show that you yourself are a “denialist”.

    And I wasn’t “seriously using the conspiracy canard”; I was mocking the alarmist position. You would know this if you actually were in possession of a modicum of reading comprehension skills, but I now realize that was wishful thinking on my part. I shall endeavor to utilize only monosyllabics when addressing the likes of you in the future.

  75. #76 Zetetic
    May 28, 2010

    @ AGWSkeptic:
    I have a question for you. Why do you persist on using the argument such as (to quote you)….

    What about the “idiotic idea” that the planet has been experiencing statistically significant warming? You know, the kind that hasn’t been happening since 1995

    When you already know that you’re being dishonest in doing so? Why do you insist on using lies and rhetorical tricks that have been refuted/debunked time and again?

    I ask because I’m just curious about the psychology behind such a mindset. I personally have trouble understanding it.

    In a way though I am grateful for such behavior since it was such antics from your fellow denialists that caused me to look into the debate more, become better educated on the subject, and move away from the anti-AGW camp.

  76. #77 Composer99
    May 28, 2010

    AGWSkeptic, denialism applies to a wide variety of subjects: germ theory, creationism, Flat Earth, 9/11 “Truth”, Obama “birthers”, and others. Holocaust denial is merely the most extreme topic in which denialism arises.

    In each case, denialism is associated with:
    (1) the rejection of the main body of evidence on the subject, and
    (2) the methodology used by denialists to argue their position. Both ScienceBlogs’ denialism blog and a recent article in New Scientist describe this methodology in detail.

    As such, your attempt to accuse me of equating you with Holocaust denial is a strawman.

  77. #78 ON-TOPIC MAN
    May 28, 2010

    WTF PEOPLE

  78. #79 jre
    May 28, 2010

    Never, ON-TOPIC MAN!
    We will resolutely fix ourselves on the subject that the dumbest commenter on this thread wants to talk about for as long as it takes! This is the internet, and we have our principles.

  79. #80 Zetetic
    May 29, 2010

    @ ON-TOPIC MAN:
    Isn’t the topic of the post denialism and how it relates to claims that scientific standards are “censoring” opposing beliefs?

    What better than a textbook case in the very thread?

  80. #81 Leigh Jackson
    May 30, 2010

    “The notion that organisational methods of censorship and repression are the appropriate response to influential currents of pseudoscience has unfortunately become widely established.”

    Has it really? I didn’t know that.

    “This brought Charlton into conflict with one of the most powerful scientific advocacy lobbies, the AIDS establishment, which ranks second only to the climate-change crusade when it comes to trying to suppress its critics, who are stigmatised as ‘denialists’ of doctrinal orthodoxy.”

    So the AIDS establishment got Charlton sacked? Oh really? Any evidence for this?

    “After a brief standoff with Elsevier, when Charlton refused to back down on his editorial independence, he was sacked this month as editor of Medical Hypotheses. Now that those who call for a clampdown on scientists who express sceptical views about global warming or the scaremongering about AIDS seek to extend the label of ‘denialism’ to include those, like Wakefield, who ‘deny’ the consensus that childhood vaccines are safe and effective, the editors of Vaccine seem to want to restrict the expression of such views in the media.”

    Err… what?

    “Those who call for a clampdown on scientists who express sceptical views about global warming or the scaremongering about AIDS…”

    Who does? Who are “those”? Because they also “seek to extend the label of ‘denialism’ to include those, like Wakefield, who ‘deny’ the consensus that childhood vaccines are safe and effective…” according to Fitzpatrick.

    I am not one of those who call for a clampdown on scientists who express views which contradict the scientific evidence. I am happy to call such a contradiction a “denial” of science. Scientists who deny the scientific evidence should be exposed to be doing that. The best people to do that are other scientists, and the best way to do it is to present the evidence and explain it.

    A scientist is supposed to challenge evidence with better evidence or challenge an interpretation of evidence with a better interpretation. It is for the collective wisdom of the scientific community to decide on what constitutes good evidence and the best interpretation of that evidence.

    Fitzpatrick then says that it is because “those” – whoever they are – who call for a clampdown – whatever that might be – extend the term “denialist” to include those who oppose the consensus that childhood vaccines are safe and effective – as the evidence clearly shows them to be – that the editors of Vaccine “seem to want to restrict the expression of such views in the media.”

    Oh really? Not according to the editors. They accuse elements of the media of effectively crying “fire!” in a crowded theatre. A fair accusation in my opinion, though throwing fuel on the fire might be a better analogy. Failing any sign of recognition of culpability by the guilty the editors suggest the public might wish to consider the possibility of remedies. Indeed.

    Two children died from measles in the UK subsequent to the media’s championing of Wakefield and his message. There is little doubt that this was the result of the drop in vaccination rate following the media scare. One remedy which the public might wish to consider might be if the law allowed the parents of such children to sue the media for gross irresponsibility when failing to emphasise the weight of scientific evidence showing a vaccine to be be the safest and most effective way of protecting children, whilst prefering to publicise a stream of celebrities wittering on about the evil vaccine and doctors who support it.

    Fitzpatrick has stated that the scientific balance was clear by 2001 but much of the press continued to laud Wakefield.

    “Private Eye’s feeble apology for its support for Dr Andrew Wakefield reminds us of the media’s uncritical complicity in the MMR-autism theory.”
    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/8257/

    Quite so.

  81. #82 James Evans
    June 1, 2010

    As others have pointed out Fitzpatricks rant is typical of the kind of uber-libertarian nonsense that the RCP/LM/Spiked! crowd like to peddle. In fact I think Fitzpartick’s assessment of Medical Hypothesis’s publication policy as “…a policy of selection by the editor, according to what he considers interesting, provocative, entertaining. The result is an eclectic mixture of science and pseudoscience, sense and nonsense.” would also apply perfectly to the contents of Spiked!

    The RCP/LM/Spiked crowd are a menace to science communication in the UK, where they have made a point of trying to hijack many science outreach efforts. One example is the Pro-Test movement in defence of animal research at in Oxford, where a couple of RCP/LM/Spiked associated got involved early on and attempted to force their agenda on the rest of the Pro-Test committee. Their attempt failed and they left after a few months, but while they were involved they were very disruptive. From my position as a close observer it was clear that they wasted a lot of the energy in Pro-Test that should have gone into more activities to capitalize on Pro-Tests very successful rallies.

    The nearest equivalent to the RCP/LM/Spiked group in the US is the Centre for Consumer Freedom and it’s affiliates. scientists need be extremely wary about these groups, they may seen supportive and even helpful initially but in the long run they have their own agandas that they will always but ahead of science.